A mommy blogger’s unpopular opinion on The New York Times article

by CountryFriedMama on March 17, 2010

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The community of moms who blog has been in an uproar over the past week.  The New York Times wrote a story about “mommy bloggers” on the front of its Sunday Style section.  In that story, the writer referred to us as “a force to be reckoned with,” mentioned a study predicting that marketers will spend $746 million on blog advertising by 2012, and lauded the sense of connection women find through blogging.

Those all seemed like great things to me.  I read that piece and felt that my acquaintances who do not blog might understand my time in this space a little bit better after reading that article.

But my reaction was the exception.

The mommy bloggers were irate — about the article’s tone, about the term “mommy blogger,” about the horrid headline which insinuated blogging makes us neglectful of our children and about the art which reiterated that suggestion.

I understand why so many women were upset about the headline and the graphic.

I do not understand the rest of the response, although I have carefully and respectfully read the well-crafted words of many fine bloggers who reacted to this article. (And if you have not devoted untold hours of the past few days to reading this stuff, you can check out Mom 101, Jessica Gottlieb or Lisa Belkin at the New York Times’ Motherlode blog for a glimpse at what bloggers have written about this piece.)

To me, the article’s tone is reflective of one many of us use in our blogs, and I wonder how we can rage against the term “mommy blogger” when so many of us include the words “mommy,” “mama,” “mother” or “mom” in our blog titles.  And I do not understand how we can cry foul on being diminished by “the main stream media’s”  use of cutesy details to cover a conference with a light title like “Bloggy Boot Camp” run by women who refer to themselves as girls (and I do not mean to pick on SITS here; I’m just pointing out a problem in how we market ourselves if what we want is to be viewed in a more serious light).

Many, many bloggers have had their say on the Times’ piece, and hundreds more have commented on those posts, sometimes in vicious, uninformed ways that do a real disservice to this community.  I can’t tell you how many comments I read in which the writers admitted they had not even read the original article, but were enraged anyway.

I left a comment on Kelby Carr’s post on this subject about encouraging mommy bloggers (a term I embrace and own) to reach out to traditional media with our own stories to better shape public perception of who we are and what we do.  Of course, that is a thousand different stories.  We are women with children who communicate via the Web.  Beyond that, each of our stories is different, which is, perhaps, why the Times’ freelancer Jennifer Mendelsohn never had a shot at providing a complete overview of the mommy blogging culture or pleasing all of us.  Not that she should have been trying to do that.  She seems to have set out to capture a slice of this phenomenon of women who blog, and I think she accomplished that.

Still, I’d love to see the next mommy blogging conference offer a session or two on public relations basics for bloggers who want the wider world to understand what we’re doing here in cyberspace.   That seems like the kind of PR session we need to see, moreso than ones that give us tips on getting a hook-up for product reviews.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Will Blog for Shoes March 17, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Bravo, friend. Just bravo.

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C @ Kid Things March 17, 2010 at 2:02 pm

I am a mommyblogger. I don’t mind. In fact, I actually embrace the term. I have not read the article because I don’t want to. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that I know that whatever 1 person has to say about the way in which I write won’t validate me one way or the other. The response to it, however, has been intriguing.

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kalisa March 17, 2010 at 2:03 pm

I’ve been tossing & turning over this one, too. I’m often of two minds about mommy bloggers in general, but gosh, who wants to run afoul of them? It’s not like I’m going to publish a post that says, “Man, I’ve had it with the collective self-importance of mommy bloggers!” So first, I agree with a lot of what you said. And second, I’m really glad you opted to actually say it.

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Country-Fried Mama March 17, 2010 at 3:00 pm

I’m not gonna lie, Kalisa. I sweated over this one. But maybe I’m under the radar enough that it doesn’t matter. The more I read what others had to say, the less likely it was that I’d succeed in keeping my mouth shut.

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kalisa March 17, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Ummm…Mr. Lady just commented on & tweeted your post. I don’t think you’re “under the radar” anymore!

