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An Update, And A Repost

An Update, And A Repost

monster club

The good news is that, after switching back to my regular, brand-name Effexor, I feel much less funk-y this week. The bad news is, I feel considerably more frustrated and angry. I’m not sure this has anything to do with medication, though — I suspect it has to do with environmental factors. I have been frustrated by things going on recently on the internet. And then, even more frustrated with myself for letting the stupid internet bother me, and becoming convinced that it cannot be the internet that is actually bothering me, but in fact must be that the internet is dredging up some larger, more significant issue from my past, and that this is what is really annoying the hell out of me. Maybe. Maybe it’s just an adjustment to medication. Or maybe it’s just that I’m a little pissed off and need to do some kickboxing. Anyway, I’m going to repost something that seems relevant, some of you might remember seeing it before, but I’m hoping those of you who haven’t will enjoy it and find it timely. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try to just get over this.

Monster Club

For elementary school, your parents had enrolled you in some kind of commie pinko alternative learning program, and though it was not required, you would stay there until sixth grade, going on communal family campouts, learning about Che Guevara, and eating morning snacks made by class mothers who had hair growing from beneath their arms — until you were no longer a girl. Even then, you knew it was a little weird, but you figured there must be some kind of altruism behind the practice, even if you could not yet understand it. Even if you suspected the whole exercise was designed at least in part to serve as some kind of social proof of your parents’ liberalism — their liberalism against the odds, their limosine liberalism (or as close to that as you could find to that in your little town north of nowhere) — you went along with it. You endured, along with the other leftist progeny in your classes, the relentless taunting at the hands of the other, “regular” children in the school — the poor provincials whose parents had told them that you and your classmates required “special” circumstances in which to learn, who needed to believe that you could not make it in a normal classroom. You would patiently listen to their bemused questioning about the circumstances of your education: was it true that you didn’t have desks? And did you get to do what you wanted all day? And how could you learn that way? And what would you do when you had to live in the real world someday?

The truth was that yes, you did get to do what you wanted all day, more or less, provided you were good at time management. And you were, oh yes! you were — which was why you would breeze through your math assignments and “science” experiments, reading requirements and art projects, as quick as you could every day. Because the sooner you finished, the quicker you could get back to your Judy Blume, which you sped through equally fast, on the old lumpy couch in the back corner of the room, the same one where Taj had asked you to be his “friend,” with a weird look in his eye and a strange enunciation. And you had said, “Yeah, OK,” though you were pretty sure he meant something different than you did, but deciding to just go back to your book all the same.

Your first teacher there was named True, and the second was called Jock, and that was not the half of it. Over the course of your elementary school career, you met a brother and sister named Mercy and Sky, a set of siblings named Love, Truth, and Mercy (gender is irrelevant here), a Jefferson, a Strawberry, and a Morning-Star, and probably several others along the way who had since been erased from the official record — the oddities of their names not enough to counterbalance the blandness of their personalities, and the memory of them fading into the background amongst all of the other wheat germ snacks, carob chip cookies, Kefir shakes and homemade peanut butter. Even amongst all the self-consciously cultivated difference, there were still some normal things: on rainy days, you would play “Heads Up, 7-Up!” inside the classroom instead of going outside, and dodge ball or four square were popular alternatives when the weather was good. You had your first schoolgirl crush, and your first heartbreak. You broke your arm. You were a normal kid, after a fashion.

Still, weird was usual there. Weird was expected. And maybe for the last time in your life, you found that you weren’t weird enough.

One day you got to school and True was at the door, handing out stickers and instructing people to put them on their shirts. They were badges that read, “Monster Club.” She made a point of not giving one to you, though to be fair there were many of your class who were excluded. Still, you were annoyed not to be given preferential treatment. So you decided to ask, even though it sickened you to do so — to be so needy.

“Can I be a part of the Monster Club?” you asked, embarrassed that you wanted something that was not offered to you readily, ashamed to be willing to impose yourself upon a figure of authority in order to get it. For despite her name, or her behavior, True was an adult, and now you had made yourself weaker by asking for something from her. She was not even acknowledging your question. Instead, she was looking right past you, continuing to give out Monster Club badges in haphazard fashion, left and right, willy-nilly and without any kind of discernible logic. This confused you, and it made you feel bad. And these were feelings you had already trained yourself to avoid at all costs.

True was an adult, and even if you knew that adults were mostly full of shit, this was irrelevant. They made the rules. And so, when throughout the day the members of the Monster Club were given special privileges — cookies, candy, extra play time, the freedom from schoolwork, you had kept your mouth shut. Even when they were allowed to spend the whole day outside on the playground, and you and others of the non-Monster Club were stuck inside, after finishing everything, after meeting all of the expectations — however strange you thought them — you were quiet. Instead of rising up and questioning the righteousness of the Monster Club itself, which was surely the point of the whole exercise, assuming there was a point, you quietly seethed, and searched inside of yourself, determined to find the mistake. Because in your world then, as now, you did not — could not — wholly believe in a system devoid of logic, and you thought that there was no way that this travesty of justice was unwarranted. There had been some kind of standard, and you had failed to meet it. And even if there was just a little bit of outrage mixed in their with the shame at having missed the mark, it was wholly directed at yourself, for what pragmatist — seven years of age notwithstanding — would place their dreams in the downfall of a system, of the trampling of an institution? Was this not the world that we lived in? Were we not expected to make of it what we could?

And that was why, even as people started to grow weary of their Monster Club membership and the strictness of its rules — the candy and cookies of which they had developed an acute case of bourgeois malaise, the inability to befriend Non-Monster Clubbies, even for just one day–you still plotted and planned, trying desperately for a way to prove yourself worthy of that badge. Eventually, some of the weaker-minded members of the Monster Club started to offer to relinquish their badges, suggesting that it would be best to let everyone share in the privileges of the Club. They would stand up in front of the class, such as it was, and in very dramatic ways offered to give away their badge to one of the unfortunates, and you sat nearby, watching them — wondering what kind of person would want to give up a space in the Monster Club, and wondering if you would take a proffered second-hand badge. And if you did, would it be enough, under those circumstances, to erase the psychic trauma of not having been given one in the first place?

