The Mommy Blogger Box

By July 17, 2009 Blogging, News, Social Media

November 06 010

I’m a blogger. I’m a mom. But I don’t call myself a ‘Mommy Blogger’. Everyone has an opinion on this: there are some that take pride in the name, others who hide from it, some who just don’t care.

Why don’t I call myself one?

Because in the way that our misogynistic, paternalistic, sexist and capitalist society is wont to do (time and again) the Mommy Blogger moniker is weighted down with stereotype, scorn, mockery and devaluation. The image that comes to mind? Well…

  • stay at home mom
  • bored mom
  • gossipy mom
  • bitchy mom
  • coupon mom
  • Walmart, juice box, Wii Fit mom

And, some of the Mommy Bloggers are exactly that. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with it or them – but it doesn’t define many of us or what we do. The problem is that it is the only image that is being portrayed. In the last month, there have been five articles from major media outlets telling the same story (four of them were in the last week). It goes something like this:

“Colleen Padilla, a 33-year-old mother of two who lives in suburban Philadelphia, has reviewed nearly 1,500 products, including baby clothes, microwave dinners and the Nintendo Wii, on her popular Web site Classymommy.com. Her site attracts 60,000 unique visitors every month, and Ms. Padilla attracts something else: free items from companies eager to promote their products to her readers.” New York Times

This article, and the ones from CNET, AOL’s Daily Finance, Wall Street Journal and Newsweek then go on to discuss whether it’s okay or not that mothers who blog should be able to write sponsored posts, receive freebies, get paid by companies, etc. And the headlines are derogatory; Newsweek says: Trusted Mom or Sellout? If I cursed on this blog, I would be yelling, ‘Fuck you’ at Newsweek right now.

Putting the Mommy Bloggers into a box is bad enough, why do you have to kick them in the groin? Oh, and journalists, is it still great media if you’re the fifth person to tell the same story? It’s getting old and you’re missing the boat here. Attention: there is more to Mommy Bloggers than product pushing and diaper geenies.

Let’s talk about Mommy Bloggers finding creativity, financial independence, community. Let’s talk about the incredible exchange of knowledge between these mothers. Let’s talk about the Mommy Bloggers who talk about the law, business, health, science, sports, animals, non-profits, marketing, PR, religion and parenting. Let’s talk about the Mommy Bloggers who have been published, built empires, are household names. (Arianna Huffington anyone?)

Am I a Mommy Blogger? Hell yeah. I write about copywriting, business and marketing on this blog; social media on this blog; parenting on this blog…and just about everything else you can think of on Twitter – the ultimate megaphone. And I’m a Mom the whole time.

Let’s redefine the term. You can’t put Mommy Bloggers in a box. We’ll kick, talk and write our way out. We can change this, ‘Moms that Blog’, we really can. We’re good at creating change, banding together and having our voices heard. In fact, that’s exactly what we were all busy doing when they came and shoved us into a box.

Join the discussion 25 Comments

  • Alisa Bowman says:

    Bloggers have been making money off of affiliate advertising for years. No one seemed to have a problem with that until women started making that money. I agree that the term “mommy blogger” is often used as an insult and sometimes as a badge of honor.

    I do think there’s a different between a true mommy or daddy blogger and the rest of us, who are mommies and daddies who happen to blog. I think mommy and daddy bloggers, by definition, blog about being mommies and daddies. They usually have the word mommy or daddy in their URL: cursingmommy.com, martinidrinkingmommy.com, diaperlovingdaddy.com, etc. (I made those up. Don’t click through. I have no idea if those blogs exist). The rest of us fall into whatever other category that we blog about. I’m a relationships blogger. You’re a writing/blogging blogger. There are tech bloggers and social media bloggers and, well, just about every other type of blogger imaginable. I’m sure if I looked hard enough, I’d find a toothepaste collecting blogger.

    There’s room for all of us. There’s a place for all of us. And if our readers don’t think that we are ethical or that we review too many products? They’ll stop reading us. They don’t need news stories to tell them what to do. No one forces anyone to read web content. People read blogs because they enjoy them and want the information, paid or not.

  • Alisa Bowman says:

    Love the pix by the way!

  • Tiffany says:

    Agreed! I’ve spoken out against the use of “”mommy blogger” for awhile now…and was told I was being too picky and uppity. So I’m really glad to see it FINALLY being discussed!!

  • Cin Langston says:

    Right on! Was just discussing similar with another blogger today. Although there is something common between all of us that brought us to this medium/community, beyond that thread, we are all very different in what drives us, how we live, and what we have to say.

