I feel like I should preface this by admitting that back in 2006, I was part of a BlogHer panel called “Mommyblogging is a Radical Act.” As much as I’ve never been a fan of this particular term, way back then—seven years ago, which is like, what, maybe 49 years ago in Blogging Years, right?—I thought it was important that the blogging community have an honest discussion about what it means to share about our experiences as parents. I have no regrets about being part of that. At the time, that sort of blogging was still sort of new and different and we were all figuring out what it meant.
But that was seven years ago, and a lot of things have changed since then… including that many of us who were simply sharing our day-to-day for the sake of finding an outlet and community are now paid to write. Many of us are freelance writers running our own small businesses, working full-time (or more), and the fact that we write about our children from time to time is either incidental or just a fraction of the work we get paid to do.
And yet, good lord, the world is just so reluctant to let go of that term “mommyblogger.” Most of the time I don’t care; what’s in a name? I’m just doing my thing, getting my work done, living my life, whatever. But then there always comes someone wanting to take that dismissive term and use it as the cornerstone of painting every woman with a blog as a silly little moron.
Enter “The Mommy Business Trip,” which just appeared in The Wall Street Journal, of all places. Feel free to read the article, but I’d be happy to give you a summary: Teehee, I’m just a silly mom with a silly mommy blog, and I need an excuse to leave my children! So sometimes I go to conferences and get drunk with other mommies, hahaha!
I wish I was kidding.
Here’s the thing: Anyone who’s ever been to any conference in any field knows that there are always people at professional events who seem to believe they’re back at the fraternity or sorority house. There are always drunk and boorish people at conferences; this is because you can find drunk and boorish people nearly everywhere. This is aside from the fact that this entire article makes every blogging conference sound like the only way guilt-ridden mothers who are already wasting their time doing their silly little blogging can justify leaving the house.
I’m not even going to get into dissecting how insipid the assumptions in this piece are; Lisa Belkin at the Huffington Post does a pretty good job of that. Bottom line: surprise surprise, lots of women go to these conferences for their careers, and they also do things like go on vacations, sometimes, or otherwise travel away from their children without guilt. Go figure! It’s almost like moms who blog are regular human beings with complex existences, or something crazy like that.
I really only have two points to add to this whole kerfuffle (and it is becoming kind of ugly, which was maybe the point of publishing something so blatantly incendiary and patronizing?):
First, it seems like every woman who blogs about anything runs the risk of being labeled a mommyblogger. Discussion on this very topic has gone on for years, I know. Consider that according to the 2008 US Census, 82% of women between the ages of 15-44 were mothers. Most women who blog have children. (Not all, but most.) This is because most women have children. Some women blog for fun, some women blog for business. Calling that entire group of women mommybloggers just seems to… not make a lot of sense. The term alienates nearly everyone, from the child-free bloggers who feel it suggests they are somehow inadequate to the professional writer who isn’t even writing about her kids, thanks.
Second, most of the well-respected conferences attended by women who blog professionally also draw a fair crowd of hobby bloggers. This is by design; some of those hobbyists are hoping to figure out how to go pro, and some just want to see friends and hang out. Conferences make money by enticing as many people as possible, so this isn’t a surprise. It is absolutely true that some people go to conferences to “party.” But to suggest that most of these professional events—with corporate sponsors, heavily attended by professional writers who in many cases would much rather be home with their family/friends rather than traveling and working—are merely tee-hee excuses to get away from home is insulting to everyone involved.
I’m trying to think of another field where it’s so de rigueur for the mainstream media to continually assert that a specific career is somehow both contingent on a woman’s childbearing status and not really a career at all, at the same time. I’m coming up empty.