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They shall from time to time…

By March 18, 2010Blogging, How To, Politics

Every few months, it seems, the big news outlets write a story about ‘the mommy bloggers’ – and these articles are always bad. They serve as a reminder to these women and the rest of the world that mommy bloggers are silly, worthless and not to be taken seriously.

Case in point, last week’s bitch slap landed in the Fashion & Style section of the New York Times. Heaven forbid you put the bloggers in the Tech section. Because, the article reminds us, these aren’t really bloggers, they’re moms who fool around on their pink computers, talk about diapers, bitch about companies and do sippy cup giveaways. There was even a Tupperware party analogy. If the article had been anymore patronizing and condescending it would have had to have been posted in the classifieds next to the free puppies and SWF’s seeking SWM’s with BHCs.

What’s wrong here?

What’s missing? Why is it that women are moving and shaking things, and seeming to have freedom and independence and gumption in this country…but then crap like this happens over and over and over again?

Bonnie Marcus may be on to something. It might be a problem with leadership. Of the female kind. She has a new eBook out called Advancing Women’s Leadership that features 3 fantastic interviews from her (huge sensation of a) radio show, Head over Heels.

One of the interviewees featured is Marie Wilson, founder and President of The White House Project. (FYI copy buffs, the WHP’s stellar text: “Add women, change culture. Add women, change business. Add women, change politics. ADD WOMEN, CHANGE EVERYTHING“) Wilson notes something profound about our culture:

“We’ve measured the comfort level of the public, and that comfort level is up to 90 percent on most issues. The comfort level of women leading across these sectors is just great.

What hasn’t risen with the comfort level is the number of women who actually lead. What’s good is that you now have a public that trusts women to lead a technology firm, a journalistic organization, to lead in politics. Across these different areas, even in military, sports and religion the three I call guns, games and God, which are the hardest, it doesn’t drop below 70 percent.

So, the trust is there, and so I think it’s the right direction. It’s just that the political country needs to move along with it and know it’s right. Let’s put people in. We need to fill the pipeline. And the pipeline’s there. We need to just push the women in the pipeline.”

Attitudes are changing, but the action isn’t there.

I do know that mommy bloggers are only once slice of ‘women’ – but they’re a very vocal and impactful one – and they represent. So, it’s important to note that in the case of the media campaign that insists on putting mommy bloggers in their place, we have a bigger problem: A woman wrote the article. She’s a mommy blogger. She threw her peers under the bus. Her name is Jennifer Mendelsohn.

Is the problem leadership? Are mommy bloggers lacking leaders that show by example that this is a sisterhood? I’m not sure it’s that cut and dry. As far as I can see, there exist the following factions in the mommy blogger world:

  1. The power moms that are untouchable, revered, reviled, envied and ‘above it all’, making their millions and patting the rest of the herd on the head (if you’re lucky enough to be at arm’s length) (ie. Dooce)
  2. The upper-mid level moms that put on conferences, support people, interact, come up with ideas that are inclusive and helpful (ie. TypeAMom)
  3. The upper-mid level moms that are mean, nasty, selfish and cut from the every mom for herself cloth (ie…..I will not stoop to their level and mention names)
  4. The mom minions – thousands at this point of moms doing their thing, hoping one day to be a 2, praying to be a 1. (ie. there are too many to name)

Who’s supposed to lead?

The crowd is, well, crowded. And the competition is fierce. #2 above is the closest we get to leaders, but they’re also struggling to survive and constantly reaching for #1. They do lead, sometimes, but I’m not sure enough. And sadly, I’m not sure the mob would even let one or two people be ‘The Leaders’ because of the fierce jealousy and competition that pervades. Which just underlines and italicizes the basic problem even more.

And what about the rest of us, what about the women bloggers in general, the women business owners, the women every things? Where do we draw the line between independence and reliance? Following and leading? Mentoring and learning? Several strong women and the sisterhood?

I only voraciously read 1/3 of Bonnie’s (free) ebook before this all hit me and I had to come write about it…so I’m headed back into it now to learn more about women and leadership and how I can be part of using it to enact change. (I think I’ll start by sending a copy to Jennifer Mendelsohn).

