Mommy Blogs: A Step Back for Feminism?
I consider myself a feminist. I know it’s the ‘F’ word, but if you actually look at the meaning of feminism I think of many of the people around me as being feminists too. The ‘F’ doesn’t stand for “fanatical” — although at times I can be accused of being that too — rather, feminism is simply the belief in equality of rights and opportunities for men and women. Over the years I have seen women work hard in many different ways to promote positive change in the area of gender inequality helping us move forward towards the goals of feminism. That is, until the setback of the “Mommy Blog”.
Some of the biggest hurdles in the strides for equal opportunity include women and their issues being improperly depicted and the lack of self-promotion that affects recognition and access to opportunities. What I have noticed is that when women are not being misrepresented, they are often underselling themselves. The blogosphere is as an amazing tool that is easily accessible to help correct these problems: self-promotion has never been easier. Mommy blogs that present neurotic, emotionally unstable, kid-crazed mothers, is a misuse of this opportunity. What concerns me the most is that this is a misuse at the hands of women themselves – we, ourselves, are the ones that are turning this tool into another obstacle to progression.
I am not referring to the blogs written by women who happen to be mothers. Who I am talking about is bloggers that only focus on their roles as mothers and mothers only. You know, the blogs that give you the unsettling impression that the writer arrived in this world the same day their child was born. These women present their lives in a way that suggests that their lives gained meaning at the point of parenthood with nothing before and perhaps, nothing that will come after. As if all the time spent educating, learning, exploring, understanding and striving to be the women they wanted to be was simply just filler until they became mothers.
These mommy blogs are often written as a cross between personal agendas and intimate journals – they take inventory of the day’s tasks; detail inconsequential childcare issues; and, overstate moments of parenthood minutia. They highlight the disconnect with their spouses in such a way that leads to the conclusion that men and women cannot and will not ever be able to understand each other. They may also enhance an irreconcilable division between their lives as mothers and the lives of other ‘non-mothers’ thus, implying that women who are not mothers cannot form a true opinion of their issues or do not have the right to form that opinion.
Many mommy bloggers have well-developed opinions, skills and interests. The same characteristics that made them successful pre-motherhood are probably what have led them to this new endeavor of mommy blogging. They probably didn’t set out to write a blog that depicts them as a crazy mother that is obsessed with canning baby food or the latest gizmo for their child’s nursery. Also, they probably don’t think that others see them as living in a bubble with no other interests than raising their bubble children. These bloggers likely have the noble intentions to create a forum where women know that they are not alone in their experiences.
The problem is that many of these blogs perpetuate gender stereotypes and generalize female behavior. Intentionally or unintentionally, many mommy bloggers do one of two things. First, many mommy bloggers may be living very fulfilling and well-rounded lives that you don’t get to see through their blogs. However, when all they talk about is such things as making homemade organic-only baby food, they disregard these other aspects of their lives resulting in a partial portrayal of motherhood.
On the flip side, it is true that some mommy bloggers are solely occupied with such tasks as canning baby food yet; their blogs suggest their lives are deeply fulfilling and they wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. This type of blog not only perpetuates the false notion that women are only happy to be in the home and would prefer to spend their days fussing over things related to the house; but also, inadvertently isolates other mothers who don’t measure up. Other mothers who read these blogs may feel as though they need to care about the things that mommy bloggers are talking about and if they don’t, they are bad mothers. The truth is some women personally have no issue buying a dozen jars of pre-canned baby food but now meant to feel shame about such things.
Ultimately, in either scenario, the main problem is that when the rest of society reads these mommy blogs the life of a woman is simplified. This has the effect of downplaying both the successes and struggles of women. Moreover, it has the effect of narrowing the space that women are striving to open up in order to permit open discussion of their real life experiences — ironically, directly contradicting the original intention of many mommy bloggers. I cringe at the thought that a man will read these blogs, in turn reinforcing antiquated ideas of women in the home.
I also find it frustrating that women will so readily want to discount their lives pre-motherhood. When I see a mother putting so much effort into this type of mommy blog, I feel a profound loss to the society of women – the loss of women in business, women in the arts, women in culture, women in non-profit and the list goes on. This loss is compounded for me when the blogger actually is a talented writer. These are women who have the skills and the dedication to do meaningful work that needs to be done – including revolutionizing the idea of motherhood.
I am not saying being a mother or a stay-at-home mom is not meaningful work. I respect the choice to stay home and I understand the many reasons why women opt to do so. I also know that there are a lot of sacrifices and compromises that are made when women decide to stay home. My issue is simply with how we present the woman who has made that choice. Instead of implying that we need to become obsessive about our childcare duties, it would be inspiring if these women aspired to be domestic trailblazers and reframe the idea of women in the house.
Writing about motherhood can be a consequential contribution to bring awareness, solidarity and change. This does not mean women’s blogs cannot be light, creative and playful and always need to be serious or profound. We just should be careful how motherhood and women’s lives are framed. For example, how refreshing would it be if a mom blogged and said “don’t sweat the small stuff”; take short cuts; or buy something prepackaged once in a while then with all the money and time you saved get a babysitter and do something crazy. Such content would gently break the cycle of yard sticking mothers against each other, offer some perspective that women themselves are important (not just as mothers) and highlight a life that has to be lived outside motherhood. Not to mention the shocking idea that a helicopter parent’s child will survive one day in someone else’s care.
As mothers we are setting examples, if not for the world at large, then at least for our own children. How do we want our daughters to see the lives of their mothers? How do we want our sons to value the lives of women? Do we want our children to think that women have only one role and a singular purpose in life? As a mother myself, I hope my daughter will look at my life with her and think I was a good mother. But more than that, I hope she will look at all aspects of my life and think that I was more than just a good mother to her.
By Amana Manori
Amana Manori is a lawyer, a mom and a business owner. She was recently profiled by Femme-o-nomics in their Wavemakers feature of ‘female innovators – woman who are constantly blazing new trails, inspiring others and revolutionizing the status quo’.