I read this blog today by the blogger Littlee and Bean about her thoughts about the term ‘mummy blogging’ and what it means for her ideas and her feminism. I found it very interesting indeed.
She talks about how mummy blogging has been an incredible force for good, and her agreement with another blogger Mummy Says, that it has given mums a voice, where they had no voice before. That the hidden lives of mums are suddenly out there for people to see like never before.
It made me think of the mass diary experiments of WWII and the voice of Housewife 49, Nella Last. In a good way.
I agree with her on this.
She also talks about the pressure she feels from certain areas of mummy blogging, when she finds herself comparing her life to other seemingly more perfect lives. She wonders if those perfect lives are perhaps not always what they appear to be. Perhaps, she wonders, they are produced by some kind of patriarchal pressure to conform to a certain way that mummy bloggers should be perceived. She also talks briefly about the pressures brought about by monetising blogs, which can lead to levels of conformity amongst mummy bloggers. Maybe.
She is, in her argument, very fair I think. Trying to balance out the negatives with positives, and not criticise anyone’s choices to do whatever they like with their own blog. As she says, your blog is your own space and one of the great delights of blogging is that you can do with it what you will. Although her question, ‘do we really do that?’ Is the one that refuses to go away. For me, anyway.
Do we really do what we like with our blogs, or are we conforming to some kind of stricture or standard or invisible (or maybe visible) set of rules or behaviours that bend what we would like to say out of its true shape, or which simply close our mouths completely?
She argues for grittier, realer examples of blogging and more diversity in the mummy blogging community.
I’ve been thinking about this all morning. I can’t tackle the whole feminist thing. I still haven’t got my head around it yet. But I was thinking about her plea for grittier, realer blogs.
For what it’s worth, because I’m interested, here are my thoughts.
I don’t know whether I’m even really qualified to comment on this at all for starters. I am not a mummy blogger in what I think of as its truest sense. Yes, I started blogging when my youngest child was born, but not because I wanted to share every delightful windy smile that crossed his little, chubby face. Mainly I started because I wasn’t going back to work, and I needed something to stop me from going insane.
My blog has always been a total rag bag of content. It has never been organised, prettied up, branded or made consumer friendly. I use the bare minimum of blogging tools. I don’t even tag my posts any more. I rarely, if ever, check my reader numbers. I write for me, and you. Whoever you are. If you’re there at all.
Apparently you’re supposed to write short, snappy posts with lots of shiny pictures. It helps if your blog is themed in some way.
FAIL. Although maybe I can class mine as a whinging blog. That’s pretty consistent.
I’m lucky that in my long blogging life I have had purple patches where the sunshine of approval has entered my dim corner of the internet, despite my rambling diatribes. I was once interviewed by the glorious India Knight, don’t you know? (I do not do autographs)
Some very lovely, very influential, very creatively clever people that I sort of revere sometimes stop by in a bored moment and find a modicum of entertainment from my writing. When they pass by I feel like I should bake them a cake or something. Or at least throw bleach down the metaphorical blogging toilet.
I decided after a brief flirtation with the idea of going all out for international blogging stardom, that I really couldn’t be arsed. Writing for the man, or the masses, or in the hope that the ghost of Virginia Woolf might give me a thumbs up in passing just isn’t my thing. I am resolutely an under the radar sort of person I think.
Mumsnet sometimes pick up my blog posts, when I can be bothered to put them on Twitter, which I can’t always, even though I try and write every day.
The whole Mumsnet issue made me think about whether I am in fact a mummy blogger. After all, they know these things and they feature some of my posts. I am a mum. I am a blogger. I am on the net. etc. I have, in the past, given thought to making my blog posts more Mumsnettish. Especially after I got invited to a Mumsnet Conference, which was a great honour, even though I couldn’t go because of childcare issues, ironically enough.
In the end I didn’t change anything. Because mainly I couldn’t be arsed. I do not disapprove of Mumsnet or any other blogging community. I’m just too lazy to sign up to a long term commitment. After four years in the Brownies I felt I’d done my stint at belonging.
The hat itched.