Check it out…let me know what you think…

Image credit: whyamikeenan

(and yes, I ripped my title straight from the West Wing…)

Join the discussion 33 Comments

  • I hadn’t realized before that there has been that differentiation of bloggers and mommy bloggers. Looking back there is a lot of fluffy pink kitsch about getting into blogging while your kids are learning to walk on water in many of the baby magazines. I hadn’t noticed before how should I say, demeaning that is to legit women bloggers. I would estimate that at least half of the blogs in my RSS reader are written by professional women and are not fluff. Getting a blog up and running can be easy but getting the business up and running behind the blog is not. That takes a certain professionalism an iron will, and a strong spirit to achieve.
    It is 2010 for heaven’s sake, you would think that the world was ready for women to be strong business leaders in both internet business and the more traditional. You are definitely right to be outraged Julie, you may be a Mom and a blogger but you are not in the new “mommy blogger” category by any means.
    .-= Justin Matthews´s last blog ..10 ways for a guy to survive pregnancy =-.

  • Dina Lyons says:

    Thank you for this thought-provoking post. As a person who grew up reading the NYT daily, I didn’t at first feel the same intensity of offense as you did when I read Jennifer’s article. But, then I realized that I had been brainwashed, for this is the NYT’s technique for “reporting” on anything they deem “frivolous” to start. It’s their way of dipping their toes in the water, testing it before they “promote” it to section like Technology.
    What I find even more interesting is Jennifer’s reply to all the reactions, which she posted on her own blog. She claims that she had nothing to do with the title, and that she didn’t intend to offend. She also suggested that all whom are offended write letters to the editors of the NYT.
    I am not a blogger, but I work from home and I have kids. It is very different operating a business from home when you are a parent. It’s just going to take an awful lot of persistence for us to gain and maintain respect. Keep pushing back folks.

  • Damn where is my pink computer! I demand one if I’m going to be a mommy blogger, it should come with the package.

    I think that NYT article was horrible. I suspect the competition is fierce in the “mommy blogger” world. I mean heck mother’s are competitive without damn blogs! My baby can walk already at 2 months. My child came out of me knowing her ABCs! I don’t get into it with mothers like that. But it doesn’t surprise me it will happen more online. I mean hello! The internet gives people louder voices to be snarky than sometimes they would have in person, bitchness x4.

    It is super hard as a mother with 2 kiddos to maintain a blog. Trying to fit it in. But it makes me happy! I’m just a SAHM, and sometimes it’s nice to have that identity other than just a SAHM. I am now a blogger too. I am damn proud of it. We shouldn’t be shitted on because we have kids at home and we are blogging. Poop on them.

    Anyways sorry for rambling! What a good post. B2B pointed it out to me. :)
    .-= Alison Wright´s last blog ..Soooo Sweet! Sweetener Sample =-.

  • Dan Cosgrove says:

    Holy friggin’ WOW. Fashion & Style!?

    I’m a stay-at-home dad, but I’m sure I wouldn’t end up in the fashion archives if I got interviewed. This whole double-standard crap has got to stop.

    Right after being condescending, they casually mention that she’s got 36,000 hits a month. 36,000!!

    That’s impressive, no matter who you are.

    I suddenly feel the need to drop-kick a journalist.
    .-= Dan Cosgrove´s last blog ..The Zombieland Guide to Self-Defense – Rule #33: Swiss Army Knife =-.

  • This blog post highlights a bigger problem in my view. The traditional media and advertisers seem to be reinforcing the idea that we should be a cookie cutter society.

    Cookie cutter society definition: “If someone has x interest than they will fall into this predefined profile and you can dismiss their attitudes and opinions because of y…”

    I think the reason for the intensity of the attacks on mommy bloggers is because they are challenging stereo-types. Without much effort you can find a “mommy blogger” who has excelled in another field as well. The people who have a vested interest in arguing that a mother would not do that or succeed as that and in arguing that everyone can be neatly put into a box feel threatened that this assumption is being openly challenged by real people.

    Personally, I classify your blog as a writing blog first but because it reflects aspects of your life as a mom I do also associate it with the mommy blogger category. BUT I don’t think that category is bad (I read two other blogs that I put in the mommy blogger category – Project Happily Ever After and The Bloggeress (so you are in great company).
    .-= Trisha Cornelius´s last blog ..30 Day Challenge – Day 8 Getting Noticed =-.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Justin – isn’t it interesting, your reaction, “You are definitely right to be outraged Julie, you may be a Mom and a blogger but you are not in the new “mommy blogger” category by any means.”

