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Aug142010

BlogHer '10: Change Agents, Radical Moms, Provocative Bloggers...and ill-fitted sponsors

As most of you know, I just got back from BlogHer '10 in New York City. I enjoyed last year's conference, but this year's conference was about 10 times better and about 5 times worse (figures are estimates).

Better...


The BlogHer '10  conference is the general BlogHer conference. That means it is the conference that is supposed to meet everyone's needs and touch on everyone's interests (versus, for example, BlogHer Food, which is specifically for food bloggers). While it may have done that, there did seem to be an overriding theme. I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but to me it seemed like Change Agents (which was one of six tracks at BlogHer), was the main track and the main theme of the conference.

Radical Blogging Moms Panel - by Haley-O (Cheaty Monkey)

All of the Change Agents sessions that I attended were packed (including the Radical Blogging Moms panel that I spoke on with Joanne from Pundit Mom and Stephanie from Picture Hope). Two of the keynotes were strongly focused on the message of change and how women can use their blogs to affect change, specifcally:

  • The International Activists Bloggers' Keynote featuring four women activists from other countries who even risk their lives in the name of social justice.

  • The closing keynote on "How to Use your Voice, Your Platform, Your Power" featuring a group of incredibly inspiring women, namely moderator Need to Know PBS anchor Alison Stewart, Marie Wilson, Founder and President of The White House Project (and creator of Take Our Daughters to Work Day!), author and activist Gloria Feldt from Heartfeldt Politics and P. Simran Sethi, Emmy Award-winning journalist, blogger and environmentalist.


In addition to those panels and keynotes focused specifically on change, there were other areas (e.g. reading of posts during the Voices of the Year Keynote and the green party) that had a strong element of change to them.

Beyond the official BlogHer '10 programming, I also had an opportunity to educate people about Nestle's unethical business practices. I wrote a blog post summarizing Nestle's unethical business practices and that post as well as other Nestle-related content has been viewed at least 10,000 times in the last 10 days. I had the opportunity to mention my objection to Nestle in my panel discussion and to mention the fact that some people, including one of my planned co-panelists, were boycotting the conference due to the Nestle sponsorship. I wore #noNestle stickers on my badge, my phone, and sometimes even my face. I handed out stickers to anyone else who wanted them for their own badge, phone, water bottle, laptop or anything else. I had a statement on my business cards (generously donated and hand delivered to New York by Tiny Prints) that said "Ask me why I protest Nestle's unethical business practices. Tweet your support: #noNestle". Quite a few people did take me up on that offer and wanted to learn more. I passed out probably around 150 postcards summarizing Nestle's unethical business practices (only to people who specifically expressed interest) and had in depth conversations with dozens of people about Nestle, many who were completely unaware of the Nestle issues previously and who pledged to both spread the word and stop buying Nestle products.

Last year, I was lucky to be one of the finalists for the SocialLuxe Lounge's BlogLuxe awards in the category of Most Provocative Blog. This year,  I was not only a finalist, but also one of the winners of the 2010 BlogLuxe Awards. The two winners in the category of Most Provocative Blog were myself and fellow-Canadian Catherine Connors from Her Bad Mother. Still think Canadians are just docile and polite?

BlogLuxe Awards - Most Provocative Blog - by Angry Julie Monday

So, apparently I'm radical and provocative. But I'm not sure that I want what I do to be considered radical or provocative. I want it to be normal for people to stand up for what they believe in. I want it to be normal for people to use the power of words to express their opinions. I want it to be normal for women to have a say and have that count. I like being a Change Agent, because I think the world needs to keep changing if it is to continue to exist, but I don't know if I want to be considered radical or provocative. Or maybe I do. Maybe being radical and provocative just means that I am one step ahead and that I have the opportunity to inspire others to action too.

Worse...