But the adults would have none of this charity. They said that once you were in the Monster Club, you were in it for life. And by the same token, if you weren’t in the Monster Club now, then you could never be a part of it. It was all very strict and draconian. And besides, it was too much for a bunch of second graders. Conversation had come to a standstill: none of the children knew what to say or what to do, or what was expected of you. So eventually True, or Jock, or maybe the art teacher, Roni — someone — said that no, you could leave the Monster Club, there were certain ways to do this, after all, and that maybe leaving the Monster Club was the right thing for some people to do. And with that, a little boy named Pat (who would grow into a young man named Pat, and later, die a heroin addict named Pat) gave up his badge. He said it felt wrong to be a part of the Monster Club, if everyone could not be a part.

He said a few other things that were all probably very meaningful and heartwarming, but you were too busy snatching up his badge, feeling only marginal regret at the unfortunate circumstances of your acquisition of the badge. But ultimately you figured that the fact you had the badge was what mattered, and that it outweighed all of the all of the other considerations. There was no candy to be had in taking a stand, and this was not the proverbial hill on which you wanted to die. So you grabbed the badge, catching it as it fell from Pat’s tiny hands, holding it close to your heart as you ran for the table filled with candy and the other spoils of the Club of the Monster.

Maybe it was the adult’s ultimate disappointment in you–their horror at your haste to grab that badge that you should have learned to shun–that led them to take that final action. Because how else could you explain that then, after that whole day of unexplained exclusion and punishment, and risk and reward–just as you were finally able to partake in the goodies reserved for the Monster Club, they announced that there was no more Monster Club, and no more Monster Club rules. That all of the treats and benefits belonged to everyone as much as they did to no one. And that, just as you reached into the bag of M&Ms, they told you that you would have to share it.

Comments (60)

  1. Sep 21, 2010

    This is powerful stuff, and a very apt re-post. Thank you. Take good care of yourself.

  2. Sep 21, 2010

    I can only imagine how mind warping it must have been to go through elementary school with that kind of blatant agenda and manipulative risk/reward protocol. I can’t tell whether you’re writing allegorically or if this “club” day really happened but if it did, the haphazard nature of passing out the badges makes me think they were doing an experiment on the kids, maybe to see how kids react to peer exclusion. It sounds diabolical.

  3. Sep 21, 2010

    No, it really happened. I don’t think they were doing an experiment, they weren’t smart enough for that. I think it was just their “creative” way of trying to beat a marxist idea into our heads.

    So I think my reaction to the Mighty Summit, while perhaps based in a sound objection to the publicizing of what should be a private privileged powerbrokering ritual, is no doubt exaggerated by a childhood trauma involving M&Ms and overzealous aging hippies.

    Life is complicated.

  4. Sep 21, 2010

    i will go to detention before i share my M&Ms.

  5. Sep 21, 2010

    Ugh. I know what you mean about overzealous aging hippies, though in the marxist context the idea was probably to give up the concept oneself as an individual whereas the Mighty Summit seems downright exhibitionist. But the zealousness is the point. I’m a boomer but at 52 about 10 yrs younger than hard core boomers — I still deal with this righteousness in some of my older friends. I try to counterpoint but it’s like they’re so oblivious and certain of their position you can’t get an opposing idea across.

    I remember this kind of thing going on in college and hating it — my radical lesbian feminist professors forced us to spit out socialist and feminist ideas in our papers to get As. I wrote a post about it awhile back: http://bit.ly/cZpHRz

    I got so angry thinking back on it over the years — literally wanted to go back and press criminal charges for warping young people’s minds with the full protection of academic freedom. I still question the legitimacy of academic freedom and tenure. The new princes of the church.

  6. Sep 21, 2010

    Well, in college you are supposed to be learning critical thinking, that’s the whole purpose of the humanities. So if they are doing their jobs it’s less important what they are teaching and more important that they are teaching you how to read and understand texts and other cultural productions. I don’t worry so much about college students being brainwashed — by that time, the only thing you can do is try to give them the tools to look at things critically and hope for the best.

  7. Sep 21, 2010

    That’s a good point and I did learn to think critically. But I’m still suspicious of academic freedom and tenure.

  8. Sep 21, 2010

    anna, there are so many times in your writing about your own life that your world intersects mine in such curious ways.

    thank you, again, for this. it is powerful and beautiful and hit me in my heart.

    i just want to honor your anger. because i get it. i really do. in more ways than i think i am prepared to express or share, but just know that i truly do.

  9. Sep 21, 2010

    I did miss this the first time. Thank you a million times for reposting it.

    There’s a lot of meat here.

  10. Sep 21, 2010

    your monster club experience is exactly what it was like growing up in my house. i so get this.

  11. Sep 22, 2010

    I think this perfectly captures what’s been bugging you about the internet. It’s exactly the same thing…except that none of us are in second grade.

  12. Jenny
    Sep 22, 2010

    I follow your blog and heard about the Mighty Summit thing, so I know what you’re saying here. I don’t quite understand why that thing is hyped like it is – are they trying to cash in on the people that attend and don’t the writers/people that attend know that? I’m not a blogger and only follow this stuff for fun, but I know how you feel. Sometimes I feel like I’m not in the club with other moms at the daycare or the school or at church. I work too much, am too poor, am too liberal, am too loud …..and then I am ashamed when I am so excited to be included in something, that turns out to be really dumb and not worth my time.

    If I had a club, I’d let you be in (not that that matters to us, right?).

  13. Sep 22, 2010

    This was real? HOW THE HELL COULD THIS BE REAL?? People DID THIS TO CHILDREN?

    My God, I am horrified.

    I am horrified because I’m reading this the entire time going “oh my God, this is my Internet, and I’m the kid waiting for the second hand badge… and do I really want it now?” and TORN UP about it – and I’m 30.

  14. Sep 22, 2010

    I realize this post is allegorical, but I’m stuck on how teachers could do what they did and then I remembered that whole “The Wave” experiment that they did in classrooms back in the 80’s. It was very similar but I think they were making a point about Nazi-ism or something. Do you remember that?