    My outrage isn’t about being called a mommy blogger – because I’m really not called that very often, because I’m not one. I’m not – I don’t review products, I don’t write about being a parent (though my kids sneak in here as they relate to the writing life. It’s not how I identify. I have a writing/marketing business.

    My outrage is about the treatment of women in this sphere – by the world and by each other. My outrage is about the pervasive ‘push down’ of women and mothers.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Trisha – you are so right about the cookie cutter things. And it speaks to Alison’s comment above. There are way too many cookies here. The bakery isn’t big enough.

    I do write about my kids occasionally, but that doesn’t make this a mommy blog. Chris Brogan mentions his kids every once in awhile. Would you ever call him a daddy blogger? NO!

    Still…I’m fascinated by my need NOT TO be called a mommy blogger. The stigma is huge. And I’m friends with many mommy bloggers, I’ve spoken with them at conferences, I think they are amazing business women…but still I don’t want to be one. Because of the possible detriment to my company – and people taking it seriously – purely because of articles like the one in the NY Times.

    I’m not just running Writing Roads in between diaper changes. I’ve been working 50-60 hours/week for the last 4 years to build this business, I’m the main breadwinner. The mommy blogger stigma is that it’s something done for fun, you know, to avoid the boredom of being a mother…

    Really, it all makes my stomach turn.

  • Edgy Mama says:

    Dare I ask what a BHC is?
    .-= Edgy Mama´s last blog ..Weekly parent: Locally written kids’ books =-.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Ha! I was waiting for someone to catch that and ask. Only you, Edgy, only you.

    I’ll email you the answer – my parents read this blog.

  • Maisie says:

    As a newbie to the blogging scene, I have often felt like the new kid in school trying to hang out with the cool kids. I do think there is a lack of support for our fellow women bloggers no matter what their chosen demographic. I have felt it quite often in trying to develope relationships with other bloggers. There is so much opportunity there for us, and I hate to see us fall short. Especially when we get enough BS from the rest of the world.

    I am a mommy and I am a blogger. I don’t push product or talk about the greatest new sippy cup. But I am writing in between diaper changes because that is just what I have to do in order to keep writing. If that makes me a “Mommy Blogger” then so be it. But I am here for a reason. I am a mom and a writer. But I am no less one because I am the other.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Well said, MAISIE!!! Seriously, brilliant. You’re right. You are no less one because you are the other – in fact, I think you’re more. That’s exactly why this devaluation is so totally disturbing.

    Thanks for sharing…

  • Aunt Becky says:

    I read that article and all of the others that the Times spurts out and came away with the same idea that you did. It WAS offensive and I felt exactly the same way. I’ve been blogging a long time and I wouldn’t dream of throwing my companions under the bus for anything. Doesn’t matter who they are or how I feel about them. Not even to get into the Times.

    I don’t happen to take myself that seriously, but you know what? If I was going to write a demeaning post about Mom Bloggers, I sure as HELL would take my own blog down first. Because it would make me look like a jealous tool.
    .-= Aunt Becky´s last blog ..Fear and Loathing in Urgent Care =-.

  • I’m one of the teaming masses struggling to both become and in awe of the #2’s. In all honest, though I’d love to rake in #1-esque dough, I don’t pay much attention to them. I’m sort of a fan of reciprocal relationships. We’ll just say, it sucks and I don’t want to cry. I was also in attendance at “boot camp” as a speaker who got bumped (yes I’m bitter, hell I’m a mom blogger it’s sort of our shtick, ha ha). My opinions on the article, it’s author and surrounding discussion seem to change with the reading each new Times Gate post. Landing here though was truly and epiphany waiting to happen. I’ve participated in some chats about this, emailed, left cometary and now realize what we do need is that leadership. The troops need to be not only mobilized (which doesn’t seem to be a problem) but be trained and lead. I nominate Type A mom personally but that’s assuming that we’re running a demMOMcracy here.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Aunt Becky – you are awesome. Just found you today and became a huge and instant fan. You, me and some vodka really need to have a powwow. I take mine on the rocks with about 10 olives.

    “Jealous Tool” There is a blog somewhere with that tagline written allll over it.

  • Julie Roads says:

    DiPaola Momma – here here! on Type A Mom – I think Kelby would be perfect. I’m also thinking it’s too big a job for just one…as mom’s know, community is key.

    And there is good community in this sphere – but something’s still missing…hmmm…..