With all of the inspiration, brain power, and incredible work that all of these women are doing, a walk through the Exhibition Hall seemed like a bit of a slap in the face. Not only were there two Nestle brands there (Nestle is one of the most boycotted companies in the world and one that I actively protest), Stouffers and Butterfinger, but there were other companies with products and business practices that threaten the health of our families:

  • There was a fish company passing out a flyer on prenatal health that said pregnant women can eat as much fish as they want during pregnancy and that they don't need to worry about mercury levels.

  • At the Playskool booth they were handing out some toys, including Play-doh. But they wouldn't let you get away with just taking a sample of the Play-doh. No....they wanted you to take a bottle of perfume to scent the Play-doh Play-Doh scented perfume (edited because I apparently misunderstood about the perfume...still not impressed). And they didn't like taking no for an answer. YIKES!

  • The "got milk?" people, when questioned about whether the milk was organic, answered "but it's milk!!".

  • And much more...I only spent about 15 minutes walking through the Expo Hall and only went to one of the two floors because I felt ill after that first short tour through. Based on the sponsor list, I'm sure there are other examples people could cite.


Beyond the Expo Hall, there were plenty of people shuffling off to private branded events, some of then during the evening, but some of them even during the regular conference sessions (I love Scholastic Books, but think it was extremely inappropriate of them to schedule a private event at the same time as the International Activist Keynote and the first break-out session of the morning).

When I write about the WHO International Code of the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, I often get comments from people asserting what they see as their right to be marketed to. They feel like they would somehow be missing out if companies weren't allowed to push products on them that they probably don't need.  I can understand advertisers arguing for it,  but I don't understand when consumers fight for the right to have things pushed down their throats with questionable arguments and that is how I felt about a lot of the sponsors at BlogHer '10.

But other people are much more eloquent when talking about this than I am. Gloria Feldt addressed this in the closing keynote and it is summarized by Marcia G. Yerman in her article on BlogHer '10:
Feldt, who has a book coming out on “how women can change the way they think about power,” insisted that women have more of it than they realize.  She noted that corporate sponsors were “finally getting the picture,” but questioned if women understood the full import of what that entailed.  When I contacted her for additional thoughts on this concern she wrote me, “The two floors full of exhibitors aren’t here just because they love us. They’re here because they know the power of women’s collective purse.  So we need to use that power intentionally and collectively to shape the consumer market, to get what we want—whether it’s healthy snacks for our kids, green products, or shoes that are comfortable rather than hobbling us—and not allow ourselves to be bought.”

How can we ensure that we are not bought? We do so by not taking the junk freebies that companies are handing out. We do so by not buying the products of companies who have questionable business practices. We do so by giving companies feedback on how their products and their marketing practices need to change. We do so by asking for a more rigourous and transparent sponsor selection criteria and process for future conferences.

Moving Forward...


I loved the Change Agents track. I hated the sponsorship approach. The fact that so many people there *loved* the Exhibition Hall and spent much of their time either there, in sponsor suites, or at private sponsored parties, shows that there is a real market for that type of thing. But I don't think that the people who are chasing the swag are generally the same people who are interested in being change agents. From that perspective, I would love to see a conference in the future, whether it is organized by BlogHer (e.g. BlogHer '11: Change Agents) or organized by someone else (anyone?), that focuses specifically on being a change agent (maybe has different tracks covering topics like environment, gender, health, human rights, -isms, corporate social responsibility and more) and that has a carefully considered ethical sponsorship policy that will ensure that the business side of the conference doesn't clash with the content side of the conference.

Who else is with me?
« Emotional Availability and Infant Sleep | Main | Brands, breastfeeding, formula feeding, and parenting advice: Stride Rite / Robeez »

Reader Comments (73)

I think that is a wonderful idea and i would definitely be interested. I too was turned off by the Expo Hall - nothing there really interested myself or my family & was in and out in less then 20 minutes.

At times i felt it was a little too sponsor heavy. There were a lot of ppl that i spoke to who didnt even attend any sessions - they were there for the parties & the swag. To each their own - they missed out on some amazing information.

