How to Succeed in Mommy Blogging: Sex, Cursing, and Vaginas

6 years ago

Recently I attended a lovely Ladies Who Blog luncheon with other mommy bloggers whose ambitions ran the gamut from "I'm just doing this so I don't go crazy being a full-time mom" to "my agent is packaging me for a web series." The idea behind the gathering was to pry us away from our laptops so we could interact with real live women who write the blogs, trade ideas, and offer support. General networking stuff.

Somewhere between the Israeli couscous salad and the mini-cupcakes, the conversation shifted to an analysis of a particular brand of snarkiness that accompanies some of the most widely read mommy blogs. The writers of these Snarky Blogs wave their snark flag proudly, often warning readers that if they can't handle truckdriver-worthy profanity and torrents of sarcasm, they should get the f**k off their f**king site.

I have a theory about the genesis of the Snarky Mommy genre. The Snarky Mommy blogger is yin to the gloriously fulfilled mommy yang. Rip off the June Cleaver body suit and you'll find a bedraggled Sylvia Plath gazing longingly at the oven. The Snarky Mommy genre gives voice to the Chinese foot-binding kind of pressure that our culture puts on women to conform to a saint-like model of mommydom:

Good mothers speak in beatific tones always, even in the toy aisle at Costco.

Good mothers make their own baby food and think it's the cutest thing ever when their infant hurls onto the cashmere sweater they knitted during naptime.

Good mothers would never dream of weaning before their child is in preschool so they can toss back a mojito.

Given the oppressive, judgmental stance towards mothers these days, it's refreshing to behold a counterpoint emerge in the zeitgeist. The Snarky Mommy Grand Dames, Dooce being the richest, and leading the pack, do what they do quite well. They are seasoned wordcrafters, and they have perfected a singularly brazen, irreverent and appealingly crass style that's distinctive and laugh-out-loud funny.

But when any pop culture brand hits it out of the park, imitators go forth and multiply almost overnight. For instance: How many vampire books and Annoying Housewife reality TV mutations do we really need? The more these derivatives spawn, the more they sound alike and the less punch they pack.

Maybe it's just my Uptight WASP upbringing rearing its prissy head, but there are a few Snarky Mommy trademarks that, when used indiscriminately, I'd rather not read.

Snarky Bloggers curse with pride and gusto. They issue proceed-with-caution warnings to prospective readers.

Snarky Bloggers announce that they're just about to have sex with their husbands and they report on their activity, post-coitus.

Snarky Bloggers discuss the state of their post-breastfeeding breasts as well as their vaginas, aka "va-jay-jays."

The Snarky Blogger celebrities have branded themselves and boast huge readerships. Dooce has over 1,500,000 Twitter followers. The Bloggess and Scary Mommy both have over 178,000. What does this mean? It means that Dooce, at least, is successful enough to support her family in a high-end lifestyle. I don't know what The Bloggess or Scary Mommy make, but I imagine they don't need day jobs. Which begs the question:

Do you have to curse or reference your vagina in order to be a successful Mommy Blogger?

Before I come across as too snarky myself, let me just say that I champion every blogger's right to have her particular bloggy voice. For some bloggers, peppering their posts with curse words and airing intimate laundry comes naturally and they do so with aplomb. The Bloggess swears like a sailor, writes a sex column, and is one of the funniest people in the blogosphere. Her post about Mommy Business cards makes me howl every time I read it.

Why is it that some bloggers can make Snark appealing while others make it merely offensive? My friend Jenny Heitz, who writes the occasionally snarky and always witty social commentary/shopping blog, Find a Toad, theorizes that The Bloggess (and others of her ilk) rock Snark by being self-deprecating, turning the joke back on themselves instead of simply snarking on others.

As a writer who blogs about divorce, custody and complicated children, I realize that my confessional subject matter is inherently controversial and can ignite a firestorm of criticism. To protect the privacy of my ex-husband, my current husband, my children and anyone else even vaguely associated with me, I blog under a pseudonym and show only cropped, non-identifying photos. I am at times sarcastic, irreverent, satirical. I strive to be honest, entertaining, and to create meaning out of wrenching situations.

What I don't do is curse. Or at least hardly ever. As swear words go, I believe less is more. I also don't invite readers into my bedroom. Again, maybe it's my prim Waspy background, but sex is something I'd rather keep private. Although I have taken pains to disguise my blog, there is always the chance that my children will discover their mother is also Pauline and would be completely grossed out to read about my sex life. And finally, if I were to mention my vagina, I would not refer to it as my "va-jay-jay." Ever.

Unless someone offered me a lot of money.

Regardless of subject matter or stylistic preference, good writing is good writing. I'm perfectly happy to read about someone else's vagina as long as there's reason beyond shock value to read about it.

Bloggers, what are your confessional limits and why? Have you considered going snarky in the hope that it would boost your readership and bring in advertisers?

Readers, what's your reaction to blogs featuring sexual emploits, cursing and body parts? Fine? Don't care? Too much information?

I'd love to know your thoughts.

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