I have decided I do not define myself as a mummy blogger because I do not want to be defined as a mummy. I love being a mum, which is a surprise to myself and most of my hardcore readers I am sure, but it is not who I am.
If I define myself specifically as a mummy blogger, what do I do now that my oldest child is nearly an adult, and I feel I can write less and less about the children because, you know, their lives are their own business? What do I do when they leave home and become accountants and lion tamers? Do I define myself by their absence in my life?
I am myself, and part of who I am is a mummy, and a wife, and a daughter and a sister, and a woman etc. But mostly I am me, and the me that I am is complex and doesn’t want to write about whatever things a term might define me as, or worse, what I might limit myself to because I put myself in a box or a gang or a tribe that operates in a certain way. And the patriarchy can sod right off.
I’m not saying that if you are in a gang or tribe or box that it is wrong, by the way, and sometimes I really might want to come to a party your tribe throws, or hang out with some cool people who inhabit that particular box, but I don’t want to stay there if that’s alright with you, or even if it isn’t, actually.
For what it’s worth, I think there are two main problems with blogs full stop. Not just mummy blogs to be fair. The first is that pressure we put on ourselves to be brilliant all the time. ‘I cannot write about the fact that I want to stab little Johnny Jim Bob in the eye with a fork because he woke me eighteen times in the night, and it is only the smell of his darling baby head, and the fear of a life time of prison based lesbian sex that is keeping me on the right side of the law.’
I totally identify with that feeling, but you know what? We’d all feel less insanely stressed if we acknowledge the fact that, as my mother says: ‘Even the queen goes to the toilet, you know?’ and when my son says; ‘To pooh?’ my mother says: ‘Certainly.’
There is nothing shameful about real life. Life is not the Waltons, and even they had their fair share of misery.
The second problem, for me, is monetising a blog. You cannot test drive candy pink buggies with matching cup holders one minute and talk about your fucking mother in law the next. Not unless brands are getting much more tolerant than they used to.
I have seen the monetising of blogs I used to read and gone into mourning, as they become more corporate and shiny, and spend more and more time talking about home insurance, and the perfect winter lip, and less about how little Felicity threw up carrot chunks into the footwell of the car.
It’s not that I think home insurance is less entertaining than little Felicity’s carrot chunks (I do, actually), but if you are used to reading someone’s ‘real’ blogging voice, and then they start using their ‘ad’ voice, it all starts to go a bit wrong for me.
I don’t care if something is your ‘honest opinion’ if I can no longer hear your honest voice, and feel kinship with your honest life because you want me to buy this buggy, or this frock, or eat at this chain where you got a free meal. I just don’t.
It is like tuning into your favourite programme, only to find it has been replaced by wall to wall adverts.
There are a few notable, and excellent blogs that are exceptions to this rule, but on the whole, this is what I find compromises ‘real’ writing. I appreciate that some women make serious money from their blogs, and I am not denying that if this puts bread on the table, gives you a fantastic sense of satisfaction and allows you to be the Beyonce of mummy bloggers that this is a great thing. It’s just that I won’t be one of your readers I’m afraid. I’m sure you’re devastated by this.
You will get over it.
I do want to make clear that I am not saying that my blog is great because I don’t advertise M&S pants or kowtow to the man. I’m just saying that I think these things can stand in the way of ‘real women’s voices’, whatever that might mean.
I also acknowledge that my own words are hemmed in by certain self imposed rules that may well make my writing seem inauthentic in other peoples’ eyes. I don’t write much about my husband or his work, or my close family members, even when what happens in their lives massively impacts mine. There is a fine line to tread when putting your truth out there. You do need to make sure you’re not airing everyone else’s dirty laundry too, which can definitely make what I write seem less real. We all have things which make us edit our versions of reality.
And I’m definitely not better than mummy bloggers, or food bloggers, or celebrity bloggers or whatever other bloggers are out there inhabiting their own corner of the web. I couldn’t be this lazy and be better than anyone. I’m just myself, sharing my shit, pondering life, getting it wrong, muddling through.
Is that real enough?