I loved the radical bloggers session & also really loved the grief session. I walked out with a lot of information & a new outlook from both.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDevan @ Accustomed Chaos

I'm kind of with you. But big events are expensive, and I imagine sponsorships are necessary. Corporations being what they are-- existing to make profit for shareholders-- it would not be easy to find companies that are both profitable enough to pony up for the big sponsorships and whose practices 10 out of 10 bloggers would agree are "ethical" -- not every company sucks as bad as Nestle, but where should the ethical bar be set? Making nothing in China, no unhealthy food, paying workers a living wage, etc. .. ? And while I don't drink milk or take my kids to McDonald's and those pancakes-on-a-stick were revolting, maybe some moms do like that stuff. You can also not be bought by taking the "junk" freebies, and then telling everyone you know about what junky junk it is.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcie

Thank you for this. I am not a (serious) blogger and will probably never attend a big event like BlogHer, but I am all about a good conference and I can understand the appeal. I've enjoyed hearing about the conference from thoughtful bloggers/Twitters and have been chewing on many of the questions you have raised in your coverage. I am convinced that free stuff isn't "free"--it always has a cost, to somebody. Like you, I'm not sure why more people don't care.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBlair

If someone put together a specific change agents conference I would absolutely be there with bells on. And that does not mean that there have to be no corporate sponsors. There are many companies, big and small, that are working to make things better and are willing to hear suggestions and complaints about negative practices. With a little effort, I bet it cold be pulled off beautifully.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

I thought the Change Agents track had some of the more interesting sessions. This was my first BlogHer and I although I knew the swag would be there I found it overwhelming...and not always overwhelmingly good. (Although I wasn't forced to take a Play-Doh perfume. Perhaps me laughing at them set them off their speech.)

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarilyn (A Lot of Loves)

You? Are excellent. Let me know when that Change Agent conference happens. Could care less about the swag, but I am most certainly interested in meaningful change.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa Wardy

Interesting. I'd like to be part of a Change Agents track, but I don't think that aspect of blogging has reached this country's section of the blogosphere in quite the same way. I wouldn't be able to make an international conference without sponsorship which would rather defeat the object I suppose.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterliveotherwise

liveotherwise:

I don't think all sponsorship is necessarily bad, but I think that ethical and relevant sponsorship is important. I was really surprised the first year that I went to BlogHer that the exhibition hall/sponsors were all consumer product companies. I was expecting them to be companies like Google, wordpress, flickr, twitter, blog design companies, blog theme developers, computer companies, etc. that wanted to provide their products or services to help women blog. There was a small amount of that (e.g. Microsoft last year, Firefox this year), but not much.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Putting on a conference the size of BlogHer (1,000 attendees) in a major market city (or even a secondary city) requires a budget in the high six figures. Without sponsors it simply isn't possible.

For a smaller conference (say 250 people) a dedicated team could pull it off for a much smaller number, but even with a lot of volunteer labor and a shoestring budget you're still looking at a five-figure sum to make it happen.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlux

yes, I was also really surprised (and a touch insulted) that instead of computer and technology & communications companies it was so much housewifey stuff. I did get a cool pocket flip-open notepad from aol, but then inside was this really condescending little card with a picture of pink flowers on it that said "aol understands women."

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcie

Glad to see the sponsorship issue brought to the surface, as it's one of the main reasons my change agent/nonprofit is unfunded to date...I keep unearthing 'vested interests' when offered an underwriter of any sizable proportion and get irked that I can't find some squeaky clean, eco-friendly, pre-vetted resources that will keep my voice untethered/blog beholden to none...;-)

In fact, even one of the kids I just wrote about, championing change @TEDxTeen (15 y.o. Dylan from LilMDGs) is sponsored in part by...(you got it) Nestle. http://j.mp/dAzopf Though I can't say what's right for him/his org, and everyone's entitled to their own standards/definitions of goodwashing, I can't help but think reading your piece that the boy's been 'had' and that's painful. I dunno. Just sayin' it's a huge issue.

