Monday, 12 April 2010

A Guest Post from Noble Savage: Blogger. No 'Mummy' Necessary

Today I am excited to be publishing a guest post from one of my favourite bloggers, Noble Savage. Hers was one of the first blogs that I started reading regularly and it was through her blogroll that I discovered many other blogs that I now consider to be essential reading. She also writes over at Fertile Feminism, working to address issues that affect all of us as women and parents. Is it too much to describe her as one of my blogging heroes? No doubt she'll cringe - but fuck it - I'm going to say it anyway.

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.


  1. Thanks for sharing this writing. She writes clearly, fairly, and honestly.

  2. Instead of thinking of mummy blogging as a box, how about as a window?

  3. Great post from Noble Savage. Glad you two hooked up on this. This is the sort of thing I want to read! Both Gappy's original post and NS's response are well argued, thought out and thought provoking. And now I'm going to go and think about it some more...

  4. This is an excellent post, and I completely understand what you are saying about boxes and feeling hemmed in at times.

    Sometimes, you just have nothing to say on a given subject, you've run dry for whatever reason so to be blogging on a site where you feel you *must* write about those things becomes hard, a chore even. To be able to just be free to explore all your thoughts, about what ever they are, your children, the environment, last nights episode of House or the changing role of women in the work place, frees up the mind and the soul somehow.

    I feel much more able to write about anything over on NFL than my last blog (which was a mummy blog many years ago) because I haven't put myself in any boxes, given myself any labels, it is about all of me, not just one small part.

    I love posts like this, thoughtful, thought out and interesting to read. Excellent job.

  5. Interesting post, thanks for sharing. Coincidentally I have mentioned by lack of slotting into one particular box on my last post, but judging by my lovely thus far 54 comments, people seem to love me for WHO I am not WHAT I am X

  6. That's brilliant and everything I wanted to say. I've been having problems about those labels - expat and mummy - too. Yes I am both (though surely a mum now not a mummy!) but it's not all I am. This blogging gig is not something I do as a distraction from wiping faces and cleaning, yes it is part of the brand I am wanting to establish for myself, and it is already yielding results (not just satisfaction!). Thanks for this.

  7. Great post, thought provoking as usual.

  8. Thanks for this post. I've worried about the label 'mommy blogger'. For a long time before I finally started blogging with my sisters I just wasn't sure I should because I felt I didn't want to be 'just a mommy blogger'and on the other hand most of the blogs I read and found interesting were exactly that. At the end of the day, my sisters and I aren't quite mommy bloggers - we write about all sorts of things (including Nietzsche!) but it's still a big part of what we do. And reading all the quality posts in so-called mommy blogs, about mothering or otherwise, I reckon the genre has outgrown its label. This is not just a bunch of women who blog about babies, but a group of genuinely good writers shaping this century's literary experience!

  9. Thank you, Noble Savage, for your great post. I like the way you approached this subject. I started blogging on March 1st. I chose my title as a joke, a bit tongue in cheek. But I don't want to feel that I am boxed in or labelled. For me, the whole point of blogging is to be able to write whatever I want, not to be limited in my choice of topic. If I choose to write about my kids or my angst over not working outside the home, that's fine. That's where I am right now. But, in time, if I want to evolve beyond those topics just, as you say, we want to move beyond our 'expat' labels.

  10. Great post - I've struggled with the mummy blogger pigeonhole because I'm more than that. Where I've got to is either people accept my many facets or not -if they don't it's not my problem

  11. Well argued post Noble Savage. We all get labelled, its funny. When I first wrote my blog I guess it was a bit raunchy and everyone called me a Sex Blogger. I didn't feel that I was just a sex blogger. Hey I didn't want to be objectified, so I went a bit more mumsy and then oh no I was branded a Mummy Blogger! It seems whichever way one turns one can't win. So I say just keep blogging and forget the labels!

  12. I have a post brewing about this sort of stuff, and have been holding off because, well because I know everyone will get their knickers in a twist and start screaming "STOP TELLING ME HOW TO BLOG"

    But there are artificial boundaries being slung up by an number of people who have commercial angles on this whole blogging thing. Which is fine - everyone has to make a living, blah blah blah.
    It's not going to stop me kicking against it though.

  13. Really well put. As a new-ish blogger I have been struggling a bit with the labels and boxes and have been wriggling my elbows about a bit this week which has been very liberating. This post has given me even more food for thought so thanks very much to both of you!