I attended the ‘Mumsnet Blogfest’ last Saturday. I wanted to find out about blogging. I wanted to meet people who blog for a living or who blog to market their business. I wanted to think about whether I should be blogging too. I wanted to pick up tips.
I wasn’t disappointed. i am sure that, in time, I would have started a blog. However, something incredibly inspiring happened at Blogfest. It has catapulted me into immediate action and this first blogpost (sorry if it is bad – I’m a novice).
The final panel session erupted into a frenzy of confusion, anger, feisty exchange and emotion. At the time, I was most uncomfortable. Indeed the mood in the auditorium was palpably edgy. The audience were variously oohing, ahhing, cursing, squirming and cringing, wishing the session to stop (as indeed the projected Twitter feed had). As a University Lecturer, I’ve been present in thousands of such lecture-theatre-type sessions and never once, have I experienced such crowd-energy.
At the time, I felt regret. The subject matter that had sparked such unhappiness was the panel title “Can Mummy Bloggers be Feminist?”. Feminism is dear to my heart and I’ve devoted many years to encouraging my students that it should not be regarded as a dirty word. The debate started badly and ended even more badly, and I felt sadness that a good number of the audience (as evidenced by simultaneous tweets, sounds (already mentioned) and afterwards more tweets and blogs) seemed to have had their worst fears about feminism confirmed. This was no fault of the panel members, all of whom, had they been given the chance, would clearly have had interesting things to say. Neither was it the fault of the audience. Even the session title, which many have blogged was an unfortunate title (and I agree – but more on this below), was not to be blamed. There was something else going on and it is this, I think, that is fascinating, though not surprising.
Many have since remarked that they were angered by the title before entering this final session. Some in the audience would identify with the “Mummy Blogger” identity, some would reject this identity and feel annoyed that it may be attributed to them simply because they are a Mother and a Blogger, some would resent the fact that we were discussing feminism or something they thought trivial, or something so insulting, or, that anybody would suggest that “Mummy Blogging” (whatever that is) could not be feminist (whatever this is) – or was inherently feminist. This title could be objected too on so many conflicting levels …. A less inflammatory title (perhaps) could have been “The ‘Mummy Blogger’ and Contemporary Feminism” – at least this is one that has no embedded values. Some have blogged that the issue didn’t need discussing. I disagree. But then I would – I have written similar academic articles about the “mumpreneur” label – investigating the reasons why some people love it and others hate it ((and the issues are similar)(
But a less inflammatory title wouldn’t have sparked the furore of fantastic debate and marvellous blogs which must have inspired people to join the blogging fraternity (as I have now done). Many of us (bloggers and non-bloggers) left that room inspired to speak about both what had happened, and, our personal relationship with feminism. I have loved reading the tweets and blogs on hashblogfest (where’s the hashtag on an AppleMacbook?) – thank you all.
My personal summary of the root causes of the arguments is four-fold (and some of this has been said in the blogs that I have read already). First, and most basically, the key terms were not defined (and thus people were talking/thinking at cross purposes). Second, any discussion of feminism, even amongst feminists, will encounter disagreement as there is not one ‘feminism’ but many ‘feminisms’. The overall objective of these feminisms is arguably to achieve gender equality – but there is disagreement over how this should be done – or what the desired end-result might be. This disagreement is healthy and inevitable – feminist movements exist all over the world, amongst all sectors of societies, across cultures, ethnicities, ages, social categories and identities. There will be different perspectives. Third, we are subject to dominant discourses that suggest that we are beyond the need for feminism (see Angela McRobbie on “post-feminism”). And fourth, as other bloggers have pointed out, any label that has the identity ‘mother’ in it – (“Mummy Blogger”, “Mumpreneur”), suffers from discrimination because in our culture (and many others) the ‘mother’ identity is not highly valued viz a viz other identities. Indeed, in the world of work and employment (for example), motherhood is often the identity that dare not raise its head. Mummy Bloggers and Mumpreneurs have the audacity to refuse to be silent about this identity – and good for them. Perhaps in time, through this visibility, their collective activity and visibility will begin to destabilise the structures that constrain them. There are many disagreements amongst feminists on this.
To return to my starting point. I attended the Mumsnet Blogfest to think about blogging. I’ve just started a blog and written my first post. I listened to interesting people and shared a room with a personal favourite celebrity (Jo Brand). Whilst the final panel session was uncomfortable (and how much more so for the panel members), having enjoyed the resulting debate, I am no longer disappointed that it happened.
Thank you Mumsnet and to all involved.