  15. Sep 22, 2010

    The thing happened last year, and it annoyed me last year, so I knew they would do it again this year. I guess what is disappointing is that people are acting like it’s OK who had a problem with it last year. It feels like whitewashing to me, I guess. And yeah, it’s not so much whether I get in the club or not, it’s the fact that the club exists. Because I’m sure that the club feels great — that’s my point of reposting this, I remember this experience, it’s the problem with things like this. The only way you can win is by refusing to participate.

  16. Sep 22, 2010

    Yes, it was real. And it’s totally why I react the way I do now. It’s the only reason I get so outraged about stuff. I made this mistake as a child and I cannot stand to see this going on again, it’s like, didn’t we do this before?!

  17. Sep 22, 2010

    It’s not allegorical, really. I mean, it actually happened to me, in exactly this way. I’m using it in an allegorical way, of course, to compare it to the Mighty Summit, but yeah, it’s actually what happened to me as a child, just to clarify.

    But yeah, I do remember the Wave. It was probably what they used as an inspiration. My school was precisely that nutty. The Wave was definitely about teaching how Nazism can happen, I watched a made for TV movie about it once.

  18. Sep 22, 2010

    I hope I won’t be skewered for not really understanding how much angst and anger those bloggers who were not included sometimes feel about the Mighty Summit. Now I do find your second-grade “Monster Club” situation nightmarish and traumatic. I can see why it would make YOU, Anna, very sensitive about the notion of insiders and outsiders. Why adults would inflict this sick experience on children is really beyond me. How were the kids expected to understand what had happened to them? What was the purpose and who told them? (No one, right?)

    But to varying degrees we adult humans are all fragile, sensitive, and carry around our own different traumas and dramas, whether related to childhood exclusion or not. Many many kind and deserving bloggers you know and admire participate in and/or organize the Mighty Summit, right? Is there NO redeeming value to it? How subtle would their sharing of the weekend’s experience have to be to satisfy those who couldn’t take part? What if they gave their $100-plus slippers to a women’s shelter? What if they blogged about donating the swag, and would that be the right thing or the wrong thing to do?

    And how is this business of the Mighty Summit different from someone who wants to publish a book envying a person who’s gotten at the top of a best-seller list? Or an aspiring actress wanting to land a plum role in a movie? Or get an Oscar? In so many fields there are a lot of people who hope to make their mark, and for whatever reason, at any given point, OTHERS are plucked from obscurity and given goodies. No, it’s not “fair.” What is fair? Some people are born lucky or charismatic or pretty or rich or into a supportive family. Some people work extremely hard, do all of the “right” things, and never catch a break.

    If you had an event company and were organizing a similar best-and-brightest-bloggers “summit,” how would you handle some of the problems you’ve identified? And you want to limit the numbers, or it’s meaningless and nothing gets accomplished. And you DO want to foster an impression of exclusivity–that’s how you attract attention to your company’s events and get more people to want to go. So what’s your ideal “exclusive” blogger summit weekend, and how do you pick who participates, who speaks, and gifts/swag/etc.?

  19. Sep 22, 2010

    If I were going to organize a Skull and Bones society for the blogging world, or a Bilderberg Group, or a Masons for Bloggers, I would do what secret societies have done from the beginning of time: I would keep it secret. The reason we don’t bitch about societies that wield power behind the scenes is because they keep it on the down low. If they forced us to watch it all the time, people would bitch about it.

    It’s not about achievement — we see people achieving stuff all the time and don’t complain. We see people making money from their blogs and their husbands quitting jobs and getting deals with HGTV and becoming brand ambassadors and all that crap. That is stuff that we can work towards and achieve with hard work, ostensibly. That is ostensibly an even playing field. This is something else. This is the equivalent of an old boy’s network, which is bad enough but it is also part of the way the world works and I TOTALLY GET THAT. I’m not dumb! I understand that, and I have repeatedly acknowledged that I think it is smart and savvy on the part of the organizers’ of the Mighty Summit to ensure that they always have a group of the best and brightest who feel beholden to them. My problem is that they make everybody look at it and then WE are made to feel like we are the assholes for thinking it’s tacky.

  20. Sep 22, 2010

    I know you’re not dumb. Nor are the other people who criticize aspects of the event. But you–like everyone–have blind spots. And buttons. (Which you refer to in this post.) You rail against injustice and exclusion; it seems to be one of your themes (the velvet rope). And in my opinion, there IS no such thing as an even playing field. In any profession or field of endeavor involving people, there will be indefinable advantages and disadvantages based on personality, appearance, who you know, money, and other factors. I don’t think the Mighty Summit would work on any level if it were secret. There’s always the “stuff” factor; the Mighty Girl herself is really into stuff, being a taste maker. Hey, women like to get stuff and talk about the stuff they got. Online, naturally. And, sure, it’s fine to make fun of all kinds of things–especially the ostentatious display of fancy shoes, architectural salads and the like. I’m just not sure which part of this bothers people so much. Is it the idea that SOMEONE ELSE decides you’re worthy of a massage, nice food, a yoga class, and a chance to talk about your hopes and dreams with others of “your kind”? Because I admit to feeling envy about several aspects of the event. I think I’m SUPPOSED to. It’s aspirational–like reading parts of Vogue or O Magazine or Martha Stewart Living. But the Commodity Fetishism part of your site is also aspirational. I certainly can’t afford some of the shoes you’ve highlighted. I could easily develop a thing for ballet slippers if I let myself (and I didn’t have thick ankles). But I don’t find you tacky for reviewing products and saying you like and use them.

  21. Sep 22, 2010

    First of all, that is just horrible. Teachers did some messed up things to teach lessons or whatever back then. I remember my first grade year involved an incident with cow tongue and an incident with a prison cell. Both were traumatizing.

    Second, I enjoy Mighty Girl and I think it’s awesome that she gets to knock out things on her life list. Do I understand the business angle from the sponsors? Absolutely not. The Mighty Summit was something I only fairly recently heard about. I think I had more issue with the displays of gross over-consumption and privilege in a time when people are losing so much than anything else. At the same time, who the heck am I to tell someone it’s not the right time to throw down with their friends? I think people have an issue with it cause it was put out there for all to see, but with no real value to anyone but the people attending. I get that. What is the point of announcing it if there is nothing for anyone to gain? Unless the pictures are the gain? I don’t know.

