Wall Street Journal Alienated Millions of Women in One Fell Swoop

549694_10151014904158196_1599704833_nI had so hoped I would never have to write anything ever again about the appalling level of disrespect for women online and working mothers in America, and the space where the two intersect. But in our time of click driven journalism, sensational pieces that attack or mock a particular group, including those of us who occupy those spaces, are hard to ignore.

So when the Wall Street Journal decided not only to publish an article referring to “mommy business travel” that highlighted some upcoming women’s blogging/business conferences, and proceeded to pretty much make fun of a woman I respect and who has done tremendous things for women who have suffered from postpartum depression, that made me realize it was time to get out my little soapbox again.

A lovely friend and leading advocate in the postpartum community, Katherine Stone, was interviewed for the article while she was attending a very serious conference, TEDMED. Notwithstanding that, the Wall Street Journal turned her into a desperate housewife longing to escape her family so she can chill with her gal pals and raid the hotel room minibar. The article, which is entitled “The Mommy Business Trip: Conferences Appeal to Women with a Guilt-Free, Child-Free Reason to Leave Home” came complete with this cartoon graphic:

MomTrip042413

My husband wishes that his work trips looked anything like that. But they don’t, and neither do ours.

So is this yet another mainstream media attempt to get eyeballs using the tried and true story “make fun of mommybloggers” or is this more of our cultural working mother smack down that goes on pretty much every week?

This is much too reminiscent of similar New York Times article from three years ago. So rather than have my head explode again, I’ll just present my open letter to the Times that I wrote then:

Dear New York Times (other mainstream media outlets, you should probably pay attention, too),

I’m so weary of your attempts to marginalize women writers online who happen to be mothers that I almost couldn’t write this letter. But I realized that if I didn’t, I would feel guilty about not trying to change things so that if my fourth-grader ever wants to be a mother and a professional, maybe she won’t have to fight this battle.

Was it really necessary to write a story on a professional blogging conference with the title Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy.  She’s Busy Building Her Brand? The headline alone drips with mocking condescension that says to the world that it’s perfectly acceptable to continue to belittle women for the exact same things that men are doing in the online world today.

We’ve come a long way?  Not.

“Girly-bonding?“  I suspect that when the Google guys get together, no one on the Times staff would dare to suggest it was anything other than a serious business meeting.  Hold an event where mothers do the same thing, and it’s instantly a hen party.  A “modern day coffee-klatsch?”  Really?  If I have coffee with the Kirtsy ladies or the MOMocrats it’s a “coffee-klatsch,” but espresso with Rick Sanchez about being one of the first bloggers on his now influential Twitter List would grab more of your attention?

I shouldn’t be surprised.  For decades, most of society has tried to push mothers to the side who want to work, achieve, help support their families or speak out on issues.   In the 1950s and 1960s, it was accepted for mothers to work for “pin money,” but society was skeptical of how allowing women into certain jobs would impact men’s control over the world.  It’s cute to look back through today’s Mad Men lens and chuckle about how amazing it was for the guys to allow Peggy Olson to become an actual copy writer!  It’s another, though, to continue in 2010 to find ways to suggest to the world that women who are trying to build careers and money-making opportunities, or who are using one of the few writing avenues available to them without any male barriers to entry, are somehow undeserving of respect for the simple reason that they’ve decided to procreate.

I realize your writer was probably trying to pen a humorous piece about a recent blog conference where women who are mothers (GASP!) gathered to hone their skills on search engine optimization, marketing and earning a living through their blogs.  Maybe you couldn’t get past the name Bloggy Boot Camp to see what women were trying to accomplish.

But was it really necessary to add that gigantic graphic to further make fun of us?

We’re still just about kids, toys, pets and coffee?

If you had written a piece about the heavily male-attended South by Southwest Interactive conference with similar “daddy” art, I’m betting you’d have gotten a pretty seething letter from those organizers.  Conferences like Netroots Nation are well-respected by the media.  Ones like BlogHer, Bloggy Boot Camp, and others are written about in terms where the you can feel the virtual pat on the head that says, “There, there dear.  Why don’t you just write about your play dates and leave the important political writing to someone else!

To use faux humor and mockery to imply to millions of your readers that mothers clearly shouldn’t be out in the world trying to improve their families’ economic lives or their careers, and that we should be staying at home, tending to the kids and the man of the house, letting all those important conversations about building online businesses to the menfolk — you know, fathers like Guy Kawasaki and Markos Moulitsas — is pretty outrageous.