    It is the journalist’s job to “report” on our “phenomena.” Unfortunately nasty headlines sell best so from that stance I don’t blame him for trying to go negative. He’s just doing his job, albeit poorly and taking the easy route. But IMO the negativity goes beyond bloggers and/or moms. It’s a female thing.

    There are simply going to be people who do not like the idea of a woman making money, much less while she’s sitting home with a kid on her hip, maybe or maybe not wearing jammies, and goodness she might not even have a degree! How dare she!

    If she were quietly banging away at the laptop while the kids were at school and winning a washer here or a dryer there, no one would say a word. But we’ve got talented women doing extraordinary things and figuring out ways to get paid for it. General Motors and Pepsi are even sponsoring our conferences. Who do these women think they are?

    Regardless of education, location, position, or direction, we are women fighting our way out of the box. We have found a way to be good moms without giving up our “selves” our creativity, our dreams, or career notions. We have opened the door to earning income and providing for our families without having to neglect/sacrifice our responsibilities at home. We are reaching our true female potential of giving all that we have to help one another without becoming a martyr. We’re evolving, becoming enlightened, and kicking ass.

    That’s who we are. why don’t they print THAT!?

  • Heather says:

    Fantastic post! I have no idea what I am and that lands me in the “I don’t care” category because thinking abotu it hurts my brain. I have the word “Maternal” in my blog name but I often blog about other moms. Sometimes I write about my kid and sometimes I write about writing about my kid. See what happens to my mind when I think about it *kaboom!*

  • Alisa Bowman says:

    Man, this got me going. I can’t believe this is my third comment. Anyway, it occurred to me that I got TONS of free product when I worked for a consumer magazine. Yeah, we even had a word for it. We called it “schwag.” I was also often asked to write about certain products in order to attract those companies to advertise. Ethical? Probably not, but it goes on in just about every magazine. This is why I don’t understand why the reporters are singling out the mommy bloggers as unethical. That’s the part that’s really irritating.

  • Julie Roads says:

    You know what else it is? The word ‘Mommy’ – my three year old’s use it. It’s a three year old’s word. It demeans and it condescends. Mother Bloggers, even Mom Bloggers sounds so much better to my brain and my sense of self. I might have to add this thought to the post…

  • Becky Pearce says:

    I think what is saddest about the dialogue taking place around this topic is that it is often “moms who blog” judging other “moms who blog.” I expect that mainstream media will pick up a story like this & run with it, but it’s often moms attacking & judging each other which makes it so much worse. Moms have always played this game with each other – stay at home vs. work, breastfeed vs. bottlefeed, the list goes on & on. Now we just have another thing to add that list with the invention & growth of blogging.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Becky. You are so right. I’ve seen it on blogs, Twitter and I’m sure everywhere in between. If we can’t all be nice to each other, why in the world do we expect the rest of the world to play that way?

    Agree to disagree, ladies. What’s that old saying, ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say…’

    I’m not suggesting that we shut up and don’t say what we think. But discuss the issues, don’t attack the people.

  • Kelby says:

    Excellent post! And actually, I have been saying for a while that moms who blog makes more sense. I actually EMBRACE the mommy blogger label. I do it for the exact same reasons you reject it, which is the funny part. I do it to PROVE mommy bloggers aren’t just one type of mom who blogs.

    We are SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST MOMS!!! But here is why I think we should use it. Why should it only describe one type of mom who blogs? That is absurd! There are moms who blog about motherhood, yes. But there are moms who are physicians blogging about health, former CEOs blogging about business, former journalists blogging about new media.

    Like you say, Julie, don’t put us in a box. I just hashtagged #momswhoblog . Who says the news media and marketers get to name us? Let’s name OURSELVES! And I refuse to abandon the mom blogging category to only one small group of moms who blog. I am a mommmy blogger! Better yet, I am a mom who blogs!!!

  • Cin Langston says:

    Oh right Becky! There are mean girls out here as sure as they are at home. Fortunately, in my short (and in and out) time, I have not run into any nastiness or judgment which is exactly what I originally turned to the blogosphere to get away from! I am sure I will experience it but for now I am appreciating the warm, wonderful, and supportive women, girls, chicks, ladies, moms, mommies, mamas, babes & bitches that I have encountered :-)

  • Jen Wright says:

    Julie,

    (It’s Julie, right? I hope it’s Julie.) Anyway, I’ve never been here but was attracted by the tweet you retweeted that someone tweeted about you and the mommy box.

    People blog about topics. That’s marketing. The newspapers commenting on commerce is not a threat, it’s a boon. Surely you get that. When they’re interested, it’s because there is accumulated interest in all senses of the term. That’s good, regardless of the angle they pursue to sell papers. They market, too. They angle, too. They sell ads. You know that, right? So relax.