Am completely IN and ON BOARD for a "change agent" BlogHer variation & would welcome the pairing of pertinent sponsors, as I'm looking through the various conferences like http://www.innovate100.com/sponsors-partners & http://www.sustainablelifemedia.com/events/sb10 and finding disconnects galore. Help?! Thanks for this thorough job...oblige...

Amy @ShapingYouth

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Jussel, Shaping Youth

Have you checked out tickets for the BlogHer'11 yet? There's an option to buy a "self-sponsored" ticket direct from the event. I would bet they did that based almost entirely on your (and your fellow boycotter's) protests. So you may not consider your "change" may not be radical but it is making a measurable difference.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

p.s. And as far as "I love Scholastic Books?" hmn...not as wild here, as you can see by this piece where we all worked together w/CCFC to get them to remove 'Bratz' as offerings: http://www.shapingyouth.org/?p=2257 See what I mean? It's always SOMEthin! sigh.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Jussel, Shaping Youth

lux: This year BlogHer had 2400 attendees.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Suzanne:

Yes, I did notice that change and I do appreciate it. The unfortunate part of that change is that it means ethical attendance of the conference is only possible for people who can afford to pay the full self-sponsored ticket price.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Thanks for the shout out. I was more than thrilled that the bloggers at the closing keynote so clearly got the point I made about how powerful we are if only we use that power intentionally in the marketplace (and everywhere else for that matter).

I actually used the example of the swagfest at Blogher09 in my book, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power to illustrate how movements get co-opted and the concept that power unused is power useless. On the other hand, when women decide to act collectively, we can accomplish just about anything.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGloria Feldt

Gloria:

Thank you for your comment and for coming up to introduce yourself after my panel. I'm sorry we didn't have more time to chat. I hope we will cross paths again in the future.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I'm not a major blogger either and so had little interest in BlogHer '10, but a conference that addresses being an agent of change through blogging and social media, oh I'd be interested.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTepary

I think you did an awesome job. I'll be at Blog Her Food this October - last I checked, no Nestle for that, but I'll be checking up!

. . . Perfumed PlayDoh???

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDou-la-la

I saw one of my friends tweeting about the fish and pregnant women and that was definitely a thing that made me go hmmmm. You make (and have made) great points about the need to think carefully about the connections we make and share, but we also need to understand and support each woman's ability to make those choices for herself. I see that BlogHer is offering an "unsponsored rate" next year; I'm curious to see who will take them up on it.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkim/hormone-colored days

kim:

If I go, I will take them up on the unsponsored rate. I'm not sure yet if I will go. It will depend on what other conference opportunities arise.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

First- I am totally with you. I started blogging without much serious interest and without much knowledge of the mommy blogsphere. After months of reading blogs and writing on my own, I realized that I could and should deepen the blog. The words "agent of change" didn't come to mind, but I think that I fit in there, somewhere. I, too, want to encourage people to voice and discuss their beliefs and investigate them further.

I love your blog. You use your position in the blogsphere to do great things and spread thorough perspectives. I appreciate every post that I have read of yours. I missed BlogHer this year, but I will be there next year. I would love to be a part of a "Change Agents" forum, whether it is at next year's BH or separate. Although I am somewhat of a newbie, I would love to contribute everything that I can.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAsha

Despite having had a blog for 5 years, I am not any sort of major blogger and would not qualify for bh in any way, I am quite sure. In fact, I was quite turned off by the entire BlogHer idea because anytime I have heard about it, it has always been in the context of 'stuff'...whether it's stuff to buy for BH, swag one gets at BH...then there is the inherent waste in travel, the food (are leftovers given away/composted), etc.