  22. Cathy
    Sep 22, 2010

    Hm. I’ve been holding back from commenting for a week or so now, but since you’ve essentially put it out there, I’ll say it: I wonder if your blog persona is going to make you miserable. I like where you started from, I really do — as an obsessive mommyblog reader, I was gratified to find someone coolly and calmly exposing some of the more self-deluded, pretentious, and hypocritical corners of that world, and the stuff on ad groups, although it has no interest for me, seemed like a totally legitimate object of inquiry. In the end, you and I find the same people annoying, and that was fun for me. But now it’s become your … well, your brand. And in more recent posts I’ve felt you doing more reaching to arrive at your devastating critiques — they’re still funny and and perhaps somewhat true, but they also feel less reactive, more fabricated. So I’ve been wondering how that might warp your perspective and your mood, and then when you wrote about being in a funk, I wasn’t entirely shocked. Now, depression is a complicated thing — so I’d never suggest that that’s all there is to it, but my own experience as a blog voyeur is that there’s a subtle point at which the pleasures of schadenfreude and of righteous disdain turn into something that leave me feeling empty — and I could see this blog becoming draining in that way.

  23. Sep 22, 2010

    I of course hesitate to get involved, but being in the unique position of having felt sad I was left out last year (and saying so publicly, and to the organizers) and then been invited this year, I do have some things to add.

    1. The application process used this year was implemented specifically to allow people who weren’t already friends of the organizers a chance to join the party. Several people there didn’t know the organizers beforehand and only got to be in Monster Club because they asked if they could be in Monster Club. Yes, it’s a strange and scary process to ask to be included if you believe that the answer you receive will in some way define your worth. I do think that’s a personal issue, however, (and a very real one, and not one to be dismissed), but it’s not a flaw in the process. When there are only so many badges to go around, not everyone can be accepted every year.

    2. I can’t speak for last year, but this year there was definitely a focus on how the attendees can take what they learned at the event and use it to create value for people on a larger scale. It was not about popularity or money or networky business deals but (really, honestly) about helping people, on both a micro and macro level.

  24. Sep 22, 2010

    Truthfully, I have not much to bitch about the way it was handled this year. Mighty Summit’s biggest problem is Broad Summit. Last year was, I’m sorry, awful. It was awful. It was a party thrown to be consumed by people who couldn’t come. It WAS. No matter how many times it was spun to me that it was a thank-you for people’s “closest friends,” I didn’t buy it, because I personally knew tons of actual, no-shit close friends who were left off the list because they didn’t have the draw to turn it into an enviable, marketable event moving forward.

    I said it was going to be branded last year, and I was flat-out told that was bullshit. And yet, here we are. It’s branded, it’s successful (I know at least three people who applied and were turned down!), and that’s fine — great, even. But I wish it had been handled that way from the get-go, instead of starting with what was an intentional envyfest turned into an actual event.

    I can’t figure out WHY it was done that way, and that’s what bothers me. Last year’s event was handled TERRIBLY, and I hope it was unintentional, but the buzz and, yes, envy, it created leaves me with a not-so-fresh taste in my mouth about the resulting business endeavor.

    That is my honest, as objective as I know how to be, take on the whole thing. Mighty Summit is fine. Broad Summit was not fine.

    And finally, to say it’s not about popularity cannot be true. And that’s okay — it should, to some level, be about popularity, from a business perspective. Of COURSE you want cool people there to make it attractive for everyone else. If no-name unknowns had been there — both to Broad Summit and to the inaugural Mighty Summit — would people have been as interested? Probably not.

    Again, that’s actually FINE and understandable, to some degree. I just dislike the constant protestations that it’s not that way at all. It is what it is. It should have been honest about what it was last year.

    This is the real world. Of course that’s how these things work.

  25. Sep 22, 2010

    BTW, it’s totally fine if it was about business or money. Totally, 100% fine. Why not? It’s what TechStars and the other exclusive retreat/programs/application-only conferences are about. I think that’s actually a great thing, and more women should be up front about that. If I were there, some of what I would have talked about would be business endeavors.

    Again, Mighty Summit, contrary to my outburst yesterday, is not a bad thing in itself. Its origin was questionable, and some of that icky feeling has understandably carried over.

  26. Sep 22, 2010

    Obviously some kind of mass reeducation effort has happened, and I’m the only one who still feels something is wrong here. So, fine. We can agree to disagree. I’m tired of having this argument with people, it’s really not productive. So, great! Wonderful, I’m glad everyone had a fantastic event. More power to you. I’m not going to change anybody’s mind so I’m going to move on.

  27. Sep 22, 2010

    I totally get all of what you’re saying, Jonna. All of it. I agree with a lot of it too, and I suspect one or more of the organizers would as well. The difficult thing is that there’s not really a model for this, so of course there were bound to be mistakes that first year, and of course people were going to get their feelings hurt–regardless of intent, because people get their feelings hurt about a lot of things: Babble lists, BlogHer private parties, you name it–but that said, I think it makes more sense to judge people (if at all) on what they do in response to those mistakes, not on the fact that they made them in the first place, back when they were doing something for the very first time. I think the distinction between Mighty Summit and Broad Summit is an important one.

    As for the popularity thing, for me it’s worthwhile to distinguish between social popularity and business popularity, aka “influence in the community”. I think the matter of who gets invited absolutely has to do with influence, and that’s because of the nature of the event; if the point is to send the “energy” outward on a large scale, it makes sense to bring together people who have large audiences and big ambitions so that ripple effect will be as far-reaching as possible. (Obviously there’s also the matter of the sponsors, but that’s another thing entirely.)

    In general, I think the blog business is strange in that people tend to think of it as an equal-opportunity field when it’s really not. People say, “I have a computer and a blog; why can’t I get rich and famous off it?” not realizing that that’s like saying, “I have a football and a right arm; why can’t I quarterback for the NFL?” So many factors are involved. SO many. There are crazy-talented people who will never catch a break, and there are people who make it big that we might think don’t “deserve” it. Who gets to enjoy the spoils of blogging is as unfair as life is unfair; it sucks and it hurts and it sometimes makes no sense, but I think that’s just the way it goes.