    As far as who puts mommy blogger in the box (that you just reinforced to generously with your bullet points), let’s be honest. Those women do.

    To claim that patriarchy or, what did you say, “misogynists” are behind the “box” (nice word choice, btw, sorry, dark sense of humor) is to give too much credit where it is undue. Sorry. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Tons of chicks with kids and typewriters are trying to make a living. Do I dislike them for that? No. Do I guide my actions by that (like will I call myself a ‘mommy blogger’ per the mob’s actions), NO.

    I don’t call myself a mommy blogger for one reason—I don’t blog about motherhood. I just write.

    I’ll summarize with this: men didn’t build this box. Google a bit tonight and allow yourself to be open to the results. Women, with children, and a desire for income built the box. And that’s ok. If that box holds water for them, let ’em build it.

    And guess what, you can build a different one.

    That’s exciting. Hope your foot is healing (‘heeling’ if it’s specifically in that region)

    Jen

    P.S. We’re always looking for writers, gender and parenthood status are fairly irrelevant, as we’re fairly irreverent to boxes in general. They never float. Have you noticed that? It’s the darndest thing.

  • Angie M. says:

    Stop bashing mommy bloggers!

    I am not a “mommy blogger”. I am however a “mommy blog reader” … and damn proud of it! I think Mommy Blogs offer people like me alot; mostly excellent information written by people I can relate to. I like reading their stories and I like commenting on them. I find the product reviews very helpful and I love finding out about deals like at CVS and other stores. And I love the humorous articles that I need to lighten up my day (barefootfoodie is my fav!).

    I visit http://www.MommyBlogs.com and http://www.MomBlogNetwork.com almost every day. I need my daily dose!

    So that if mommy bloggers make money. They serve a usefull purpose to us moms, so why shouldn’t they get paid for it.

  • Ron Miller says:

    While I completely agree that you shouldn’t box people in or use the term “mommy blogger” as a club, I do have a problem with people (moms or otherwise) taking merchandise in exchange for posts (if it’s in fact a quid pro quo). That is, we give you this product and you talk it up. If they are in fact honest product reviewers and some are good and some are bad and that’s the way it goes, that’s another story. But when you start using a blog/publication as a means to get free stuff, I definitely have a problem with that.

    Every Mom who blogs is not a Mommy blogger. I’m a Dad and I’m not a Daddy blogger. I don’t blog about family issues, so I agree it’s not a very useful term, but I do think it’s completely fair game for publications like Newsweek to explore the relationship between these bloggers (who happen to be Moms) and the companies they write about because it is in fact an entirely different dynamic than we are used to having from a publication.

    If you want to be a journalist, you can’t behave in this way. If you want to create a new class of publication, you have to be completely transparent about what you’re doing or in my mind it’s completely dishonest (and in fact the FTC has new rules on this because of this practice).

    So there are a couple of issues here. One is the label and how it’s used, and I completely agree that it’s neither useful nor right, but the issue of transparency in blogging and writing is one that we should be discussing and debating and I think that’s both healthy and fair.

    Ron

  • Julie Roads says:

    Hi Jen – yes, it’s Julie. You’ll notice if you reread that I never said that ‘men’ built the box. It’s all of us that built it because we’re all a part of this society that is misogynistic and sexist.

    Of course I know that all publicity is good publicity – but that doesn’t make me need to ‘relax’ about it. If we all just relaxed nothing would ever get done or changed.

    You repeated what I stated in the post, “And guess what, you can build a different one. That’s exciting.’ Exactly – but no one ever built a new one by relaxing. I’m having a discussion.

    Did I reinforce the stereotype by naming it? I guess I can see your point there – but not everyone that reads this blog understands the issue at hand – and I felt that it needed to be defined to prove the point that there is more to write about than just the ‘Mommy Blogggers’ – that was the point of my post.

    “We’re always looking for writers…” was that an invitation? I’ll check out your site…but you should know that I don’t write for free, or for juice boxes – they don’t float either, nor do they pay the bills for the family that I support.

    Thanks for the kind words about my foot – I hope it heals because I feel like a heel.

    Julie

  • Julie Roads says:

    Ron, Ron, Ron…

    Do you see the word journalist anywhere in my post in reference to what the ‘Mommy Bloggers’ are doing? I agree with you that the whole issue needs to be sussed out – but it’s not the point of this post.

    If you want my two cents, I’ll say that if you’re going to talk about a product, you should absolutely disclose whether you got a freebie or are employed by the company. But there is a grey area. What if you really love the product? What if you truly believe in the company – and the freebie or paycheck is just a random bonus? I know people that have an agreement with companies that if they don’t like a product, they just don’t write about it and others that tell it like it is no matter what.

