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Monday
Mar152010

Does the world see moms the same way the New York Times does?


Is this how the world sees moms? It is how the New York Times sees them.



Jennifer Mendelsohn wrote an article in the New York Times on mom bloggers, called Honey, Don't Bother Mommy. I'm Too Busy Building My Brand. I thought about writing a parody about journalists in response to it. But then I reconsidered. I realized that I do not need to diminish others in order to prove my own worth.

There are good journalists and there are bad journalists. There are journalists who do nothing more than turn around stuff written by public relations staff and there are journalists who do investigative journalism and cross-check their sources. There are journalists who write about things I consider frivolous and boring and there are journalists who write about issues I think are of critical importance.

The same is true in the blogging world. The blogs that I find interesting, intriguing, thought provoking or therapeutic, someone else might find boring, stupid or threatening. The blogs other people find interesting, I may find boring, frivolous or unethical corporate shills.

We are a diverse community. Diverse enough that there are moms who write about making crafts, tutus, felt food, or slings. There are moms who write about natural birth, potty training, sleep, and postpartum depression. There are also moms who write about corporate ethics, politics, feminism, health care issues, nutrition, social media, and more.

I don't think it is any more appropriate to poke fun at moms writing about teaching your baby to read or hiding vegetables in their children's food, than it would be for me to poke fun at journalists who think that this spring's latest lipstick shade or some celebrity's extramarital affairs are worth writing about (despite the fact that they make me yawn and roll my eyes).  If there is an audience, it is worth writing about and in the world of blogs, there doesn't even need to be an audience for it to be worthwhile since just the therapeutic act of getting your thoughts down on the screen may be enough for some bloggers.

So when Jennifer Mendelsohn wrote an article peppered with mommy stereotypes in a tone that seemed to belittle the work of mom bloggers (although I hope and suspect that isn't what she intended to do), it is no wonder that there was a rash of protest. Every writer chooses the wrong words sometimes. I know I do. But I don't have an editing team to catch me before things go public. The New York Times does and this article should not have been printed without some significant revisions.

Here are some of the fabulous voices on this article, ones that demonstrate a thousand times over the greatness of moms who blog:

  • Newspaper Bias Against Mom Bloggers (Kelby Carr): Kelby (also known as Type A Mom) writes about the condescending and insulting tone the article uses to describe mom bloggers. She points out that mom blogging is an industry, not just "something we cute adorable widdle mommies do to share diaper stories" and that there are a number of reasons why we are being marginalized by traditional media.





  • Mommy is Busy Blogging (Motherlode): Lisa from NY Times very own mommy blog put up a brief post about the article. There isn't much to the post, but there is plenty to read in the comments if you are interested in a rather diverse set of opinions on this article.




  • An Open Letter to the New York Times About Mom Bloggers, Women Writings & the Universe (PunditMom): Joanne, one of my BlogHer 10 co-panelists, wrote that she is "so weary of [the New York Times] attempts to marginalize women writers online who happen to be mothers" that she almost didn't write her post, but she did because she wants to change the landscape so that her daughter won't have to fight the same battle we are fighting. She breaks down the language and content of the post and wonders whether primarily male-attended conferences would have received the same type of condescending coverage.



  • NY Times Not So Mind Blowing Expose of the Mommy Bloggers (Momma in the Fog): Priscilla  writes that the article seems a bit confuses as to what its point and angle is, but that ultimately it "shows how very unprogressive our thinking is these days if we are still unable to talk about female industriousness outside of the typical stereotypes -- the gold digger, the career 'bitch' and the vapid homemaker. Let's call someone a hooker and call it a day."






  • An Australian Fringe Dweller (Good Goog): Zoey wrote that she is somewhat removed from the situation, as an Australian blogger, but that she found it off-putting nonetheless. She delves into some of the particularly colourful and not-so-helpful comments on the story.





  • Bette Nesmith Graham, Mommy Bloggers and the NY Times (The Smartmama): Jennifer tells the story of a "mommy" business later sold to a major corporation for $47.5 million.  Can you guess which one? The point being that to dismiss and belittle this "diverse group of very powerful, very passionate, very invested, very active women" would be a huge mistake.




  • She is Vast, And She Contains Multitudes (Her Bad Mother): Catherine writes about how the important advocacy work she is doing for her sick nephew Tanner was belittled in the article, about how diverse mothers are,  and also about the silliness of the big (male-dominated) SXSW conference that she just attended.



  • Tear Down that Wall? (Work. Life. Balance): Chrysula writes about the expectation that we will have clearly delineated lines between our professional and personal lives and about the trend away from that towards a more integrated life.