  28. Sep 22, 2010

    Leah, I like you, so I am self-editing here. Please do not tempt me. I beg you. This is taking ALL OF MY SELF CONTROL.

  29. Sep 22, 2010

    The reason I used the word “ostensibly” is that I know there are inequalities. I’m not dealing with that here. I’m talking about accepting inequalities versus celebrating, glorifying them. When I write about things on Commodity Fetishism, I am writing about things I think are cool. Some of them I’ve bought, some I haven’t. Some I can afford, some I could never afford in a million years. It has no relationship to anything to do with the Mighty Summit. I don’t even know why you brought that up.

    This has to do with taking privileges and rubbing it in people’s faces. I’m not cool with rubbing their privileges in people’s faces. I know people have privileges. I get that. I know life’s not fair. I am well acquainted with that fact, and I am not asking anybody to change it. I am merely stating: I am not cool with things that glorify, celebrate the idea of privilege being rubbed in the noses of other people. I think it sucks. I don’t think that is a revolutionary concept. Apparently it is. Fine. Apparently, the sky is also purple, and turbans are fashionable. I have a lot to learn, it turns out.

    Thank you, and good night.

  30. Sep 22, 2010

    Cathy, I don’t really know how to respond to this except to say that this isn’t a blog persona. It’s me.

  31. Sep 22, 2010

    I don’t think you’re the only one. To me, it’s problematic because it seems like a pretty clear initiative designed to commodify the kind of friendship experience most of us wish we had. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend a weekend in some beautiful location with a dozen of our closest ladyfriends, indulging in a spot of blue-skying about Living Our Best Life™? Don’t we all wish we could do that?

    Trouble is, it’s all artificial, bought and paid for and about as far from organic as anything I’ve ever seen. It makes me feel huuuugely cynical to see lofty references to, you know, our fifteen souls becoming as one, all illustrated with photos of artfully composed pyramids of product.

    It makes me crazy, even though I don’t have even a tangential investment in it, because…well, doesn’t that feel…kind of dirty? Doesn’t it give people pause to be so unctuously courted, to be given stuff just for being their awesome selves? I mean, why is McDonald’s slinging you a free Egg McMuffin? Because surely we agree that it’s possible to have meaningful conversations about your life goals without being showered with free hotel rooms and dainty clown shoes. Is anyone who goes to these things even thinking about matters like this? Because I’m sure not seeing it thoughtfully discussed anywhere but here.

  32. Sep 22, 2010

    Yes: what is the gain for us? What is the gain for the community? If that is the ostensible purpose of this year’s conference, as we are now being told (cough), then what value am I supposed to get from it? Because it’s not translating. What is translating is that I think they should keep it under wraps next year.

  33. Sep 22, 2010

    OMG, thank you, Julie. You have no idea how grateful I am for this. And yes, you do not need corporate sponsorship for friendship or to make meaningful connections. And what is more is that the people who have gone are coming back and using as “evidence” of how “we” are wrong about this event the fact that everyone is so nice. But of course they are nice. Of course you had a good time. They showered you in gifts, told you that you were awesome and could achieve your dreams. Of course you thought it was magical. What the hell do you think would happen? Why is any of this a surprise to anyone? That’s the whole purpose of the thing! DUH!

    That’s not the problem!

  34. Sep 22, 2010

    I just … Julie, I love you.

    “Dainty clown shoes.”

    I don’t even know how else to display how wondrous that whole sentence is other than to call out that small piece of genius. But yes. You have encapsulated how I feel about it, mostly.

    I think it’s hard for attendees to be objective, because I’m sure it WAS a wonderful event. I’m sure it was! Truly! I’m sure it felt wonderful to be included in something like that, and I think, honestly, anyone who pretends that being included on that list, or chosen to be interesting or cool enough, at least on paper or maybe as defined by some nebulous, yet strangely specific, list of things to do in one’s life, preferably involving Europe and/or plankton (maybe with a charity tie-in! Plankton for European indigents!), would feel anything but good. I’m sorry, it WOULD, even if it only appeals to the basest part of us that we don’t like to admit is there.

    Further, of course it was happy and sunshine and full of Lovely Love my Internet Family, because it’s only two days, and it’s under extraordinary circumstances — kind of like falling in love on The Bachelor — and there WERE extraordinary things that came out of this — Leah, who really IS my friend, and who I really do love, even if I don’t love Mighty Summit, is getting help with a large personal event. Other women are getting assistance with their charities, even if it’s only in the form of broad exposure via the event itself. How do you walk away from that with anything but a warm, fuzzy feeling?

    But that doesn’t mean there aren’t icky things about it, I guess. Especially the fact that it has to be publicized to keep it a profitable (I’m assuming it’s a for-profit thing, for-Maggie) initiative and to satisfy sponsors to ensure its existence moving forward.

    As for your comment, Anna, I’m not sure there is supposed to be a gain for the community — or at least, I hope not, since I’m not feeling any radiating waves of inspiration — but I think that spin is designed to keep people from hating on it.

    I don’t know. When I frame it in light of other similar events, I don’t feel all that stabby about it. I mean, we looked into doing TechStars last year, and Adam’s industry does stuff like this all the time. But I guess none of those things pretend to be anything but what they ARE, which is an opportunity solely for the attendees to forward their own business and/or personal agendas and for the conference organizers and sponsors to get money or exposure. I guess the difference is that this IS being spun as friendship and love, and that’s super-personal to a lot of people. And then to be told that to question manufactured friendship and love, as arbitrarily chosen by a committee with personal feelings and/or intimate knowledge of or gossip about the applicants, thanks to the nature of our industry, it feels … off, somehow, for reasons I can’t put my finger on.

    Then again, I really do tie most of my ick back to Broad Summit, which was just, again, I’m sorry, awful. That was a mean-spirited, selfish thing to do, intentional or no. But if it was intentional, designed to make Mighty Summit more appealing? Oh, that makes it worse for me. It does. Even though I like a lot of the people involved — it doesn’t mean I like everything they do, and I did not like that.

