A bit more BlogHer
There has been quite a bit of criticism of BlogHer from women who did not attend the conference (Shelley Powers, Tara Hunt, Kathy Sierra), as well as some who did (Melinda Casino and others). Hugh Macleod did a cartoon, which as Elisa Camahort points out, didn't link to women who had been at the conference and wrote positive posts, only to men and posts of varying negativity.
Now we are all entitled to an opinion, and in this country, we have the right to express it. But, personally, I dislike criticism that doesn't offer an alternative. Don't like it, don't go. Or don't go again. There are things that concerned me during the conference -- I wrote a bit about them in yesterday's post, and I have some more thoughts here. But, offer the criticism with suggestions for improvement. Don't just complain. Or if you think the situation is beyond repair for you, do something else, go somewhere else. No conference can satisfy everyone. To be fair, some of the women mentioned above have already said that is their intention.
The conference wasn't perfect -- no conference is. Some of the sessions were great, some were not. Some of the sponsors did a great job. Some less so. The hotel has really gone downhill, but I didn't personally see any bugs, and the room was clean, so hey. Internet access was problematic, but it was also free. And besides, it was a good excuse to get out in the sun and talk to people.
Of course there was laughter and frivolous conversation. Pictures of and anecdotes about children and partners were shared. There was also a lot of serious conversation and networking. Just like any other conference. Maybe a bit less discussion of golf handicaps.....
My biggest concern? Tech and business folks were definitely in the minority. While I do not begrudge the mommy/personal bloggers any of their hard-won success and recognition, I do not wish all women who blog to be characterized as personal bloggers. We aren't, and some of us for very specific personal and professional reasons. After hearing about the coverage in the San Jose Mercury News and on c|net, I wondered if maybe the public impression of women bloggers was shifting too far to the personal, ignoring those of us who do not blog about our families, personal lives or food. Many of the very things I value in the BlogHer spirit -- community, participation, dare I say equality of opportunity -- were somehow transforming into something soft and girly, and therefore less serious. Apparently we don't laugh, we giggle. And so on. Yet there is absolutely no a priori reason why these values are "girly." It is a filter applied because the conference is driven by and for women.
And of course, why we needed BlogHer in the first place. I know it will come as a surprise to some but sexism does exist. Not as overt as it was before Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, among many others, burned the figurative (and sometimes literal) bra, and told the world that "a woman without a man was like a fish without a bicycle," but it is there. And women face it every day, whether it is the disdain given to a stay-at-home mom for her choice, or the roadblocks faced by a young career woman who wants to get ahead without becoming "one of the guys."
The older I get, the more I realize that we need spaces that are women-centered because no matter how you slice it, our culture is still predominantly masculine. And why I applaud BlogHer, and everyone -- women and men -- who participates in it.
The main BlogHer conference seems to be evolving into a place for the mom, the personal blogger, the solo entrepreneur. With BlogHer Business in New York in March 2007, we have the same opportunity to together build a vibrant community for women bloggers in the corporate space. Who aren't worried about monetizing their blog as much as they are about building the business case for social media in the enterprise. Who want to talk with others about how to do it, not be lectured at by someone corporate, white and probably male.
So count me in. It's going on the calendar today.
I met blogger/podcaster Nicole Simon at BlogHer. She had the best button: "Bubble 2.0." She also took a picture of me checking my email on my Blackberry during the Saturday reception as part of her ongoing research to prove that women have just as many tech gadgets as men. Yup, I'm a "crackberry" addict -- even to the point sending an email to a client from Diamond Head in Hawaii last November. Here's the evidence:
And finally, in the category of "you have got to be kidding me," just before the Saturday am session (you remember the Janes) a young woman went around to all the tables handing out little business cards for A NEW SHOW FOR WOMEN PREMIERING THIS FALL ABOUT LOVE, LIFE AND RELATIONSHIPS STARRING GREG BEHRENDT THE GUY WHO WROTE "HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU." Yeah, just what we need, another guy telling women how to fix their lives. Yuck. Well, at least we know he'll be trying to be funny unlike the other guys who think they know what's best. Calling Dr. Phil.
BTW, I don't believe this was an official sponsor, just the energetic spirit of the show's producers, so no fair tagging BlogHer on this one. Anyway, maybe it was something in the water Saturday morning......
Tags: blogging, blogher, blogher06, sexism, business blogging, blogher business
8/25: trackbacks turned off due to spam
Posted @ 8:08AM in Blogging, BlogHer, BlogHer06
hey, if women bloggers want to hang out with each other, i'm fine with it. that's why i called it a non-debate.
Wonderful post. Great to see your take on this. Never having really thought of myself as some anomaly as a female blogger - I have only just recently even heard about BlogHer. Having a business-focused conference will be interesting and I hope that I can attend!
Then tell your many many readers about some of the women who actually enjoyed the conference, not just other A-list guys or women who had criticisms. I know that's not as much fun as stirring things up, but oh well....