Rather than just complaining, I'd like to put a challenge out. Is there a journalist who would like to write an article for a mainstream paper that would present a balanced view of mom bloggers? Or is there a mainstream paper out there that would like a writer who could write one (because I know a few people who could take that on). Let me know.
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Reader Comments (45)

Thank you for this reasoned response. It must be tough when mommy bloggers don't all fit the mold -- kind of like when feminists don't all believe EXACTLY THE SAME THING. So confusing!

My experience with journalists has run more toward those who reprint press releases so I'd be surprised if anyone took you up on your offer. A mommy blogger, on the other hand, just might.

Excellent take on the NY Times article. You completely hit the nail on the head whereas the journalist missed the point entirely. Mom bloggers should not be pigeonholed or typecast. We are diverse and write about everything under the sun...and then some. I'm also so glad you posted the image that covered almost the entire Sunday Styles section. That image (and title) alone is a slap in the face to every mom blogger and, in general, every mom online out there.

Great perspective and challenge.

-Aimee

Great post. I like how you've handled this.

In case you hadn't already seen this, I thought you might also be interested in reading how Vanity Fair recently profiled a group of successful women twitters. Similar song, but this time with "hot young 'thangs" rather than "mini-van mommies."

Here's the article from Vanity Fair:
http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2010/02/twitter-201002
And here is a response:
http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-10426513-36.html

March 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercoffeewithjulie

And this is why you're awesome. Fantastic round up, great insights, and I appreciate the thoughtful restraint. I also agree that the best recourse is to put our own stories out there. Write, pitch, publish. It's what we do best.

Now here's the crazy thing - I write about politics, I write about parenting, I write about culture, I write about feminism, I write about media, AND I write about the spring's hot lipstick shade.

What do you even do with a thing like that?

March 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermom101

This is just excellent, as I knew anything you wrote on the subject would be. I agree. We need to find a mainstream journalist to cover the story properly. It would seem a mass of outraged mom bloggers taking on NY Times is, I don't know, newsworthy. LOL.

And I would be more than happy to put my close to two decades of writing experience (15 of which done for newspapers, so I know at least THAT counts) to write an article for mainstream media.

March 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKelby

Well said. Bloggers have responded to this article, for the most part, with such grace and intelligence. I, for one, am proud of our community!
I linked to your post in mine "Now we have the nerve to want RESPECT???? You bet we do." http://kellysluckyyou.blogspot.com/2010/03/now-we-have-nerve-to-want-respect-you.html

mom101:

Oh my goodness. A woman with diverse interests. How horribly confusing and odd. :D

P.S. I probably won't read your post on lipstick, hope that's okay! ;)

March 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Thank you so much for the link. Great article, and great round up of posts. You are so right... there is a way to get the point across without belittling others. I was just having this same discussion IRL with a friend. It's all about the tone.

Thanks for putting another smart, well thought response out there.

I guess the hardest part for me to swallow in all this is that I DID think I had found a journalist who would present a balanced view. She certainly gave that impression.

I have learned a huge lesson in all this.

Tiffany

March 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTiffany {SITS GIRLS}

Here's my take at Strollerderby: http://blogs.babble.com/strollerderby/2010/03/15/honey-dont-bother-the-gray-lady-shes-busy-angering-mommybloggers/

This is an incredibly complex and juicy topic. Every conversation I've had about it today has led to more insight about my life as a mom, a writer and a blogger, and the communities I'm in doing those things. I wish the NYT had covered more of that instead of wasting their energy on sexist snark.

March 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSierra Black

I find that there are two types of people in the world ( amongst all those other types that I am completely ignoring at the moment).

One: Someone who considers that a mom who works at home or outside in a $$$ paying job is a terrific person, a feminist, a helper out with the finances, soooo stressed poor thing juggling home and family, and totally a martyr to the cause of feminism.

Two: Someone who considers that a woman who decides to "sacrifice" a career for the good of little ones who need her help to grow into self contained human beings is a terrific person, a stand up for what she believes in, a helper with the creation of the future world, sooooo stressed looking after baby and helping Junior with potty training, and a total martyr to the cause of saintly motherhood.

And I find that most mothers I meet in the flesh or in the blog world are complete individuals. And the last thing I would do is lump them all together in one pile called "mothers"
:)

March 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCoachSonelina

Fantastic round-up, Annie!

Tiffany, don't beat yourself up too much, many of us have learned the same lesson, and please know that 99% of the journalists I have dealt with have been just fine. I have only had two experiences that were less than fabulous in a period that spans over 15 years.

March 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterParentopiaDevra

Maybe the NYT was trying to put us all together and make us into a Momolith. (okay that was really baaaaad. How did I get in this handbasket?)

March 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterParentopiaDevra

Thanks Devra.

Reading your comment reminded me of another thought...THIS is one of the key reasons that we need to http://www.phdinparenting.com/2010/03/02/a-day-in-the-life-of-marginalizing-fringe-groups-in-canada/" rel="nofollow">save organizations like the Association for Research on Mothering from closing.

