When confronted, in the doctor's office waiting room, with the choice of reading Good Housekeeping or The New Yorker. Let me confess--I'll go with GH each and every time. I will skim over the table of contents and target the stories on make-overs (all the better with a dramatic weight-loss component, thank you very much) and fitness/diet tips (all the better if they produce miraculous results with little-to-no effort, thank you very much). Mostly I will flick through and look at pictures of home decor and brownie recipes... Much in the same way as our monthly subscription to Bon Appetit is much more about getting my fix of mouthwatering food-pic-porn than any really practical advice over blanching and preserving my home-grown crop of Meyer Lemons.
I don't subscribe to any conventional "women's magazines" (unless you count, Brain, Child--which is far from conventional in terms of this genre) but this does not stop me from leering over all the glossies that tempt me as I wait in line at the grocery store, or grabbing any issues that grace a friend or relative's coffee table, and becoming enchantingly antisocial as I devour every issue available. In my saddest moments, I call this "maintaining cultural literacy" (the same argument for using t.v. as babysitter--you should try it!) Fact is, I am disturbingly fascinated with Julia Robert's life with twins and penchant for knitting. Oh, and a copy of US or People or National Enquirer in your bathroom? Please feel free to start drinks without me, I'll catch you much, much later on...
And there's me, veteran of the gender studies seminar, and one-time professor of women's studies. In my classes such magazines are excellent and easily available fodder for discussing the social construction of gender, and "the ideology of body-image." My students and I go to town on comparing the messages of Shape, and Self, and Woman's World, as opposed to GQ, and Men's Health, or even Wall Street Journal. And while I do not indulge (too much) in simplistic preaching of ALL MEDIA BAD; we are oppressed by MEDIA; MEDIA made me bulimic, I do sit back and smugly enjoy when female freshmen, who had not given it a moment's thought before, ask themselves "why the fuck DO commercials for fabric softner contain talking teddy bears??? And why does inclusion of teddy bears tell us subliminally that this ad is not for the men-folk?"
Such is my mighty intellectual power to teach and mentor... (Lock up your daughters!!!)
So (as she maneuvers a whiplash transition) am I getting to a point here?? Well, all the above cultural-whorishness taken into account, one of the most significant attributes of the mommy-blogging phenonenom is that finally there is a place where you can hear (cliche alert) "the real voices of women..." In fact, when Sweetney was questioning the fate of feminism a few weeks back, I used mommy blogging as an example where the times they are achangin'.
Yes, we talk about diets, and celebrities, and domestic purgatory/bliss, and our kids, and getting them to eat/speak/think right, but the terms in which we talk about these things--they are so wildly different from the glossy "true-life" stories we are presented with via conventional media: If you pick up a copy of this week's Good Housekeeping you'll find that Christie Brinkley at 52, "gives a straight talk about being and older mom and how she's facing up to a family crisis..."
And while we might empathize with some of the shit our uptown gal has had to deal with over the years (Billy Joel and Chuck Norris infommercials notwithstanding) we all know how that article will play out. "I've been through a rough and tumultuous time, but now I am coming through to the other side by seeing the joy in life, and treasuring the gift of my children.."
We turn to these mags when we want our Motherhood Censored (devoid of all swear words, spitting anger, snorting laughter, and ambivalence....)
Swear words do not mommy-blog realism make, don't get me wrong. But stories about nocturnal boob-leakage, really juggling a career and parenting, or how we feel about our bodies once they have become baby-making devices, well we can find them now via these blogs. And we can engage other writers by shouting support or relating our own experiences. And that is why for me blogging is both a supreme form of procrastination (coz, we're just shooting the shit, right?) and also a powerful form of expression, communication, and dare I say it--feminism.
I for one like the idea that the mommy-blogosphere is one place where, in years to come, people will turn to see what women were up to at the turn of the 21st century, and not the manicured profiles of women in mainstream magazines. (and boy I hope those guys read my zit post!!!).
It's very interesting to me that in the space of just a week, two largescale websites devoted to us mommy-types have taken the mutha' blogosphere by storm. The most widely touted in the circles I have seen is ClubMom, which is providing some of the most talented bloggers out there (amalah, sweetney, kirsten--to name but a few) with the venue (and cash money) they need to blog for us on a much more regular basis. And we thank them.
The other that is surfacing along with a general raising of fists, "about-blooooody-time" sentiment, MomsRising.org, a site that is overtly more about generating mother-activism and a shared sense of outrage and goal-setting over the fact that (though some may deny it) mothers and primary caregivers in general need to fight-FOR-THEIR-rights to PARENT in an equitable environment.
What's also interesting about these two new ventures is how much they contrast at a glimpse. ClubMom's interface has all the hallmarks of a well-manicured women's magazine, with its typical headlines alerting us to diet and fitness tips, recipes, hobbies and crafts. We've got tasteful and relatively unobrusive ads for minivans and weight-watchers snacks, and Meredith Vieira graces us with a soft-focus smile, reassuring us that she brings to this venture all the professionalism and down-to-earth "you know it, girlfriend" of The View ("finally I get away from that b'yatch, Star..."). Now don't get me wrong, I like a recipe for low-fat-fries-with-all-the-taste as much as the next lassy--but I also like my representations of motherhood deeply flawed, messy, and argumentative, and on first look, ClubMom looks a little too groomed and level-headed for my more raucous taste in bloggery.
But then how did I get to ClubMom? How did any of us? It's via that chick who is gracing the bottom left corner--our own Amalah, who the producers of ClubMom were savvy enough to enlist as part of the whole By Moms, For Moms principle... And yes, Amy can't curse here (because I am sure that Swiffer might have something to say about that) but she can nonetheless bring her own inimitable voice to this thing in her Best of Mom Blogs daily entry. And today, that gal is fighting the good fight with her "I am a mommy blogger, hear me roar" post.
Amy's sardonic flipping off of the whole mommyblogger-bashing thing going on out there, well it helps us all flip off those who denegrate mothers, and it creates a swell of righteous indignation--a political swell, the basis of action. And that's exactly where MomsRising starts from--channelling indigination over the subordination of women, especially mothers, and putting that groundswell to good use. A site that is much more old-school in its articulation of that battlecry, MomsRising is explicitly about promoting activism (although careful to make this about "parents' and "childrens' rights") Invoking all the rhetoric of the women's movement, complete with Rosie-the-Riveter design theme, and pithy M.O.T.H.E.R. acronym for citing the core principles of the Mother Manifesto, the site is commercial-free, save the fundraising touting of t-shirts, and uses the vastly powerful model of online organizing used by MoveOn.org (and one of the site's authors is also MoveOn's cofounder).
In a nation where the job of caring for children is grossly undervalued, for both moms and minimum-wage daycare providers, I guess we shouldn't be surprised that non-parents (and I've stumbled across a daddyblogger or two who regularly use the word with the same sexist venom as a four-letter word) assume that women who write about their children are not doing anything worthwhile. That we've let our identity completely vanish beneath the motherhood label. That we have nothing to say that could possible interest anyone besides other mothers. Because we only write about our children and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE.
In addition to the organizing tools, the site also provides a forum for sharing stories.--not of political reawakening, but of anecdotes detailing the good, the bad, and the ugly (and I don't seen any "no swearing" rules, which means I might be able to submit a line or two myself!). The lead story right now should be read by any of us who have "pumped in style" in the workplace, I tell you. (Or, eh, those who have a breast- pump fetish. And who doesn't?)
The fact that (relatively) unfiltered story-telling by mothers is a centerpiece for both these sites, well it makes the procrastinator in me rub her keyboard in sweaty glee, and it makes the feminist and english lit. professor in me feel all puffed up and proud. Under the polished veneer of ClubMom (and it is that polished veneer, after all, that gets in the advertisers, and gets our gals paid) are the voices we can come to count on to represent some of those messier and sometimes anger-inducing aspects of motherhood.
Because we all know that when her time comes, sweetney isn't going to be feeding us links to coupons of personalized "your child here" photo-mugs vendors, don't we?
(unless it's subversive personalized photo-mugs, of course...)