On Mummy Blogging And Feminism

Mumsnet Blogfest feminism

Can you be a mummy blogger and still be a feminist?

It’s a question that was being asked on a panel discussion that I was part of, this weekend, at the annual Mumsnet Blogfest conference. The panel consisted of myself (hello, I’m Alison), bloggers Sarah Ditum and Victoria ‘Glosswitch’ Smith, editor of The Feminist Times Charlotte Raven and journalist Katie Glass.

Of the five women on the panel, all of us would describe ourselves as a feminist. But interestingly, our definition of ‘feminist’ seem to vary a fair bit. Personally, I describe myself as a feminist because I strongly – passionately – believe in equality for women. I take any opportunity I can get to talk about equality and to challenge the views of the people around me. I get angry over gender stereotypes in kids’ toys. I get angry that women are still expected to take a huge chunk of time out of their working lives to stay at home with a baby (yes, I understand that breastfeeding is tricky for men, but there’s no reason that we can’t live in a world where mums take six months off, and then dads take six months off – but that’s a whole different blog post). I get angry, and vocal, about a lot of sexism that exists in society.

The other thing which varied wildly was the panellists’ views on what a mummy blog actually is. The term ‘domesticity’ was used a lot. The panel seemed to – on the whole – think that mummy bloggers blog about home life with their kids. Which is true of some mummy blogs, but so many mummy bloggers write about other things. They write about health, education, campaigns, charity fundraising, technology, grief, psychology, politics… as well as many who write about traditionally fluffier subjects like travel, fashion, culture, beauty, interiors…. and some even write about cooking, baking, crafting and parenting. To put “mummy bloggers” into a neat little box labelled “domestic life” is a huge injustice. My fellow panellist Glosswitch made a brilliant point, saying “You are held back by the perceptions of people who don’t actually read the blogs.”

Blogfest 2013

But even those mummy bloggers who do write a lot about home life with their kids – in my opinion, that’s not an anti-feminist act. They’re writing about stuff that they’re passionate about. Why is that passion less valid, in the eyes of some feminists? Chances are, they’re not being forced to stay at home by a sexist husband who thinks her place is in the home looking after the kids, baking cupcakes and building giant rocket ships out of The White Company cardboard boxes. They’re choosing to. It’s their choice. And they have that choice thanks to the progress towards equality and the campaigning done by feminists over the years. Even if you believe that what I’ve just described is an anti-feminist act, many feminists make non-femninist choices every day, but still call themselves a feminist. This is no different. So whether you blog about your kids, you wear heels, you make jam – you can do all of those things and still be a feminist.

The debate moved onto the term ‘mummy blogger’, with Katie Glass saying she finds it patronising. A view, interestingly, held by many mums who blog. I recently asked a group of mums-who-blog on Facebook whether they like the term ‘mummy blogger’ and around 70% said no, they found it patronising. I don’t find it patronising. I am a mummy. My three-year-old daughter calls me “mummy”. Being a mum is my biggest achievement. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but I’m doing it, so I’m happy to be known as a mummy. The term doesn’t define me, though. I am many more things, but I am a mummy. Why on earth would such a fantastic achievement – and a description of a huge part of my life – be patronising? Why, as women, are we turning it into a negative?

Justine Roberts, co-founder of Mumsnet chipped into the debate with an anecdote on being questioned by people wondering why they chose “Mumsnet” as a name for their website. “I explained to them – it’s for mums and we’re on the net. It’s a description of what it is. Calling yourself mum (or a site Mumsnet) is not forgetting or betraying your feminist roots.”

Mumsnet Blogfest 2013

The discussion provoked a strong reaction from the audience. A scan through the #blogfest hashtag after the session showed that many of the audience disagreed with the views they were hearing and the audience questions provided some strong, passionate points. (Sidenote: an argument broke out between some audience members and Sarah Ditum which was, in my view a misunderstanding. Sarah described her own experience of choosing to go back to university after having a child, because she knew it was the best thing to do for her child’s future. This became lost in translation and upset some of the audience. I felt for Sarah, as I believe she was misunderstood.)

The post-conference G&Ts saw feminism discussed and analysed and debated. So, even if some felt – as many did – a bit bruised and battered after the session, getting people talking about feminism is no bad thing. Thank you to Mumsnet for having me on the panel and for giving me the opportunity to speak for mummy bloggers.

