Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I'm too annoyed with the New York Times to pay attention to my child

New York Times mommy blogger illustration by Henning WagenbrethThere's a lot of bloggy kerfluffle over the mommy blogger article in the New York Times. In case you were thinking it wasn't condescending and misogynistic, gawk with me at the title:

Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy. I’m Too Busy Building My Brand.

Stand agog at the illustration, showing mommies transfixed by screens to the detriment of their screeching children.

Wince at the snarky wording slathered throughout: "Heed the speaker’s advice, and you, too, might get 28,549 views of your tutu-making tutorial!"

Witness in disbelief its inclusion not in the business section, not in technology, but … wait for it … Fashion & Style.

But don't take my word for it.

Check out these rebuttals that are doing a more eloquent job of saying what I think than I could reproduce here:

Mom-101: Honey, Don't Bother Mommy. I'm Writing a Mildly Annoyed Letter to the New York Times.

I guess it could also have been titled "Honey Don't Bother Mommy. I'm Making Ends Meet for Our Family in a Tough Economy" but that doesn't seem as enticingly condescending. Also, then it would have to go in the business section and not fashion + style and that would just mess up everything!

... I wish it had opened with the yearning of bloggers for the community to return to good writing, and the evidence that in the end, that's mostly what pays off... .

However I'm afraid that in our ADD world, most readers won't get much past the opening snark, which continues to affirm all the negativity surrounding the word mommyblog. In other words, more silly mommies and their silly "expensive hobby."
Liz talks, fairly, about what was right in the article, too. But she finishes with an inspiring list of all the varied and honorable actions mom bloggers have taken, from partnering with colleagues stricken by family sorrows to heading up charity drives to promoting healthcare to influencing politicians.

Kelby Carr: Newspaper Bias Against Mom Bloggers

Kelby discusses why it is entirely appropriate for women to try to earn money (how utterly sad that this needs to be said) and points out all the ways the traditional media has been and still is trying to marginalize women.
Why is it so shocking that moms would discuss something besides parenting? How ridiculous. Why was this even in the Style section? If it were a tech conference for men the tone would be entirely different. ...

Yes, mom blogging is an industry. It isn’t something cute we adorable widdle mommies do to share diaper stories. Whether we’re making money or not ( mostly not), it is an industry. There are plenty of industries in which many workers in it make little or no money, such as writing, fine art and acting.


We are trying to make a living by creating content, and for that we get demeaned, criticized, talked down to, made fun of, and stereotyped as unethical money and swag grabbing whores.

Raising My Boychick: This is kyriarchy in action: the New York Times on "Mommy bloggers"

This is perhaps the most salient objection to the article.
But in addition to portraying that group offensively, as vapid and concerned more with appearance than parenting, more with parenting-as-competition than politics and cultural change, this leaves out vast numbers of bloggers who are women with children. It leaves out those of us who are not white. It leaves out those of us who are more concerned with getting food on the table than getting it all organically grown. It leaves out those of us who are not straight, not married, not male partnered, not partnered all all, or partnered with more than one other. And it leaves out those of us who are trying to build a revolution instead of, or along with (as though that were such a sin?), a brand.

I hope you'll click over and read all the response articles through, because my quotes only scratch the surface of their messages.

I'll just focus on one aspect of the Times article:

Whereas so-called mommy blogs were once little more than glorified electronic scrapbooks, a place to share the latest pictures of little Aidan and Ava with Great-Aunt Sylvia in Omaha, they have more recently evolved into a cultural force to be reckoned with. Embellished with professional graphics, pithy tag lines and labels like “PR Friendly,” these blogs have become a burgeoning industry...

I hate that all mommy blogs (and I hate that term with all of my being) are being tarred with the same brush. Are all blogs by men daddy blogs? Are they all the same in tone, in content, in readership, in style? It's ridiculous.

I have no problem with giveaway blogs; I enter giveaways on them. I run one myself. But it seems like that's the type of blog this article is describing, and it's grossly unfair to extrapolate from one type of mom blog to all blogs by women about parenting.

It speaks to what Arwyn at Raising My Boychick is talking about, as well.

Because I read plenty of parenting blogs that do not fit the stereotype outlined in the article. (Let's set aside for the moment that some of the blogs who fit the stereotype's broadest strokes are much more nuanced than the stereotype as well.)

