Most people really don’t like mummy bloggers, do they? By this I don’t mean that the latter are facing intolerance on a daily basis. It’s not as though there are crowds lining up with pitchforks outside Mumsnet Towers (having said that, I’m not sure whether that’s even a real building). Anyhow, I just think that, if you asked most people what they thought of mummy bloggers, those who bothered to have opinions at all would not be expressing positive ones.
You could say it stands to reason. To the outside observer, mummy bloggers are like Private Eye’s Polly Filla, only with less successful writing careers. They’re whingey middle-class moaners, who think their children are the centre of the universe and that everyone else should be gripped by the trials and tribulations of parenthood. They write whiney posts about potty training, behaviour management, cake baking, childcare guilt and cleaning products. They even write whiney posts about whining. Narcissists of the hearth, they’re unable to see beyond the domestic sphere and engage with what really matters. What’s more, they’re so self-obsessed that they’re even aware that this is going on (in case you didn’t check – why ever not? – all of the above links lead to posts written by me. I’m so vain, I’m pretty damn certain this post is about me).
I have been a mummy who blogs for almost a year now. My bloggiversary is 26 March, hence I’m running out of time for all those “most brilliant new blogger” awards.
Ahem, where was I? Yes, I’ve been blogging for almost a year and I have come to realise that there are a great deal of things that are annoying about mummy bloggers and the mummy blogging “scene”. The first is that loads of mummy bloggers are more popular than me (my highest ever Tots 100 ranking is 251. Not that I have ever looked, or indeed cared. That was just a random guess). The second is that mummy blogging is way more cut-throat and competitive than mummy bloggers want it to look (or at least it is to competitive people, of which I am not one, obviously. That Tots 100 thing? Don’t even know it exists. Someone else must have hacked into my blog and put the badge there). The third is that mummy bloggers write about boring stuff, that is, family stuff, which is by definition boring (except when it’s my family, who are by turns heartrendingly plucky and utterly hilarious). And the fourth? The fourth is that if you have enough time on your hands – or even if you don’t (you might just be avoiding unloading the washing, as I am totally not doing right now) – you can sit around picking out various mummy blogger “types” and quietly dying inside as you realise that, in one way or another, you represent all of them:
- the one attempting a cunning double bluff by writing endless posts about what a rubbish mum she is (no, I’m not self-deprecating and overly critical – I really am rubbish)
- the one who thinks any and every family mishap is a classic comedy moment in the making (personally, I do this a lot in relation to my kids throwing up. Guess we all have our specialisms)
- the one who confuses “thinking sad thoughts” with “needing to over-share to the extent that she’s now thinking of ways to get on a witness protection scheme so that a new identity will be created for her” (… cough …)
- the one who just rants about her in-laws all the time (not me, that one. I deleted all of those. Not that they ever existed)
- the one who’s just in it for free stuff (although to be fair, that Ecover washing liquid lasted ages)
- the one who’s got caught up in some endless meta-circle of hell and just blogs about blogging about blogging about blogging about blogging (note to self: must write a blog about that, plus a follow-up)
The thing is, though, all of these annoyances are kind of specific to actually being a mummy blogger. It’s insider stuff. Hell, it might even just be me. Why, quite frankly, anyone else should feel affronted is quite beyond me. The average mummy blog will not be appearing on a screen near you unless you want it to be. If the mere possibility of people you don’t know being dull and self-indulgent is so disturbing in and of itself, how on earth do you cope with humanity in general?
And yet it seems that mummy blogging is a special case. Merely existing, even outside of other people’s virtual space, is enough to cause offence. You just shouldn’t be. Or rather, you should, but you need to keep quiet about it. Today @TheRealSGM highlighted – and wrote a cracking response to – an article which accused bloggers who “only focus on their roles as mothers” of producing blogs which “perpetuate gender stereotypes and generalize female behaviour”. Such bloggers are apparently creating “a step back for feminism”. Silly them. Didn’t they realise that if you’re not yet living the post-feminist dream, the most progressive thing to do is to sort of pretend that you are?
I suspect that most people who dislike mummy blogs don’t do so on feminist grounds. They’re just unhappy with the idea of silly mummies wittering on about their pathetic lives and making a big deal out of day-to-day domestic crap like PND, miscarriage, breastfeeding, all that useless “wimmin’s stuff” about which “we” don’t want to hear. Even so, it doesn’t surprise me to see mummy blogging also being attacked for not being feminist enough. In many ways it feels quite fitting given where feminism is right now. If mummy blogs are feminist at all, they’re a bit second wave, aren’t they? A bit too focused on motherhood and domestic life, as though that defines womanhood itself. And while, for some of us, it still does – regardless of where choice comes into it – motherhood and childcare are perceived by some feminists to be self-indulgent, done-to-death, middle-class issues. Last year, writing in the Independent, Laurie Penny asked “When did feminism narrow its horizons so that the absolute maximum we’re prepared to fight for is the rights of a minority of women to be admitted into a sexist labour market whilst managing the school run on the side?” I was not aware of feminism having narrowed its horizons in this way (not least because of the broad range of global feminist issues discussed by mummy bloggers). All the same, if a minority of women are not entitled to have some space in which to rant about the minutiae of domestic life – and the relatively minor inequities of having to be the one who does the school run – then feminism’s even more narrow than that. Part of the whole point of second-wave texts such as The Women’s Room was to show that women’s voices aren’t listened to because their experiences are understood to be generic and irrelevant. Childcare and domestic labour merely provide a backdrop to supposedly real life and real experience, which are considered to be male. Marilyn French might have focused solely on the lives of privileged middle-class women, but her broader point still stands. As soon as you start claiming that women who share recommendations for organic baby food are “letting down” feminism, you’re suggesting their experience is subordinate to some greater quest for validity, a quest upon which no cis heterosexual man has ever had to embark.
Cringe-making as the title itself may be, mummy blogs are varied in their approach and outlook, even if for many the main focus is family and domestic life. I love some blogs, others set my teeth on edge. Most, I’ll be honest, I haven’t looked at yet (there are too many). But I see them all caught between two forms of sexism – the first, old-style sexism, which just demands that mummies shut up because they’ve nothing useful to say, and the second, a new form, which mistakes equality for asking women to downplay those aspects of their lives which appear too gender stereotypical. None of this is fair (although obviously not as unfair as me never getting on the longlist for any mummy blogger awards. They’re all so incapable of recognising genius busy discussing the issues that truly matter to them).