Iain - as I am sure he would like me (and you) - to call him, recently made an observation that simply leapt out of his stream of consciousness. "It doesn't matter whether you're talking about Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem bloggers," he wrote, "you won't find many written by women." He went on to observe, admitting the sexist stereotype, that women, "being much better gossips than men ought to be ideally suited to the world of blogging". I curtail his prolixity, but he concludes: "There must be some reason why women don't blog as much as men in the political sector."
Well, Iain, I venture to correct you on one point. It is not just in the political sector, as you call it, that fewer women blog. Except in areas such as childcare and gynaecology, it is across the board that women bloggers are few and far between. And it does not take a huge of the imagination to suggest at least two reasons why.
The first is that, for all the efforts to educate men and women equally, to encourage them to compete for honours, even to feminise the examination system by introducing coursework, women (still) tend to be more bashful than men about what they think. It is not that, as veteran male gender-warriors might growl, we have much to be bashful about. It is rather that we tend to be less confident than men that the rest of the world wants the benefit of our opinion.
Men seem to take it for granted not only that they have something to say, but that the rest of us should find it worth hearing - or, in the case of the blogosphere, reading. Iain Dale is not the only verbal incontinent who ploughs on, apparently regardless of who might be listening or reading. Alas, his confidence is repaid by the dozens who seem to respond to every post. The cacophony of so many (mostly male) opinions is deafening.
Our female bashfulness, I submit, may be gradually being drummed out of us by a combination of good teaching, co-ed schools and colleges, and the example of opinionated women expressing forthright views in other parts of politics and the media. The second reason why women don't blog, however, is more serious, because it is more intractable: women simply do not have the time.
Earlier this week, I heard Finland's minister for foreign trade and development, speaking in London to celebrate the centenary of women's suffrage in Finland. They were the first women in Europe to gain the vote. And the record of women's participation in Finnish life is as laudable as one would expect from Scandinavia.
Yet, as Ms Paula Lehtomaki noted, without the diffidence that might attend the same observation in this country, the next frontier had to be the home. Women had come a long way: safeguards against discrimination, for equal pay and opportunities were all in place and largely observed. But the fact was that in joining the workforce on equal terms, women were all too often tied to two jobs: equality, even in enlightened Scandinavia, all too often stops at the front door.
How many homes are there - here, or in tech-savvy Finland - where the man will think it quite excusable to shuffle in late for dinner because he has been reading or writing his online diary, but would greet with ridicule or fury the prospect of dinner being late (or non-existent) because his partner had been delayed in the blogosphere?
And for dinner, we can substitute baby's bathtime, the children's high-tea, the regular taxi-service families run between sports and after-school clubs, the elderly parents that need looking after. It is this old-fashioned, and persistent, division of responsibilities that frees men to indulge in the time-consuming fashion of the day; and the gadetry and self-aggrandisement involved in blogging only make it that much more attractive.
Iain Dale calls his blog "Iain Dale's diary". Those of us of a certain age - I can faintly recall the signature tune - know this to be an allusion to the fictitious radio diary of a GP's wife and receptionist which was broadcast on weekday afternoons. It was a soap opera for its day, very BBC Home Service. More tied to the Fifties way of life than The Archers, it did not survive into this more hurried, less homely age.
But there is a point here. In the days of Fifties-style, essentially segregated working, Mrs Dale had the time to keep a diary. Today's Mrs Dale would be the doctor herself, rushing in to the surgery from the school run and organised enough to assemble dinner at the end of the day. She would be too tired at the end of it all, or have more pressing things to do, to advertise her thoughts in the blogosphere. Diary-keeping, unlike family responsibility, has entered the public sphere and crossed the gender-divide.Reuse content