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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mediate Gender: Performing New Momism in the Blogosphere (Part 1)

Blogging has gained incredible popularity in the past few years. According to Blogpulse.com there are over 160 million blogs as of April 2011. These blogs range in topic from evangelical Christian beliefs to the economic conditions and everything in between. However, there is one blog genre that is gaining more popularity than any other genre: mommy blogging (Nowson and Oberlander, 2006). Mommy bloggers primarily write about their family, children, and life experiences. They often also include topical posts about cooking, crafting, cleaning, or other traditional women's roles; however, these topical blogs are generally listed under different genres. Many have also said how topical mommy blogs contribute to Douglas and Michael's (2004) concept of "new momism”.

Put simply new momism is the idea that motherhood is so demanding that no person can perform it perfectly. Many mommy blogs present life as perfect. These mothers have perfect children, perfect husbands, and perfect homes. However, there is also a trend to represent motherhood as a chaotic mess that cannot be performed at all without resentment on the mother's part. The purpose of this paper is to discuss how many mommy bloggers react to these opposing ideas and relate mommy blogging to West and Zimmerman's (1987) theory of doing gender and Ridgeway and Correll's (2004) theory about gender as a structure of society. While many mommy blogs either contribute to or resist new momism through extreme representations of motherhood there are blogs that perform "radical acts" by finding balance in their representations of motherhood.

HISTORY OF MEDIATING GENDER

Blogging began almost immediately after the Internet was created. These forums were generally limited to people who had mastered computer coding languages and typically discussed technology and because there were few women in the technology field at the time the infant blogosphere was mainly inhabited by men. However, in the late 1990s three companies (livejournal.com, blogger.com and opendiary.com) were founded which brought blogging to the common person. These sites allowed anyone to set up an account and blog with little or no knowledge of coding. Within a few years women began creating personal blogs, or online diaries. These blogs focused on the lives of the individuals. Soon communities began to develop and in 2005 BlogHer was founded in response to the question "Where are all the women bloggers?" (BlogHer, About BlogHer). In there first conference in 2006, women bloggers from all around the country gathered to discuss the issues women bloggers face. During one of the forms a participant proclaimed if women "stopped blogging about themselves they could change the world" (Lopez, 2007:730).

This response is typical of many individuals’ perceptions of mommy blogging. West and Zimmerman (1987) argue that gender is scripted. Men and women perform their roles much like actors on a stage. When a person breaks his or her assign role then there is backlash against that individual until either the gender role changes or the person performs the gender role again. According to Lopez (2007) much of this backlash occurred because women were attempting to place motherhood in the public sphere. "Motherhood is commonly viewed as belonging squarely within the private sphere and successful, strong men do not air their dirty laundry in public, so to speak, mommy bloggers did not fit into this equation and were thus criticized for their transgression" (p. 731).

Mommy blogger's response to this criticism started a new movement in the blogosphere. Blog author, Alice Bradley, and attendant to the 2006 BlogHer conference, responded by stating, "Mommy blogging is a radical act" (Lopez, 2007:730). In her opinion mommy blogging was changing the traditional representation of women. "We’re redefining the roles with our blogs. The messages we get about motherhood typically either comes [sic] to us in sanitized or idealized form (television shows, magazine articles) or sensationalized (newspapers)" (p. 732). Mommy blogging is not about presenting the sensational, perfect life of motherhood that is seen on television and in the media. It is about presenting motherhood as it really is. It is about the diapers and the messes and the husbands that can't quite do anything right.

Works Cited

2 comments:

  1. MORE!

    Also- please don't ever let me become a "mommy blogger." Although, sadly, I think I am one. Damn!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh Sarah, you are one, but don't worry, it's not a bad thing. Trust me. I'll post more tomorrow.

    ReplyDelete