Lest you think BlogHer was one big Sex and the City weekend, albeit without the sex–and come to think of it, not a whole lotta city–there was more to it.
Yes there were deep conversations and amazing connections and women that I feel fairly confident will remain my friends for a good long time. But while I’d like to say that there were hundreds of fists raised towards the sky in womanly solidarity at every turn, in reality there was a little more divisiveness than I would have liked. Not amongst the “mommybloggers,” by the way, who were anything but cliquey or exclusionary; but between the “mommybloggers” and the other women.
Having spent the better part of my life as the twenty/thirty-something single gal, I used to write a lot about the alienation I felt from friends who had spawned, and about the toils of being a non-breeder in a breedercentric world. Singledom is a hard habit to break and as such, I still have a knee-jerk response to allign myself with the one gal in the circle not able to contribute an opinion about the Wiggles or a light little anecdote about mucus plugs. And so, I cringed just a little when a representative from conference sponsor Johnson & Johnson got up on stage and addressed the entire 750 person group about the corporation’s relationship with mothers, and their new site for mothers, and helping mothers, and what great mothers we all are, mothers mothers mothers.
As a registration volunteer with the high-powered responsibility of handing out schwag bags, I also had a front seat view of the faces of non-mommybloggers when they dug through and found their PBS Kids calendar and Minti bib. Because only a few years ago, I’d have been one of them. I’d be the one thinking, Bibs? Dude, where’s my NOW sticker? Where’s my This is What a Feminist Looks Like tee? Where’s my damn free pair of Jimmy Choos?
And yet, for all my sensitivity, nearly every time I attempted to strike up a conversation with a stranger on line for the bar or the bathroom or the bar or the other bar, I’d introduce myself and be met with, Ohhhhh…so you’re a Mommyblogger. We’re talking like nine out of ten times. And this doesn’t include the lovely Erica who graciously handed me her last drink ticket to stop me from whining about having to pay for a Yahootini. I found myself backpedaling about the subject matter of my blog more than I found myself connecting with people who I might otherwise have found a lot in common with. And that, as they say, sucks my ass.
While the debate on mommyblogger as a term has hit the blogworld several times since I began Mom-101, I have pretty much stayed out of it. Mostly, because there are so many social factors involved, I haven’t adequately been able to articulate my position. But the mild undercurrent of animosity towards the mothers this weekend (and I must be clear here, it wasn’t intense; I’m just hypersensitive to divisiveness) and the demeaning use of the term–by other women bloggers no less!–forced me to put down the cocktails for three seconds and figure out exactly what’s been bothering me so much about it.
Through the figuring and the thinking and the talking, especially with Catherine, the rock star question asker of the entire conference, I believe I have a theory. (Theory formulation! Critical thinking! See, BlogHer was good for more than just the pasties.)
I have never once called myself a Mommyblogger, not without a heavy dose of irony. I admit in fact to cringing when I hear myself described that way. I tend to say instead, “I have a parenting blog.”
And yet, I often feel the need to offer a disclaimer. “I have a parenting blog, but…”
But…I can also discuss Bush’s heinous disregard for the Kyoto treaty and the potential impact for generations to come.
But…hey, do you like Journey? Wait til you hear my new ringtone!
Saying “while I write about my child, I think really what I do is look at social issues, politics, pop culture, and my own feelings about work and the world through the eyes of a new mother” is a wee bit verbose in most contexts. Mommyblogger it is. Blech.
It’s not that blogging about our children is such a horrible thing. I mean, Dooce can make washing a bottle more interesting than most women could make a menage-a-trois with George Clooney and Johnny Depp. But in my opinion, the diminutive, mommy, automatically demeans whatever it is the author has to say. That no matter how many degrees she holds, how many times she uses words like ostensibly and onomatopoeia, she’s still writing something trivial.
Or worse, she’s a trivial writer.
I would no more refer to Anne Lamott as a mommywriter than I would refer to Zora Neil Hurston as chicklit.
Yet it was Mary Tsao who truly opened my eyes to another point of view when she told me not just that she didn’t mind the title, but how she actually likes it. It has given her writing focus, provided career opportunities, created friendships. And then Maritt Ingman, the woman I will now redirect my stalking attentions towards, made the brilliant point in the BlogHer mommyblogging panel that there is not feminism but feminisms.
And suddenly it all clicked.
There isn’t mommyblogging, there is mommybloggings.
There are two groups as far as I can see. There are writers who came to blogs as another medium in which to hone their craft. The community of kindred spirits found through blogging is a wonderful and rewarding but altogether unexpected side benefit. These are the women – me included – for whom the term is inherently limiting. It tells men, older parents, the childless, this writing is not for you. And there is no writer who wants to alienate a potential reader before he or she has even read word one.
The second group of mommybloggers are women who came to blogs as a way to find a community of like-minded people and develop more meaningful relationships than those found in a chat room or an online message board. The writing itself was perhaps secondary to the friendships–or maybe it became more important as time went on. For these women, mommyblogging is entirely the opposite of limiting. It’s downright freeing. It’s a portal to wonderful things, opening far more doors than it closes.
I’m not proposing that we further subdivide the community of parenting blogs, nor do I have a suggestion as to how (or whether at all) to reframe the language. I just want us to start understanding one another just a little bit better.
And, boobs and booze aside, in the end, that’s what BlogHer was really all about.
See the brilliant comments on this post here. One day I will figure out how to import them.