Recently I published a post entitled, 'Mummy Blogging. Just how important is it?' and invited readers to give their response. This then is Noble Savages...
Blogger. No 'mummy' necessary
I have to admit something right off the bat; I didn't find the New York Times article in question all that controversial. Yes, it had a few snide remarks slipped in (some subtle, some pretty blatant) but that's to be expected considering the publication in which it was printed. Snobbery and elitism are handed out with the bagels and Pulitzers at that office, I can assure you. So I tend to take any criticism they heft towards other, smaller writers with a big, fat grain of salt. The title and accompanying graphic were pretty ridiculous with its suggestion that mothers who blog are neglecting their children to do so, but the article did raise some interesting points, namely about turning blogging from a social pastime to a brand or business.
On my own blog, I've expressed concerns and reservations about the direction that 'mummy blogging' is going, with all the sponsorship and ads and giveaways, but that's my own personal aversion to capitalism and corporate globalisation, not a dig at mummy blogging itself. What is mummy blogging anyway, Gappy asks us? Well, it's just as she says: mothers who blog. It's that plain and that simple.
Yet, it's not.
Because, like motherhood itself, it's complicated territory. Some of us write nearly exclusively about our children and the job of parenting them and that's okay -- after all, parenting is a really tough gig and a completely valid experience to want to document and get feedback on. Why do people write about sex, or relationships? Why are there entire sites dedicated to cooking, running, fashion, the works of Nietzsche, bungee jumping, folk music, cancer and who will win the next parliamentary election? Because they are interesting to the people interested in or experiencing those things. Because one (wo)man's trash is another's treasure. Because we're all individuals who go through stages in our lives when we need to reach out and connect with others going through, thinking about and writing about the same sorts of things.
But there does come a point when some of us, including me, start to resent the label that has been affixed to us because it feels limiting. When we accept a label we risk narrowing our audience, the topics we feel able to write about and, sometimes, our experience or enjoyment of the whole process. It doesn't have to be that way, of course, and every person will feel differently about it, but I think the vast majority of those who reject it are not doing so because we shun blogging mothers, or feel superior to those who are at the forefront of the movement and/or have happily accepted the label; we do it because we don't want to be pigeonholed any more so than a sports journalist would want to be known only for his cricket coverage and never what he writes on football, rugby, cycling and athletics.
Another apt comparison, from which I can draw on my own personal experiences, is that of the expatriate in a foreign land. Some 'expats', particularly those who are relatively new to living abroad, embrace the label with vigour. In order to find one's tribe, one must usually adopt a label of some sort in order to identify others in the same situation or interested in the same things. So at first the label is worn with pride and used to locate a community upon which one can rely and turn to for comfort and camaraderie in what is, at times, a frightening, lonely, challenging, life-altering experience. This is completely natural and normal. However, after a time, many grow tired of being known as 'the expat', the Other, the one who doesn't quite fit in. At some point, after a period of time which varies from person to person, most expats just want to settle into their adopted country and stop thinking about 'back home' so much. Hell, Noble Savage started as an expat and current events site! A few months later I became pregnant and BOOM! my blog went from expats and pundits to parents and everything in between.
Suddenly, I felt that I could write about a wider variety of topics and with a more diverse spread of readers. Even though I'd worn the expat label gladly and had made great friends and connections that way, I realised it had been holding me back. Not because blogging about that experience wasn't worthwhile, but because it constrained me within the parameters of what 'those kinds of blogs' are like. And it limited my writing, certainly. You only have to look at how infrequently I posted when my blog first began, in early 2005, to see that if it didn't have to do with my preconceived idea of what my site was about or what my readers wanted, I didn't really write about it. Once I lost the label I gained a new perspective, one that I felt freed me creatively. Obviously not everyone feels or will feel that way but it goes a long way in explaining why I've personally resisted the 'mummy blogger' tag.
I'm not ashamed to be a mummy blogger in that I am a woman who blogs about mothering and I am proud of that. I am not delusional, pampered or neglectful, as the New York Times article suggests, and I'm not a bore or irrelevant either. I write about what I want, how I want -- be that giving birth, breastfeeding and dealing with tantrums, or gender politics, grief and religion. I reject the label not because I don't like what it describes but because I don't want it to be stuck on a box in which I'm forced to climb.