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Well said - I am much more interested in the views and experiences of real people than the latest shade of lipstick, celebrities or even most of the mainstream news. The blogs that I read are usually more intelligent and better written than most mainstream media.

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

I like your challenge. I would love to see that kind of article in print. Hopefully someone will take you up on it - and it will be as widely read as the original piece.

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMommieV

Oh this is brilliant!!! Did anyone ever tell you are just the best!!!

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterse7en

[...] thoughts as elegantly as Jessica in Don’t Bother Mommy She’s Rabid Right Now, Annie in Does the World see Moms the Same Way the NY Times Does?, Liz in Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy, I’m Writing A Mildly Annoyed Letter to the NY Times, [...]

Thanks for the links. There was a point when I was taking on the NYT "fashion" section (because that is where most of the parenting articles are....can SOMEONE explain that? condescending assholes) every week because of the asinine views presented. But then I got tired of it. Glad others are fed up.

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Of COURSE the NYT (and other "old world" media) are taking potshots at bloggers!
You, and the other bloggers out there are eating their lunch!! You have demystified journalism and are bringing a very similar (if not better) quality product to consumers for free... people have never needed newspapers less than they do today and they are going out of business.
Keep doing what you're doing. And when you aren't feeling the love from the media dinosaurs, take it as a compliment!!

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

[...] experienced voices than mine have weighed in on this. You can (and should) read a great round-up of mommybloggers responding to the Times at Phd In [...]

Here is my take - and I am so glad that us female bloggers who have progeny (notice careful avoidance of the mommy blogger term) are all standing together on this one.

http://hadassahsabo.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/sorry-kid-i-need-to-ignore-you-for-a-while%E2%80%A6not/

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHadassah Sabo Milner

Have you considered asking Lisa Belkin to run this as a guest post on Motherlode, complete with your compendium of responses? I just did; I'd love to see my favorite newspaper make a little space for these diverse responses.

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSierra Black

[...] 16, 2010 · Leave a Comment Does the world see moms the same way the New York Times does?.   This is a link to a great article from PhD in Parenting with responses on the article in The [...]

Yeah that!

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

I'm not a mommy blogger; however I am a stepmom blogger. I'm also a career journalist, but not for the New York Times or any other major news outlet.

I look at articles about mom bloggers and can't decide if I should shake my head or get involved in the conversation. I guess this is me getting in on the conversation.

I've been on both sides of both arguments:
As a journalist, I agree that the writer participated in blogger generalizing. Perhaps she and the NYT should have planned this as a series about different types of parent bloggers.

As a blogger, I agree that it's a bad representation of an entire set of bloggers.

I write a stepmom blog, which at times is a huge deviation from a 'mom' blog. I write about things that make a lot of mothers uncomfortable. I also have a mom-induced "you're not the real mom" gag order on what I can or can't say about my family.

When I read anything about mom bloggers feeling slighted, I think about my own blog and how lucky most mom bloggers are because they can talk about whatever they want on their blogs while I risk a lawsuit if I even post my stepkids' first initials.

As a stepmom blogger, I would have gotten more out of the New York Times article had the writer captured all types of parent bloggers, not just moms and not just those who blog to make money.

Perhaps that's fodder for her next article.

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErin

Hi there, Annie! Thank you for your article. You always do such a thorough job, I appreciate all the other links.

I could not stop myself from giving my 2 cents as well. :)
http://dagmarbleasdale.com/2010/03/mommy-bloggers-and-their-depiction-in-the-new-york-times/

Best,
Dagmar
Dagmar's momsense

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDagmar Bleasdale

I'm glad you did this round-up. I have a lot to read!

Here's mine:
http://www.hobomama.com/2010/03/im-too-annoyed-with-new-york-times-to.html
http://www.hobomama.com/2010/03/im-too-annoyed-with-new-york-times-to.html" rel="nofollow">I'm too annoyed with the New York Times to pay attention to my child

March 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

The take-home message here is not that the NYT was wrong - but that women love drama. How dare the NYT run coverage that isn't one hundred percent glowingly positive?

All the mommy bloggers have done here is succeeded in making themselves look like a bunch of delicate flowers who can't handle press that includes postive AND negative perceptions. Anything less than paragraphs full of pats on the back will result in rampaging, tantruming hordes of mommy bloggers.

There are plenty of women who feel it is POSTS LIKE THESE, and not the New York Times, are what are making mommy-bloggers look ridiculous. This is manufactured drama. Of course, few people will bother to say this, because everyone is afraid to disagree with the "powers that be" in writing. (After all, we know what happens to people who write unpopular things about mommy bloggers.)

I'm sure the NYT thanks you all for the extra revenue though.

