What follows is a very bloggy post – which is to say, it’s a post about blogging. But it’s reeaaally interesting, I promise.

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And, there are pictures! Totally unrelated pictures, but still!

So, the big topic of discussion this week in the Canadian momosphere (the corner of the blogosphere that is largely occupied by mothers) is whether blogging is being compromised or corrupted by social hierarchies and/or by commercialization. Or not.

This is not a new discussion. This discussion crops up about every two months or so, and creates a surge of posts lamenting the quote-unquote politics of blogging and everybody wrings their hands and nods their heads and says things like oh, me too, I feel excluded/I’m unpopular/the blogosphere is like high school/the popular kids keep to themselves/etc, etc.

This is going to sound, perhaps, a tad harsh, but here goes: these discussions* usually end up bugging the hell out of me. Not because the social intricacies and mores of blogging aren’t worthy topics, nor because I’m bothered by people expressing their feelings about their experience in the blogosphere. These are very worthy topics, and I’m all for the honest expression of feelings. But I usually end up feeling pissy about the whole discussion because it invariably ends up off the rails. Way off the rails. Much of this discussion (not all of it, but much of it), end of the day, is NOT about the "politics" of blogrolls and comments and blogads and all of the things that people sometimes feel sensitive about. It’s about people feeling sensitive.


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This isn’t politics. I know this; in real life I am a political scientist (one who specializes, by the way, on the politics of womanhood and motherhood. So I’ve done my research and my thinking.) This is feelings. This is us calling something that makes us feel bad ‘politics.’ Because when we feel badly about social organization and interaction we refer to the problem as a political one. And sometimes we’re right: racism causes bad feelings. So does sexism, and a whole host of other isms. But sometimes we’re wrong. Sometimes we feel bad because we’re just not happy with our place in whatever community/system/mob/cocktail party that we’re part of, and politics, correctly understood, has little or nothing to do with it.

And this is, for the most part, what’s going on here. Much of the discussion that pops up every few months in the momosphere about ‘politics’ is really about the natural insecurities that emerge in social environments. It’s about the insecurities that emerge when something that we’re doing starts to matter a whole lot and we worry that we’re maybe not as successful at it as we’d like to be. I think that most bloggers – even the bloggers that have substantial readerships – feel these insecurities. We wonder – do people like us? Do they like our writing? Are we good writers?

And – why doesn’t Blogger A visit my blog? Why does Blogger B get paid to blog? Why did Blogger B take me off of her blogroll? Why do some bloggers get more attention than others? Why don’t I get more attention?

But here’s the thing. These issues, these questions, these feelings, are not the

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result of or evidence of "politics." As I’ve said elsewhere, they’re the feelings/questions/issues that come with all social territories. They are, I think, especially pronounced in a community like ours – a community of (mostly) women who have come together to both socialize and to pursue writing. We’re seeking community and friendship, but we’re also seeking readers. We want a sense of belonging, but we also want to be read. So we are, I think, more sensitive to the ebb and flow of social interaction. If we’re not getting as much attention as we’d like (and we all need to ‘fess up that this is what it’s all about), it’s not just an emotional hit to that part of us that wants to belong in a meaningful way, it’s a hit to that part of us that wants to be recognized for this thing that we love doing – writing.

That hit can feel bad. I know this. I am considered by some to be a ‘popular’ blogger, but I’ve had my moments of feeling stung (these moments in the category of oh god so-and-so doesn’t like me! That post was about me/bloggers like me/me/me/me!)  But I wouldn’t call the circumstances that cause those feelings political. If I’m feeling insecure about how I’m perceived in the blogosphere, that’s about me, not the blogosphere.

I’ve written about this at length on my own blog in the past, and plan on addressing it further there (in particular, the issue of whether the so-called commercialization of blogs corrupts the blogosphere, which I think is an excellent issue for discussion. My fast answer – NO. And I’ve got Gloria Steinem backing me up on this – we talked about the relationship between feminism and related movements and media/advertising briefly in New York – so there.) So I won’t belabour the subject here.


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But I will direct you to what I consider to be a particularly well-reasoned and well-articulated and honest post on the subject, and encourage you to go read it, and to weigh in on the debate, regardless of whether or not you are a blogger. And then you can come back here and tell me what you think.

And if you come back and tell me that I’m that I’m totallly wrong, I’ll be a teeny little bit hurt. But I promise to not call it politics.

*For the record, when I refer to ‘this dicussion,’ I’m not singling out the posts linked in the first paragraph. I’m refering to the general discussion (in which comments play a big part) that ensues when such posts start popping up in the momosphere (dad-bloggers, interestingly, rarely if ever participate in this discussion. Hmmm… a woman thing? Something to consider.)

**I need to re-iterate my point above: no offence is meant to the authors of the posts cited in the first paragraph here. I am not asserting that by opening such discussion, they themselves have demonstrated deep insecurity. I am saying that this is the direction that such discussion, in my blogosphere experience, invariably goes. I am openly contesting some uses of the word politics in this discussion, but I mean no disrepect by this. Debate, people. Debate.

  • http://www.alimartell.com ali

    i write for urban moms.
    and i am NOT urban.
    just sayin’

  • http://www.bubandpie.blogspot.com bubandpie

    Since the discussion has expanded to include commenting etiquette, thought I’d throw in my two cents (bringing my total contributions up to somewhere around $1,341.52 worth of comments on this post – well beyond my budget, I think, but oh well).
    The thing about reading-and-commenting etiquette is that no one wants to be read or commented to out of a pure sense of duty. So I don’t do that – if I comment it’s because I have something to say or, occasionally, because I simply want the person to know that I value the post, though I have nothing to add to it. (Those “throw-away” comments are sometimes the biggest compliment, I think, because personally I hate feeling lame and saying nothing more than “great post” – I’ll only do it if I’m really driven to by the sheer greatness of the post.)
    That said, I’m insatiably curious about who’s reading my blog, so it seems natural to me to click back and say hi. One thing I’ve been realizing since writing my own post on this subject is that it’s a bit of a difficult transition for some people when it’s no longer feasible to visit all their readers – they feel guilty and arrogant and they also just miss out on the thrill of discovering new blogs. In that small way, at least, high-traffic blogging is not necessarily always more fun than low-traffic blogging.
    And I so deeply appreciate Merry Mama’s reference to my kindness (it’s as thrilling for me to be called “kind” these days as it once was to be called “brilliant” – does that mean I’ve matured?). But I really don’t think I’m kinder than anyone else. I comment a lot because I have the time. My kids take long naps (no stone-throwing please – I have paid my dues to the Nap Gods, believe me!) and I have a job that right now requires almost nothing of me. As Scarbie said, sometimes other things come before commenting obligations – like, say, sleeping and – oh yeah! – spending time with our babies.

  • http://mom-101.blogspot.com Mom101

    I hate nothing more than being misquoted so here I am again.
    Andrea, I’m not saying that “people find people like themselves interesting.” I am saying that IN THE BLOGWORLD, where people come to find community, they are INTERESTED in people with experiences like themselves. I find a shitload of topics and people interesting that you can’t even imagine. But I don’t read blogs about all of them.
    Know why?
    BECAUSE I DON’T LIVE IN THE BLOG WORLD.
    That’s right – I know it’s crazy, but I do have a life outside of this insular little community.
    I read magazines and newspapers for information. I look at websites. I even (here’s the crazy thing) hang out with REAL PEOPLE from time to time.
    So do I spend all my time seeking out the blogs of lesbian parents? Nope. My best friend and her friends cover that area for me just fine. (Which isn’t to say I don’t sometimes stumble upon one that I enjoy and continue to read.)
    So what I do read online is…(once again) what interests me. Great writing. Compelling narratives. Interesting discussions about all kinds of topics. And yep, people going through similar life experiences as I am right now.
    So sue me.

  • http://www.badladies.blogspot.com Her Bad Mother’s Mother ‘Hood

    Coupla things… (largely in response to Scarbie – hello Scarbie!)
    (waving)
    1) Covert ads: I think that we are all in agreement that covert advertising – in which a blogger shills something without being upfront about it – is dodgy. Much discussed at BlogHer, much maligned. But I don’t know of any blog where it actually happens.
    2) Links: I’m big on links. But when I do it in a regular post (i.e., not in a follow up to a writing prompt) it’s almost entirely in the spirit of attribution. As an academic, I live in terror of not properly crediting my sources. Links allow me to provide credit to those posts or whatevers that have contributed to my thinking or prompted questions or whatever. Rarely do I link to ‘recommend’ – but when I do, it’s usually as part of the Perfect Posts award. THIS blog (at urbanmoms), might look like one long recommend, and it will certainly do that at times, but it’s my playground for exploring new (to me) Canadian blogs and I like the spirit of that. Yes, making recommendations involves an element of ‘power,’ but I don’t see a big problem here. I’d be lost without lit mags and the NY Review of books for recs on fiction – I myself rely upon recommendations.
    3) I don’t see how urbanmoms undermines blogging. My blow here is entirely my own – it’s my space to write about things that I don’t have the space or inclination to put on my own blog. It’s another forum for me, and one that allows me to do more promoting of Canadian mom blogs.
    4) I don’t think there was a 4. Oh well.