    But, these women that do product reviews on their blogs do not call themselves journalists! So, don’t confuse that point – at least not in reference to what I’ve written above.

    My point is that there is such a dynamic thing happening within the Mommy Blogger culture – and it’s exciting – why can’t they write about that.

    Read Alisa’s third comment above – she talks about how this company/writer relationship has been going on forever…but for some reason a finger has to be pointed at the Mommy Bloggers? That’s just not right…or to use your word, ‘fair.’

  • Ron Miller says:

    It’s exciting to a point, and I grant you that, but
    if you don’t let your readers know the nature of your relationship with a company you are writing about, that’s patently dishonest to me no matter what you call yourself. Unless you tell me up front about the nature of that relationship and that you are only going to write about the products if you like them.

    And to Alisa’s point, yes “real” journalists get products for reviewing purposes (me included), but there is no quid pro quo involved. I’m not taking those products because I agree to write only good stuff. I write balanced reviews where I tell the good, bad and the ugly. There’s is a huge difference there.

    It’s unfortunate that the press is ignoring those ‘Mommy bloggers’ doing honest work, but you can’t get angry at Newsweek for doing its job and letting the public know they may want to look at these “reviews” in a different light because these folks are only going to write about a product when they like it (and by the way, they are getting paid in cash and merchandize to write about them).

    Ron

  • Julie Roads says:

    Ron – What? The part I said was exciting was the other huge side of what’s happening with Moms who Blog – like the community they’ve built, etc…nothing about product writing!

    Again, that’s not what my post was about and I pretty much agree with you – so I’m not sure why you’re arguing this point so fiercely here in this context.

    Also – if you think that there aren’t ‘some’ journalists out there getting bribed to write good reviews or feature certain stories, then you’re nuts. It happens all the time…in fact, it just happened in our local paper.

  • Ron Miller says:

    I’m not arguing that journalists are ethically pure. As with in any profession, there is going to be a range of human behaviors, but at least there is a clear ethical framework in place, and if people choose to ignore it or go outside its boundaries they are called to task.

    My point is that you’re getting angry at the press for missing a part of the group, but the press is focusing on a popular cross-section of that group, one that has managed to attract large followings. It’s the job of the press (at least in my view) to make sure the public is not getting hoodwinked.

    Those women who are successfully engaging in this type of behavior are in fact being blatantly dishonest, and may even be breaking the law. It’s the job of the press to expose that.

    I get that you’re frustrated that the Mommy bloggers who are doing all kinds of interesting stuff are getting left out, but that’s true of honest bankers too. Not every banker is a crook or incompetent, but the press just writes about those who have driven their institutions into the ground. The fact the other people are doing their jobs is a given. What we tend to look at is those who doing something considered outside of the norm.

    Sure it would be nice if Newsweek (and other pubs you mentioned) wrote a cumbuaya puff piece about the great camaraderie in the Mommy Blogging community and some of the great work that gets done (and they should have at least mentioned it if they didn’t) but that’s not news.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Come on, Ron. You know me better than that – this isn’t about wanting a puff piece. And they’re not ‘just’ exposing some kind of crime. Read the articles. They are a symptom – again not the entire point of my POST. You’re starting to remind me of the ‘AJ’ commentors…LOL.

  • Well said! I am a mom that blogs. For one thing my teens haven’t called me mommy since they were shorter than me, I write about whatever I feel like, including parenting and I do it for me. Thank you for reminding us that we don’t have to stay in the box just cause someone stuck us in it.

  • Sandra Foyt says:

    I’ve just been visiting family who still don’t think that blogging could possibly be a credible career choice, so I’m thinking any publicity – even negative – could be a boon to bloggers. However, the reality is that there is a world of negativity, and it seems like every label is a magnet for meanness. Good thing there are also lots of courageous folks leading by example!

  • Dana says:

    Ann all the books sent to Newsweek in hopes of a review are different, how?

  • MJ Ces says:

    I can feel the weight of your words, Julie.

    Take any newspaper or any magazine and read it cover to cover. Now aren’t the majority of the product reviews there are just results of some sort of company sponsorships? It’s just PR at work and in the case of mommy bloggers, why should they be any different?

    Let Mommy bloggers, or any blogger for that matter rave about a product or service that they love. It’s their right. If they are publishing it on their blogs, that’s their right and traditional media outfits should not despise them for that.

  • Lea says:

    Terrific discussion sparked by a terrific post, Julie! I continue to admire your ability to analyze and take apart a trend or topic – and always offer a different, valid way of looking at it.

    Thanks for speaking up in support of us, we moms who blog!

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