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Mr Lady March 17, 2010 at 9:56 pm

I’m just another nobody happily swimming in a sea of nobody’s Kalisa. No one listens to me, ever, anyway. :)

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Angie March 17, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Well said! Of course I’m probably not like most typical “Mommy Bloggers” on my personal blog at least. I started because I needed an outlet and a place to store all of the Mommy Moments I was experiencing, I thought/think of it more as journaling. I’ve made some money and that’s great and if I make more money, even better. I don’t have a great desire to grow and take over the world with my words. I’m just flattered if anyone reads!

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Country-Fried Mama March 17, 2010 at 3:01 pm

I think most of us are exactly like you, Angie, and that’s part of why I couldn’t understand the anger at the fact the story was in the Style section rather than Business. Come on. How many of us can really say we make a living at this? Yes, some are, but the overall trend is about something else, I think.

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Stacia March 17, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Thought-provoking post, CFM. My favorite part: that the writer “never had a shot at … pleasing all of us,” “not that she should have been trying.” I had not thought of it in quite those terms before, but that is the essence of it for me.

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Country-Fried Mama March 17, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Not that it’s relevant to my argument, but I feel bad for her. What a thing — to land a story in the New York Times, and then to get completely beat up for it.

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Roving Lemon March 17, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Wow, I completely missed this firestorm. I read the original article, found the headline a little off-putting, missed the graphic completely, thought the article was an interesting (and slightly irritating) snapshot of the juggernaut that is blogging in general (and mommy blogging in particular), wondered if I should be putting more energy into self-promotion (which I do every day anyway), and wandered on my way. (Clearly I don’t read enough mommy blogs. ) Thanks for providing another snapshot, of the reaction, as well as a fresh perspective.

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Mr Lady March 17, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Buttercup….

WORD UP.

I did NOT like the tone of that article, particularly after I read her follow-up article on her personal blog, but my damn head exploded at the reactions to it.

And I couldn’t have said any of it better than you just did. Kudos.

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Country-Fried Mama March 17, 2010 at 4:47 pm

I am so glad I was not the only one. THANK YOU.

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kelly March 17, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Read this after reading a tweet by Mr. Lady. Love your take. Smart.

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Mr Lady March 17, 2010 at 5:08 pm

CFM is one on my favs. She’s wicked smaht.

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Country-Fried Mama March 17, 2010 at 7:33 pm

*blushing*

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Jack March 17, 2010 at 6:09 pm

I still don’t understand how that article hurt mommy bloggers. Frankly it could have said that mommy bloggers are a plague on society and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

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Country-Fried Mama March 17, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Hmm. Well. That would have been uncalled for. And bizarre.

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Mr Lady March 17, 2010 at 9:54 pm

I didn’t hurt mommy bloggers, but it was excessively demeaning and trite. What hurt was that the author, who has a mom blog, came to a conference under the guise of participating and instead, spit condescension. IN THE NEW YORK TIMES. It’s a traitor in the camp thing.

If you read the “retraction” she printed on her personal blog, you’ll see how she’s tried to explain that we all misread her tone. We didn’t misread it; she stepped on a lot of people who trusted her to get ahead.

That’s the ire about the article, in a nutshell. It was belittling and nasty. However, the unmitigated rage that it has ignited is another story entirely, and I’m not touching that with a 10 foot pole. :)

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Megan March 17, 2010 at 7:45 pm

I agree…. As I read their responses, I knew they were unhappy (if not irate). Then I thought maybe I didn’t get it (being a smaller blog than most). But Now I know that I wasn’t the only one…

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Dalia (Generation X Mom) March 18, 2010 at 11:43 am

Thank you for writing another perspective. I haven’t gotten myself very caught up in the ordeal but found that one day it was EVERYWHERE. There was no escape. After the few articles I read, I found myself not reading anymore. But am glad to see a slightly different perspective here on your blog.

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melissa March 18, 2010 at 1:21 pm

it wasn’t exactly the words that pissed me off. it was the tone. it was heaving with sarcasm. otherwise, it would have been all good. but she came across, at least in my opinion, as a back stabbing biotch.
:)

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Country-Fried Mama March 18, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Well, that certainly seems to have been the prevailing opinion. For sure.