  • http://anndouglas.blogspot.com Ann D

    Holy cow! It’s a good thing we’ve got a big country — big enough to hold all these comments. :-)
    I responded to a bunch of the awesome comments that people left on my blog — plus I hopped around on other people’s blogs reponding to this thread (until 4:30 am!) on Sunday morning.
    This has been such a lively and passionate discussion.
    And I really thank Jen and Catherine for the additional comments they posted here since I last checked in.
    Just one little clarification on my perspective: I don’t have any issue whatsoever with anyone making money off her words on or off the web. (That shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, eh?) So unlike some people who hate blog ads on principle (or because they clash with the blog decor) I don’t have a problem with them. If they pay the bills, go for it.
    What I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate (HATE) are marketers who are less than upfront about their intentions — or who try to interrupt the conversations between moms because they see the value of those conversations and they want in on the action. Mom 101 asked me about this in a post on my blog and I gave an example of a company that I am aware of that has a large network of moms who market products to other moms on behalf of third parties. I just thought of another example, so I’m going to post about that, too.
    I do want to say that I am so impressed by the passion people feel for the momosphere. I kind of feel like hugging my laptop…..
    Ann

  • http://www.scarbiedoll.blogspot.com scarbie doll

    I kinda want to comment, but then I don’t. But then I kinda do.
    I do, somewhat, feel like blogging and popularity amounts to a bit of a pyramid scheme. Self-promotion, as mentioned, plays a big part. If you comment, then I follow the link below your comment and leave you a comment, and so on and so on. It’s a bit like a chain letter — if you don’t do it, your blog will be cursed for decades! Comments are like never-ending Thank You notes. It takes a LOT of time and energy to keep that up, and I’d rather be with my kid — or sleeping. I figure I’ll just do my thing and if people want to come they will. Call it my Field of Dreams.
    Links are necessary to help people find new blogs. If So & So likes Mommy X, then maybe they are good. Let me go see… nah, that’s just pity linkage. Oh, this one is funny! And she lives in my city! I think that links are important in that respect.
    But I’m torn. The reason I don’t have links anymore is because people get offended if you don’t link to them. And if I’m providing an editorial viewpoint and directing people to places they should go, well frankly, not all blogs are equal. I’m trying to avoid the “But DoggyDoo is my coworker, so I have to link to him or he’ll notice and be offended.”
    I don’t think these issues are limited to Mom Blogs. I’m sure that D&DLover1 is jealous of SuperD&DLover’s traffic and comments too. It’s just more apparent in the female world where this kind of behaviour has followed us since the sandbox. Oh, and we don’t internalize. Well, bloggers don’t anyway.
    I do take issue with things like, oh, that a site called “Urban Moms” professes to be THE voice of “Canadian moms.” Not all Canadian moms are “urban.” In fact I would argue that more than half the country is not “urban.” However the big spenders in the country are most definitely urban. So I support Ann D’s comments about this type of site taking away from the true goodness of original honest blogging.
    Moms need to make money too, no question. I am happy when women start their own businesses and succeed. But using the “Hey, guess what? I used Product X and it got the shit stains out of the sleeper in a jiff” voice when clearly, even if you like Product X it’s Product Y that’s paying your mortgage… well that fucks the whole honesty thing up, doesn’t it? Just so everyone knows, I majored in BullShit, so don’t even go there ;)
    Also, the face of this urban mom is a wavy-haired white woman. (Well I guess she’s orange technically, so don’t get your Molotov’s out for that comment). Is it because we would think the site is not meant for “us” if we saw and Asian or Black cartoon and go somewhere else?
    I came here for the show, but I ain’t buying any of the popcorn, alright? I don’t want to go to a Bacardi-sponsored girls’ night. Even if HerBM is going to be there with free tattoos.
    Thanks, as usual, for getting us sleep-deprived mamas to let the hamster run a few laps in the ol’ noggin. At the end of the day, there are way bigger problems in the world than the annoying aspects of blogging and being a web-savvy mom.

  • http://www.merrymunckinks.blogspot.com merry mama

    Though I do agree with Andrea on the Patriarchy thing-I had the exact same thought when I first dove in feet first into the momosphere- one thing I have to say is that yes, you are informed, yes you are a great writer, you are engaging, and funny and kind. That, to me, is the point. And (unfortunately for me, but not anyone else) I have not necessarily encountered that with other popular mommy bloggers. I didn’t go to high school (too busy being a polygamist wife when I was a kid) so I cannot relate to that analogy. But I do know kindness when I see it and I do know there are people (such as Bub and Pie) who have gone out of their proverbial paths to visit a nobody like me… she is what I would consider a somewhat popular blogger.. and educated, and a good writer…you are that, too. But the overwhelming majority of popular bloggers may visit my site once and see that there are no comments, or perhaps that my writing sucks- I’m not sure which– I’d love to know- and then move on.
    This is rambling and definitely doesn’t fall into the intellectual category, but I wanted to point out that there is some truth to some of these “smacks,”
    but, but, BUT, that will not prevent me from reading you, or holding you in esteem or loving your style, or asking your opinion. I take you as you are- a human, and fully so. How could I ask for more???
    Just one teensy perspective from someone who prolly DOES NOT MATTER.

  • http://gingajoy.blogspot.com joy

    WHOA! I’ve only just had opportunity to enter into this fray, and cannot possibly do justice to all the comments here worthy of attention.
    You and I have talked about all this “academically” HBM, and so you know we are thinking along the same lines. You’ve definitely made me see the issue of commercialization from another perspective–that is, asking the question, why *shouldn’t* women profit, and be able to make a (small) living from these ventures. And the vulgar marxist argument really does fall short–but is that always what these claims are based on?
    I am not sure quite how I feel about some of it, and I know you are acknowledging complexities too–the need for more reflection before knee-jerk reaction, so here goes. Coming at this as someone who (in my work) is always exploring the relation between identity, power, and culture, I have a real problem with many of the gendered aspects of representation in the mainstream media, especially in advertizing (not *all* advertizing–in fact, i am a big lover of many a commercial. and crap entertainment in general). Glossies such as GoodHouseKeeping and Parenting, to me, are one big advertizement. One big sell. All mixed up with a mainstream ideology and “mold” of being a good mother/parent/woman/wife. Sure, there are some advertizing messages in there that slip through the cracks, that challenge certain views–but these are few and far between. In fact, this is one reason I love mommyblogging so much–it provides an alternative to so much of what we get fed.
    Do I think that use of Ads automatically compromises the integrity of a blog? Definitely NOT. In fact, this can be viewed as empowering women to write, and supporting that. Ad Network. Nice. I might do it one day. (though the tactic of approaching certain bloggers to try it out first, etc–I would say this *is* political. Savvy. And political. Political in that it *does* even implicitly create hierarchies and competitive aspects to the social network. And I am not sure if saying so is an indication of “feelings” (being someone who does not really care about it, and say “lucky you” to those who get to participate). More on “politics” below.
    I do worry about exploitation. I don’t like the idea of being targetted as a “mommyblogger” and then having ads that ideologically I have a problem with pop up on my blog–simply by virtue of identifying myself as a parent, a woman. Lots of assumptions (problematic ones) can then be made about me and my audience. That said, I know we have some control over this–I am uninitiated and ignorant. I am mildly uncomfortable with the idea that some corporations that are paying women to write, are also, by virtue of advertizing interests, editing or “suggesting” post topics. I am not sure I like how companies are targetting some women bloggers and offering free products if they plug it on their blog. On the other hand (see above on “empowering women writers…”)
    I do not see this trend of control emerging hugely, but there’s time yet! I worry about corporate interests creating a more “sanctioned” and “sanitized” version of what is a very messy, complex, and gorgeously raucous group of voices who are undermining many of the messages that we receive by other means.
    On politics. Hmmm. I think being one of those revolting “cultural studies/poststructural theory kind of people, I slip into the tendency of calling everything political. Just like everything’s “discursive” or a “text” (feel free to shoot me, sloppy “have everything your way” academic that I am).
    For me, language, image, representation, communication–it’s all political. It all emerges from an ideological context; from a context of power/knowledge and your relation to those structures (yes, I am getting Foucauldian on your ass). I would say our *feelings* are never just simply an outward emoting of inward thoughts or jealousies, but part of something much more dynamic and dialogic.
    And so yes, I would say there is a “politics” of interaction that informs and *defines* the community we are all part of. And part of that politics relates to the sense of competition that is being articulated by many bloggers.
    I am not a hugely read blogger. But I do know that I could use some political tactics to being in more readers. Not just posting more often, but putting into practice some of the “how to get your blog noticed” techniques we see out there. This would be about broadening my community and my readership–how do I achieve that? Tactically. Lots of women are observing/intuiting how that politics works, and exploiting it effectively. And more power to them! I am not charging Machievallian (sp?) tactics here–far from it. I call it rhetorical know-how. And yes, good writing is a must! Or, I should say, knowing your audience is a must. And I do call this political (just not in the overt “politicking” sense of the term).
    Hey, I think we might just have written up a “debate” for you-know-what;-)
    Thanks for this opportunity to flex the grey matter. I loves a debate just like you do.

