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Friday, October 21, 2011

The Day C. Jane Came Clean

Last night I had a rare and beautiful opportunity. C Jane Kendrick of the blog C JANE ENJOY IT came to my class and spoke about her experience blogging. The day before she came she tweeted something that made me nervous,

Yeep... as many of you know I use the term "mommy blogger" a lot. I love the term. I think that can be empowering. Mommy blogs are a radical action, which endows women with the ability to embrace the impossible act of motherhood and be OK with failure. I had just taught the class all about "mommy blogs". How was I going to pull this one off...

Luckily, I found that C Jane and I have a similar view, although our semantics are very different. Mommy blogs that are not an accurate representation of motherhood (either in a utopian or dystopian way) are not empowering. What is empowering, however, is C Jane. She stated her purpose as a blogger as, "to portray a Mormon woman who doesn't conform to the cultural stereotype and is OK with it. I only say that mission because it is my mission in real life." I get that. I've lived in Provo for the past few years. Mormon women often present themselves as perfect, or at least feel pressure to be perfect from the world around them. It is a classic example of "New Momism" in action. I have seen women who are feel pressure to conform to the social stereotypes in Utah County. They feel guilty because they do not fit into this picture perfect representation of how Mormon women are "supposed to be". It can consume them.

"My goal is always to represent myself as a see myself. That is always my goal." She wants to be "an authentic woman inside her own culture". She sees many women in the blogosphere as inauthentic. They present their hoped-for selves, but either they either refuse to see or refuse to admit that there is anything wrong in their life. C Jane is going against these representations. For the most part she is getting support for it, however, there are always those that will disagree. When she began blogging these antagonists bothered her and it affected the way that she wrote. However, she claimed last night that, "I'm not scared of this [anymore]". She disabled comments on her blog and only allows people to email, Facebook, or tweet responses to her. This forces at least some sense of authenticity from her readers. Even when she does receive negative feedback she realized that it is not the amount of positive or negative feedback that indicates her effectiveness as a blogger. It is the amount of feedback. The more feedback she gets the more her posts resonates with people.

For many women in the Provo area going against their culture can equate to going against their faith. However, C Jane stated, "I have a core, strong testimony about the gospel, but I don't have a testimony of our culture." The culture and the faith are not the same. There is often slippage. That is why she helped found the Rooftop Concert Series, that is why she blogs, that is her message to the world. Just because you are an LDS woman doesn't mean that you have to be perfect. It doesn't mean that you have to submit yourself to the patriarchal order of our culture. "If we were all to live our religion, then there would be a lot more women who are far more empowered." As a mother she states that woman are not to, as is taught in the primary song, "give oh give away" until you are burnt out and useless (that last part is NOT in the song...). "The best approach to motherhood is to focus on yourself. What can I do so that I'm a happy mom? What can I do, for myself, so that I can give?" Focus on finding yourself first. Once you know who you are, what you need, and what you can handle you can help your family.

Perhaps this is why C Jane believes, "that my mission as a blogger is not the same as a mommy blogger." The balance of mommy bloggers is greatly weighted towards utopian mommy bloggers who present their lives perfectly. She views the term as something that corporations coined for marketing purposes. The commercialization has changed blogging from personal narrative and prose to the misleading personal presentations of womanhood. "There is such a temptation to present yourself as perfect online, it is... prevalent in female blogging," she stated, "Especially in the female realm, blogging has been disappointing."

C Jane, obviously, is not perfect. She is often misinterpreted or misconstrued in her writing or vloging. "I'm trying to give as much of me that is truth, but I can't give everything." All we see are fragments of who she is. She said of her followers, "It turns out that nobody really knows me." All they know is the digital representation of her that she portrays for them.

Thank you C Jane. Thank you for your honesty, both last night and on your blog. You are fighting an uphill battle for the representation of women in the blogosphere. You are not alone.

All quotes were taken from a lecture C Jane gave at BYU the night of October 20th, 2011.