This post was also published on Table for Five on April 25, 2013.
I'm angry at Wall Street Journal writer Katherine Rosman. Given the assignment to write about conferences and events such as BlogHer, Mom 2.0, and the Yoga Journal Conference, Ms. Rosman chose not to focus on the business of organizing these conferences, or the women who start and grow their own businesses and attend these events as part of their job, oh no. Ms. Rosman chose to start her article like this:
Katherine Stone, a 43-year-old mother and wife from Atlanta, wants to leave her husband and children.
"Gotcha!", Ms. Rosman must have thought to herself. She then started a new paragraph:
Just for a few days. On her trip, she will listen to panels addressing issues of concern to mothers, network with other bloggers, and stay in a hotel room that someone else will keep tidy.
What do these first few lines tell us? Does it introduce Katherine Stone as the founder of Postpartum Progress, a columnist for Babble Voices, or a contributor to the Huffington Post? Of course not. What it does tell us is that supposedly, she loves leaving her husband and children to go stay in a hotel room that someone else keeps tidy. Seriously.
"She and other mothers who work from home —bloggers, interior decorators, crafters and the like—rarely get to travel alone to escape the daily grind", the article then tells us. LADIES! Did you know we rarely get to travel alone? I didn't know that! I would LOVE to know where Ms. Rosman got that statistic. Apparently, all the women I have sat next to on airplanes that told me they traveled at least once a month to meet up with clients, or visit company offices or whatever were just having a RARE moment alone. Wow.
I could keep quoting Ms. Rosman's article and picking it apart, believe me, it wouldn't be difficult. Instead, I want to put the focus where it should have been in the first place - the GOOD that comes out of attending blogging conferences and events.
Also, please see Katherine Stone's response article My Apology To Mommybloggers and Husbands Everywhere on Babble Voices. I feel like I'm virtually standing in front of her telling the big bully to back OFF. And I don't even write on Babble. I just hate when bloggers get disparaged.
Yes, we have a LOT of fun at these events. Yes, brands set up special parties and activities for us. And yes, we sometimes attend sessions like the ones at next week's Mom 2.0 conference that Ms. Rosman singled out - "How to Keep Blogging After It's All Been Blogged" and "Help! My 9 Year Old Wants to Be on Instagram!" We also attend the sessions that Katherine mentioned in her response article like “Building Community Through Cross-Channel Presence” and “Empowering your Small Business for Growth” and “Creative Collaborations: Building a Dream Team and Balancing Your Strengths” and “The Power of Saying No: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Paid What You’re Worth.”
We actually USE OUR BRAINS at blogging conferences, Ms. Rosman. We don't check into our hotel room and become a hedonistic lump. Our days start around 6:30 a.m. or so, depending on if we like to work out early, then we get completely dressed in business-event-friendly clothing, then breakfast starts at 8:00 followed by a day that doesn't end until 4 or 5 pm. In that time we've walked miles between rooms, taken pages of notes, snapped photos, sent tweets, updated Facebook, handed out business cards, given interviews, shaken dozens of hands, JUST LIKE REAL PROFESSIONALS.
After all of that, we have about an hour to change from business clothes to party clothes because yeah, we like to party together. Is that not okay with you, Ms. Rosman? Do you and your WSJ colleagues never ever cut loose a little?
By the way, that Expo Hall that Mom 2.0 organizers set up like a French market? If I were going to that conference, I would be busy shaking more hands, handing out more business cards, and pitching myself, my blog, and the work I do to the brand and PR reps who take the time to come to blog conferences because BLOGGERS ARE INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE, but I would also probably notice the time and work that went into creating a beautiful space for all of us to network in.
I've watched brand reps set up the booths in those Expo Halls and let me tell you, it is hard work. They go to an awful lot of trouble to display their products and hand out info and samples if they don't think we might mention their product on our blogs or social media sites, which helps them get awareness of their product and ultimately, sell more. We actually have THAT MUCH INFLUENCE in some markets.