  • http://furtheradventuresofme.blogspot.com kittenpie

    (not to make this my own private conversation, but I went and took two of those tests and was interested to find the results. I started with one about the US and Canada – pretty sure where I stand on that, but it told me the opposite. I found myself, however, frequently hitting the key and then going “Ah! wrong one!” (why I don’t play video games!) I tried another and was more careful, but still found my results odd – preferring gay to straight. So I don’t know but yes, an intersting exercise nonetheless, thanks for the link.)

  • http://www.athenadreaming.org/Beanie Andrea

    No, kittenpie, I am not going to kill you. People have said the same on my blog comments, and I think that’s great. I shouldn’t have overgeneralized in the second point–I was typing to the background music of “mommy look! mommy look!” and went too hastily.
    I will also point out that the point I’ve been trying to make (repeatedly) on my own blog is that the whole process is unintentional and unconscious. That is why it is a problem. If it was conscious, it would be a great deal easier to deal with.
    I don’t know if you’ve ever visited tolerance.org–they have a section of their website devoted to something called Implicit Assumption tests which attempt to measure unconscious prejudice. Teh first time I took them I was absolutely gobsmacked to see that my score did not reflect the open-mindedness I thought I had. Since then I’ve taken a much more serious approach to unconscious patterns of discrimination and privilege–and, lo and behold, my scores are a lot better now.
    (You can dispute their methodology; but it’s the only tool of its kind that I’m aware of.)
    I’ll make one more point: Mom101 keeps saying that people find othe rpeople like themselves “interesting.” As I’ve also said on my own posts, this is untrue: people generally, on a society-wide level, find white well-off able-bodied people interesting. Studies that have measured internalized racism among young children, for instance, have found that not only do white girls prefer white dolls, but black girls prefer white dolls (in general–not in all cases).
    And I can’t help but wonder if this same pattern is being replicated on the momosphere–why do we find interesting what we find interesting? I don’t think it’s a simple thing, I don’t think we should just sweep it under the rug.
    I do think that people should engage with the actual argument I’m making (which many people have, and it’s wonderful to see the debate) instead of debating my personal motivations or personality.

  • Kim

    The value of popular culture is all summed up it’s name alone: fit for, adapted to, or reflecting the taste of the people at large (with a profit at the end of the day for the shareholders).
    It is all about marketing (evident to me when we love shoes more than our own bare feet) and occasionally the cream will rise to the top through genuine word of mouth without alterior motive. However it can become overwhelming to sort through it all to find what naturally peeks our interest and curiosity.
    Great forum of expression with so little time and so much to do.
    Nice to get our thoughts out there.

  • http://furtheradventuresofme.blogspot.com kittenpie

    Oh jeez I know I’m wandering into the path of blogsmackage here, but:
    Andrea, I beg to differ with your second point there. I do tend to visit blogs of people relatively (in the grand scheme of things) similar to me, people whose writing and ideas I like, people with whom I feel comfortable with. But I take exception with the idea that this means I and others “like me” are exclusionary, biased, and discriminatory in nature in the rest of our lives. I may have limited time for reading, but in real life, I see people of all varieties as being part of the tapestry in which I live.
    I can’t speak for others “like me,” but I grew up with people of a range of ethnicities and incomes, serve an underprivileged and overpopulated neighbourhood considered one of the most ethnically diverse square miles in the world, and have in the past gone out of my way to learns new languages (spanish and sign) to better serve the neighbourhoods where I worked. I have rented an apartment to people of various colours and orientations, including one lady who is now receiving social assistance to pay her rent. I have friends with and without kids, gay and straight, hard-of-hearing and not, and of different ethnicities. I also know a few bloggers who work in non-profit sectors and help people in less fortunate circumstances.
    I totally do not dispute that there are issues of privilege and underrepresentation. yes, there are. I totally do not dispute that blogs considered “niche” are not as well read and maybe should not be considered as such in the first place. I give you all this to tell you I think this one specific assumption is false here and that it might be worth examining. It is a prejudice in and of itself, and I always think it’s worth looking at its source.
    *ducking*

  • Marnie

    I have been a member of urbanmoms.ca for a while now and have to say that what I love about this site is that it is so non-judgemental. That is why I come here. I don’t feel like the cost of entry is a particular political point of view or parenting philosophy. From what little I have seen so far of the “blogging community”, it doesn’t look like that is the case.
    I think a few of you need to give your heads a shake and get some perspective. This is still part of the world we live in, warts and all. But having a place to learn and share as a mother where the whole philosophy is built on inclusion is a wonderful thing. Women judge each other far too often, especially as moms. I think any effort to be inclusive and to share should be commended. Thanks Jen and the other contributors at urbanmoms.ca!!

  • http://www.urbanmoms.ca Jen

    I don’t think anyone would argue that there are social biases in the both the “real” and “virtual” worlds. What I take issue with is that somehow this is intentional and mean. People tend to feel most comfortable in a place where they can find common ground. I don’t avoid certain topics or people but I tend to gravitate to those who I have something in common with. This is human nature. Both of my children are able bodied. I am lucky. However, this means I don’t share that experience with a mom whose child is disabled. Do I intentionally avoid her? No. Are there other things we share in common? Yes. Do I have a lot to learn from her? ABSOLUTELY. This is where I think your comment strays.
    urbanmoms.ca is a reflection of those who participate in the community. We have thousands of members across the country who are involved in a variety of ways. They range in geography, age, education, and family dynamics. Do they all write for the site? No. Do they all feel represented? Likely not. This is exactly why we encourage ALL moms to contribute. Write an article for the site, comment, post in the forum. Help us learn from you. We have posts on adoption, single parenting, divorce, losing a child. We also have articles on birth – home, hospital, twin, c-section – these are real stories written by real women but it is up to those feeling under represented to tell their story. This is a forum to share but only if you are willing.
    I think like anything, this is what we make it. If we focus so much on what is not here and point fingers at others then of course it will seem lacking. If we focus on what is here and how we can contribute even more then what we see is the opportunity. Instead of bickering about semantics let’s DO something. It is not about being right or wrong or who is the worst off and who is privileged. This could go on forever and everyone would have a legitimate argument. Everyone is not going to compeltely agree but let’s respect that we won’t and accept the choices made by others.
    I know HBM makes her choices based on her belief that what she is doing is making a difference in what matters to her. I am doing the same. It may not be the way others would have done it but I am doing my best to be true to myself and what I believe in by offering a place where women can have a voice. It’s up to each individual to take advantage of make their voice heard.

  • http://www.badladies.blogspot.com Her Bad Mother’s Mother ‘Hood

    This is going to be my last word on the subject. Firstly, it saddens me if anyone thinks that I am mocking them. I apologize to anyone who took my words in that spirit, for they were not intended in that way.
    Secondly, I never disputed the ‘politics’ of social privilege in the world at large. Some groups are marginalized in our world, that’s a fact, and atroubling one. But that’s a different kind of politics from “blog politics”. The blogosphere does indeed reflect the real world. But I see more efforts in the momosphere to counter the politics of the outside world than not.
    Sunshine is right that we could all be making a BETTER effort to read outside our community. But it’s too much too state that bloggers simply make no effort, or that they actively avoid such effort. The examples of popular blogs by women who are not white/hetero/conventionally privileged that I’ve been citing throughout the comments is, I think, evidence of that. And my own efforts at community-building – so enthusiastically received in the momosphere – are evidence of that as well: I link to hundreds of blogs, most of which are relatively unknown, many of which are written by women or men unlike myself.
    I think that we’re on the same page about wanting the world to be a better place. I just don’t see the point in cutting each other down for what we are or not doing. If a blogger just wants to read knitting blogs by white women, that’s her prerogative in a free society. Whatever might be called political about it, however, it isn’t about the “politics” of blogging – it’s an effect of the socio-politics of our world, and so an issue of broader social patterns. It doesn’t help anyone’s cause to accuse other bloggers of *willfully* furthering such social patterns and assert that they are unwitting tools of the patriarchy, in the same way that marching up to a newstand and shredding copies of People magazine and haranguing customers isn’t going to help any cause.
    Do your part to promote awareness of other blogs. I do. So do many other bloggers. Celebrate that, and build on that. Let’s cheer each other on.

  • http://www.alimartell.com ali

    wow…i don’t even know what to say here.
    i’m thinking it’s all entirely because we are women. and at the root of it all, women are both competitive and insecure and high-school-y in nature.
    everyone likes to be liked, and many people take it just a wee bit personally when someone else is liked *more*.

