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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.

31 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting these comments. It's a great perspective to consider!

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  2. I severely dislike the term mommy blogger. Maybe because I am no longer a mommy. I am a mom. No more wiping noses... or other parts. No more diapers. After turning 5 babies, then toddler, into 5 kids- I am a mom, and I earned that name. And mom's blog too.

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  3. p.s. I meant to add, I am not so sure that people portray a fake perfect life as they are not wanting to burden others with the hard times. Before C Jane's sister was in the accident, I fell in love with her blog not b/c her life seemed perfect (although beautiful) but because it was uplifting and skipped the negative. Her blog helped me decide how I wanted to blog, which turned out to be sort of a "counting my blessings" type of blog. I was going through some VERY tough stuff and my blog, where I swore I wouldn't vent, helped me see the good in each day.

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  4. I would of loved to hear her speak! I really struggle sometimes with the utopian blogs, it can be so difficult to be an imperfect woman reading these entries about "perfect" life. Then I remember that almost everyone who blogs self edits.

    I admire CJane for being her own kind of LDS woman!

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  5. I love the part about having a testimony of the gospel but not the culture.

    On a related note, I'm loving the new "I'm a Mormon" campaign and how it's really trying to project a broader, more inclusive, and even "edgy" face of Mormons. So much better than those overly cheesy 1980s-era videos!

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  6. I am thankful for people like you who have the strength to speak out so that those of us that believe in the Gospel, but not the culture, don't feel so alone.

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  7. I agree with LoW. I hate the term "mommy blogger" because although I blog about my children and my family, I also blog about my life in general. And just because I happen to be a mom, it doesn't make me a "mommy blogger". I just love to write. It is therapuetic for me and helps me get it all out there. However, I don't try to be anything I'm not. I understand there are those who just want to be positive on their blog, and that's fine. I am real on my blog. It's real life, and I want to remember the hard times so that I appreciate the good times. I write about it all! And I love it.

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  8. It's been great to read through these comments! Thanks again David for your post write up.

    I'd like to address something LoW said about positivity vs. negativity because it comes up a lot in blogging. Blogging from a desire to write the experience blurs the line between what is positive and what is negative--meaning these experiences can not be something can be sifted from each other. When you desire to write from a genuine voice, there is only what you feel.

    I think blogs can have a huge range of emotion and feeling to them without content censorship. Those relying only on positivity to portray their lives are walking a dangerous line of being inauthentic. At some point, that's dishonesty too.

    And in the case of writing my sister's story, I have found the hard times can be just as beautifully communicated as the easy.

    Does that make sense?

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  9. Should read
    "meaning these experiences can not be sifted from one another"

    (I get nervous when I comment on someone else's blog...)

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  10. Thank you for this. I have always felt a disconnect with Utah County. I moved here 8 years ago from CA and still look around sometimes wondering how I ended up in the "twilight zone". I love being a member of the church but know I do not fit the classic mormon woman sterotype. It took me quite a while to know that was ok to be me.

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  11. @Delightful Domestic Science - Thanks for your comment. It's great to see some international perspective.

    @I am LoW - I use the term "mommy" kind of loosely. Perhaps, it's because even as a nearly 25 year old guy I still call my mother "mommy". I also heard a speaker once give a talk at church for Mother's Day where she related the story of Adam and Eve. She said that even before Eve had any children Adam declared that she was "The mother of all living". Thank you for your perspectives on counting blessings in blog form.

    @Creole Wisdom - It was a treat to hear her speak. One of the highlights of my schooling.

    @Rixa - I loved that comment. I've often felt the same way about the culture here in Provo.

    @Sometimes Molly - I've talked to many people about this experience and I keep hearing, over and over, "I am not alone!"

    @Sarah Good for you! Empower women by being real!

    @ C Jane - Do you realize that I've had more people view this blog today than in the past year? Yeah, you rock.

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  12. @Shelly It is okay to be you. You are unique because of who you were in the pre-mortal life and who you are now. Embrace the uniqueness.

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  13. Ahh yes, but Adam didn't say, "You are the MOMMY of all things."

    I agree with LoW, it's a term reserved for a specific time in life. And I dare say it's a sacred term.

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  14. I mean, "the Mommy of all living."

    Stop. C. Jane. Stop commenting.

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  15. No, please don't! I love this idea bout "mommy" being a sacred term...

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  16. I always resonate with the philosophy that you cannot have the good without the bad. C Jane said it in these comments saying that nie nie's experience is so hard but so beautiful. The reason it is beautiful is because through all the hard times, there is faith. Nie nie knows that to every problem there is a solution, and the problem and the solution are equal. If you only focus on the problem, you miss out on the solution and vice versa. Life is so beautiful but we cannot appreciate the beauty without the ugly. Blogs and other forms of writing are so much better when the author represents the problem with knowledge and hope for a solution. Does that all make sense?

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  17. It does. I call what you're talking about as a "true" or "real" "family" blog. Mothers admit that they cannot be perfect and that their lives aren't perfect, but they show that they're working with it.

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  18. I love so much of what CJane writes, but it surprised me to hear that she thought of herself as apart from the LDS culture. To me, she is LDS culture personified in a lot of ways. Not ALL ways, but in a lot of ways. But that doesn't matter. I think she's great, whatever she is.

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  19. Martha, Interesting observations. What do you think Mormon Culture is?

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  20. C Jane said, "Blogging from a desire to write the experience blurs the line between what is positive and what is negative--meaning these experiences can not be something can be sifted from each other. When you desire to write from a genuine voice, there is only what you feel."

    I guess to this I would say, I am a blogger not a writer. Therefor I am not thinking that deeply about blogging. Some blogs rant and get me flustered (so I stop reading them) and some whine and complain and get me flustered (again, I stop reading them) and some bloggers may feel better (and honest) about doing those things but it wouldn't make me feel any better. The honest truth is, I have yucky things in life and I have good, and I don't think anyone wants to hear the yucky stuff. But since WE ALL KNOW that nobody has a perfect life, is it a lie?

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  21. And are we being to critical of other bloggers?

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  22. I would love to know what Mormon culture is too.

    I don't know that I believe that exists. I think Mormon Utah culture exists though.

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  23. So interesting - thanks for sharing for those of us far away!

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  25. I think that a Mormon culture does exist, and it is amplified here in Utah. I have seen the pressures of the cultural aspects of our religion push people out, because they didn't "fit" into it. With that said, those people were letting that happen to them. We all have a choice. The church is true, not all of us and our actions are however.
    p.s. I do hope that one day when I have a child, I won't be dubbed solely a "Mormon Mommy Blogger", because there is so much more to me then that. I am a woman made up of many different facets.

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  26. Well, I understand what she means when she says her mission is to "portray a Mormon woman who doesn't conform to the cultural stereotype and is OK with it." She's great at being silly and poking fun at herself and even opening up about real things she struggles with. But she does still seem to live in this ideal Mormon world. She comes from a big, happy family. She's creating her own big, happy family. That's one facet of Mormon culture I was thinking of, and, yes, maybe that's just Utah Mormon culture. But even if she talks about struggles on her blog, her life still seems to me like it's quite perfect.

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  27. I think, however, that he initial beginnings help to clarify this. She started her blog to speak up about infertility in Mormon culture. Then, suddenly, she got pregnant... then again... then again... Now she's trying to bring a varied culture to the area (Rooftop concerts, etc).

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  29. I don't normally write any strong opinions on the internet for anybody to see, but I'm a mom that enjoys blogging every now and then, so I thought I'd share a little of what I thought of as I read this.

    A quote I really like by Eleanor Roosevelt: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
    People out there can label anyone the way they want, but it doesn't make it fact. I think sometimes we get too focused on both fitting in or "fitting out" if I can say that. I don't want to sound preachy but a lot of people that are supposedly living the "Mormon culture" probably are just trying to do their best to live the Gospel and that's how they were raised; just maybe. Maybe we need to focus on fitting into God's culture more and worrying about what He thinks of us rather than others or even just what we think of ourselves. His opinion is often way better than anyone else's including our own. :)
    My husband and I use blogging as a way to let family and friends know what fun and crazy and normal things are happening in our life. Seems to me, maybe that some bloggers are getting way to worried about what people think of their blogs. I mean no offense to anyone at all. There's room for plenty of opinions on this topic, right? :)

    This is Rachel, by the way, David. Good job on this blog! It's fun to read. :)

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  30. This blog post has sparked a lot of really great discussion and I think that it's great that David wrote this post (David might be surprised that I actually read his blogs). I admire what C Jane is doing to combat the perfectionism that is prevalent among many members of the Church. All of us know people in the Church that feel like they have to get straight A's in all their classes, make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in their careers, keep their homes spotlessly clean, and never feel frustrated or angry under any circumstance. Perfectionism tends to lead people to disappointment because it sets impossible standards. It encourages people to gain satisfaction by focusing on themselves at an unhealthy level rather than gaining satisfaction through relationships with others. Perfectionists are often afraid to show their disappointment in themselves to others because it makes them look imperfect. I think that women in the Church are particularly perceptible to perfectionism and that there are a lot of blogs by women in the Church that reflect their perfectionist attitudes.

    However, I also feel like perfectionist women in the Church are a minority in comparison to the genuinely pleasant women in the Church who just like to write about their good experiences. Sometimes, I think that C Jane's attitude toward the situation comes across so strong that she starts to criticize people for just being themselves. I don't believe that depressing things and uplifting things necessarily deserve equal air time in the blogosphere.

    For some people, it can be therapeutic to write and talk about their frustrations. It gives them a chance to put their feelings into words and bond with other people that feel the same way. But for other people it can be anti-therapuetic. Some people just get more depressed when they talk about their bad experiences. A lot of these people have just learned to avoid talking about their frustrations because it has a negative effect on them, and that's ok (9 out of 10 psychologists agree).

    We shouldn't be so quick to judge, by just reading a blog, whether the writer is perfectionistic, wistfully sensitive, or genuinely happy. Reading a blog is like looking through the keyhole into someone's life. It's not really enough to understand someone. C Jane is a great example of this. She is often misunderstood and unfairly judged just because it's difficult for her to convey her complex feelings through the computer keyboard. That's why, although I don't agree with every word that C Jane writes, in general I like what she is doing and I would like to encourage her to keep it up (I hope she reads this).

    Moral of the story: it's ok for women to write blogs about nice things if they want to and it's not right to bash on mothers just because they don't write on the internet about all the horrible things that happen to them.

    --Jeremy

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  31. One more thing that I just thought of. If there are any mothers out there that are afraid of being perceived as a Mormon Mommy Blogger, I have the solution for you: get your husband to write all the cute blog posts. That's just tickles the imagination, doesn't it?

    --Jeremy

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