And then the “Mommy” Bloggers Win

by ciaran on March 15, 2010 · 32 comments

Last week I got a call from a reporter writing an article for the New York Times. We chatted briefly. She wanted to confirm a quote from me, something I’d mentioned while paneling with Stephanie Schwab, Stefania Butler and Amie Adams at Mom 2.0. I was flattered. Many of my friends were also quoted in the article.

Not everyone was so happy when the article came out.

The complaint asserted by more than few people, was that the article was condescending. That it belittled mom bloggers, despite (curiously) the fact the the author herself is one of them. Many women read the title of the NY Times article as a judgement. “Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy. I’m Too Busy Building My Brand” - my (and everyone else’s) emphasis on the “too”. In an era of epic female self loathing over the unattainable goal of Supermom, that one word was enough to douse the entire article in gasoline. Throw in a quote from a mom whose spouse considers her blogging an “expensive hobby” and we have ignition. Is this controversy real? Or manipulated? It’s easy to predict the reaction to such fightin’ words.

Posts have ensued – angry posts, some of which you can find listed on The Secret is in the Sauce website. In fact there is a whole facebook group dedicated to speaking out about this article.

My take on it was different.

Personally, I found other points of the article more interesting, and oddly, inspiring. History-in-the-making inspiring.

Central to the story is Tiffany Romero of The Secret is In the Sauce and her “Bloggy Boot Camp”. Tiffany is described in the article as:

“A summer-camp director from Los Angeles, she steered the proceedings with the good-natured sass of a sorority social chairwoman and the enthusiasm of a, well, summer-camp director. (She went barefoot for much of the day and said “You guys!” a lot.)”

The article also makes reference to women “splayed” at laptops, sipping breakfast cocktails from brightly colored “plastic sippy cups”. Splayed and Sippy Cups. Alliterative. Begging the question:  What kind of business model is this? Hardly the sort to take seriously? Women who go barefoot, who splay, who drink from sippy cups? And yet, like Google, Zappos, and Facebook whose quirky, unconventional cultures are inseparable from their corporate success, Tiffany Romero is a success. A true role model to many.

Make no mistake, at this moment scores of parents are clamoring for their kids to gain entry into the summer camp that sorority social Tiffany runs. It’s one of the oldest, most successful, and most respected camps in the highly competitive LA market. This summer camp is a thriving business that allows Tiffany the time to run her blog empire and spend scads of time with her kid. She is the modern Superwoman.

If I wanted to look for it, I’m sure I could find plenty to object to in this article. However, I choose not to. This argument is not going anywhere.  I’m not fond of the title of the piece and feel my lunch coming up at the characterization of Tiffany, but I’m going with a quote from Gandhi, that puts it all in a positive light.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win”

Traditional media, marketing, and business professionals are clearly having a problem with the rise of social media. Moms are an easy target. Straw dog easy. The mom blogger community is a large and diverse one. It’s easy to pick fights from within, to stir up controversy, to pour some gas and light a match. We don’t need another conflicted author from the NYTimes to whip us into a frenzy about new media vs old and working motherhood. As mom bloggers pass from the “make fun of” stage to the “fight” stage you can expect more of this. But it will get better.

There is no question in my mind that mom bloggers, perhaps as part of a larger force of social change, will “win” in the end. Mom bloggers are too prolific, prominent and influential to ignore. Mom bloggers are a modern, dynamic force. Don’t believe it? Take a look at this impressive list of things that mom bloggers are doing, compiled by Liz Gumbinner of Mom 101.

Feeling slighted by the NYTimes? Surely a sign that mom bloggers (and the 23 million women who engage with them, according to the article) are doing something right. I raise my brightly colored plastic sippy cup in a toast of congratulations.

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lolita 03.15.10 at 10:57 am

I couldn’t agree more. Tiffany is a Superwoman and the NY Times piece is just another nod to the power of moms online.

2 Whitney 03.15.10 at 10:59 am

Great piece, Ciaran. The quote from Gandhi is too perfect. :) I’ll admit I didn’t react to the article in the generous way you have.

The quotes from other Mom bloggers, inspirational for sure. But I found the author’s entire tone pretty condescending. Comments like “so-called Mommy bloggers” and the tutu-tutu tutorial made it pretty apparent that she feels disdain for the whole community, IMO. It’s all about word choice.

I read the piece but haven’t read many reactions other than short responses on Twitter so I do know I’m not alone in my feelings.

I think what stings the most is that it’s coming from another working Mom.

Anyway… I say bring it. I just love your analogy. We’re beyond the laughing stage and now we’re fighting. We will win.