  • http://www.athenadreaming.org/Beanie Andrea

    “My point was just that I do have a desire to read blogs by a more diverse group of writers (as I am sure is the case of many other bloggers) but it is my/our own fault for not seeking them out – not the fault of ‘blog politics’. Nor is it a battle that the well-read blogs should be fighting. If we want to read more diverse blogs we should all look for them and not point fingers at blog hierarchies and “popularity” and “politics”. ”
    If we want to challenged this aspect of privledge we should all take responsiblity. The blogosphere unfortunately mirrors our society on the issue of privledge.”
    SS, that was exactly my point–as anyone who’s read my posts on this subject would know. That the blogosphere reflects societal privilege, and this is a problem because privilege is itself a problem; and we all need to take personal responsibility for addressing it or at least acknowledging it.
    If you don’t want to call it politics, don’t call it politics; but frankly, I can’t see why not. Politics is the discussion of social relationships based on power and authority; privilege and dsicussions thereof would seem to fit well within such a definition.
    HBM, if you’d read any of my posts with an eye to something other than mockery, you would have seen that there were already many such examples proferred. But here it is again, for the benefit of your readers:
    Privilege online is important because privilege in the real world is important. The same people who overlook disabled kids online are going to be the same ones who overlook them in the real world. It isn’t that a lack of blog popularity is, itself, a bad thing (and thanks to Bub and Pie’s suggestion, I’ll call it lower-traffic from now on); many people who have lower traffic blogs don’t care one way or the other, and good for them. But as much as it reflects the same power imbalances as we see in the real world, it’s a problem.
    1. When someone tells me that her blog functions mostly as a vehicle for other people’s pity, that is a problem, and it bugs me; I have heard that from moms of disabled kids, and you’d better believe it hurts even if it’s “only a blog.”
    2. The same people who read blogs only like themselves online will be the same people who don’t notice when public institutions aren’t accessible, the same people who won’t invite the different kids to their child’s birthday party, the same people who will discriminate in hiring decisions, housing decisions, and so on. It’s not like online attitudes are somehow miraculously contained online.
    3. There’s been a lot of talk, here and elsewhere, about how “real” and “raw” blogs are, about how they’re the real voice of moms, and so on–but come on. How can they be, if they are so dominated by people from one demographic group? How can this medium claim any political representation, any reality, when it’s so selective and power is awarded so arbitrarily within it?
    At the very least, acknowledging the imbalances would allow us to be honest about what interests we truly represent. But we can’t keep claiming that we speak “for moms.” We don’t.

  • http://www.crunchycarpets.blogspot.com crunchy carpets

    Oops..I think I messed up with who I was agreeing with…found this hard to follow…
    serves me right.

  • http://www.crunchycarpets.blogspot.com crunchy carpets

    wow..too much to take in…especially when my dog is eating my kids.
    Kittenpie..I am with you on how it all works….especially in the focused world of moms…..I mean even parenting forums have their groups..the special needs moms, the single parent moms, the young moms, the military moms, the working moms and so on….people read who and what is important to them mostly.
    Now saying that, I also try to read forums and blogs of people whose lives are very different from mine…none moms, men, …..but whatever.
    Woman ARE competitive and clique and bitchy as well as supportive and caring and kind.
    I have seen it in the work place, in parenting groups, play groups, online and in real life….that is what we do!
    We try to rise above it…but maybe it is genetic.
    I think we are far more competitive than men are.
    I came of the internet through my dh…he was part of the big explosion..made money from it and friends and was part of HIS sphere of interests and there too there was competition, bitchiness and so on…..but I don’t recall it getting this debated this much on so many places….discussion was usually ‘work’ related.
    So culture or politics…..same thing really is it not?

  • http://www.badladies.blogspot.com Her Bad Mother’s Mother ‘Hood

    I’m totally fine with agreeing to disagree – I’m not trying to change your mind so much as trying to really understand your argument. I didn’t say that there weren’t any quote-unquote hierarchies, however understood. There are absolutely ‘rock star’ bloggers and unknown bloggers and everything in between. There are dramatically varying degrees of popularity in the momosphere and in the blogosphere and in social life more generally.
    What I don’t understand is the argument that the fact of popularity in the blogosphere is a political one, and how it is that it is problematic. Should we be working toward a strictly egalitarian blogosphere? Should we be cutting down the tall poppies (Aristotle said that this was the fastest way to kill real democracy, but we could overlook that for a greater good, right?)
    I am absolutely sincere in my desire to have someone give me some concrete examples of the directly deleterious effects of blog popularity, and/or of blog collusion to keep ‘lesser’ blogs down. Popularity is furthered and maintained through linkage – to some extent, yes, according to Technorati – but to say that there is some political element to linking? That there’s something more insidious about it than just giving credit or giving props to blogs or posts that one likes? I just. don’t. see. it.
    But if it’s really happening, I’d like to know. Show me. Please. Not necessarily you, Kate. Anyone?

  • http://www.trippingthelifeunbalanced.blogspot.com/ Kate

    oops – fourth sentence should start with “And I think that IT can only be a positive thing..” blah blah blah. Forgot the IT. Also forgot my brain somewhere along the path this evening.

  • http://www.trippingthelifeunbalanced.blogspot.com/ Kate

    Nope sorry, Catherine, but I still disagree. I still maintain that there exists a hierarchy of bloggers that is fueled by popularity through linkage. And this hierarchy can be problematic, for many different groups. And I think that can only be a positive thing when we look at all of our contributions to this hierarchy, when we evaluate our positions in the whole scope of things. I’m not saying that popularity among bloggers shouldn’t exist – I’m just saying I think it warrants a deeper look. Much deeper than most of us want to admit, perhaps. (and I am including myself here).
    And on that note, shall we just agree to disagree? There is room for dissent and disagreement amongst us “mommy bloggers” and perhaps we should just shake hands and be done with this issue (for today, at least). Don’t know about you, but I have a very energetic little girl wanting my attention away from the “computer box” and onto her!

  • http://www.badladies.blogspot.com Her Bad Mother’s Mother ‘Hood

    Thanks for your comment, Emmie. I mostly agree: for the record, I don’t hold the view that the most popular blogs are the best written. But they are, generally *well* written, in some way or another: Amalah (www.amalah.com), for example, is not Jane Austen but she has a unique and appealing voice. Dooce (www.dooce.com), IMHO, is an excellent writer of a certain style. Finslippy (www.finslippy.com) is incomparable. Sweet Juniper (www.sweetjuniper.blogspot.com)? High literature. I aspire to the quality of some of these blogs.
    But you’re totally right, too, that sometimes it’s something else that captures the blogosphere’s attention: great pictures, maybe. Celebrity gossip. Whatever the case, the popular blogs are GOOD blogs in some sense or another (in the same way that we have to say that People does its job very well). Or maybe it’s just self-promotion. Either way, I think that the important point is that those draw traffic for a reason: they are appealing to large numbers of readers. It’s not because those bloggers have nice hair (although, having met them, I can say that Amalah and Dooce both have great hair. Dutch’s is passable) nor because those bloggers whore themselves out to get attention. It’s because they’re offering something that readers want to read.

  • http://www.bubandpie.blogspot.com bubandpie

    I guess I’ll feel that the high-school comparisons are warranted as soon as AFFILIATION starts to matter in the blogosphere. Yes, we can be competitive at times, and yes, for most of us high school was probably the last time we worried this much about whether people liked us (and the last time we potentially benefited this much from being liked by the right people). But to me the word “clique” implies something more than that.
    Blogging will be like high school when hanging out with the “wrong” people starts resulting in lost readers – when linking to Blogger A, who is at loggerheads with Blogger B means that Blogger B won’t read me any longer and neither will any of her friends.
    It will be like high school if Semi-Big-Time Blogger C actually CAN’T leave comments on the site of Small-Time-Blogger D, even if she wants to, because if anyone else sees her doing so they’ll think she’s uncool and stop visiting her blog.
    It will be like high school if Small-Time Blogger E leaves a comment on Big-Time Blogger F’s site and is mercilessly mocked for doing so because there’s an unwritten rule that uncool people don’t get to approach the “cool kids.”
    It will be like high-school if people’s choices of who to read are determined not by who they happen to stumble across OR whose writing they enjoy but rather by the need to be “seen” reading the “right” stuff.
    There is a hierarchy in the blogosphere and there are certain (mostly inevitable) power dynamics that result from that, but if my high school had been like the blogosphere, I would have been a much happier teenager.

  • http://allthis.typepad.com/oo Emmie (Better Make It A Double)

    There’s so much to comment on here, and with 2 sick kids napping for I-don’t-know-how-long I really can’t, so despite the invitation ot hijack away, I’ll keep it brief. I cannot agree that the most popular blogs are the best written, by any stretch of the imagination. I will not single out any popular bloggers (whom I have nothing against), but there are many reasons that they are popular that have nothing to do with good writing. Longevity. Consistency in posting. Pictures of cute kids. A focus on consumer culture and personal experience. Wittiness. Snarkyness. And yes, privelege. Most of my very favorite blogs are only moderately popular at best. I happen to like long, thoughtful, well-written posts, but my readers prefer funny bullet points with pictures. What does that mean? People Magazine is hugely popular – is it well-written? Will it ever have anywhere near the readers of the Sun – a truly well-written magazine? No, because it is simply not as entertaining. You have to think to get anything out of it. That is also true of many less popular blogs, especially ones that write abut marginalized issues. FWIW, that’s not to say that it’s not possible to have a well-written and popular blog.