  35. Sep 22, 2010

    Here’s the difference: if this event was put on by some outside entity, like “Proctor & Gamble presents the MommyBlog Summit!” or whatever, then it would still have all the privilege and stank and all that, but it would be no worse than a Babble List in terms of how it played in the community. People would get annoyed with the privilege and the gross consumerism, and people would be annoyed at certain people being chosen, and all that, but it wouldn’t be as bad, and this is why: the organizers of this event are ostensibly part of the community, rather than an outside corporation. Now, if they want to be viewed as separate from the community — or the community once removed, say, like BlogHer is — then they would be removed from some of the annoyance, I believe. I would still find a lot of this to be crass, but I would imagine it would not be nearly as poorly received. That is my professional opinion. It makes it different because of the ostensible peer connection. It makes it more like a peer judgment, sorority, cool kids table kind of thing, only with corporate sponsorship, buying friends sort of thing. Which is sucky and lame.

    Another thing is, just go by your gut. Don’t over intellectualize. Does this seem icky? When you look at it, is your first thought, “This makes me feel like shit” or is it “This makes me feel empowered”? Because seriously, if it’s the latter — AWESOME for you. Go with that. It’s not for me.

  36. Sep 22, 2010

    Thank god Julie posted. I tried to earlier, but I couldn’t string it all together as magnificently as she did. I also didn’t post out if fear. Fear of hurting people’s feelings, people who attended and I love. People who think Maggie is awesome and me questioning it makes me a jealous asshole. Fear of being shut out, which I have already experienced. Questioning an opaque “application” process makes me look like a bitch to some. I am sure it was a good time! I will never attend. I would never be invited, nor my “application” be accepted. Also, I would feel dirty (see: Julie’s better written comment). See, I’m commenting, but I still fear not being liked or hurting feelings. Spreading the love throughout the community, one dainty clown comment at a time.

  37. Sep 22, 2010

    My comments about the event itself aside, I really feel nothing but empowered to be more inclusive, and nicer to people. Which is ironic, since I have always been kind of a dick about this event. But I really don’t want to ever do anything, professionally or otherwise, that makes people feel crappy and excluded, the way this event — intended or otherwise — has obviously made some feel. (The irony? I didn’t even apply, think about applying or any of the above. I don’t feel PERSONALLY excluded, but I feel offended somehow, but in a very indirect way. It bothers me.)

    Hence, why I love the Blathering, and the people who put it on. Hence why I really am trying to be nicer to everyone and keep my nose out of shit. But this, seeing as it’s a professional event, seems like it might be okay to say something about. And if this event — the one that made people feel shitty, whether it was intended or no — makes me nicer to people, than I’ll take it, and they can have the credit. Just not for any of the reasons they thought it might.

  38. monkey
    Sep 22, 2010

    Dude, don’t worry, I get it, though these days I just enjoy reading you without commenting because I spend most of my time writing treatises on the central limit theorem.

    Mighty Big Gathering or whatever it’s called is just odd to me. It’s like if Skull & Bones sent me a Christmas newsletter every year. Isn’t the point of being part of the Illuminati being all cloak and dagger and hawhawhaw, let’s go fuck these high-end hookers and manipulate the world’s stock prices for shits and giggles while the peons toil and such? My ex used to belong to one of these associations, where you had to be nominated by a mid-market ambassador or the pre-disgrace Dick Fuld or something (no seriously, not quite Presidential powerbroking, but definitely up there) and took me a party before we broke up. It’s all very subdued posh and no publicity and quite boring really, nary a hooker in sight, dead or otherwise, although maybe that’s because I was allowed to come to a party rather than one of their bloodrites meetings.

    Anyway, the point is that they hardly Flickred out their puppyskinning moustache twirling agenda for the whole world (and other quasi-mysterious networking societies) to see. I think Mighty Big is going about this all the wrong way and I suggest they pick up a copy of Foucault’s Pendulum for a sound business plan.

  39. Sep 22, 2010

    Well, of course they are arguing that this is not what they are doing. They are not setting up a powerbrokering exclusive event. That is not the purpose of this. It’s about filtering good back into the community or something, and that’s why it has to have people with certain levels of influence (or something).

  40. monkey
    Sep 22, 2010

    Dude, please forgive me, but I’m going to bust out a Word, concept really, I just learned in douchebag school. This is all about figuring out exploitomies of scope, or I’m a monkey’s uncle. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, except the people who are usually doing it are capable of funding it themselves rather than having it sponsored by Hardees and BP in exchange for brand visibility.

    I mean, not to be a total snob, but that’s what brings in a bit of a tears of a clown factor for me. Wait, I am being a snob. A totally fucking unrepentant snob. I mean, talk all you want about Not Everyone Can Be a Big Player, but in my mind, big players don’t generally need to appeal to Burger King to fund their weekend getaways either.

    I am going to self-edit so so so hard about dream achievement. Dream achievement and recognition of deserving dreams and making them happen. I’m gagging on the editing of self here. Then again, this is why life has unfairly dealt me the hand of divesting orphans of their inheritances rather than synergizing social confluences.

  41. Sep 22, 2010

    Oh you are evil.

    Look, there are so many things to say here. Such a wealth of things to be said. I am leaving so much ground uncovered — fertile ground, you understand. Reflect for a moment that I was lectured above about what it might mean to be influential enough to attend this conference and how one might achieve such a thing, and yet how life doesn’t work that way, how it might be out of one’s reach, OK? I am taking one for the proverbial team here.

    One thing I will not let go, though, since I forgot to say anything about it before and boy would I be remiss if I didn’t ask this: regarding the “trickle down theory” of the blog prosperity as bestowed by the Mighty Summit attendees on their communities, how precisely does that work with the producer from the Oprah Show who attended, who does not even have a blog? What community does she represent? Oprah’s? Will she be bringing prosperity back to Harpo on behalf of the Mightys? What kind of help might she be receiving from the group, and how is the group planning on selflessly giving to her?

  42. Sep 22, 2010

    I’ve never eaten at McDonald’s. As a tree-hugging vegan, it is not on my life-list to start now. I absolutely believe that the mighty snuggle fest was glorious and filled with all kinds of amazing. It is easy for amazing to happen when you’re snuggled deep in a cocoon of wonderful.