3 Kami 03.15.10 at 11:03 am

I wasn’t completely offended by the article but I was mildly annoyed and felt that moms who blogged were definitely being conveyed as silly. I can be silly. Sometimes I’m even silly on my blog. But for those of us who are pouring our hearts and souls out for anyone to read (and hopefully comment on in a constructive, yeah, I’ve been there too kinda way) it’s not cool to be characterized by the NYT as, well, ridiculous. They need to start coming around. They need to take notice of women who mom and blog and work even as a collective force to be reckoned with. Because I think we’re pretty effing awesome. And so do the “other mom bloggers (and the 23 million women who engage with them, according to the article).” Don’t you? :)

4 Nap Warden 03.15.10 at 11:12 am

I was going to write my take on it…now I don’t have to. Couldn’t agree with you more!
“Traditional media, marketing, and business professionals are clearly having a problem with the rise of social media.” Exactly…They know we’re here, and it scares them. The biggest thing I took away from the article is “the 23 million women who engage with them”. Calling that a force is an understatement.

5 Cheryl 03.15.10 at 11:23 am

Well said, Ciaran. Definitely feeds into the lack of respect for the job of Mom. For sure there are bigger battles to be waged, and mom bloggers are just the women to do it.

6 Melanie 03.15.10 at 11:25 am

Great take. I’m not a “mommy blogger,” but I think you guys are awesome. I read several fantastic blogs by parents and I couldn’t care less what the NYT says.

It reminds me of what Gary Vaynerchuck says about Twitter. It’s great that people belittle it. That means you’re way ahead of them.

7 jennifer klein 03.15.10 at 11:30 am

You are so right about all of this. Especially unconventional business models!

Have to say though, I’m certainly not in this for the money. But I’m in it for the experience. If something good happens from it all, that’s all I care about!

8 Kirsten 03.15.10 at 11:33 am

Ciaran this has been my favorite take on the NYT piece yet. I love that you find a way to push us forward from the (justified) Indignant Blogger position. It’s almost like what our moms used to tell us on the playground – they’re only mean to you because they’re jealous of your *______* (fill in the blank) (“way to have it on your termsl” would be the blank in this instance.) Great post!!!

9 Andrea 03.15.10 at 11:36 am

Ciaran, thanks for putting an alternative view out there. I agree with you – I found it exciting. I understand why others have taken a different view – and I get it – but I thought it was a good piece with good information. My 2 cents.

10 Cindi @ Moomettes Magnificents 03.15.10 at 11:49 am

I couldn’t agree more with you & well said. As a Baby Boomer I marvel at the opportunities that blogging and the internet have brought to moms. It enables women to stay home yet provides not only a creative outlet but also a chance to perhaps add extra income for their family. Such wasn’t the case when my girls,now 22 and 27 were growing up. No internet yet (not created!) so I had to work PT outside the home. Tiffany & SITS are providing a great entrepreneurial service to empower not only young women, but Boomers such as myself. Boomers will be seeking second careers after retirement. Pass that sippy cup to this Granny Nanny.

11 Kelly@Childhood 03.15.10 at 12:13 pm

Well said! I wish I had written this myself. The quote from Ghandi certainly put things in perspective. *raises her brightly colored sippy cup in barefoot solidarity*
Cheers!

12 mom101 03.15.10 at 12:18 pm

You’re a better woman than I, Ciaran!

Like Kami, I wasn’t offended. I was just “mildly annoyed” – which I expressed in the headline of my post. If the point the author wanted to make i that the patriarchal model of business is giving way to something new, and that now super successful women are gathering on their own terms, where bare feet are okay and babies in tow are smiled upon, then DAMMIT why didn’t she make that point? That would be a great piece!

Instead she (or her editor) pulled specific examples, well written and alliterative as they were, intended to give rise to mockery–followed by some mentions of blogging successes that almost seem as if they were from another piece. My best guess is that the author actually has a whole ton of respect for the momblogging community – but maybe not for that particular conference.

Am I crazy here?

I guess when it comes down to it, I was hoping we’d have gotten over the …and then they laugh at you stuff five years ago.

13 ciaran 03.15.10 at 1:08 pm

I don’t think you are crazy at all. You weren’t one of the ones who were crazy mad. I actually read your article *out loud* to someone, I enjoyed it so much. Well said.

I think that the author had the impossible task of choosing lunchtables. I too would have rather seen an article like you describe about the way business models are changing OR an explanation of how, why etc she did not like this particular community of mom bloggers (hence the mocking). In the end it doesn’t really matter though, does it? The Style section gets it’s weekly portion of snark, the author plays it safe on the fence, the community gets to discuss and meanwhile the awesome list of mom bloggers doing real and wonderful things grows and flourishes. I think we are past the make fun of stage. There is no turning back now. 23 million moms have already been infected ;-)

14 Michele McGraw (ScrappinMichele) 03.15.10 at 4:10 pm

Excellent post. I did not love the headline at all. But then I also know that headlines are meant to grab your attention to get you to read something and that headline did just that.

I did think that Tiffany got the raw end of the deal on the comments about her and just the fact that they didn’t link to her, but other than that. I was not offended. Was it the best article ever written about mom bloggers? No! The article was intended as a piece for the life & style section so you are going to get a softer piece, not a hard core investigative article.

I got a more positive vibe from the overall article. It said to me that we are paving the way for a new stay-at-home Mom who CAN and does build herself as a brand. And that we take this very seriously and we get together to take our blogs up a notch and network. We are connecting in ways that are different from our mothers and grandmothers. I am so excited about the new opportunities for us.