I read parenting blogs by men. I read parenting blogs by people are trying to keep their blogs small, or private. I read parenting blogs that are ad-free and whose owners have no desire to monetize or optimize SEO. I read parenting blogs whose owners wish for great financial success and put a lot of effort into creating that. I read parenting blogs by people who are Latino-American, who are African-American, who are Asian-American, who are not American at all: writers from Canada, Germany, Australia, Sweden, Italy, Aruba, Romania, and on. I read blogs in English where English is not the writer's primary language. I read bilingual blogs. I try to decipher blogs entirely in languages other than English. I read blogs by rich people and by people who can barely make ends meet and who tell me how to. I read parenting blogs by married parents and single parents, parents who are divorced, and parents in a new relationship. I read parenting blogs by lesbian parents and bisexual parents and straight parents. I read parenting blogs by raging conservatives and raging liberals and everything in between. I read blogs by parents both younger than I am and older — and some at precisely the same age. I read parenting blogs by Protestants, atheists, Mormons, Catholics, Jews, and no religion I can determine on reading. I read parenting blogs that still are a "glorified electronic scrapbook" of their children's everyday and extraordinary moments — and you know, they are glorified, as sarcastically as that adjective was originally intended. I read other categories of parenting blogs I can't even think of here.

All of these parenting blogs could be lumped into the single identity of "mommy blogs" because they are primarily by women about family. But they are not the same. They are not vapid and interchangeable.

I guess what got my goat most about this article was this sense not that it was insulting me, though it was. It was that it was insulting my fellow (mommy) bloggers — my friends.

ETA: I meant to reference the latest episode of House, which we watched last night on Hulu with me snickering all the while. It was about a blogger so obsessed with airing every detail of her life (every conversation, every decision) that she failed to connect with the person (lover) standing in front of her. Oh, noes! Extreme blogging!

I kept expecting them to find she had a disease where one of the symptoms was — an addiction to blogging! And apparently I have it, too...

So, just in general, the media is totally on target with realistic impressions of bloggers. (Ha!)

I will say I did like Julie & Julia's portrayal of blogging. The emotional curve felt real to me — but that's probably because it was based on real life!

Can anyone else think of media depictions of bloggers, well or badly done?

Hey, speaking of building my brand... [cue delirious laughter for putting this in this post, but it's stuck in my brain like a burr]

Can you (any of you) do me a favor? If you're on Facebook and have the application NetworkedBlogs or are willing to get it, go follow me on NetworkedBlogs. And, then (this is the actual favor part, though it sounds like I'm taking a long time to get to it), please click on the link that says "Author(s): Pending confirmation. Help us confirm the author."

For some reason, this lack of resolution is irritating me beyond belief.

I know some of you have already confirmed me, and I thank you muchly. I can't find any way to see who did and who didn't, so while I can send invitations to ask people to confirm me, I might be double-blitzing people who've already come through. So I thought I'd put my plea here instead. Thank you for helping soothe my irritation at NetworkedBlogs for not believing in my authorship. (For those who know I could put a widget to verify, you can see that I have one over on the right sidebar there, but it keeps failing verification. So I'm stuck bothering nice people to help me out.)

As long as you're being friendly on Facebook, might as well be my friend. You can also feel free to fan my page. Love ya!

All right. Gotta get back to SEO optimizing my tutorials and neglecting my child.


Anonymous said...

I would write a thoughtful comment, but I am just doing a drive-by because I have to go tweet while my children cry for my attention. No one said that building a brand was easy.

Anonymous said...

I tried to type in a thingy at the end to show that I was being sarcastic, but it didn't come up. So, you know, I was being sarcastic. My children rarely cry while I tweet. Really, almost never. ;)

Tara W. said...

ah crap. i don't even know where my kid is right now. NYT has us all pinned.

Bibliomama said...

Reminds me (in tone) of a column by a man I read once that was casting scorn on that thing that someone does every now and then that adds up all the salaries of jobs a mother does. His last line was "please, let us not try to measure the putative value of diapering and sandwich making". I just stared at it thinking, "oh, but assholes like you are why people DO try to measure the value. Because otherwise you think it's valueless!" I'm expressing this badly. I should have just said, yeah, you tell 'em!

Unknown said...

beautiful post... and since you asked so nicely, I added you as a friend on facebook (was already a fan so...)

Olivia said...

I'm just going to address that illustration because, WOW! It sure looks like the artist HATES mothers and children. All those angry, screeching faces. And what also stands out are the image of the mother wearing her baby. I think most of us would agree that a parent who wears their baby is someone who is making an effort to parent mindfully (not that parents who don't aren't, I use a stroller occasionally). But, broadly speaking, a mother who wishes to keep her baby close to her body is not going to ignore her child to be on the computer.

amy friend said...

i can't get past the illustration either.

my hope is that this turns out to be more advertisement for all of the wonderful blogs out there.

Lisa C said...

So, I read the article, and I don't see how it matches that horrible illustration. Maybe it's because I could barely relate to the article at all (being a small blog blogger and not wanting to make any money off of it). It really just sounded like someone went to a conference and was writing down observations. And I really don't get the title, either. I though the article was going to be about moms ignoring their kids while they stared into computer and cell phone screens. Which I don't know any mom who does that.

Run DMT said...

I love the title of your post. I am going to have to read this NY Times article now. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. I'll come back a leave a comment when I do.

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