    What is not so easy? To truly give selflessly. So if these very lucky women found common ground and a way to truly participate in a new agenda where giving selflessly to their own communities is now a part of their individual broader goals? I honestly applaud the entire venture. The whole planet can benefit from more hearts that want to give selflessly. Always.

    I just want to see how it will truly all unfold, because obviously each of those who participated in the snuggle summit is a unique blogger/individual with her own set of dreams and identified life list. What I still am not clear about is if this SELFLESS GIVING is about helping all the new best friends achieve their own version of golden arches or is it golden arches for all of us?!

  43. Sep 22, 2010

    I couldn’t second Julie’s comment more. I am in zero way affected by this–my little blog is so teeny tiny and insignificant as to not even exist to the majority of the world, I have no life list (in my head or on paper), and I don’t run in any of these circles. I read several of the bloggers who went. I hold no grudge to them for going, really I don’t. Hell, I’d give almost anything to go on that kind of retreat, swag or no swag, publicized or not. And honestly, if that had been what it was, then I would have said, you go ladies.

    But then I saw the pictures and I saw the sponsors, and it changed. After that it just felt icky. I mean, McDonald’s? The kumbaya photo-ops, complete with fire pit? The overly glossy, overly sponsored part of it? Ick. But what pushed it over the top for me was the never-ending photos of swag bags being fawned over, opened, gushed over, stared at, carried…that’s not about community, or spreading the wealth or whatever jazz the ATTENDEES may feel, that’s shilling that we’re being told is community and friendship and love.

    I don’t doubt the attendees got something amazing out of the weekend. Again, like Julie said, who wouldn’t? Given two days away from it all being told you’re amazing and special, what’s not to take away from it? I’m thrilled for the people who went who got that amazing bit out of it. I just don’t know how the organizers can claim it’s anything other than what it is.

  44. Sep 22, 2010

    I am crazy talented, but I am a small blogger. I’m going to become a big name blogger. I’m going to make my own luck if I have to. I am a nice person and so are most of the people that make up the A-list…and I wish nothing but happiness and good fortune to 99% of the blog world…..but I am not going to settle for you, or you, or YOU telling me that I’m not going to make it. Because I am.

  45. Sep 22, 2010

    I like you Leah, read you for years.

    I’m going to bite my lip on this one. I think you are blinded by the light, revved up like douche” in the night..
    That is all.

  46. Amy
    Sep 23, 2010

    Delurking, and sadly I have to do so anonymously, cause the topic seems to inflame some serious issues over there. Got to agree with a above comment. Seeking out, creating, amplifying, and perpetuating controversy has become your brand, I suspect it intentional. As far as I can tell, it’s getting tired, from this reader’s POV. Maggie exploits to promote her brand, but you exploit Maggie to promote your own brand too.

    Live and let live, or you’ll be popping those antidepressants until they kill you.

  47. Kate
    Sep 23, 2010

    “Amy”, I completely disagree. As more bloggers find ways to make money, I find Anna’s analysis refreshing and necessary.

  48. Sep 23, 2010

    Your story is touching, and makes a great
    argument against alternative schools. I’ll
    just add this, I had the privilege of working
    with and for some of the wealthiest and most
    powerful people in my part of the world. And
    I learned a few things. First off, no one who
    talks about things such as this being of
    “benefit” to the “community” probably isn’t
    doing anything to benefit the community
    at all. There is a tremendous amount of
    truth in the idea that if you’re talking about
    it, if you’re crowing about it, you probably
    don’t have it. Every business deal, every
    personal deal I have ever seen done
    by IRL movers and shakers has been done
    with zero fanfare, zero publicity. Philanthropy
    is done the same way. This “Mighty” gathering
    appears to be nothing more than corporate
    shilling at it’s absolute worst. Which is fine. But
    don’t insult everyone’s intelligence by pretending
    that you have anyone’s interest other than your
    own at heart. Summits such as this do nothing more
    than promote the idea that women are nothing more
    than vapid, self-absorbed troglodytes who will say
    anything or use anyone for a price.

    I shall now return you to your regularly scheduled program.
    Please excuse format or spelling errors. I’m currently forced
    to post from my phone since my house and that lightening
    bolt could not exist in the same place…

  49. Sep 23, 2010

    What a wonderfully tolerant and medically informed viewpoint of the nature, etiology, and prognosis of clinical depression, “Amy.” I wonder: do I reveal your identity to the peanut gallery and watch the vultures descend? Or, perhaps, should I send a few well-targeted emails with some choice screen shots of my findings? Or, barring that, maybe I will just sit back and rest in the knowledge that, if I was once mistaken about the content of your character, I am no longer.

  50. Amy
    Sep 23, 2010

    1. One’s character, I’m sure you’ll agree, is larger than what we see online. I have no beef with your character. I was, however, agreeing with another reader’s comment on the brand that you’ve developed on your site. I guess it’s this: there’s a lot of stuff I hate that’s out there on the Internet. I choose not to look at it, much less talk or write about it ad nauseum. I know that you have that same choice. So when you do write about it, you’re creating an online brand that promotes and relies to some extent on the controversy that you create, or at least encourage. It’s like that guy who wanted to burn the Korans: if the media hadn’t made a big deal out of it, no one would have known about it, and no controversy would have ensued. But controversy gets viewers, so the news outlets ran with it. It’s the same with the Mighties. It’s out there. It’s public. No one has to pay attention if they don’t want to. However, controversy sells, and whether it’s right or wrong, it’s working for you.
    2. As for my knowledge about depression, I’ve sat on both sides of the table during diagnosis and evaluation of prognosis. And although I may have been more glib than I had intended, I was referencing a recent study I read (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20565194) and it’s relationship to depressive self-fulfilling prophecies. in short, having suffered from, and worked with people suffering from severe depression, I should have been more sensitive to that issue. For that little bit, I actually do apologize, and sincerely.

    3. If my previous comment actually was enough to warrant vultures, I’ll be shocked. It’s just about the least inflammatory thing I’ve ever read on your site.

  51. Sep 23, 2010

    If it’s the least inflammatory thing ever, why are you using a fake name and no link?