If there were a "GreenHer" or anything remotely similar, THAT would tweak my interest. Frankly, I write about family first and not always in the same context as others, but that is more due to our lifestyle...Foreign Service.. (yes, we cloth diaper, still breastfeed my 2.5 yo, don't approve of CIO, co-sleep, compost, try to eat all organic though I don't write of it all the time...it's just what we do). However, I would LOVE a conference like that was all about change... that would feel worthwhile to me, though I applaud the incredible amount of work you put into the #nonestle campaign and I know there were many at BH10 who want to inspire change in many ways.

BTW, thank you for all that you do with your blog. It's absolutely wonderful, and will be adding to my blogroll when I update later today...

August 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen

One of the best things about Playdoh is the smell - I'm totally gobsmacked about the perfume offer!

But I guess anything goes when one of the other sponsors was a company trying to persuade women that they smell funny "down below" and here's a product that can make you smell alright! I must admit I was amazed that such an anti-female product was allowed at such an allegedly female-empowering event.

.. and then there was nestle ...

August 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterebbandflo aka pomomama

Somehow I found you on twitter and I love that you link to your blog. My kids are 9 and 6 now. My breastfeeding days are over. I happily nursed for five and a half years of my life, and I'm so glad I did so in public (wherever I was!) without much support from anyone. Somehow or another I just believed in myself and knew it was the best thing to do for my kids. I don't read many blogs (mostly they're sports-related if I do), and I have never been much of an activist, but I can tell you that your writing makes a difference. You're getting me thinking about the choices I'm making when I shop.

August 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

I have really been enjoying reading the post BlogHer posts over the last several days. I was so curious to see yours though! What an interesting idea to have a change agents conference... very interesting! There is a place for sponsors and swag and advertising, but it is so disheartening to see women place that above relationships and the chance to do something great!

Change agents conference: I'm totally there.

I completely missed the perfume portion of the play-doh display. Which is only odd because it was one of two booths I spent any amount of time at.

August 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkata

When I saw that you wrote "I love Scholastic books", I felt like you'd probably feel if someone wrote "I love Nestle".

Please be aware that when Scholastic produces editions of books, it asks authors to change storylines and down play characters that have to do with homosexuality. In addition, it heavily censors the books that are "allowed" to be sold at its book fairs--specifically leaving out books with LGBT themes or characters.

I did not check the source of this article--just searched quickly in Google--but here is one article that explains the basics of the issue:
http://gayrights.change.org/blog/view/scholastic_reverses_decision_to_exclude_gay_friendly_book_from_fairs

I realize that you cannot take up every single cause, and I respect you for how much time you put into the causes you believe in. Just wanted to let you know, though, since you have spoken so much about people passively endorsing companies by mentioning them in conversation, attending events where they are sponsors, accepting free goods, using their name in blog posts, etc.

Cheers,
Kate

August 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

A notepad that says "aol understands women"? Really? That made me laugh out loud and wake my sleeping baby.

They should have made flash drives that look like tampons instead.

August 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermarty

I have been to BlogHer twice. I didn't go last year or this year - it's just getting to be too much for me (both emotionally and financially). I didn't enjoy all of the products being pushed on me in 2008, and from what I have read it's a million times worse now.

I understand the need for sponsors to be able to make BlogHer affordable, and I understand that companies become sponsors in order to boost sales, not out of the goodness of their hearts. However, that means that as the sponsors grow, I become less interested.

A change-agents event though? I would totally go for that.

You might want to check out Type A Mom Conference in Asheville, NC. Asheville is one of the most wonderful cities, I think, and Kelby Carr did a wonderful job with the conference last year. It's at the end of September, and really affordable.

August 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermarty

I think you're right that not every blog is focused on Change or doing-the-right thing. I follow other blogs where the writer gives away products every other day, and we're talking EXPENSIVE stuff which she discloses is donated.... that's how she drives traffic, not by what she is writing.

I still follow her blog though and occasionally try to win something!

But I follow lots of blogs where the person writing is trying to effect change, and I like that, too. It's kind of like the difference between reading US Weekly and the Wall Street Journal.