  • http://www.urbanmoms.ca Jen

    Btw, HBM, I just have to say how cute WonderBaby is! Thanks for the pics!!

  • http://www.badladies.blogspot.com Her Bad Mother’s Mother ‘Hood

    Two other quick things: how are we defining popularity? Technorati rankings? Blog Topsites? Number of comment? Some of the bloggers that I think of as popular, just because of their influence, don’t show up as ‘popular’ on those types of rankings (Girl’s Gone Child? Sweet Juniper?)
    Secondly – never apologize for hijacking comments! Comments are meant to hijacked! I do it all the time! It’s a sign of healthy debate.

  • http://www.badladies.blogspot.com Her Bad Mother’s Mother ‘Hood

    You raise some important points about ‘different’ blogs tending not to be among the most popular, Kate, but I still take issue with the idea that it’s BLOG politics. There’s no blog conspiracy to NOT read or not link certain kinds of blogs, let alone because certain blogs are different. There’s a huge problem with systemic discrimination in society at large, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue.
    The most popular blogs on the Internet are fan blogs and gossip blogs and techie blogs. Is this a function of discrimination against knitting blogs, mom blogs or blogs by people who like talking about Plato? No. It’s function of trends in popular culture, which may be worth critiquing and/or trying to change, but it’s not BLOG politics. People read what they want to read. If the lesbian mom of a disabled child writes a good blog, promotes it, gets around and gets word out, she’ll probably get a decent readership. But she’s never going to be Guy Kawasaki. Sure, Amalah is white and able-bodied. So’s Dooce. But there are a TON of popular blogs out there by moms of colour and biracial moms and lesbian moms. CityMama? Motherhood Uncensored? State of Grace? Badgermama? These are very popular blogs. Popular blogs by moms of differently-abled children? I’d call Redneck Mommy popular, even if her comments don’t hover in the hundreds, just based on the number of people at BlogHer who were expressing worry about her.
    I read and link to all of these people. And I read and link to many, many virtually unknown blogs (I have actually linked to far more unknown blogs than I ever have to known blogs). If I find it and like it, I read it and link it. Where’s the politics?
    Here’s the thing: we are, many of us, writers. The concern for audience is always there. Shakespeare thought about his audience, JK Rowling thinks about hers, and so does every other writer who ever took his or her craft seriously. And it has an effect on the writing itself. That’s just part of writing – being attuned to your audience. Writing *for* and to an audience. If that makes a person uncomfortable, then writing (beyond diaries) is probably not their calling.

  • http://www.trippingthelifeunbalanced.blogspot.com/ Kate

    Wow. Look at the debate started here. Who said mommies only think about cupcakes?!
    I was one of the bloggers you reference above, and so as you might suspect, I disagree with you on some issues. (please note: for those of you who are just sick and tired of hearing this debate, feel free to stick your fingers in your ears and sing “lalalala” as I pull out the dead horse and continue beating it for the next few paragraphs.)
    First, to be clear, the issue of advertising on blogs is not one of my bigger problems. In fact, I would rather table a conversation about advertising for another day (another day!? sweet jesus this woman wants to talk about this more some other day?). Getting paid for the work we do is not something I take lightly, and I’m not entirely convinced that this is a problem when it comes to bloggers.
    What I do take issue with, however, is the search for popularity amongst many mommy bloggers. We can all resist is and say it ain’t so, but that would be a lie for most of us. And it’s not even the need for readership that disturbs me, but rather the climate surrounding it. And, in disagreement with you, I do think this climate is reminiscent of high school. In fact, the mommy blogging world is very much a microcosm of the flawed world at large, and inside this microchosm sit companies like Technorati and Sitemeter and the like, ready to aid us in our rally to have the most links, the most comments, the most readers. My main concern here, and in my post, is what happens to the blogger’s intent . It’s the motivation to have bigger readers (and we are all guilty of it) that I think becomes a problem, especially when our need to be heard outweighs the need for good content. This creates a power struggle within ourselves and against each other.
    Further to my original post, I also think that Andrea raises an extremely legitimate argument about power and the blogosphere, and I do think it is an issue of politics. There does exist a power system amongst mommy bloggers regarding who is read and who isn’t, and it is a political landscape. I disagree that it’s just a case of people being upset that they are not being read or about hurt feelings, and I’ll explain why. The amount of popular mommy bloggers who are white, straight, financially comfortable and without disability make up the majority (as you point out). These are the blogs being read the most, no doubt about it. I disagree that this popularity is based solely on the fact that they are better writers, and therefore just better read. I mean, sure, sometimes. But I also think that there exists a hierarchy of linkage, fueled by the business of popularity, and this hierarchy does not usually include blogs by, for instance, a mom with a child who happens to look different. You brought up some exceptions in the comments here, and sure there are exceptions. But the very fact that they are that – exceptions – and not the norm, this is the problem. These blogs just don’t get all the linky love that we spread around, and that is a problem, at least for me. ‘Cause it’s the linkage, the addictive time-wasting linkage – whether it be comments or links within posts or links to other bloggers – that truly rule the hierarchy of blogs these days. Blogging is the ultimate “pass along” community, and we are disillusioning ourselves if we think that this community exists within a social vacuum.
    So yes, I do think it is systemic and I do think it is political in this respect. And you and I can argue about this until the cows come home but I don’t think either of us are going to change our minds about it. And that’s perfectly fine, because as Jen points out: debate can be a wonderful thing, especially amongst bloggers who happen to be parents. I love the fact that we are pushing ourselves to think about this, to investigate where we stand on the issues. A little introspection never hurt anyone, and I suspect the issues around mommy blogging will continue to increase as time goes on.
    That’s my two cents. Sorry to hijack the comments here, I just wanted to say as much about it as I could. I’m so done with this topic for now, as I am sure you are too. Over and out.

  • http://www.badladies.blogspot.com Her Bad Mother’s Mother ‘Hood

    Gah. Meant to say – post a list of blogs that ARE NOT limited to stereotype of privilege…
    Ack. Forgive me.

  • http://mom-101.blogspot.com Mom101

    Bub: I’ll buy that! I didn’t mean to speak in such generalities. I’ve certainly clicked on blogs in “parenting top sites” only to think why the hell would so many people read this crap?!
    But Sunshine has already said everything I’d add to the discussion with her comment below. I mean, is the guy who wrote The Celestine Propehesy a better writer than Jonathan Lethem? Hell no. But he’ll continue to sell more books because the subject matter and style of writing is of interest to more people.
    I guess I’m troubled by some of Andrea’s assertions that blogs about disabled children are not well-read, as evidence of some sort of greater political conspiracy to hold those bloggers down. I think it’s just life: people would rather read about other topics. I’ve ranted about nothing more than the fact that more people know about Lindsay Lohan’s latest boyfriend the issues that affect them day to day.
    But then, I do think that this is where my (misspoken) idea about writing ability comes in. In David Sedaris’s hands, wouldn’t you read more about Iraq? Or disabled children? Or dust bunnies? I know I would.

  • http://www.sunshinescribe.blogspot.com Sunshine Scribe

    Thanks HBM. I do read Lisa B and Kristen and knew about their families backgrounds (in addition to several other blogs that represent more diveristy in their authors).
    My point was just that I do have a desire to read blogs by a more diverse group of writers (as I am sure is the case of many other bloggers) but it is my/our own fault for not seeking them out – not the fault of ‘blog politics’. Nor is it a battle that the well-read blogs should be fighting. If we want to read more diverse blogs we should all look for them and not point fingers at blog hierarchies and “popularity” and “politics”.
    If we want to challenged this aspect of privledge we should all take responsiblity. The blogosphere unfortunately mirrors our society on the issue of privledge.

  • http://www.bubandpie.blogspot.com bubandpie

    “is it only a community for those who write well?”
    Mrs. Davis’s question is one that has been niggling at me through this recent spate of posts and comments. Because in one sense the answer is “Yes, absolutely.” There are other kinds of communities (such as BabyCenter) that provide some of the same kinds of support to those who aren’t interested in the writing obligations associated with blogging, and these communities have their own unique set of problems (some of which I outlined in my post). I think blogging tends to attract people who are less interested in practical tips and more interested in abstract analysis (and sometimes, as now, the abstract analysis becomes bogged down in so much self-referentiality that we all need to give our heads a shake!).
    That said, I think there are many ways of “writing well.” There are a handful of bloggers whom I read primarily because they are wordsmiths – they have a unique voice and a wonderful way of putting words together. Other people write readable, appealing blogs without making any effort to “craft” their posts in quite the same way. So there is a degree of openness, but it’s circumscribed in ways that are sometimes more visible to “outsiders” – those who know that blogging isn’t for them because they’re not “writers.”

  • http://www.badladies.blogspot.com Her Bad Mother’s Mother ‘Hood

    Thanks for adding those, Julie – I hadn’t forgotten them, I just needed to keep the list short. (And it’s worth noting that those are all popular blogs!)
    I should probably post a comprehensive list of mom-blogs that are limited to white, hetero, able perspectives!