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KathyB! March 19, 2010 at 8:27 am

I agree with you. And I don’t. I thought the tone was a bit condescending, which didn’t sit well. And she quoted one of my friends and it made her sound less than what she is. I think that’s what got me. Such a huge thrill to be quoted in the NYT… and such a heartbreaker to have it make you look trivial.

This was really well written CFM!!

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Country-Fried Mama March 19, 2010 at 3:27 pm

So good to hear from you, KathyB! I’m sorry about your friend; clearly, that feels rotten and the vast readership increases the sting, I’m sure.

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Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings March 19, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Honestly, let them say what they want. For those of us who don’t really care what others say, it can still be a wake up call to make sure we don’t become like the woman this writer describes. However, I don’t feel the women she spoke with or even those who attended the conference are necessarily those women. That art? Totally inappropriate and it painted a very broad, rude, misconception that lumped all “mommy bloggers” together.

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Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings March 19, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Oh and I wonder if this woman has children…the way she writes, I would guess not. Either that or she has no emotional connection to them.

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faemom March 19, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Seperated into two days of reading, so I could make a good write a good comment. I’m even late on posting because I wanted to finish the reading. I think the article’s tone could have been tweeked a little. The writer didn’t seem to understand what SITS was and why women would go to those confrences. The title of the article and the artwork were UnFortunate to say the least. I understand the anger from the mommy bloggers. They feel attacked. After reading some of those comments, they were attacked. But I’m usually a roll with it kind of girl. What do I care what a journalist thinks of my blogging? What do I care if some idiot thinks I’m a vacuum or self-centered?

I’m impressed with many woman bloggers. Some day I hope I can figure this out to have a great following and make a little change. In the meantime, I’m enjoying conversing with the bloggers I’ve met and feel guilty when I nap instead of read. So let’s just take the good of the article and dump the rest with the trash.

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Country-Fried Mama March 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm

“So let’s just take the good of the article and dump the rest with the trash.” Seems like wise advice, Faemom. I appreciate your looking so closely at this.

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Deb March 20, 2010 at 5:49 am

It was the catty tone that bothered the hell out of me.

But the more I think about it, there are some bloggers–many, actually–who have earned the superficial stereotype perpetuated by that article and more. (And I can see how somebody attending a blogging conference could get an unfavorable impression, even if it’s not entirely accurate.) Go to any any mom blog directory, and a good % are shallow attempts at human connection completely overwhelmed with self/company promotion. I don’t have a problem with those bloggers writing and/or doing business the way they do; it’s a public perception that lumps me in with them that bothers me.

Now that mom blogging has been around for a while, simply sharing our stories and bringing strangers along for the journey is no longer newsworthy. But this whole momblogging brouhaha has made me more certain that that’s not what I’m trying to be. Even though my kind of blog is so 2003, its a body of work that I’m proud of and I’ve made amazing friends (and better connected with old ones) as a result.

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Country-Fried Mama March 20, 2010 at 2:57 pm

I think your blog is totally 2010. And as I’ve said before, there is still plenty of room out there for blogs that focus on storytelling (I have to believe that, of course). Pitching these kinds of blogs to traditional media is harder, I think, but still worthwhile — the public should know!

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Angie @ Just Like The Number March 20, 2010 at 9:10 pm

I’ve been offline for a bit and I missed the brouhaha. I finally read the article didn’t find it terribly off base. We are such a vast group, with so many different reasons for doing what we do, it’s impossible to sum us up in one article. I love your idea of offering a PR session for those of us who are concerned with giving the world around us a better of idea of who we are as individual bloggers. I’d be first in line for a session of that nature. Well written response.

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March 22, 2010 at 10:23 pm

I really enjoyed Mom-101’s post on this *and* yours, because yes I’m proud of my blog and grateful for others,’ and yet “raging against the term Mommy Blogger” would take way too much of my energy…which I’d rather spend blogging.

The NY Times piece did have a belittling tone, which was offensive to me and doesn’t do justice the many very talented people making small and large impacts with their “Mommy Blogs.”

Thanks for taking this on.

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