Anyway I think you are right, a niche conference would probably suit the purposes of the Change Agent bloggers, just like the Food Blogger conference suits those needs. Having a niche conference would enable more guidelines around which companies will sponsor.

August 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlina

Kate:

Thank you for that info. I will have to look into it.

August 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Jen:

There isn't anything you have to do to qualify for BlogHer. It is open to big bloggers and small bloggers and even people who are just thinking about blogging.

August 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

ebbandflo aka pomomama:

Apparently I misunderstood about the perfume. It wasn't perfume to scent the play-doh. It was play-doh scented perfume. I'm not sure that I agree about the smell being the best thing about Play-Doh...at least not so great that would wear it as perfume! :)

August 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I love the smell of PlayDoh (also fresh male sweat and the electronic smell in certain elevators so realise my tastes may be 'unique' ..... but wearing it as perfume? Not sure about that one. I have visions of an Axe-type commercial announcing the magnetic qualities of PlayDoh perfume with toddlers/pre schoolers flocking to the mummy wearing it?

August 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterebbandflo aka pomomama

The nature of my interests, ethical marketing to children, would pretty much keep me away from BlogHer altogether even if I had the funds to attend. I just don't do well being treated like a coveted demographic. But that's okay. I do enjoy the tweets and follow-up/summary posts from those who attend and ususally learn something.

Maybe we need a conference in Second Life?

And another vote against Scholastic here. A company with free reign to market to kids in public schools takes full advantage with licensed-character-laced books to encourage kids to watch or buy more, plus the ridiculous amount non-book offerings, plus the initial refusal to allow a same-sex relationship story into a book fair? Ugh. But that's me.

I would definitely be interested in a Change Agents conference. I am planning to attend my first BlogHer in 2011, so I can't comment specifically on that, but based on what I've heard about the swag and so on it doesn't sound like it's entirely in line with my values. An alternative would be great.

August 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

I have attended BlogHer since 2005 - the very beginning. In '05 we were greeted with a small bag, a pen and a pad of paper. That was all. But the conference was much, much smaller and held in a small conference center with minimal services. There have been past BlogHers (2008 stands in mind) where the Expo Center was "in the mix" and virtually impossible to avoid. This year, BlogHer did an outstanding job ensuring the Expo Center was NOT obtrusive. The area in which it was held was completely out of the way and a person had to make the DECISION to do a walk-through. I did stroll through briefly, met with a brand or two in which I was interested and quickly got out, because I was just not into that sort of thing this year.

Frankly, I think it is a bit unfair to BlogHer to imply that all of these products and sponsors mentioned in this post and the comments were forced upon us considering one had to walk through a hallway and go up an escalator to even get to one section of the Expo Center. Even the BlogHer bag was not actually handed to us, we had to wait in line to get it - again, it was our decision to make whether we wanted the bag or not. And regarding Scholastic, I had no idea they were hosting any sort of party/shindig/whatever until after I came back from the conference.

Was I thrilled with some of the sponsors? No, I think Kraft and the like are horrible (Seriously, folks - Formula is only for 12 months, whereas mac n' cheese is forever. Mmmmm...tartrazine !) It was no big deal - I simply bypassed their booth (and most of the prepared, boxed food booths) when I was in the Expo Center. But without some of these sponsorships, I would not have been able to afford to attend this conference. A conference in which the "takeaways" I gained were far greater than anything that could be toted in a canvas bag.

Besides, as I think it has been mentioned already - one of the best parts of BlogHer is the spectacularly unique mix of women (and some men) in attendance. it would be virtually impossible to assemble a group of sponsors without offending someone.

August 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercagey

Milk and Play-Doh perfume? Yikes is right!

I understand sponsorship, and I guess you could ignore the sponsors you don't like or leave their products behind, but that doesn't get much accomplished in the long run. And not speaking up for what you believe in leaves that icky, naggy feeling in the pit of your stomach for such a long time (for me, at least...)