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20 thoughts on “On Mummy Blogging And Feminism

  1. I am so glad that I read your post. I felt really bad for the panel members…each of you were there to give your opinion and everyone’s opinion was very valid. I am glad you didn’t feel too dreadful at the end! I have no idea whether I am a feminist or not. I never use the word. If feminism is all the things you say in your post then yes I am a feminist…but lets forget the word and just get on with changing the world for the better!!

    • Oh no, I didn’t feel dreadful. I wish I’d been able to put across more of my points, but that’s just the way these things go sometimes. I was pleased that Mumsnet went to the audience questions earlier than planned, to allow the audience members to have their say. Even if some did have to shout from the balcony because they didn’t have a mic up there.

  2. Really well written. I am so proud of being a mum, a blogger, a mummy blogger…and a feminist. Being a mum is one of hardest best wonderful tiring things I’ve ever had to do. I strongly believe you can be a mum and a feminist. Every good mum has to be I think. Otherwise how would we teach our children about equality and fairness?

  3. *Applauds* brilliantly put! I think the main issue seemed to be a sense of confusion around what a mummy blog actually is. I wonder of this had been discussed right at the start of the session, with panelists giving their view, then some of the later misunderstandings wouldn’t have happened and the debate would have stayed on the topic it was set out to discuss. You were great by the way – loved the heels ;-)
    Molly recently posted…Announcing… The Motherhood!. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

    • I tried to establish what a mummy blog actually is at the start of the discussion, but it seemed to get a bit lost in the midst of everything. A lot of the conversation centred around domestic life, which just isn’t a reflection on the majority of mummy blogs.

  4. I think the term ‘mummy blogger’ has somehow gained a negative association, with the insinuation that whatever a mummy blogger writes about, she’s not really saying anything that valuable because she’s ‘just’ a mummy.

    The real issue as far as I see it, is that motherhood (whether you ‘work’ or stay at home) is fundamentally unappreciated and disrespected. By society at large and even by mothers themselves. We often seem to believe the notion that we’re somehow less than when we worked. That looking after children isn’t real ‘work’. I could rant for ages about how unjust all of this is and while feminism has many successes under it’s belt I worry that there’s a long long way to go before we approach any real level of equality whether in blogging or parenthood in general.

    Anyway, sounds like a fascinating debate to have been at!
    Josie recently posted…Motherhood & loneliness (and doing things you don’t want to sometimes…). Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

    • Yes, it was fascinating. We need to reclaim the notion of being a mother. I work full time but have SO much respect for SAHMs.

    • Excellent points. I missed BlogFest as on hols, but picked up on lots of unrest around that session. I wholeheartedly agree with the comment above, and well done you Alison for giving a balanced view through your post. I named my blog because I am conscious that being a mother is now the biggest role I have, but also that I was and am more besides that. I am not for judging others and hate the SAHM vs FTWM. No one is better than anyone else – like your co-panellist who chose to go to uni, everyone chooses what is right for them and their situation. The thing about feminism is that it should be about women supporting women and not permitting obstructions to their freedom to choose (men don’t need this do they? Have you ever heard of “masculinisation”?)

  5. Yay! Well said! Don’t know why some people get so uptight by the word ‘mummy’. It’s a shame it’s been given such a negative connotation. I wonder if there’s the same reaction to the label ‘Daddy blogs’, or whether they’re regarded as endearing… Btw, your comment about gender stereotyping with toys rang true for me – Daniel (aged 8) gets seriously peed off when so many craft and cooking kits feature girls/butterflies/flowers on the cover and the limited boys’ alternatives only ever feature dinosaurs/trucks/gruesome stuff.

    • I think you’re right. It appears – from reading other people’s accounts of the day – that both Sarah and the audience members responding to her were misunderstood. A shame that this led to the session ending abruptly and with no real conclusion.

    • I’ve heard a few people say that they wish the chair hadn’t started the discussion with what they saw as an antagonistic question. Perhaps a gentler start might have allowed the conversation to build naturally?

  6. Brilliant! I have no problem being referred to as a mommy blogger. I’m a mom, and I blog. Duh! lol

    And I don’t think any of the topics moms blog about are feminist or not. Feminism to me is advancing the equality between both sexes. That includes the mom who is the CEO as well as the mom who stays at home. It’s when we think that women are less capable that’s the problem (e.g. she can’t run the company as well as a male, or child rearing is “simple work”).
    Nina recently posted…Random acts of kindness: 35 little things to brighten anyone’s mood. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

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