  • Hi Julie,

    I’m really sorry if I offended you. I do understand your distaste with being associated with the mommy blogger stigma. As I said for me it is a secondary category and part of you being a real person.

    I see your point about the stigma, so I can only apologize for any unintentional offence that I may have caused.

    You really have built an amazing business and are a great writer and have great content on both topics. I am really sorry to have touched a sore point.
    .-= Trisha Cornelius´s last blog ..30 Day Challenge – Day 8 Getting Noticed =-.

  • Julie Roads says:

    TRISHA!!!! No way, not offended – fascinated!!! By my reactions, by the Times article, by all of it!!!! Thank you for writing that and your kind words. But I loved your comment – this is all research!!! Not offended in the least!!!!

  • Excellent post.

    Thank you for giving props to Kelby (@TypeAmom) She is an amazing leader in the community. Mad props to Kelbs!

    And really, the NYTimes? *yawn* Kelby’s blog probably gets more eyeballs.

  • Kelby says:

    Julie, this is an insightful post about what was, ahem, a much less insightful piece. I think I’ve already said a ton about the NY Times’ “journalism” (yes, quotes intentional), so I won’t get into that. But I am so flattered you would mention me as an example for #2. I definitely strive/aim for that every day.

    Thanks DiPaolo and Alli! (Incidentally, Alli is a major league #2 in my book).

    It sounds to me like this week is the prime time to get off my butt and get my long overdue plans/vision for a blogging guild/alliance going. And I am always eager to be a leader (hey, what can I say….? I AM an only child. We have a distorted sense of self-importance). BUT I had planned to form an advisory board for the alliance because, as you say, there is need for more than one leader. I will do that this weekend. It is badly needed to provide an oasis of support, resources, information, etc. for our community. So I am ON it. Seriously. It’s on my to-do list. Very high. (Hate that to-do list. It mocks me so).
    .-= Kelby´s last blog ..Newspaper Bias Against Mom Bloggers =-.

  • Alisa Bowman says:

    I think what’s wrong with this debate is that we’ve allowed sex to dominate it. There is a story to be written about the influx of new businesses that are not based on a sound business model or plan (this does not necessarily apply to blogging; I’m thinking of those cardboard signs I see stapled to telephone poles that say “EARN $$$ WORKING FROM HOME!”) THAT would be a great story for the NYT.

    The problem when anyone writes about blogging is that some blogs are businesses (or hoping to be) and some are hobbies. They are getting mixed into the same category, and because some mommy blogs are hobby blogs (AND THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH A HOBBY BLOG), people are thumbing their noses and making jokes about how these women think they are going to make $. It’s mixing apples with oranges and grapes and tangerines. Plus, some men’s blogs are hobbby blogs, too, but no one seems to be making fun of those.

    In short: I think mommies scare the compost (my new nice word for shit) out of other people, even other women and even other mommies. Therefore people seem to perpetually be trying to take mommies down a peg. All I can say is this: mommies? that sounds like power to me. Feel it. Own it. Use it to our advantage.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..What’s Stopping You From Saving Your Marriage? =-.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Well said (written) Alisa!!!

    “Compost (my new nice word for shit)” Oh how I LOVE you!!!

  • Todd Jordan says:

    I think the biggest issue is ‘lumping.’ It’s affecting everyone to some degree. What I realize is it’s how people process the world until they internalize new facts about the world. Women who blog still fit into the ‘lump’ category of mommy bloggers.

    Is it possible that the explosion of mommy bloggers onto the blogging scene has been at a much higher number than women who blog on business, design, tech, and more?

    Another possible factor is sadly that because of that lumping effect, it’s sadly easier to get news attention with mentioning mommy bloggers than women tech bloggers. Part of that is due to poor audience targeting. Like pitching tampons to me. Not worth the time.

    Perhaps better would be to have the news reporters say focused on the housing market find women (and men) bloggers that are hot and on top of that section of the news.

    CNN already spotlights bloggers, both men and women, but they’re still in the lumping mode.

    It’s as much our responsibility as fellow bloggers and as regular consumers, to spread the word about our favorite bloggers, be they women or men. I’m finding it fun to do this via Twitter as well.

    Cheers to sharing this recent occurrence. Keep up the great writing.
    Todd ‘@tojosan’ Jordan
    .-= Todd Jordan´s last blog ..Got pirate? =-.

