Sex, Lies and Mommy Blogs: Detroit Free Press Got It Half-Right, Bloggers Tell BlogHer

7 years ago

On the heels of a series of negative press articles about women bloggers from the New York Times to today's Detroit Free Press, we turned to the bloggers interviewed in the DFP article to see how their interviews translated onto the screen. Are journalists trying to -- as Just_Margaret on BlogHer points out -- "encourage a negative perception," or are fair interviews revealing the truth about women blogging?

Detroit Papers Hold News Conference To Announce Major "Strategic" Changes

Turns out the former more than the latter. Which is what a lot of people suspected in the comment section of my original post covering the DFP article earlier today.

Melissa Summers, author of Suburban Bliss, quoted in the Detroit Free Press article, explains that Free Press staff writer Georgea Kovanis got it half right, "She accurately conveyed a specific part of my experience with blogging. But in the interest of a coherent story, she had to leave out my comments about the amazing support my readers have given me over the years. How being honest and open on my blog has allowed me to find friendships that fit me so much better than ever before in my life."

Jacqueline Wilson, author of Writers Ramblings, also quoted in the Detroit Free Press article agrees, "The negative side is just one facet that was quoted. I also blog and social network with amazing women -- both moms and those without children -- who are there to lift you up and support you, too. My blogging experience has been far more positive than negative -- much more positive than the Free Press article made it seem."

Tiffany Romero, who was described by Jennifer Mendelsohn, author of the New York Times article, as "a summer-camp director from Los Angeles, she steered the proceedings with the good-natured sass of a sorority social chairwoman and the enthusiasm of a, well, summer-camp director. (She went barefoot for much of the day and said “You guys!” a lot.)" responded with her own blog post after the New York Times article on her project, Bloggy Boot Camp.

If this is all Jennifer got out of a day that produced comments like:

"Thank you for reminding me I should be authentic in my blogging."

"I was nervous to come, but felt so welcomed and everyone was so kind."

"The information was so valuable, thank you!"

Then she was alone in her feeling that the conference and the women who attended were nothing more than silly ladies, driving minivans and having girl time.

It's not just bloggers themselves defending their writing and choices after these pieces. The author of the New York Times piece felt moved to defend the backlash she felt after the article was printed in Sunday Styles. Jennifer Mendelsohn wrote, "My intent was never to vilify or belittle Tiffany, SITS, Boot Camp or the world of mom blogs at large. And I'm genuinely saddened that that intent, and my professionalism, could somehow be so grievously misconstrued and called into question by some within the blogging community."

It's hard to marry the effusive praise Mendelsohn gives Bloggy Boot Camp on her personal blog with the bias found within the words actually written in the article to discuss the topic of women blogging: "must-have skill set for the minivan crowd," "real-time girly bonding," and "Heed the speaker’s advice, and you, too, might get 28,549 views of your tutu-making tutorial!"

Or simply taking the titles as the tone setting start to every article:

"Honey, Don't Bother Mommy. I'm Too Busy Building My Brand"


"World of Sex, Lies, and Mommy Blogs"

What can be taken away from the fact that the majority of these articles are written by women about women? Are women who mock other women more likely to believe that cattiness is an inherently female trait? The tone of these articles seem to mock the idea of women working, yet they are written by women working ... is this simply a case of elbow-bumping the competition, of trying to grab eyes and attention?

Boiling any massive group of people down to a few adjectives is going to get people riled up, and women are no exception. One only needs to look as far as this site to see the diversity that exists amongst women (and yes, that includes mommybloggers).

And what to make of the points these bloggers made that ended up on the cutting room floor? As Wilson points out, she is part of a social network, a group "who are really out there to share stories and help others and make changes in their community. Why can't the focus be there? I guess that doesn't make as grand of a story. People feed into negativity, just look at the comments left on the Free Press article."

She lamented the points that Kovanis chose to ignore.

I spoke at great lengths about the need for moms to feel comfortable speaking to each other about our issues -- about how, sometimes, I write in my blog things other moms have e-mailed me about but were too afraid to say for fear of being judged. We need to let mothers know that they don't need to be perfect and that they don't need to have all the answers. I know that wasn't the angle of the article, but I wish some of that would have come through, too.

Additionally, Summers pointed out Kovanis's bias:

I certainly wouldn't have had this site for seven years if all I got in return was some woman in California telling me I don't love my children "correctly" and that I have terrible teeth. I love so many of the women I've met in this community. Some of my best friends are other bloggers. I've gained so much from the support of my readers who've watched me struggle with my self image, with being the mother of kids under five, women who've heard me say "I am a survivor of abuse." Obviously that's the bigger story in all of this, but that won't get the comments section of the Free Press calling mothers fat lazy whiners who need to get off the sofa and get a real job.

At the end of the day, another fact remains, which is that defining all women who blog as "mommy bloggers" -- regardless of whether or not they write about their children or even have children -- is even more problematic. There doesn't seem to be rhyme or reason in the definition. There isn't a problem with the moniker when it comes from the writer herself or even people who read her blog. Yet in the case of the New York Times, it's coming from a journalist who is making large, sweeping assumptions about the people she is seeing in a room. After all, I'm sure Mendelsohn didn't walk through Bloggy Boot Camp asking how many women considered themselves mommy bloggers, nor did she even get a sense of the majority of blogs she was reducing down to a single element. How many of the so-called mommy bloggers in that room who were part of the "minivan crowd" actually have children? Or is the media lumping all women of a certain age as assumed mommies? How many women labeled mommybloggers see themselves as part of that group and how many label themselves with a different title: food blogger, political blogger or health blogger?

What is your take on the way mainstream media approaches women who blog?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her book is Navigating the Land of If.

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