15 Sarah 03.15.10 at 8:19 pm

As I’ve said about 6 times since Saturday night — this is the last gasp of the dying medium (newspapers) as they try to attack the competition (us).

So thanks for saying it so well — we win!

16 Suz Broughton 03.15.10 at 9:10 pm

Absolutely right on, Ciaran! I have been reading all day about the article and its ensuing backlash and haven’t found anything that expresses correctly what I think is a more complicated issues than: “We’re not just moms! Don’t call us mom bloggers!”
I was thinking of writing something tonight, but now I feel I don’t need to make the effort, this was all I had to say.
Thank you and cheers!

17 Susan (5 Minutes for Mom) 03.16.10 at 4:02 am

It’s great to hear your perspective… I was wondering what you thought about it.

I love this quote:
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win”

Brilliant.

Personally I felt the article wasn’t as bad as many previous ones, but I didn’t think it fairly portrayed the Mom blogging community.

I’m going to continue to ignore the fight and focus on that quote.

18 mom101 03.16.10 at 8:11 am

Michele,

Keep in mind not all bloggers are stay at home moms.

19 April 03.16.10 at 10:21 am

As mom101 pointed out, not all bloggers are stay-at-home moms, and I still struggle with whether or not I can actually characterize myself as a mommy blogger because I don’t fit that mold. But in the end, I really am a mommy blogger because I talk about my life as a mother more than anything else.
I love your take on this, Ciaran, and I completely agree. And I’m cynical enough to believe the NY Times editors knew exactly what they were doing to get their brand into the mommy blogosphere.

20 Julie Kenney 03.16.10 at 10:23 am

You are so amazing!!!! I love this blog post and your thoughts. XOXOXOXO!

21 kim/hormone-colored days 03.17.10 at 6:51 am

What @mom101 said. Comment #12

22 Sue @ Laundry for Six 03.17.10 at 7:50 am

This actually gave me a chill. It’s so well articulated! This thought has been swilling around in my head but I have not been able to put it into words. The quote from Gandhi hits the nail squarely on the head. Well done.

23 Lee of MWOB 03.17.10 at 12:02 pm

“Personally, I found other points of the article more interesting, and oddly, inspiring. History-in-the-making inspiring.”

I’m with you on this feeling. I felt it too. I think you already know how much your post resonated with me. Thank you for your crisp, smart words.

24 kgirl 03.18.10 at 4:21 am

I found the tone of the article to be condescending, belittling and quite frankly, nothing new. The only thing that surprised me was that the author was a blogger, and while I won’t hold her accountable for the headline, it did mimic the tone of the entire piece. We don’t need to give those that don’t understand more reason to roll their eyes at us, and to me, while it’s admirable and preservationist of you to find a positive message here, I kind of feel like it’s along the lines of reclaiming something negative so that it can no longer hurt us – the equivalent of us women calling each other bitches, let’s say.
But please understand that my inability to claim this as positive stems from my love and great sense of protection towards our community. We know that either you get it or you don’t. We don’t need to change anybody’s mind, and articles like this won’t do it anyway.

25 Holly Fink 03.18.10 at 4:29 am

Such a good response – thank you. The article has certainly got us all talking and coming together.

26 Donna 03.18.10 at 7:46 am

Brava, Ciaran. You’re right – we will win in the end. :)

27 earnestgirl 03.18.10 at 8:27 am

i just wanted to raise a sippy cup to you in salute of your even-handed and thoughtful response.

the article and it’s accompanying hideous graphics made the knee-jerk response to implied insult a swift and easy one. it is good to see the conversation evolving. another proof that this culture they (& i do believe, as you point out, that the author is not the only one with culpability here) depict is in fact deep and varied and very, very articulate.

28 Erica 03.18.10 at 11:14 am

I love your focus on what’s positive in a mostly negative article. I consider myself a “dilettante” mom blogger. Not great at it, no time to build a following, let alone a brand, but it’s just one of many creative outlets that I love to do and that keep me sane and using my brain while trapped in the Sandwich Generation of caring, caring, caring for others. Not to mention it’s great social networking. I’ve lived all over the world and friends and acquaintances who I don’t have time to stay in touch with regularly pop in with comments and praise about things they’ve read on my blog. Just as there are puff pieces in print newspapers, there is room in the blog world for fluffy posts, meaty posts, comedy, tragedy, technology, science, politics and everything in between.

29 magpie 03.18.10 at 12:29 pm

well said, and i love your Gandhi quote.

30 Ana Lilian 03.18.10 at 9:23 pm

We have won…we definitely have. I really believe that by now our influence is undeniable, and the only thing these type of snarky, condescending articles achieve is to bond us closer together in one voice.
Loved the quote. Thanks, Ciaran!

31 Rock and Roll Mama 03.19.10 at 10:33 pm

WORD. I got all riled up for a few days, then realized hw much energy I was spending tilting at windmills. I LOVE the quote and the view from 30,000 feet view- when you take a look at the shifting media ground, your take is spot on. BRAVA, my dear, brava.

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