    Say whatever you want…but sign your damn name to it.

  52. Sep 23, 2010

    I think the best way to view the Mighty Summit is to see what it really is:

    Stupid, self-congratulatory and twee. A margarita party for over-privileged, white chicks to further enable their sense of entitlement.

    The end.

    I’ve always hated shit like this not because I’m left out, but because it’s all so smug and fake. You’d have to pay me to party with those ladies, but I guess they essentially do pay one another to hang together. I have wonderful, reciprocating friendships in my life. I don’t need to exploit them all over the internet with a disguise of “making your wildest dreams
    come true” sponsored by Carl’s Jr, to prove how spiritually connected we are. It’s super lame and disingenuous.

    Of course, I’m a nobody.

    Which is awesome.

  53. Sep 23, 2010

    It’s pretty cowardly to make such assertions without signing your name to them. Your gutlessness invalidates your point.

  54. Sep 23, 2010

    It’s not so much the comment as it is the comment in conjunction with who the comment is coming from and you know it. I cannot decide if it’s that you think I’m bluffing, or if it’s that your confidence in me not wanting to reveal anonymous commenters’ identities is so strong that you are safe. Either way, I would not be so sure of myself if I were you. You have a lot of nerve, considering.

  55. Amy
    Sep 23, 2010

    I’m not at all surprised that you can find out my identity. I am, however, flattered that you even know who I am once you see my name. So if you want to out me, that’s your choice.

    As for the comment about anonymity invalidating my point, that is just silly. A statement does not become more true or less true depending on who says it. The sky is blue, whether you hear it from Carl Sagan or from Mickey Mouse.

  56. Sep 23, 2010

    Bullshit. Of course your identity matters. I can’t know whether you’re saying what you’re saying because you believe it, or because you have an axe to grind, or because you’re a shit-stirrer yourself, or because you’re one of the people being talked about here and you don’t like it.

    Plus, when you do it anonymously, you get people who speculate on the identity of the person making the nasty remarks. Innocent people get hurt that way. We’ve all seen instances where someone got snarked on, and everyone speculated as to who the snarkist was, and they guessed wrong. That sucks. Posting anonymously makes you just like those assholes who make mean comments on Twitter and stuff. Nobody likes those people.

  57. Amy
    Sep 23, 2010

    No, not bullshit.

    First of all, my original comment wasn’t “nasty.” if that’s what you consider nasty, then your perspective or objectivity is skewed. I agreed with another commented that Anna stirs up controversy. Based on the topic at hand, I don’t think I can rationally be faulted for that opinion.

    Second, my comment wasn’t for you, it was for Anna, and since she apparently knows who I am, she can judge my intent for herself. So it doesn’t matter a lick if you know my intentions, because you’re not the person to whom my comment was directed.

    And third, and most importantly, if my comment had been directed to you, it still doesn’t matter who I am, OR what my intent is. The statement in which I agreed that anna’s “brand” is all about controversy is an observation to be judged on the merit of it’s content.

    No matter what my intent is, I’m sure you are able to evaluate the statement and come to your own conclusions, regardless of who I am. If you need to know who says something and why before you’re able to form an opinion, then that is problematic. This should not be confused with establishment of fact, in which the intent of an independent witness can be called upon when questioning veracity. In this case, we’re all looking at the same words on the same blog, and the question at hand is that of how Anna brands herself. You’ve read this blog. You know what’s on the site. Form an opinion. Agree or disagree. Don’t try to invalidate a statement just because it’s written on a bathroom wall.

  58. amy
    Sep 23, 2010

    Also, and I’m sure Anna will attest to this, I’m not one of the women that went to Mighty Summit, so there’s no need to flame any of them. I have met some of them, though.

  59. Sep 23, 2010

    If your original comment wasn’t nasty, then why won’t you sign your name to it?

    And if your comment wasn’t for me, but for Anna, why didn’t you email it to her? Email is private. Blog comments are public. If you choose to post it publicly, you’re talking to me and everyone else who reads.

    I’m not sure who decided that the issue at hand was Anna. My issue at hand is that you’re apparently someone well-enough known that Anna recognized you, but you’re not using your name. My issue is that I think that’s cowardly, and it leads me to believe that you stir up controversy (which bumps up against your issue at hand, apparently). Perhaps we have different issues, or different hands. Again, that’s what happens when you post publicly instead of sharing your thoughts privately.

    I assume, then, since you think that the identity doesn’t matter, and that only the snark spewed is to be debated, you’re a big fan of those anonymous Twitter snarkers who pick on people. Apparently, according to you, we should debate the merits of their statements, instead of telling them to stop doing it. I would guess, too, that you defended them that one time when Anna was accused (wrongly) of being one of them, and argued the value of debating the merits of their remarks regarding their targets.

    Otherwise, I’d say to you the same thing I’d say to them: anonymously saying stuff about somebody in public is a shitty thing to do. Say whatever you want about somebody, but sign your name.

    That’s my issue at hand. My name is Kerry. K E R R Y. My real name.

  60. amy
    Sep 23, 2010

    There are lots of reasons for a person not to put a real name on the Internet. Mr. Right-Click and Mini stand as testament to that. Heck, I never thought anyone would even notice my comment, nor care. I’m not a blogger, I’m not in the business of writing or branding or snarking. So I’ll be done with this. Although I enjoy a good debate about the nature of truth, I wasn’t prepared to encounter the crushing hammer blow of this discussion. 

    I now retract my original comment. I don’t believe that Anna has branded herself as a source of controversy. I renounce the idea that she seeks out controversy, and uses it to drive traffic to her site. I believe that Anna is kind, and sweet, and I feel bad that she has been inescapably bombarded by the unstoppable media force that is The Mighty Summit. 

    I admit that truth is fully dependent on the identity of the speaker, and that my status as an anonymous poster to this comment thread invalidates any opinions that I have expressed. And mostly, I agree with all of you that Maggie’s little get together was a blatant attempt to hurt the feelings of every one that wasn’t there. Curses upon her. 

    Anna, the best of luck to you – keep fighting the good fight. You’re in this for the right reasons. Fight the power. 

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