Tengrain wrote me this great email and I asked him if I could share it:
I was really interested in your take on Blogher, I'm really glad you went and that you posted about your experience. I'm also sorry that it turned out not to be so empowering as much as a focus group.
When you and the ESC were talking about it a few months ago I went to the website to see what it was about. I did not get the sense of community about it, it struck me as being more of a trade show vibe (I've set up a few, participated in a few from both sides, so I kind of recognize trade shows when I see them). To me, the tell-tale phrase was "mommy blogger." It is not exactly that it is both sexist and condescending (though I suppose in some sense it is), but it smacked of the sort of micro-trends crap that marketing departments use to divide people up into personas that they can then create a narrative about and (allegedly) more accurately market to them. Soccer Moms comes to mind. (I have a sense of who a Mommy Blogger is, instinctively, but I wonder if there is a formal definition?)
I was frankly puzzled why you wanted to go, but I thought maybe you were being subversive, like infiltrating a Mary Kay show to set the bunnies free, like Opus the Penguin. Yes, you are a mother and a blogger, but you are not what I would think of as a "mommy blogger." But I digress.
The Tina Browns and Huffingtons of the world cannot see another perspective: it's about money. The web as a new distribution channel for advertising is extremely successful: low cost, distributed, scalable, green. In bad times, even the poor and broke still click on pages and that gives them money from their advertisers, just as it does in good times. You don't worry about union contracts, print costs, trucks, subscriptions, newsstand sales. The whole thing is simplified. And you know that if they could figure out a way to cut out the writers, they would. Oh, wait.***
Where Tina and Arianna fail is in the content realm. They know they need it to give readers compelling reasons to visit the sites and to see the ads. But they are not interested in content except as a means to an end. I think that the Daily Beast proves that point exceptionally well. What a load of crap. HuffPo is sliding into the sex sells route with pictures to titillate, inane quizzes, and so on; when it started it seemed editorially driven, but no more. The Beast has always been such a dog's dinner, just a mishmash of stuff of which something is always going to appeal so someone, but no coherent mission. Frankly, I'm amazed that it seems to be working.
The part that stands out to me in your post is the notion that mommy bloggers should band together and make demands of advertisers - yes, a self-selecting demographic should prove their existence to get an EndDust advertisement on each woman's blog, yes, that is the road to empowerment. I have a hard time believing that they actually told you this crap without bursting into laughter, and I have a hard time believing that you do not have at least one of their heads mounted on a plaque above the fireplace. I admire your control.
Anyway, as I said, I'm glad you went, and I wish it had turned out to be more of what you wanted.
I went in large part because it was a woman blogging convention in Chicago (reachable and because I have a friend there who can put me up, affordable) and it was held at a time when my children are with their dad. I applaud BlogHer for having on-site childcare available.
I won't be attending Netroots Nation because of the conflicts with childcare and scheduling and cost of travel.
It's important to remember what the fabulous Evil Slut Clique points out about BlogHer, that a:
stereotypical portrayal of both mothers and BlogHer members is offensive and sexist. Apparently there are only two categories of bloggers - mothers and 62-year-old men who write about the stock market. Apparently all Blogher attendees are women, all women are mothers, all mothers are strictly "mommybloggers", all mommy bloggers always have breastfeeding babies, and all breastfeeding mommybloggers want to bring their babies everywhere.
My friend Lisa wondered why women can't just blog on whatever we want? And she's right. Except that I spent two solid days hearing the message, and particularly and specifically in plenary session from the conference organizers, that blogging about certain mommy topics was valuable BECAUSE it attracted advertisers, which is what empowers women bloggers. That is a lie.
This statement from a BlogHer09 U of Chicago Magazine participant (last sentence) speaks volumes AND leaves me speechless:
This might not be the next sexual revolution, but I’m happy to be recognized for my purchase power, one free thumb drive at a time.
PS. Thanks to Rock and Roll Mama for her terrific post.
*** Dear Arianna Huffington -- Pay the writers, what Harlan Ellison says: