before we just call her an athlete?
There are two kinds of people in the world: bloggers and mommy bloggers.
I've been thinking about this post for some time, not necessarily in terms of blogging, but in terms of feminism and the role it plays now that we are a decade into the 21st Century. I'm getting ready to send my daughter off into the world. She is bright and shiny and full of expectations about college life and beyond. Throughout her childhood, I've been reluctant to saddle her with baggage from times gone by.
On the other hand, I'm a little dismayed at the number of women I've met (many just a shade younger than I) who think that feminists are man-hating, humorless old windbags who have no relevance in today's world. Today's Chicago Woman editor Cassandra Gaddo wrote a great post called Dropping the F-Bomb: Why is Feminism a Dirty Word, that speaks to many of the controversies surrounding feminism and invites us to reopen the conversation.
And we do need to reopen it, because even if feminism is dead (although I hope not), sexism isn't. In fact, it's alive and well in the venerable New York Times, where just this week writer Jennifer Mendelsohn penned an article insultingly titled Honey, Don't Bother Mommy. I'm Too Busy Building My Brand. Not surprisingly, it's gathered a lot of buzz in the blogosphere.
Here's the thing: I don't mind being called a Mommy Blogger (although in this house, I'm Mama, so I guess that would make me a Mama Blogger). After all, I'm a mom and I blog. On this blog, sometimes I write about being a mom, sometimes I don't. I am a proud contributor to the Chicago Moms Blog, where I write regularly about my experiences as a mom.
I guess it's the language that gets to me, because I'm picky about words. Words are powerful — they carry weight and meaning and subtext that is both subtle and profound. "Mommy Blogger", like "Soccer Mom" before it, carries a wide range of connotations, as illustrated a full year ago by the social media guide Mashable, which posted a list of 10 Misconceptions About Mommy Bloggers.
Most style guidelines advise using gender-neutral language whenever possible: server vs. waitress or waiter; manager or executive, not businessman; actor, not actress. In fact, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "actor" was originally used for both sexes (1581); we didn't see "actress" introduced until 1666, 85 years later. The Linguistic Society of America (LSA) puts it this way in the LSA Guidelines for Nonsexist Usage:
"Sexist practices are those that contribute to demeaning or ignoring women (or men) or to stereotyping either sex; sexism is often not a mater of intention but of effect."
I am arguably a member of the very first post-feminist generation. Women were pretty much done burning their bras by the time I got my first one. (Thank God, or gravity would have taken a bigger toll on me than it already has.) I didn't really follow the doings of Gloria Steinem and Betty Freidan back then, though I have certainly come to appreciate them.
My hero (some might say shero) was my mom, a quiet, reluctant feminist who fought sexism throughout her life and career, even in the female-centric world of primary education. After years of substituting in our school district and many wonderful recommendations, she did not get a job that she and most people in the community expected her to get. When a colleague asked the superintendent why my mom didn't get an offer, he said: "You know her husband. He's a bank president. She doesn't need this job." My mom forged ahead and got a job in higher education.
Sometimes sexism is blatant; sometimes is hard to discern, but it definitely still exists. I worry that our young women won't even recognize it until it has stymied them in some way. As part of that first post-feminist generation of young women, I believe we were sold a bill of goods. We were told we were equal. We were told not only that we could have it all, but that we should have it all. We were still being told how to live our lives.
Most of the women (and many of the men) I know have learned the hard way that it's not possible to have it all, and it's certainly not possible to have it all at once. According to the International Labour Organization, "the redistribution of financial responsibilities within the family has not ben matched by a redistribution of work responsibilities in the home. It is still women who do a disproportionate share of the work around the home. Women are working harder than ever, and many are now working a 'second shift'."
Like Cassandra Gaddo, I strongly believe that we need a new discussion in this country — not just about feminism and its role, but one that examines our core values about work, family, money and priorities. I hope it will be an interesting discussion — a kind, thoughtful one, not the screaming and yelling that today's media uses to mask the real issues.
Back to blogging for a moment. There are a lot of bloggers out there. The most recent statistics I could find, from way back in early 2009, claimed that Technorati had indexed more than 130 million blogs since 2002. Bloggers come in all stripes and colors: there are mommy bloggers and daddy bloggers, business bloggers and entertainment bloggers, rude bloggers and earnest bloggers, successful bloggers and defunct bloggers. This fascinating, evolving and almost indefinable world of the blogosphere is really nothing but bits and bytes, tiny pieces of data zipping around the Interwebs. It is at once profound and deeply personal; and ironically, in light of the backlash against Mommy Bloggers, perhaps the most democratic, egalitarian form of communication in history.
So, while I really don't mind if you call me a Mommy Blogger, why not just call me a Blogger? And while I definitely believe in equality, I don't believe that all bloggers are equal, so how about if you call me a Damn Fine Blogger? In fact, I would prefer simply Writer — Damn Fine Writer, if you insist.
Thanks for stopping. If you want to see me present the other side of the coin, where I argue that males and females are completely different, be sure to catch my latest Chicago Moms Blog post. And I love to read your comments — just click here.
"All this pitting of sex against sex, of quality against quality; all this claiming of superiority and imputing of inferiority belong to the private-school stage of human existence where there are sides, and it is necessary for one side to beat another side."