March 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCameo

Cameo:

Personally, I think that dismissing well-written, well-reasoned, balanced responses to the NYT article as the drama of rampaging, tantruming hordes of mommy bloggers is even more belittling than what was written in the article itself. Letters to the Editor have been around in the media for ages and people responding to what has been written in the media is a well entrenched accepted practice. The difference is that rather than being subject to the whims of editors who decide which letters make it into the paper, we now have our own platforms on which to share our thoughts. Is that really such a horrible thing? Is it really so petty and childish to have an opinion?

March 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Annie, I got basically the same comment on my blog from Cameo. He/she must have made the rounds. I'm with you in that we are allowed to voice our dissatisfaction, and thanks to social media no one can edit us.

I personally do not want to give too much power to this article and the NYT. The truth is that its already yesterdays news. Someone's already using that page for the poop in their bird cage. :)

I don't really care that much about what other people think, and I don't take the article personally. It's only one article. I'm doing my thing and keep on writing anyway. There are plenty of people who enjoy my posts and I don't see my blogging interfere with being a good mother.

Best,
Dagmar

March 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDagmar Bleasdale

I find it so interesting that all the comments against the "mommy bloggers" that I see portray us angry, overly sensitive, looking for a fight, unreasonable, etc... When every comment and post I have read from actual mom bloggers has been reasonable, respectful, and very well written. I just don't get how posts like yours are seen as whiny women wanting to find something to b*tch about. I don't see where in the world this perception of mom bloggers comes from. Maybe I'm not reading the right ones?? lol

March 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

Actually Marcy, I think that confirms that you ARE reading the right ones. :D

March 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Great roundup of responses here Annie. I was going to do my own post but it's seems a bit old and stale now.

But I was going to say, as Momma in the Fog did, that the original article seemed lacking a point. It was just basically a scene setter of this one conference that told little about the big picture of blogging.

I also didn't find the article that demeaning. It was the headline that was. And that set the tone for people to be on the defensive and looking for demeaning language. And I'm not saying there wan't ANY, just that overall, I was not offended by the article's content, just the headline. I was ready for a piece about how bloggers are neglectful of their children, etc, and it was nothing like that at all.

[...] who felt the article was condescending and insulting are online, making their cases in the modern version of the town hall [...]

[...] women’s voices on the Internet (check out the entire BlogHer community and then some), when the voices of many women are dismissed as endearing, cute and girly, and when the voices of those women who are most oppressed are ignored altogether, that gender gap [...]

One point--I think that the problem is that the editors are pushing this sort of perspective on the writers. I spoke to an editor of a regional but largish paper--trying to pitch the idea of mommy bloggers doing good. Not only Bloganthropy.org, of which I am a founder, but also bloggers on service trips, efforts like Catherine's Give Good Blog, etc. There are TONS of amazing projects out there.

But this is just the latest version of if it bleeds it leads...if it sounds entitled, whiny, and frivolous, and mocks women (even better, moms) it headlines the lifestyle or style sections.

The writer says she stands by the article...but I really hope that what she submitted had a different tone and the editors chose that awful title.

March 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

Thanks for the thorough post! As Jessica G. said, really only we understand the value of what we're doing -- those with such judgment are either not moms or may be a bit envious of what moms can do online.

March 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKimberley Go-To Mom

[...] influential women are ignorant to the numerous women’s voices on the Internet, when the voices of many women are dismissed as endearing, cute and girly, and when the voices of those women who are most oppressed are ignored altogether, that gender gap [...]

[...] spoke out about how their blogs are their livelihood and their lifeline. PhD in Parenting have us a wonderful round-up of their voices, as well as her own thoughtful [...]

[...] Last week brought us the now-infamous New York Times article snarking on mommybloggers. Dozens of mom bloggers weighed in with their own opinions, voices, and research, which PhD in Parenting rounded up. [...]

[...] from PhD in Parenting asks whether the world sees moms the same way the NY Times does. She also lists several other [...]

April 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarch Link Love | ME

[...] Ok, I give in.  I’m going to blog about the horrifically asinine article in the New York Times about moms who blog.  The article is empty of any actual journalism but the vacuum is filled to the brim with stereotypes, misogyny, and prejudice.  Others have detailed the problems with the “article” very well (PhD in Parenting has a compilation of some of the best reviews).  [...]

[...] influential women are ignorant to the numerous women’s voices on the Internet, when the voices of many women are dismissed as endearing, cute and girly, and when the voices of those women who are most oppressed are ignored altogether, that gender gap [...]

I really enjoyed this article, and especially the picture you chose to illustrate your point. I was searching for information on http://www.opportunitygreen.com/" rel="nofollow">opportunitygreen.com when I came across your website. I'm wondering if you have any thoughts about it?

March 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJasper

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