  • http://www.mothergoosemouse.com mothergoosemouse

    HBM, just wanted to add that Dawn (balefulregards.blogspot.com) and Mary Tsao (momwrites.blogspot.com) are also mothers to bi-racial children. And Kari (karianna.clubmom.com) writes about her son who is on the autistic spectrum.

  • http://www.badladies.blogspot.com Her Bad Mother’s Mother ‘Hood

    Sunshine: Lisa B is the mother of a bi-racial daughter (http://lisaandkate.blogspot.com/). Kristen (Motherhood Uncensored) is bi-racial herself. Ditto Mocha Momma. Redneck Mommy lost her disabled child.
    I could go on. Often, the groups that we think we aren’t hearing from are right under our noses. A pro and a con of the blogosphere – we usually can’t see each other, and sometimes don’t know the full story of the writers that we are reading. You’re already reading blogs by bi-racial families, persons of colour, LGBT, less-socio-economically advantaged – it’s just not being trumpeted. Sure, blogs by white middle-class mothers outnumber these, but that’s a systemic issue, not a blog politics issue.
    Mrs Davis: Mom-101 wrote an excellent post in August (http://mom-101.blogspot.com/2006/07/mommybloggings.html) about two different kinds of mom-bloggers – moms who come to the blogosphere to write first, seek community second, and moms who write in order to find community. A writer mom is usually going to have a slightly different view of what’s appealing. A community-focussed mom might be more interested in diary-like blogs, where women are raw in their confession and discussion of their everyday life. These aren’t mutually exclusive, and there’s a huge amount of middle ground, but I think that it explains a lot.

  • http://www.badladies.blogspot.com Her Bad Mother’s Mother ‘Hood

    Ann – I wasn’t offended by your post, not by a long shot. And I don’t see why Jen would be. I’m also a little surprised that you would take my response to the old debate on blog politics (much discussed at my own blog) as evidence of such offense. As I said in my note at the bottom, I linked the posts that I did because they seemed to have kicked off this round of discussions – a discussion, however well-intended, that tends to devolve into the same-old same-old that I discuss about.
    That said, I suppose that I would say that it wasn’t clear, from your post, what it is that you find most potentially troubling: commercial enterprise on women’s/mothers’ general interest sites (like this one) or on blogs. You seemed to be discussing all of them (and mentioned, too, community blogs as part this trend, to be watched.) And I think that there are really a number of separate discussions that apply here. My interest is the issue of blog commerce, which I didn’t really address here (I’ll address in a few days at HBM) – my concern here was address the (re)emerging discourse around popularity and hierarchies which has been burbling in the background of the commerce discussions, and in it’s own foreground.
    I’ll say quickly here, though, that I just haven’t seen many (any?) examples of blogs that ‘sneak’ ads into their content (I imagine that this would look like product placement in movies: ‘oh, so I was Swiffering my kitchen floor – which always gets it super-clean! – when I discovered that Baby had knocked her favourite flavour of Yoplait yogourt (yummy!) to the floor.) I don’t know anybody who does this, I wouldn’t read anybody who did, and I can’t even begin to see why someone would do this. Readers would avoid such a blog in droves.
    (This is not to say that I dislike mention of products. I want to hear if everybody likes their Dyson’s – I might buy one. And I don’t mind hearing about it from someone who got a free Dyson – pick me! pick me! – so long as they are upfront about it. There was extensive discussion of this at BlogHer, which I’ll revisit when I write my own post about commerce.)
    The other point that I would make is this: we all have agendas that we are consciously or unconsciously imposing on one another. Many of us are writers, if only (!) blog writers, and we’re seeking audiences. We edit what we write, we pay attention to our tone. We do what writers do: we think about audience. So to that extent, it’s never going to be ‘pure’ communication. But no communication ever is.
    And in your case, you’re building an audience beyond your blog – a market to buy your books. It could be fairly said that a mom looking for the best information about what to read on motherhood/sleep issues/toddler issues/what have you might doubt that she’d be having an unbiased ‘girlfriend’ conversation with you, regardless of how forthright you are. It goes with the territory. But I don’t think that it’s a problem if our guiding principle is always honesty.

  • http://www.urbanmoms.ca Jen

    Ann D. – I was in no way offended…to be honest, I didn’t know it was there until you mentioned it in your comments. I do want to clarify however, the intention of urbanmoms.ca. We are not an online publication. Savvymom.ca does far too good a job of that. This community was created as a support and a celebration during a very difficult time in my life and did not have a business element until well after the community was established.
    My 31 cousin and friend, Madeleine, mother of 2 beautiful children, died from cancer. (read http://urbanmoms.typepad.com/the_urbanmomsca_story/) I created this site to celebrate the bond of motherhood because it was mothers from far and wide who offered their support during and after Maddy’s illness.
    The fact that this became a word-of-mouth marketing outlet was a natural evolution – I am a marketer by trade and the women here were spreading the word and sharing information – as we all do. I had companies approach me about sampling or featuring their products on urbanmoms.ca and I decided that it was empowering for women to decide how they were spoken to and by whom instead of being hit over the head with advertising. I wanted us to be able to control the message. We do no banner advertising on the site and only feature products that our members have tested and approved. This is really about the power of community.
    Our focus is on the whole woman – mother, wife, employee, and, yes, consumer. We are powerful consumers but are often pigeonholed by marketers because, well, moms are boring…at least that’s what they think. This is a way to show our diversity and to stop being manipulated by advertising. We have little time, we make most of the purchase decisions in our home, and it is time we took control and turned the tables. We need to communicate who we really are and what we really want. We are consumers, this is unavoidable. However, a recommendation from another mom on a product is far more valuable than an advertisement on TV…IMHO.
    So, I guess my point is that the power of the mommy community and this growing need to feel represented is not unique to the blogosphere. The accessibility and flexibility of the internet make it a natural conduit but it is popping up everywhere. Women are tired of being defined by and dictated to by the media.
    Take a closer look at urbanmoms.ca and you will see that all of the content (and the site design, reviews, and code, etc.) is contributed by moms. Not copywriters or advertisers. This site is BY moms. Whether you’re a blog “purist” or not and regardless of your opinon on ads, at the core we are all saying the same thing. Women, and in this case moms, want more control of the message. We want to be able to define ourselves as “real” women…we want a say. Regardless of how you are doing this, I thank you…we’re all in this together.

  • http://www.sunshinescribe.blogspot.com Sunshine Scribe

    Insightful and intelligent analysis of this as always.
    I agree with you whole-heartedly that none of this has ANYTHING to do with “politics” and that it is a mis-use of the word.
    I also agree with Bub that not all well-read/popular blogs are the most well-written. But the most visited/commented blogs do have a combination of factors that don’t happen by accident… they are strong writers, they engage themselves in the blogging community, they write topics that have broad appeal, they promote themselves, they understand blogrolling and other tools to increasae readership. Of course I am not suggesting that all of the most well-read blogs do all of those things but there certainly is at least a few of those factors, among other proactive factors, that are present. Basically, my point is “popular” blogs don’t happen by accident or without some hard work on the part of the writer. It is not just about being cute and blond = popular blog like would be true in highschool – another flaw in that analogy.
    I also think that the term “popular” leaves open to a lot of interpretations. What one blogger might guage as popular is not necessarily the same for another. Some readers end up turning away from blogs with a zillion comments because they don’t feel as much a part of the discussion or they prefer blogs that are of similar calibre, more personal yet less “discovered” (kind of analogous to the consumer that shys away from the big brands). However, there are importantly some notable exceptions to this. If the blogger is well-read and “popular” but also really connects with their readers then the number of their comments and their “status” is not off-putting. That I think holds true especially for bloggers like yourself and Mom 101.
    To your commenter that cited privledge as a common denominator in the blogosphere top rankings. In many ways she is right. But you raise some valid rebuttal. The thing is that the issue she raises is rampent outside of the blogopshere. Until society changes and the systemic issues that leave men and women of privledge in … well, positions of privledge, then it isn’t fair just to cast stones just at this discussion. The issue of privledge is not unique to the blogopshere.
    I would LOVE to read blogs by trangendered individuals, bi-racial families (like my own), families with disabilities, Muslim families etc, etc — but if they are not easy to find then I cannot read them. That is my problem/error for not looking harder – not the “well-read” blogger’s battle simply because they are more read.

  • http://thelovelymrsdavis.com Mrs. Davis

    Great discussion here.
    I wholeheartedly agree with BubandPie when she says that the most-read blogs are not necessarily the best writing out there. I can think of several very popular blogs that, in my opinion, are quite poorly written. I think that (in the mom-blog world) how “raw” or provocative or personally revealing a blog is has more to do with its popularity than the quality of the writing.
    I think for the moms who came to blogging seeking community (not me), it is hard to understand that quality of writing is an issue at all. If a mom has some great frustration to share and needs to feel supported by her readers, she should not feel pressure to “perform” as a writer. That is contrary to the “community” aspect of the mom-blogging world that has been so celebrated as of late. Or is it only a community for those who write well?

  • http://anndouglas.blogspot.com Ann D

    I just realized that Catherine was the author of the column above. (I didn’t see any byline, so I thought it was by the site owner, Jen.)
    And then after I posted, I was looking at the baby photos and I thought — wait….that’s Her Bad Mother’s baby.
    So Jen, I don’t know if you were offended by the post or not — or if Her Bad Mother was offended on your behalf — or whatever. But if anyone was offended and wants the Urbanmoms.ca link removed from my original post, please advise.
    I’m off to bed (where I clearly should have gone before posting.) :-)
    - Ann

  • http://anndouglas.blogspot.com Ann D

    Dear Jen -
    I apologize if you felt singled out or attacked by my blog post on parenting media.
    I’m co-presenting a session on Motherhood and Blogging at the ARM Conference in late October and, as always, when I’m doing research on an important topic, I wanted to get a sense of the grassroots thinking on the issue.
    In listing parenting media outlets, I was trying to provide a representative sampling of the range of media voices that we now have on the Canadian parenting scene — big, small; well-known, not-so-well-known; online, offline; chain, independent; etc. These were the examples I chose.
    Babyvibe.ca — a Westcoast parenting e-zine that was recently launched by a former journalist. I picked it because it’s new and because the editor does a great job of providing a mix of editorial and product info, plus news and events of interest to moms in the BC-lower mainland.
    UrbanBaby.ca — another example of a BC parenting publication that’s doing a great job, IMHO. In addition to carrying a lot of really intelligently written health/parenting editorial (you have to get the print version of the publication to really see what Urban Baby is all about), the publication helps advertisers reach Vancouver families.
    Thyme Maternity: This is an example of a high-end “magalogue” aimed at Canadian moms.
    Glow.ca: Glow is a Canadian women’s magazine that provides strong coverage on motherhood. I included them to show how there’s women’s/motherhood magazine market crossover. (Not all magazines make the crossover. Chatelaine is an example of a Canadian women’s magazine that doesn’t.)
    SavvyMom.ca: I included Savvy Mom because they — like UrbanMom.ca — are an example of a product-focused blog/zine/newsletter. They specialize in drawing Canadian mom’s attention to noteworthy products/services. Savvy Mom has a rather noteworthy crossover deal with Canadian Family magazine and has recently extended into Vancouver. Because Canada doesn’t have a parenting/pregnancy equivalent to the US baby shopping magazine “Bundle” online blog/zine/newsletters are currently fulfilling this function. I personally think its only a matter of time before someone in the print world steps in and fills this market gap. (Think “Baby Lulu”!) However, given that the blog/zine/newsletters have had a significant head start in this category — and given how crowded the parenting media category in general has already become — a print mag may be reluctant to wade in.
    City Parent: I included a mention of City Parent as an example of a GTA newspaper for parents. I tried to find a URL for “The Little Paper” that is published in the city’s westend because I wanted to add them, too, particularly since they’re an independent, but I couldn’t find a link for them. Does anyone have one? I’d like to add them to the list of links in the sidebar of my blog.
    UrbanMoms.ca: I included a mention of UrbanMoms.ca for the reasons stated in my discussion of SavvyMom.ca; because the site has just undergone a major makeover; and because it has always had a strong product focus (parents testing products).
    And, of course, my list was not complete/exhaustive. I could have listed 50 Canadian online/print parenting publications and not covered them all. But that would have been kind of redundant — and time-consuming!
    As to your point that people have had this parenting media discussion before, well, that is true. I’ve been part of those discussions before — just as I’ve been part of discussions about moms and stress, work/life balance, the childcare shortage, the homework debate — all the topics that bounce around the blogosphere because they still warrant more discussion.
    And I suspect we’ll be having some variation of this online marketing discussion 10 or 20 years from now. I think the evolution of parenting media, parent blogs, etc., is a fascinating topic. (In fact, I think the evolution of media in general is fascinating.) And the more we talk about these things (and the more voices that join in the discussion), the more we can learn from one another. (And along that vein, thanks for the excellent link to bubandpie’s discussion. Lots of very insightful posts over there.)
    One final comment that may also provide some insights into why I care so much about this topic: because I gained so much support online after my daughter was stillbirth (and at other dark times in my life as a mom), I’m very protective of the sanctity of mom-to-mom communications. I know from first-hand experience — and from talking to countless other moms — that the networks that are created online can be lifesaving, literally. I don’t want someone pretending to be my online buddy so that they can sell me a cleaning product or try to get me to join their market-to-moms network or any of that kind of stuff. The few times it’s happened to me, I’ve been enraged. That’s what I object to — the ugly underbelly of blog marketing — people trading on online friendships to make a buck.
    I hope this helps to clarify my comments. If you would like me to remove your link from my original post, please let me know. Otherwise, I will leave it as is so it can remain in the company of other respected Canadian parenting media.
    - Ann

  • http://www.tallnlucky.blogs.com Kristin

    There is a reason I sit on the virtual fence and knaw my fingernails. Politics give me a headache, especially in the blogosphere.

  • http://www.badladies.blogspot.com Her Bad Mother’s Mother ‘Hood

    Bub – I totally agree with you, and I’m sure that Mom-101 would as well. Asserting that the most popular bloggers are excellent writers isn’t to deny that there is excellent writing going on in the quieter corners of the blogosphere (I could list many right off the top of my head right now!) But the ‘well-read’ bloggers do tend to be exemplary – even if they sometimes slide or go off of their game sometimes.
    In any case, you’re right about self-promotion. It makes difference. Sometimes people get ‘discovered’ when a popular blogger links to them, or when they write a controversial post, but that in itself requires that they make their presence known, even in some small way. I would say that most good writers, if they put themselves ‘out there,’ inevitably get attention (aren’t you a good example of this? racking up the comments on your more provocative posts? well-deservedly?)
    The main point holds, I think. A blog is much, much more likely to be read and to retain readers if it’s good.

  • http://www.bubandpie.blogspot.com bubandpie

    Such fun going on here in the comments!
    I have to take issue with Mom-101′s claim that the most-read bloggers are also the best writers. I don’t see that. There are some popular bloggers who seem to be coasting a little bit – their archives are full of rich, deep material, but their more recent posts seem a bit, um, hasty at times. And certainly there are MANY beautifully written, witty, creative, utterly original blogs that have a comparatively small readership. And there are many reasons for that. I think some of the most original and iconoclastic bloggers out there are a bit leery of joining the fray, so they carve out a little bit of space for themselves in the blogosphere and eschew self-promotion. It’s equally likely that such people don’t have the same mass appeal as the very popular bloggers – but that doesn’t mean they are less skilled writers.
    And Urbanmoms Jen? If a propensity for navel-gazing is a must-have for the blogging life, I guess it makes sense that we would go in for the collective navel-gazing in a big way, sometimes. ;)

  • http://penelopeandbumblebee.blogspot.com Penelope

    You’re right; feelings getting hurt because of a perceived social injustice – not politics. Commenting all over town with the intention that others will comment, or supressing your true feelings in a post or comment so as to remain as diplomatic as possible and not risk offending? That is politics. And it’s boring. We should just stay true to who we are, feel good about our decisions, and blog that way.

  • http://www.mommyofftherecord.blogspot.com/ Mommy off the Record

    This was the best analysis of the whole “blog politics” issue that I’ve read. (And by the way, this is my first visit to this new site–it’s fabulous–congrats.) Anyway, I think that whatever we call “it”, whether we want to call it “politics” or something else, these discussions emerge from a sense of hurt feelings just as you said. People want to feel that they belong to a group. It’s human nature. And when something happens that threatens their feeling of “belonging” or “acceptance” or “popularity” as a blogger in the blogosphere (e.g., someone stops visiting you or removes you from their blogroll or whatever), it’s natural that there will be some hurt feelings. But I think that for the most part, the mommyblogging community is a very supportive community, which is why I don’t get why these discussions crop up so often.

  • http://www.urbanmoms.ca Jen

    Jen – I’m right there with you on the Halloween Cupcakes! The pressure to be “all that”. Don’t we have better things to do/write about/read?!

  • http://tomama.blogs.com/ Jen

    As I commented over at Cheaty Monkey, this is exactly the reason I posted on my blog and at LiteraryMama.com! It is so exciting to see mother/father bloggers and blog readers talking about this and exploring their motivations and figuring out what they love about and want to preserve of the blogosphere. I mean we’re talking about feminism and community building and the power of media and, for the love of Pete, Athenian democracy in our comments (the democracy part was cool, the slavery part not so much – we’ll have to kick the idea around at ARM a little) which is exactly what we are not seeing in the mainstream “mommy” magazines which seem to think what we are most interested in is making Halloween-themed cupcakes! I think that this type of conversation is really exciting. More more more!