I find myself with very, very little time to read blogs lately, which makes me sad, but I'm finding too much value in yours to let it slide. You are on the top of my daily to-read list. Thanks so much for giving me the information I want!

Annie,

Wonderful, wonderful post. I especially laughed when you said you didn't want to be considered "radical and provocative," you want what you're doing to be considered "normal." Here's to that! Just bear in mind, progressives are generally ahead of their time....so when you're an old lady, you'll be "normal."

Many, many people have been talking about an alternative conference, but I'm not so sure. I think that our society is so polarized as it is, that any opportunity to mix it up is a good one. BlogHer does a GREAT job of trying to accommodate many radically divergent viewpoints. You're right - some women just go for the parties and the swag, and don't even attend the conference sessions. (Their loss).

But I think far more women (and corporate sponsors) are introduced to other viewpoints through the conference agenda, conversations, the #nonestle #blogher10 twitter stream, and the keynotes.

I do think there is a need for blogging tracks at those conferences that already exist (non-profit, healthcare, environmental, the like) but do we need ANOTHER place for people to fly to, ship stuff to, etc? It's actually not very sustainable, is it?

I think that the more the green/progressive community sticks together and makes its voice heard within BlogHer, the more our points will come to be accepted. I don't like "preaching to the choir" of deep greenies, arguing about which of two relatively "good" options is more sustainable. There are too many people out there who are not yet taking the tiniest of steps...and we have to reach them. BlogHer is a GREAT place to do that, because it attracts a real cross-section of women.

And I KNOW that the sponsors are listening. They've told me so. There are people inside those companies agitating for change - and public pressure from bloggers like us helps to make that change happen.

Keep up the good fight, you radical, you! :)

cagey:

You said: "Frankly, I think it is a bit unfair to BlogHer to imply that all of these products and sponsors mentioned in this post and the comments were forced upon us considering one had to walk through a hallway and go up an escalator to even get to one section of the Expo Center. "

I think there are three issues:

1) Sponsors paying for part of our tickets: There are lots of companies out there that are not my cup of tea. However, I don't think they are horrendous. I just think they have bad products or bad customer service or bad something else. But then there are companies that I think are extremely unethical in the way that they produce and promote their products. The former I do not mind having pay for part of my ticket. The latter I do not think should even be given an opportunity to market to BlogHer attendees. I think there should be some criteria that would help to filter out some of the worst of the worst.

2) Sponsors forcing stuff on people: I do agree that people had to go to the Expo Hall to see most of the sponsors. I went there because there were a few that I wanted to see. Still even then I was upset that "No, thank you" often wasn't respected (should I have to say it 3 times?) and that some sponsors were telling outright lies or unable to answer basic questions. Perhaps better guidelines for sponsors would help that? There were also some sponsors handing out bags of stuff around where the food was. In particular, I remember the "Black and White" bags that I had to say "No, thank you" to at least 10 times because I kept having to pass through there to get to places I was going.

3) Companies taking people away from the content of BlogHer: This complaint isn't about BlogHer sponsors - it is about other companies taking advantage of the fact that people are at BlogHer. Scholastic was not a BlogHer sponsor, but Scholastic had a private event that it transported people to and from, during the international activist keynotes. I thought that Scholastic and the attendees of its party were being disrespectful towards BlogHer and the speakers.

P.S. - Yes, formula might just be for 12 months, but Gerber, Kit Kat, Stouffer's and so many more of Nestle's products that are also not devoid of their ethical issues are used by families for a lot longer.

August 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

"AOL understands women, their passions and what kind of content enriches their lives. AOL connects women with the content, tools and conversations they care about."
.. I guess they're talking to dudes because there's no such thing as a female media buyer.

