Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Mommy Blogs, Marketization and why this Mother Outlaw will Never Contribute to a Half-Baked Sale of Her Feminist Soul (Part 1)

One of my favourite  feminist mother bloggers had   an interesting post the other day entitled “Bad pitches I’ve spared you from”.  Annie of Phd in Parenting addresses the oft-discussed issue in the mamasphere of how one should   react to corporate  pitches that are inappropriate to your blog or your audience.
I loved her transparent honesty in discussing this topic because it reflects my own concerns regarding the intentions for my  blog as a community building tool versus an outlet for “mommy marketization”.

In the groundbreaking collection of essays Mothering and Blogging: The Radical Act of the MommyBlog by MIRCI’s Demeter Press, several contributors also highlighted these same concerns.

In her chapter  Web 2.0, Meet the Mommy Bloggers” Ann Douglas parenting writer, discusses this  darker side of the “mamasphere” — how the influx of marketers and marketing make mothers compete against each other for a slice of the pie. This  pie is not just financial recompense, though, as she notes:
…social networking sites are able to attract hundreds of thousands of members who are willing to accept popularity — or even the promise of popularity — in lieu of cash payment for the content they provide to these sites. [...] This can, in turn, create an atmosphere of competition rather than cooperation between mothers.

Jen Lawrence,  formerly of MUBAR and now blogger at Dwell on These Things furthered this discussion in her  great chapter  Blog for Rent: How Marketing is Changing Our Mothering Conversations” , by addressing how the advent of the monetization movement  for mommy bloggers completely altered the dynamic between bloggers and readers, and among bloggers themselves. She includes one of my favourite analogies of all time, with respect to marketing and  mommy bloggers:
I think that blogging can be an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to building community, even if there are blog ads running down the sidebar. [...] But I don’t want blogging to become just another guerilla marketing technique. I don’t want to be invited to a friend’s home, only to discover I was really invited to a Tupperware party.

At MIRCI’s most recent conference in October this year , one of  my fellow feminist motherhood researchers, Andrea Doucet,  presented a paper entitled “Maternal Thinking in a Digital and Neo-Liberal Age: Mommy Blogging and the Blurring of Care, Work and Consumption”.
Her awesome presentation  was rooted in  Sara Ruddick’s  revolutionary work on maternal thinking and how this  feminist scholar’s  theories of care are being both expanded  and challenged by current  21st century mothering practices. Specifically,  Doucet’s paper discussed how maternal subjectivities are being altered by new social media and the rapid proliferation of “mommy blogging”. Doucet argued that  although this social medium can disrupt  the binaries of mothers’  paid and unpaid work , it  often remains firmly entrenced in notions of consumption  over care due to  the proliferation of  corporate sponsorships and marketing products being directed towards and accepted by  these bloggers. 

Of course, Doucet-and myself, too in this post -are not saying that women who are currently  the primary caregivers of their  children should not take advantage of additional sources of income that can be accomplished from their home base.  My own mother operated several small businesses-child care provider, house cleaner, and Tupperware salesperson, to name a few-while she was home with her young children.

However, in the  case  of "mommy blogs"- established as essentially  a virtual community of support for mothers-there is a concern about how  corporatism and commercialization are usurping an otherwise powerful   medium for women as mothers and social activists.

What remains most illuminating to me personally from Doucet’s presentation was her thought-provoking questions to the audience:
“ What happens to notions of  care when there is a constant commercialization of intimate life?"
“ How can 'mommy blogging' resist hegemonic forms of mothering and remain a radical act of maternal re-thinking?”

This Mother Outlaw is curious what others think about this issue?

Image credit: http://annetaintor.com/

1 comment:

  1. Great post Linn! Interesting points about public schools and corporate sponsorship...AND more interestingly the conference at York University last weekend...when I worked on campus I discovered that the university DOES NOT have any Coca Cola products on campus AT ALL - they have an exclusive agreement with Pepsi (in exchange for $$, of course)...but I still think this is bizarre...it's not a public "school" but it is a public university. AND the fact that they explore these issues in conferences and scholarship and yet Schulich and Pepsi run the show? FASCINATING STUFF! (though very depressing as well). Keep up the great work sister!