Friday, 16 April 2010

A Guest Post from Spilt Milk: "It's Still My Room"

Today I am really pleased to be publishing another guest post written in response to the piece I wrote entitled: 'Mummy Blogging. Just how important is it?' This time I am honoured to be sharing my space with Elizabeth from Spilt Milk, who is such a gifted writer and story teller that I would urge anybody who doesn't already do so to subscribe to her blog. In fact go and read this post - written about the Australian bush fires. It absolutely blew me away when I read it.

Anyway, here's what she has to say about mummy blogging and the importance of womens on-line writing...

"It's still my room"

I don't think I'm a 'mummy blogger'. No one's ever called me that. As far as I'm aware, I'm not under 'mummy/mommy blogger' on any lists. And perhaps this is because the blogs that I comment on and put on my own blogroll are not the kind of mummy blogs that readers of the New York Times article were encouraged to imagine. They are not the kind of blogs which are solely concerned with Timmy's weekend basketball game, cooking batches of Grandma's cookies, and the baby hitting milestones on time (or not).

But so what? Not everybody blogs for the same reasons - or rather, the reasons that people blog (expression, community, communication, sharing and yes, sometimes business) mean different things to everyone. Some people use blogs as a communication tool, to share photos and stories with family and friends. Sure, sometimes those stories might seem inane to readers to whom they are not addressed. But that's not because the writers are mothers - frankly, I'd find a man's blog about restoring a boat or cooking his way through '101 Ways With Mince' pretty boring and inane too. The difference is, a man's project - not pertaining to children - is considered to be of some intrinsic value. If it doesn't have broad appeal, then it merely becomes eccentric. But a woman's project - particularly a project which is informed by her low-status role as a mother? Well, that's a different, more easily dismissed story.

Thus, because my blog isn't exclusively about parenting and because it's not the daily journal kind, it's not had the 'mummy blog' label whacked on it. (Or perhaps it's just not been noticed by the label-whackers.) Even so, it probably could be labelled that. I write about motherhood and about being a daughter. I write about feminism through the prism of parenthood. The title, Spilt Milk, came about because I thought it would be a blog all about breastfeeding and birth, about the physical business of being a woman and the emotional work of mothering. Through no fault of its own it morphed into more - and less - than that, but such is the nature of online writing.

You could call me a 'mummy blogger', if you liked. Part of me used to react with almost violent negativity to the term and I have no doubt this is because of internalised misogyny: we all know it, the stereotype of the brainless mother and her gushing. And this is why, I think, the New York Times article pushed so many buttons right around the blogosphere. We knew what it was we were being painted as because it is a painting we know well. Some of us see it in the mirror but most of us spend our days hoping that it isn't us, hoping that others can see through the tracksuit-with-baby-sick to the intelligence and uniqueness underneath. Or conversely, some of us spend our days working for money or otherwise projecting a professional image onto the world, and long to be also seen as a nurturer. Pigeon-holes are squashy places and I don't know anyone who likes to be in them, especially if they are the kind relegated near the bottom by society.

I'm not sure if reclaiming 'mummy/mommy blogger' in order to subvert the misogyny that has made this term infantilising and dismissive is the best route, but I'd be supportive of anyone who tried it. For me, I think a complete move away from any such labelling is more important. Women have long fought for a room of our own in which to create, express and craft meaning. A blog is that room in an online form. Almost anyone with enough privilege to access the internet can make her own room and perhaps this is a frightening prospect to those who are invested in keeping women silent about their daily struggles and also in keeping them out of the marketplace.

But they can't quiet us. Call us what they may, we're here, we're talking, we're networking, we're spreading ideas and some of us are even making money out of it. Even at the same time as having children! And I believe - because I have to - that it's only going to get louder. The Hotel Internet has a LOT of rooms.


  1. Well said. I agree that many people got cross about the article because it made our heckles rise up on the back of our necks and our internal dragon roar for blood. (well, it did here and I don't think I'm especially unique).

    Only since starting blogging have I had to "describe" myself in a few words for sidebars etc and the current SAHM and Wife role makes me squirm. I initially put on my blog that when I write that a little bit of my soul dies but I changed the wording for fear of offending anyone.

    Why? My blog is my room and my place. I think I'm going to change it back.

    Because its true. When I say those words a bit of my soul does die. Because whilst my family are marvellous, wonderful etc etc, yadda yadda yadda. I am so, so, so much more than that.

    Can't we just be Women Who Blog, Because EVERY mother I know is so much more than just that aspect of her life and majority of the bloggers I read who are mothers bring much more to my life through there writing than just tales from the kitchen-sink.

    MD x

  2. That's interesting what you say about how sidebar bios force you to reduce yourself down to labels. Looking back over my bio on twitter, Facebook etc. I see that 'mother' generally comes first. And I haven't found it particularly restricting, because I guess other mothers interested in similar things find me through my bio. But at the same time, I completely understand what you mean. We are much more. And how many men put 'father' as the first word in their bio?

  3. Thank you for this insightful and illuminating exploration of the ongoing controversy over "mommy bloggers." I especially appreciate your distinction between "eccentric" men and "brainless" mothers.

  4. Thanks Elizabeth for writing this, and thanks Gappy for posting on this topic! I'd assumed from the title that Spilt Milk was a 'mummy blog' and about babies as that, so hadn't looked at it much. (not that I don't like to read this kind of blogs, I do! But I had too many on my reader already). I'm glad I looked again - I love it. It really does show how a woman can write about her experience without compelling readers to see her just as a woman or a mother. You're making the experience of being a daughter and a mother mainstream. I like this about your blog.

  5. I loate the term mummy/mommy blogger and I go to great pains to not refer to myself as that. I put a badge on my blog Yesterday Saying that I'm an Australian mummy blogger. It's scaring me and I can't wait to get home so I can delete it. But why? I think I'm ashamed. I'm not sure why, it's not because I should be doing something else, like looking after the kids; I think it's because I want to be thought of as a woman with a brain, with interests and talents outside of my role as mother. Hmmm

  6. pigeon holes suck, i refuse to climb in them. People cant put you in them if you don't let them.