In a post a few weeks ago I discussed my experience being a black man in a space that is female-dominated. You can check it out and read it here. It also spurred me to kick start a separate conversation: an apparent lack of black males practicing blogging either as a hobby or a profession.
A question might be why is that the case? Why are there a lack of black Male bloggers involved?
Lack of representation/role models
Blogging has heavily ties and crossovers writing and publishing industry and so it’s only logical that we look at how things are at the top. The publishing industry itself seems to be lacking starkly in black male presence. I would try to think of any famous black male writers, copywriters or authors and I honestly couldn’t think of any of top of my head.
In 2016 only one debut novelist out of all debut novelists was a black male. To further support this a survey on the UK’s publishing workforce found that BAME individuals only make up 11% of the publishing industry. This perfectly ties in with the study that revealed that the 90% of the publishing industry is predominantly white female. All of these stats and facts are revealing because if the pinnacle of creative writing is having a diversity crisis itself then it stands to reason that it’s impacting the blogging community.
This is especially the case when you compare it to other industries and seeing how many black men are thriving in industries like Sports, Music, TV, film and financial. Stormzy, Raheem Sterling, Anthony Joshua, Krept and Konan, Michael Daapah, KSI. All beloved black men in their respective industries and communities but can you name me the successful authors out of that group?
It instills confidence about ways in which the black man can make a success of their lives. They see more and more people who look like them, relatable, winning various awards and accolades and realise “hold on a minute. If he can do it then so can I”. Then they’re inspired to try and be successful in the same field . This is a main reason why diversity in any environment you’re in is so critical. It’s not just going some way to showing how inclusive an industry but it’s going some way to determining the type of audience you appeal to and determining future role models. On average are more encouraged to do what their role models or peers are doing than women are. A survey on links between aspirations, literacy and gender done by National Literacy Trust this year revealed that boys are more inclined than girls to follow in the footsteps of people they know.
It’s not just what you’re exposed can shape your path but also who you’re exposed and the agendas they have.
Whilst growing up within their households, especially households with African parents, the traditional professions that tends to be pushed onto us black men is law, medicine or engineering. It’s not common to hear writing mentioned in that same conversation. We’re told to go through the education system and get a degree cos in their eyes it guarantees financial stability and prestigious status among their circle. Healthcare, Law, Engineering, Teaching and Airline are thetop 5 highest paid jobs in Nigeria. However, there’s also the reality that there are a wider range of opportunities in western countries compared to the opportunities in African countries as well as a more accessible path.
Gender differences and stereotypes
Attitudes and habits men and women have towards writing and reading at a young age could play a part. An annual survey on children’s writing was also done by the National Literacy Trust but back in 2018. Young girls enjoyed writing more about reading than young boys, with 57.4% of girls saying they enjoyed writing compared to the 40.9% of boys who said they did. Girls also tended to write more regularly than boys too. 19.9% of girls wrote on a daily basis outside their class while it was only 14.3% for boys.
What was even more revealing was how often they read blogs. NLT’s annual reading survey in 2014 showed that 27.3% of girls read blogs at least once a month while 16.2% of boys only read them in the same time frame.
The literacy gap was just as apparent and revealing if we isolate it to black people in general. Black girls on average enjoyed reading more than black boys, 67.8% of black girls enjoyed reading compared 52.5% of black boys. Again they also read more often (35.7%) then their male counterparts (50.3%) and also more black girls read blogs monthly (21.8%) than the amount of black boys who read blogs.
It could be that men in society are seemingly influenced by some kind of stigma when it comes to being literate, especially in their youth. In the same 2014 annual survey on children’s reading 19.5% of boys said they would feel embarrassed if their friends knew they were into reading, contrast that to the 14.9% of young girls who thought the same. The same trend applied to writing for in the 2015 annual survey showing that young boys felt more embarrassed (16.8%) about writing than young girls (11.5%).
Among black boys they felt more embarrassed (19.1%) than black girls did (8.8%) for reading. The same was the case for writing in the 2016 survey, black boys felt almost twice (16.5%) as embarrassed as black girls were (9%).
More boys on average (15%) believed that reading was more for girls than boys than their female counterparts (7.9%). For black boys it was 18.8% while for black girls it was 9.9%. More black boys (29.8%) thought girls enjoyed writing than boys did then black girls thought (20.1%).
Clearly to round up all this research girls from early in their lives tend to enjoy the process of reading and writing more and therefore do it more often. There’s more stigma around reading and writing among males than females than, but the stigma seems to be far greater among black boys. All in all that could be strongly reflected upon the sheer number of women (irrespective of black, white, asian or mixed backgrounds) that go on to pursue blogging as an interest and by extension a career.
The lack of representation and role models, family influence and gender stereotypes can go some way to guestimate why few black males aren’t grabbing their laptops and pursuing the idea of starting a blog. Black men are more celebrated for their creativity and owning their identity than ever but not as much for the writing talent. The writers need their voices amplify and now’s the time to break apart from the social construct, become more visible and own themselves.