  • Kelby says:

    Great points, Todd. I would just like to point out, because I think it’s been missed in all the posts about the NY Times article, is that there is a misconception that mommy bloggers are all personal journalists who write about parenting.

    There are many moms blogging about business, design, tech, etc. I almost never blog about parenting. I usually blog about business and social media. I know many great mom bloggers who don’t blog about being a mommy.

    Think about some of the most high-profile “mommy bloggers,” and many of them are not in the mold of personal journalists writing about parenting. So if we consider that the definition, a huge and valuable chunk of the mom bloggers will be deleted from the group.
    .-= Kelby´s last blog ..Newspaper Bias Against Mom Bloggers =-.

  • Julie Roads says:

    I’m so glad you brought that up, Kelby. You and I have spoken about it at length. We need a new word. The connotation surrounding the word ‘mommy’ is just too loaded.

  • I’m of the mind that good writing is good writing. I think that people write best when they are writing from a place of passion. Julie, when I read your blog I know you write from this place. We all know that motherhood/fatherhood is full of great passion and a lot of wonderful writing comes from the everyday experiences with children. No matter what the topic I think we need to support anyone who is attempting to put life into writing and is doing it well.
    Thanks for this post and thanks for encouraging a fantastic dialogue!
    latest post: The Mythology of Childhood

  • Lindsay says:

    You know, that NYT article was simply offensive. The real problem for me was that Jennifer Mendelson IS a “mommy blogger” and yet she was so quick to toss the entire subset under the bus for an article in the NYT. What a little bit of attention will do to some people is just astounding.
    The only good thing that came out of the whole fiasco is that I found some really great blogs written by really great women that were all brought to my attention because of the NYT article.
    .-= Lindsay´s last blog ..Into the Wild a.k.a. My Backyard =-.

  • Julie Roads says:

    I agree Lindsay and thanks!!!!

  • MandyP says:

    I found this on B2B. Great article. You know, I wasn’t offended when I first read the NYT article, but the more I read about it, the more I AM upset. Irritated is a better word, I think. I am a SAHM and I blog. I have found that I enjoy reading others’ blogs and seeing that I’m not alone in this…the everyday struggles and frustrations that accompany being a mom and staying at home. I have also heard from others that they enjoy reading about MY daily struggles so they know that THEY are not alone. The insinuation that because I blog I’m ignoring my kids (the title alone stated this!) was the biggest upset for me. She should be ashamed of herself, but instead, she’s gotten tons of national (international?) attention and that’s probably cushioning the blow of the angry responses she’s no doubt receiving.
    .-= MandyP´s last blog .."Not Me" Monday! =-.

  • Hello, first time here, not sure how I got here but love the conversation. “Mum” bloggers, as they are known over here, are very vocal and not sure any of them would be led, that’s the nature of outspoken people. We sure could do without the 3s though!
    .-= A Modern Mother´s last blog ..Serious mum envy =-.

  • trisha says:

    and there is me…i want to be #1 at what I DO, but at the same time provide a community for my…well, community. So i offer my blog and then the forums. I dont think there is anything wrong with wanting to be successful. All of our definitions of successful are very different I am sure.

    At the end of the day, my only competition is myself…to write better than the day I did before, to inspire someone more than the day before, to enact someone to think or react to words just a little bit more… only I can control my personal best.

    At the same time, I never feel part of ANY system. I think if we do, its us creating it, because I can go about my day, talk to people, write posts, and log off and never feel better than anyone or inadequate to anyone. Those days I have those feelings, are again, of my own controlling.

    .-= trisha´s last blog ..Me at 5 =-.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Trisha! You are certainly in a class of your own!!! (no box could contain your fabulous energy – I can personally attest to that!)

    I love your thoughts on this – it does all come down to each and everyone of us in terms of personal responsibility and approval. No doubt.

    Thanks for stopping by…

  • Sarah says:

    This is a very interesting article for me. I had no idea the scope of the issue here. I just started my blog because I wanted to incorporate my work life (research) with my family in a way that made me happy. I had no idea how many other women were out there blogging. I don’t know where I’ll end up, but like most wish to be a #1, and will work hard till I get there, but I understand that will take a lot of time.

    It might just be me, but reading this I thought back to the classic high school social structure and mean girls. It would seem to me that we do need some leaders at the top to step up and make this a better environment for everyone. Then again, as Trisha above noted, it is up to each of us on our own.

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