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Women make themselves heard through blogs

| Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Nichole Musser's insomnia became her muse.

During her freshman year at IUP, Musser says, she stopped sleeping. That's when she discovered the all-night computer lab, and her first blog, As Is, was born.

"It helped me find my voice," said Musser, 25, of Greensburg. "As a writer, and, as myself. My blog is the one place where I'm totally honest, where you find the 100 percent real Nichole."

Musser is among an increasing number of female bloggers, many of whom will be meeting in San Jose, Calif., this weekend for the second annual BlogHer conference. The theme is "How is your blog changing your world?"

BlogHer was started in early 2005 by Lisa Stone (better known as Surfette), Elisa Camahort (workerbee) and Jory des Jardins (the less original jorydesjardins). It now boasts more than 2,500 members, with blogs about everything from food and drink to feminism and politics.

"I think the secret sauce is the way in which women identify blogging as a tool that helps them live their lives," said Stone, who lives in San Francisco. "Blogging helps women do the things they care about most: keep in touch with friends and family, and do more with their lives."

According to a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project that came out last week, there are almost as many female bloggers as male bloggers. Women make up 51 percent of Internet users, according to the survey, and represent 46 percent of bloggers. Fifty-four percent of bloggers, male and female, are between the ages of 18-29, the survey found; 60 percent are white, and 51 percent live in suburbia.

Jeneane Sessum of Atlanta, founder of Blog Sisters (where men can link but they can't touch), says the public relations writing that paid the bills never let her write as herself.

"My writing was used mostly to give other people a voice, but I didn't know what my own writing voice was," Sessum said. "When I started blogging, it let me remember what it really felt like to write, and to have readers."

A precursor to BlogHer, Blog Sisters has slightly more than 100 women on its blogroll. "I think women's blog sites help make important connections -- to other people, and to all the layers of who you are," Sessum said.

Musser takes up personal issues on her blogs, We Are the Sea and Theories on Being Fat, which documents her struggle with weight loss.

"Online, I have freedom to talk about my life and what's going on with me, and no one can poke fun and no one can interrupt," Musser said. "I think women's blogs tend to be more personally relevant, with a moral to the story, unlike a lot of men's blogs."

In addition to Blog Sisters and BlogHer, there are many other sites devoted to the women of the Web. BlogsbyWomen has more than 1,600 members; BlogSheroes is "the feminist bloggers network"; and The Mommy Blog presents "adventures from the wonder-belly of motherhood."

Sessum says she plans to bring her 8-year-old daughter, Jenna (who's online at babyblogger.blogspot.com), with her to the BlogHer conference.

For Stone's part, she hopes the conference will be as successful as last year's, when 300 bloggers showed up. "I want to create a scenario where everyone feels like the questions they have about blogging or about life get addressed and answered," Stone said. "I want these women to feel that they are in charge of their own online experience."

Outtakes

A Fridge Full of Food offers ways to use Paul Newman's spaghetti sauce to spice up a marriage. Sweetney ponders the question: Are online friends real friends• Suzanne Reisman's blog bemoans feminine stereotypes in the mainstream media. And the "sleep-deprived ramblings of a busy, saved-by-grace mom who does not have her act together" can be found on Rocks in my Dryer.

Whether snarky and opinionated, or deeply musing and personal, women's blogs run the gamut.

"If life were supposed to be orderly, then my house wouldn't look like it does and my kid wouldn't have open paints and blendy pens all over her floor, and I wouldn't have to take a half of a zzzzanax as I mull over the many possibilities in the weeks and months ahead."

-- allied.blogspot.com , by Jeneane Sessum, as she contemplates an upcoming hysterectomy

"I'm ... yes... I'm ... fat. I've accepted that. I've accepted that for a long time. It was something I liked; being curvy, sexy and nearly irresitable. Suddenly though, I have found myself somewhere I didn't want to be. I had crossed the line from sexy and curvacious to out of shape and unhealthy."

-- theoriesonbeingfat.blogpsot.com , by Nichole Musser

"Excuse me, I have to go. I just looked out the back window, and Joseph is peeking through the neighbors' fence into their backyard, barking at their dog. Oh , I love that boy."

-- rocksinmydryer.typepad.com , by "a 30-something-stay-at-home mom of four"

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