The New York Times and the Ghettoization of Mommy Bloggers

by anna on July 28, 2008

Blogging has come a long way from its modest beginnings. These days, there is money to be made, fame to be earned and influence to be gained. And though women and men are creating blogs in roughly equal numbers, many women at the conference were becoming very Katie Couric about their belief that they are not taken as seriously as their male counterparts at, say, Daily Kos, a political blog site. Nor, they said, were they making much money, even though corporations seem to be making money from them.

“Blogging’s Glass Ceiling” by Kara Jesella, New York Times, July 27, 2008

It seems rather self-aggrandizing to be metablogging View definition in a new window already. But I like to go where the action is–you know, just as long as it doesn’t require me to put on regular pants.

The BlogHer conference was held weekend-before-last in San Francisco. Please don’t ask me about this organization because I’ve only very recently learned about it myself, but I gather from its name that it is an association of female bloggers. I learned about the conference when Mr. Right-Click forwarded me a New York Times article from last week covering the conference. In its magnanimous way, the paper of record decided to write a story on the plight of the Mommy female blogger, who on average makes less money than her male counterpart, if she makes any money from her blogging at all. By the same token, the female blogger earns less fame and regard, and has less luck in garnering advertising revenue from her site.

The article points out that the BlogHer View definition in a new window conference, as luck would have it, occurred on the same weekend as the NetRoots Conference (held in Austin, TX) for “progressive political bloggers.” This accidental scheduling clusterfuck meant that political bloggers who are women (aka boring Mommy bloggers) would have to choose between adhering to normative gender roles and the content of their characters.

Yawn. What else is new?

I have to assume that the nod to first wave feminism in its title must be meant to mask the gender stereotype pandering that is the business of the rest of the article. I have not been to journalism school, but I do find it a strange literary practice to deploy a term associated with political critique and then focus upon “note cards featuring nurturing messages like ‘You are perfect . . .’,” or the women who “were being dusted with blush and eye shadow, or having the kinks in their necks massaged” as support for your assertion. I suppose that it is progressive to mention that there was “a lactation room [and] child care,” but I’m not sure how the “onesies for sale emblazoned with the words ‘my mom is blogging this,’” represents a call to arms for the equalization of the virtual workplace.

The article’s author, a woman (a fact only significant for hyperbolic rhetorical purposes), points out that only some of the thousand bloggers to attend the conference had actually achieved (material) success through blogging and in “traditional media” (aka legitimate media) but that many of them were enjoying the perks that come with owning a means of media production. Several conference attendees shared about their trials of cars, cameras, and other consumer goods provided to them by sponsors with the “no-strings” expectation that they might write about it in their blogs.

Oh, I have no problem with perks, but if I am to believe this article, then the BlogHer View definition in a new window conference was a hive of commodity-obsessed women in love with their newfound “sort of” celebrity and the swag View definition in a new window that comes with it. After claiming that only a few of the female bloggers were able to make legitimate businesses out of their blogs, the story focuses on all the neat stuff that women are able to get out of the deal. The suggestion is that more meaty political bloggers–like, fuck, I don’t know, Matt Drudge? I don’t read politcal blogs! [hair toss]–are able to garner real paychecks and build real business/cultural presence with their websites, while we women are happy with our free trials of mascara and diapers. So that’s all we get, for the most part.

And what the fuck does becoming very “Katie Couric” mean? In the words of my undergraduate Women Studies’ TA, “Talk about backlash!”

Here’s my main beef: The New York Times, lefty liberal progressive paper that it purports to be, PRINTED THIS STORY IN THE FASHION & STYLE SECTION. Is blogging something that is a fashion statement these days? Would Carrie Bradshaw be a blogger in Sex and the City: Web 2.0 Version?

Or, is it because you thought the readers (women) interested in the virtual glass ceiling would be skipping over the business pages and heading straight for the fashion/style and/or engagement announcements? Does that go for the ones who program their own CSS and SQL, as well? Way to not only report the ghettoization of Mommy female bloggers, but to perform it as well! Nicely played.

It’s not that the New York Times fails to recognize the importance of blogging in the future of mass media. It clearly realizes that blogging and other forms of social media are the wave of the future: an article about the Facebook company’s conference was featured in the technology section of the paper (July 23), and Al Gore’s presence at the NetRoots conference is featured in The Caucus (NYT‘s political blog section) (July 19, 20). More information on the NetRoots conference is covered the On Line section (July 16), and the Opinionater section of the New York Times blog earlier this year. Guess there’s more going on with these outlets than recipe trading and eyeshadow recommendations.

The article laments that studies have shown that, while bloggers are roughly evenly divided among the sexes, only 11 of the top Web celebrities named by Techcult were women, and that “last year, Forbes.com ran a similar list, naming 3 women on its list of 25.” Huh, must be because Forbes doesn’t have a fashion and style section.

{ 5 comments }

Alexandrialeigh July 29, 2008 at 8:23 am

Well put!

I am so tired of the “oh, look at the cute little women (business owners/entrepreneurs/bloggers/what have you)” attitude that permeates so many industries.

Katrina C July 31, 2008 at 11:00 am

I found your webiste from my favorite “Mommy Blog”. I do not have children of my own but I plan on it one day. Even after reading about how horrible children can be, and having to teach them karate in my job. I love the fact however that your blog is not all about yout children or your pets or your husband (Mr Right-click?). I’m sure that given enough time and word of mouth advertising you can be one of those 11 women.

anna July 31, 2008 at 11:20 am

Wow, thanks, Katrina! Glad to have you as a reader . . . I see you have an Etsy shop. I will have to peruse.

Minerva August 1, 2008 at 6:37 pm

After seeing the cover of Wired with Julia Allison (or whatever her name is) and pictures of Heather Armstrong, I’m starting to wonder if I’m PRETTY or YOUNG enough to be a blogger. Nice thing about blogging is that you don’t have to reveal your gender–although I guess mommy blogging would require that. I am a mom and an attorney, and after working in a male dominated profession that purports to try hard to hang on to its women, the sad fact is that fewer than 20% of equity partners of major law firms are women, and of those, only ten percent–TEN–have children. It’s not entirely clear to me what the answer is. I do quit a bit of snarking about it on my own (fledging) blog.

anna August 5, 2008 at 9:00 am

I agree, there are some very attractive bloggers out there . . . I do wonder if that adds to their success. It certainly gives people fodder for discussing/dissecting them on other websites, but I suppose that only drives traffic more.

As for balancing a high-powered career with child rearing, I have heard from some very successful friends that they would be much better off if they didn’t have to compete with men who have wives to keep everything at home running smoothly! The wives need wives.

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