Are you aware, Ms. Rosman, that in order to go to blog conferences, we have to raise the money to pay for it ourselves, arrange our own childcare if needed, ask our partner if we have one to arrange for time off work, design and buy the business cards, work out our "elevator pitch" since we'll be asked 100 times "what is your blog about?", deal with cancelled flights and missing luggage and mix-ups with our room reservations, attend the conference even when we are sick or one of our children is because it's our JOB, deal with walking miles every day while generally getting less sleep than we need, expend more energy in 4 days than we actually have in our bodies but we keep going anyway so we don't miss anything - does that sound like a "Stay-at-Home Mom's Vacation" to YOU??
A vacation, Ms. Rosman, is checking into a hotel, changing into a bathing suit, rubbing on sunscreen, and then laying on a beach. A vacation is paying for a trip to Great Wolf Lodge for my entire family with the money I earned working on a campaign for a huge national brand. Spending four days walking until my feet are sore and blistered, missing lunch because I'm having too much fun talking to the editor of Reader's Digest, running out of business cards on day 3 because I visited every booth in the Expo Hall looking for new clients to work with - that's actually not a vacation, but it's damn fun and I won't apologize for doing it.
The article also completely insults the partners of the women who attend conferences. When I went to BlogHer '06, my daughter was 8 months old and my boys were 8 and 10. Did my husband even question the logic of my leaving for four days? Not for one second. He was happy to get a chance to run the house alone, take the kids to a restaurant I don't particularly like but they do, and hang out just with them. While I was gone, I didn't feel guilty (okay, maybe a little), I felt lucky. Lucky to have found this community of women who instantly accepted me just because like them, I have a blog.
There is nothing else in our society today like the blogging community, and especially nothing else like the WOMEN who blog. Our foresisters stood up and said WE DESERVE TO VOTE and WE DESERVE EQUAL PAY FOR OUR WORK. Well, Ms. Rosman, our generation is standing up and saying WE USE OUR WRITTEN WORDS FOR THE BETTER GOOD. When you insinuate that we go to conferences because we just need a simple reason to be happy, that we can't wait to drive away from our partners and children, that we are just looking for a reason to wear funny hats and sip cocktails, you are missing the ENTIRE POINT.
Yes, there are bloggers who go to conferences for the free stuff and the drinking. They also go to SXSW and Affiliate Summit every year too. Have you done a piece on anyone who has attended either of those?
There are as many types of bloggers as there are types of people. Some of us consider it our job, some of us consider it a fun way to go to conferences and let loose with our friends. Some of us do both. But darn it, to insinuate that Katherine Stone or anyone else who organizes or attends a blog conference is just a stay-at-home-Mom grateful for the chance to have the remote and eat junk food in our hotel rooms is just ignorant of what we really do.
Please, Ms. Rosman, come to BlogHer 13 in Chicago. I would be happy to have you shadow me for those four days. Be prepared to get up early and walk all day. You'll lose your voice around day 2 from talking non stop and shouting to be heard in crowded rooms, but you'll keep talking anyway. You'll lose at least one thing - your sunglasses, your cell phone charger, your business card holder - but you'll tweet it and within an hour or two, someone will tweet back that they found it. Because bloggers take care of each other at conferences too. We nurture each other in much the same way that we nurture any relationship we have. And even when we only get one or two minutes together at BlogHer every year, you'd be surprised how strong our connections are to each other. I would do almost anything for most of the women I've met through blogging. Getting to hug them once a year has to be enough, it's sad when it's time to leave, but we look forward all year to the next time we'll be together. Because sitting at a table with women who GET me is what it's all about for me.
So yes, this summer I'll kiss my husband and kids goodbye and drive myself to Chicago for BlogHer 13. I'll work and play for four days, and get a big dose of blogger empowerment. I'll spend the next week on a sort of high as I relive the moments. I'll remember to mention in a post how grateful I am to the organizers of BlogHer, who spend 365 days a year planning. I'll thank the brands I spoke to and take photos of the free swag I get. I'll probably upload at least one photo of me a little tipsy to Instagram.
You're welcome to join me, Ms. Rosman. And, if at the end of those four days, you aren't convinced that blog conferences are about so much more than junk food and control of the remote, I'll eat my words.
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