This is a thoughtful post, and I appreciate hearing more about it. But just to clarify, I wasn't criticizing the conference (it's also one of MY pet peeves when people who don't attend conferences describe what it's like to be there).
And I think you're right to point out that it's unfair to criticize and not offer an alternative.
My criticism is primarily with the way so many people--both some from the BlogHer community and some who aren't--are holding it up as the definitive representation of Women Bloggers, and also that it separates bloggers-who-are-women from plain old bloggers. Not all women want these distinctions, and women have fought hard to create gender-neutral identifiers to get rid of waitress, stewardess, many actresses want to be referred to as actors, etc.
One of my commenters mentioned that if someone used the term, "She's a lady lawyer..." many women would be offended by that. Yet here we are referring to ourselves as "Women Bloggers." I think the label makes sense when women are blogging *about* women and women's issues, but after that, it makes me unhappy to us labeled this way.
As for an alternative, a simple renaming/reframing would probably get rid of 95% of my own objections. Starting with killing or changing the tagline, "Where the women are."
BlogHer is NOT "where the women are" and it feels a little arrogant and divisive to make that claim.
But I also don't like the BlogHer name, for the reasons I stated. It's not the organization or the conference -- which I think are both great -- I just personally find the name to be reinforcing stereotypes and distinctions that women have worked hard (and still work hard) to overcome.
My alternative would be... keep all the good and important work, and stop framing it (and referring to us as) Women Bloggers. I'm almost impossible to offend, but if someone kept referring to me as a Woman Tech Author or a Woman Programmer, I would find that sexist. But now, thanks to BlogHer, I am no longer a blogger, but now I'm a Woman Blogger with Woman Blogger Issues (like "invisibility"). And that's just wrong.
Go for it, Susan. I was talking about this with Tom, my significant other, and he didn't get it - well, he thought he did, but he didn't. :-) Anyway, I think it's so important to cover all aspects of an event, good and bad, up and down, what you liked and what you didn't. As you have here. I try to do the same...but, I notice that sometimes my 'voice' gets in the way.
When that happens, I just roll with the punches. Stuff people post online is often confusing and misinterpreted, so one has to be thick-skinned. I think you did an excellent job giving people the overview of Blogher. But the best part is your outing the new TV show - another guy solving all our problems. One question- why even bother giving him a link?
As for the NYC Blogher - I'll be there, too! See you then, girlfriend!
Kathy, sorry you feel that way. Hmmm... I like being identified as a woman blogger. I like being a woman. Folks are welcome to point it out as much as they like. The fact that you're a woman is usually obvious... albeit that some woman prefer to be gender-neutral. We live in a world where the male-female dichotomy thrives. It's impossible to even have a discussion without using the 'he' or 'she' of male-female identification.
It can be sexist - if you want it to be. Or, it can just be the way it is. I'm a girl (a woman), my son is a boy (a man), and I doubt he will ever feel as 'invisible' as I have many, many times in my life. Purely because of gender. The world supports his gender far more willingly than mine.
So... in an effort to be supportive, I think the gals at Blogher are doing the right thing. If they changed the tagline from "Where the women are"... they'd lose me. I don't want to be non-gender. I want to be female. All the way.
Wow! Thanks for all the comments folks. Trying to get some billable work done this afternoon :-) but I will be back to everyone eventually.
Susan, Thanks so much for being a voice of reason. I temper my reading of blog posts that jump on the bandwagon about an event they've never attended first-hand.
I find BlogHer to be refreshingly the most diverse blogging conference in terms of the breadth of topics of interest, class, ages, etc. represented. I think the media attention skewed it as if every other blogger there is a mommy blogger or diarist, yet when you talk one-on-one with random women you quickly find that's not the case at all. Everything under sun is covered with passion and zeal by amazing women.
One thing on "the something soft and girly, and therefore less serious" comment. I grew up as oldest in a family with three girls, and no brothers. I so wanted to be a boy for first 37 years of my life. Ah, the freedom and power of being male!, I thought. Yet, I've reclaimed my femininity of late and integrated both masculine & feminine sides. Femme *is* powerful. Soft is definitely not less serious at all, that's just what They tell us.
I really look forward to seeing you again in NYC, if not earlier.
Susan, with all due respect, my post WAS NOT about BlogHer. Do the math....
You know, one of my personal flaws has been that I always take the bait. I know it and I still do it.
And today is no different. Hugh, I KNOW your post was not about BlogHer. Your post was about making fun of BlogHer. And the gender issues that created it in the first place.
That's what you do. You draw cartoons that make fun of stuff - sometimes even yourself, God bless you. You may not even have a strong personal opinion on BlogHer, I have no idea. But the links on your cartoon were "fair and balanced" like FOX News. Your readers, all however many thousand of them, now have an impression of BlogHer that is far from fair or balanced. And that's too bad. It's also your right -- your blog, your cartoons.
And my free speech to tell you that I think that was wrong. I do not need you to agree.