  • http://www.urbanmoms.ca Jen

    For a non-blogger this discussion is, at very the least, confusing. But, to be honest with you, it sounds more personal to me than political. Blogs and bloggers or journalists, or actors, or neighbours are read/watched/befriended for a variety of reasons. Some of it is clearly opportunity (which may be “status”), some of it is talent, but much of it is undefinable and complex. It is that intangible connection, that inexplicable “something” that draws us to another. There are many, many moms outside of the blogosphere, this very involved community, who share a passion for and crave honest and real voices from other mothers.
    This is the reason why urbanmoms.ca has introduced our blogs. Not to be controversial or to intrude and especially not to get involved in politics. There is a huge opportunity through the voices of this community and I am surprised at how much time is spent analyzing the inner workings and social dynamics.
    I was amazed when I first happened upon a few blogs how profound and raw they were. Here was the true voice of the modern mom! This voice was not stifled or sanitized but was honest and true…I felt understood as a mother and challenged as a free thinking woman. I immediately knew that other women, non-bloggers, needed to hear this voice and know that someone, a whole community of “someones”, was speaking their truth, articulating beautifully their struggles, their woes, their fears as well as their passions, their joys and their dreams. This is the value of “mom bloggers” from the perspective of an outsider. This is why I invited HBM, Ali, Haley-O, and Kath to “blog” on urbanmoms.ca.
    If you step outside for a minute you will see the position you are all in. You are leaders, you give “real” women and moms a voice. As a non-blogging, non-writer I am awed by the power of many of the posts I read. I often forward links on to friends who I know will feel comforted by seeing the words they were unable to express written so eloquently by another mom. I salute all of you and thank you for this.

  • Lisa b

    “in real life I am a political scientist (one who specializes, by the way, on the politics of womanhood and motherhood. So I’ve done my research and my thinking.)”
    and that I why I love you. and will continue to read you whether you or I are popular or not.

  • http://www.badladies.blogspot.com Her Bad Mother’s Mother ‘Hood

    Andrea -
    I did not single you out as expressing insecurity. I was, as I noted, referring to what I see as the general tenor of the discussion. And my references to politics were not directed soley at your arguments about ‘isms’ driving blog traffic – as I’ve said ad nauseaum at my own blog, my biggest personal pet peeve is the politics/high school analogy.
    But since you bring it up… the issue I have is with people confusing ‘politics’ with dynamics that they simply don’t like. You ask me to ‘prove’ my claim that the momosphere is not political in the correct sense of the term – I could take the cheap shot and demand the same of you. Your claim that blogs by parents of disabled children are not as well-read as blogs by white, upper-middle-class parents of able children might be a fact, but a fact doesn’t reveal cause. Stats 101. There are potentially many reasons why such blogs aren’t among the most-read blogs – not least, perhaps, because these aren’t the best-written blogs (I’m not making this claim, I’m proposing it as a reason). Perhaps those blogs are not ‘well-promoted,’ in that their authors don’t travel outside of their own circles (I can count on one finger the number of such bloggers who have visited me. If I don’t know about them, how can I find them?)
    There are very popular blogs by women of colour, and by lesbian moms. There aren’t so many by vocally Christian women or Muslim women, nor by aboriginal women, nor by women-who-used-to-be-men. Is that evidence of systemic discrimination? It may be, but doesn’t the popularity of the first group bely that claim?
    Most mom-blogs are written by women of a certain level of privilege – YES. Some blogs are written by women who are talented writers (name me a popular blog that isn’t well-written.) Readers gravitate to what they like, not to what the ‘patriarchy’ or the ‘dominant knowledge system’ or ‘The Man’ has told them to read. I haven’t seen any evidence that blog politics keeps some blogs down. There are certainly broader systemic issues that need to be addressed if the blogosphere is to be truly representative – these largely pertain to making it accessible to those who are less-privileged. And these broader systemic issues might be called political issues. But the issue of who I am reading, or who other bloggers are reading, or who is ‘popular’ and who is not? Not political.
    (And – I apologize if my citation of my credentials put you off. But the fact that I am a social scientist is not irrelevant here – I’ve studied this stuff. A lot. You wouldn’t reflexively poo-poo a medical doctor’s opinion just because she said she was a doctor, would you? Nonsensical, no? Well, my doctorate is in politics. All I’m saying with that statement is that my opinion is informed.)

  • http://furtheradventuresofme.blogspot.com kittenpie

    As I commented at B&Ps place, I mostly do it for the conversation and the friendships I’ve been developing and the sheer joy of writing stuff again. But, as you said, sometimes when you write something, you really want feedback on it.
    I’ve had a few of those posts, maybe about one a month, that I felt I wanted more feedback on, that I cared more about than normal, either because they were about something personal or important to me, or because I really poured my heart and soul into the writing of them (more than my normal slap-dash write-and-post method, I mean!). And for those posts, I have felt that insecurity. Didn’t they like it? Why aren’t they saying anything? and you’re right, it’s me.

  • http://www.athenadreaming.org/Beanie Andrea

    Oh, well, steinem agrees with you–how could anyone not? I mean, it’s not like she could be wrong, is it? Or saying what you expect or want to hear so that you will continue to promote her new radio station? No!
    Seriously. Where’s *your* evidence? Where is it? “This isn’t politics,” you say. So fine. Prove me wrong. But *prove* it; don’t just throw around big words and flash your credentials and expect me to kneel down at your feet.
    Moms with kids who are physically disabled make up a disproportionate number of the bottom third of blogs when ranked by bloglines subscribers, inbound links, and inbound links per bloglines subscription. That is, if I haven’t completely misdefined the word, evidence.
    I can even discuss how relative types of disability affect the rankings–that is, moms of kids who are physically disbled are most likely to be unpopular; moms of kids with DS are other differences are most likely to be somewhere farther up.
    But this must be a total coincidence, because you have a PhD! And that, my friends, is real evidence.
    This whole “Andrea is whining because she must want to be more popular” is a completely defensive and self-interested misreading of my posts. As I have said, over and over ad nauseum, it’s not about Beanie BAby. Beanie Baby is doing well. I’m happy with it. It would be laughable of me to claim that I don’t have almost all of the privilege and status-markers that count–race, class, education, and so on. But, thanks to my unique position as a member of several different communities, I have lots of experience in seeing how they interact–or don’t–and who fits where. (I have after all been blogging for more than eight months.)
    Frankly, anyone who can look at the situtaion and say that privilege and status-markers don’t count, that the fact that upper-middle-class white straight married moms hold the top rankings by popularity no matter how you slice and dice is sheer coincidence, might as well stamp “I support the patriarchy” on their forehead and have done with it.

  • http://riverdalemama.blogspot.com metro mama

    Catherine, as usual, you got me all fired up and I had to post on this over at my place.

  • http://www.mothergoosemouse.com mothergoosemouse

    Thanks for pointing me to B&P’s post – excellent food for thought.
    I had to giggle about “politics” though, as my last two posts were about actual two-party politics and my pseudo-misfit status.
    As for blog politics, it’s such a tired topic. Your cocktail party analogy is still my favorite by far, and while I’m not immune to the insecurities, there’s so much other good blog fodder out there, as you illustrate so well.

  • http://mom-101.blogspot.com Mom101

    Nodding – very vigorously. You nailed it.
    Mad Hatter – actually, it’s not like high school which is, I think the point. If you look at the best read bloggers, they tend to be the best writers. Not the girls with the shiniest hair or the nicest car or the richest daddy or the most athletic boyfriend. In fact, as writers, I sense that none of them were that person in high school!

  • http://riverdalemama.blogspot.com metro mama

    I agree 100%. I’ve had all of those insecurities, and I agree, they’re my feelings–not politics.
    As I commented at Cheaty Monkey, I have no problem with bloggers profiting from their efforts and definitely don’t think it’s corrupting the blogosphere.
    I loved Gabrielle’s post. As I commented there, she has me pegged!

  • http://www.merrymunckinks.blogspot.com merry mama

    I actually do not have anything wise to say.
    But thank you. That was helpful. And thank you bub and pie, too. I would have left you a comment, but there were, like, seventy-five or a hundred and I’m, like, tired.

  • http://www.madhattermommy.blogspot.com Mad Hatter

    Wow. Pardon me for being a neophyte but all this talk of blog politics makes me want to hide. I am only now discovering that the parenting blogosphere can be like high school and I am only now discovering that it has its tricks like blogrolls and ads (sure I’ve seen ‘em on other blogs but I’ve never really cared to notice b/c I was there to read the posts.) I’m a “just the facts, ma’am,” kinda gal. Heck, I’ve barely figured out how to post pics to my blog.
    Me, I like to read other blogs, comment on posts that matter to me rather than simply commenting to be heard, and then slink back into my own corner of oblivion and hope that the odd person likes what I write. I’d also like to strike up conversations here and there about ideas, art, politics (the real kind), and parenting. I simply crave conversation of the engaged and caring kind.
    And that’s what I like about really good blogs (like yours). They simply feel personal and smart and conversational.

  • http://www.bubandpie.blogspot.com bubandpie

    Yes, yes, YES! (Okay, now I feel a little bit like I’m on an Herbal Essences commercial, but that’s how much I DO second this post.)
    And thanks for the linky. It was awfully fun to read your description and think, “Hey! I want to go read that post!” and then realize “Oh, it’s me!”
    Now I’m off to follow the rest of your links, and the question remains: Will I ever get to bed tonight? Will there ever be any sleep for the blog-addicted?

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