August 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcie

I limit my attendance these days to conferences that have a fairly high "change agent" quotient because 1) I'm a political blogger 2) I'm now in elected office and constantly think about how much more I can do (i.e., change) and 3) I want to empower civic engagement and unleash other people's ability to be agents for their passions. I think you are an excellent example of someone who takes all these things to the nth degree in ways that best suit you. So, for me, keynoting the White House Project Training at BlogHer, geared to bloggers who want to go beyond the blogging, was a fantastic reason to be there (though in reality, I'd decided to go to BlogHer10 because it was in NYC and I didn't go in 2009).

What I think is great about your decision to be there is that, at least from how I see it and I'm sure not everyone would agree, you are a presence related to a problem to which you want to draw attention. If you were not there, honestly, the issues that concern you would be far far back in my conscience. I recognize not showing up has its value too, but I appreciate that you decided to attend because I do think that with your attendance, you accomplish a lot on behalf of your cause(s).

I would love to see more in the way of civic engagement, open government, transparency, and legal issue kinds of blogging and social media covered and would hope that with 2400 attendees, it would draw some. But it does appear that in many ways, Jory, Lisa and Elisa have a good idea of their audience. It will be interesting to see how the feedback overall shapes up.

August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJill Miller Zimon

Now that's the kind of conference I'd like to be a part of! ChangeHer 2011. I'm in! Tell me when and where...and perhaps we can fit it on our tour map. :)

August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

I created that kind of experience for myself this year, by choosing to go mainly to the Change Agents track and only going offsite twice. I like the way you're thinking here, BUT I would hate to see BlogHer lose the Change Agents track, so I wouldn't want it to leave the conference.

As far as a social change conference or workshop SURE! But why limit it to women?

August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusan @WhyMommy

I have to ask -- why did you go to the Expo Hall? It was completely optional and completely separate from the conference.

August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRita Arens

Rita:

I went for two reasons. First, I went because I wanted to see and meet some of the sponsors, but that probably wasn't necessary and I could have arranged to see them elsewhere. Second, I went due to my interest in corporate social responsibility. Sure, I could choose to avoid the sponsor hall myself, but it doesn't meant that I am completely okay with anyone marketing anything in any way to anyone at all. I believe that companies need to be held to certain standards of quality and ethics and ignoring them won't make that happen. I don't think this post does that justice and I wish I had had more time and more of a stomach to truly look at and delve into some of the issues that I saw briefly on the expo hall floor, but I didn't.

August 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Susan:

I wouldn't necessarily want to limit it to women (BlogHer accepts men), but I would like it to be by women, for women. The reason that I say that is that I do attend other conferences in my field of interest and there tends to be a lot of male speakers, a lot of mansplaining and a lot of activities that are geared primarily towards men. One conference that I attended in February had a lunchtime panel of women talking about women leaders in that field, but none of the other invited keynote speakers were women. It was disappointing. As if women are only qualified to speak on women's issues.

August 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

That is EXACTLY what i thought it was going to be as well. When I walked in there was NONE of that - not a single sponsor (other then Lansinoh who provided me with a pump) was relevant to me and my blog.

I can understand the need for money to be able to put this together but really - i believe in relevant sponsors. Play-Doh and the breakfast stuff?? what does that have to do with blogging?

August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDevan @ Accustomed Chaos

For a conference this size, there are compromises to be made between opening up registration to as many people as possible and maintaining enough sponsors to make it happen. You don't like Nestle, I don't like Walmart - but if it helps women be exposed to change agents sessions (to hopefully change the look of the sponsors down the road!), so be it.

I am pretty happy with the way the change agents sessions are going at BlogHer and I would be afraid that a competing conference would be too much saturation. How would anyone be sure that every company is ethical? I'd be willing to bet that even some of your ideal companies aren't as ethical as you'd think. (I work for a small company that has outwardly prided itself on "values" and yet has treated employees poorly, so sorry if I'm a bit jaded.)

If I go again next year, I won't go to the expo hall. I did a quick run-through to stop at the Go Red for Women and Liberty Mutual booths. I didn't get haggled by anyone, probably because I don't look the part of a mom (something I wrote about on my own blog today).

August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

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