Of course, maybe it’s just because you’re afraid of what the future holds for the New York Times and that if you don’t smack down the competition, your failing business model will run out of gas sooner than you’d like.

It’s not just me. Other well-respected online women writers (I really prefer that term to “mommy bloggers”) are annoyed with your attempt to, again, portray women online as moms having a hobby rather than the professionals that we are. Even the positioning of stories about women online shows your inner disdain — we get the fashion and style section;  SXSW and Guy Kawasaki get the technology or business sections.

I was also wondering — did your reporter bother to dig a little deeper with the women who attended Bloggy Boot Camp?  Did she try to find out how many attendees were women with professional degrees and careers?  It might be shocking to believe, but my online writing is my profession — I have over a decade of experience in broadcast journalism and practiced law for 15 years.  I make money with my “traditional” writing, have written op-ed pieces for newspapers,  am writing a book for which I have an enthusiastic publisher (no, don’t assume it’s a traditional “mom” topic — that will only get you into more hot water), and I’ve spoken at a variety of conferences you would deem worthy of respect.

And I’m a mother.  And I’m not ashamed to incorporate my perspective as a mom into my professional writing.

I know that somehow in the vaunted opinion of the New York Times, my motherhood makes me somehow less worthy, even though I have two hard-earned degrees.  When I was a girl, I thought we would be past these motherhood stereotypes at this stage of the game.  But being sad won’t stop me from continuing to build my brand, my business and my livelihood online, even though you will probably continue in your antiquated and outdated ways of covering professional and political women.

My consolation is that every day there are more women writing online, creating businesses and building something tangible for their futures.  And that puts us one step closer to world domination.

Don’t worry, though.  We’re moms — we’ll be benevolent dictators.

Sincerely yours,

Joanne Bamberger, aka PunditMom

So my non-rhetorical question is this — at what point will traditional media cease their click-bait articles that not-so-subtly mock working mothers and the world of online women and instead write about what could be done to create a country that accommodates all working families? Will I love long enough to see that day?

Joanne Bamberger is the writer formerly known as PunditMom. She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Broad Side and the author of the Amazon-bestselling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (Bright Sky Press). And, yes, she is a working mother who attends professional conferences from time to time, but she doesn’t raid the hotel room minibar.

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28 Responses to Wall Street Journal Alienated Millions of Women in One Fell Swoop

  1. Elissa April 26, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    BRAVO!!!!

  2. Suebob April 26, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    Nicely done.

  3. Tammy April 26, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    Great job!!!

  4. DIana April 26, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    thank for your writing this. It’s pretty infuriating that women are always seen as doing “less” of something professional simply because we are mothers, as if being a mother made us DUMB in some way. In many ways its makes us smarter. I’d like to see men juggle and remember to do EVERYTHINg we have to, from the little things (buying diapers) to the bigger things (like organizing parties, baptisms,finding a good preschool, etc etc).

    I work full time and I haven’t been blogging that long, but I love writing and when I do blog or write for Mamiverse, I do it because it is something I am passionate about! I choose to spend time (that us mothers have so little of!) doing that, when I could be doing something else… It is work, anotehr thing mothers must do!
    Many mom bloggers are educated, and/or going to school while they blog (that is what I do) so in many ways, managing to do ALL OF THAT makes us more professional and capable than many men out there.

    The Times and now the WSJ are belittlng women that have kids because somehow, it is seen as a handicap… well … have they ever thought about the possibility that we just decided to STOP having kids?

    • Joanne Bamberger
      Joanne Bamberger April 26, 2013 at 11:21 am #

      Diana, I think part of this is still the undeserved stereotype that if one is a “blogger” nin addition to other things, and is also a mom, that it’s acceptable to view them less seriously. Not sure if it’s about the blogging, or just an extension of the lack of respect in our society for working mothers. But either way, it is a not so subtle slam on women. How many times do you read articles that talk about fathers using business trips as a way to escape their children and spouses?

  5. Diane April 26, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    I’m not a mom.

    I’m shocked, especially at the graphics. WSJ and NYTimes needs a reality check. Maybe those writers would rather overlook mommy capital and degrade a demographic (a life giving one) for the sake of misogyny. Nice one on calling them out!

  6. Brian April 26, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Well said.

  7. Elisa April 26, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    Thank you for this, Joanne! I looked at those graphics and am appalled at the sexism — just to show you that the WSJ clearly needs a mom or two on staff. Men go on business trips all the time, shmooze at the strip club, bar or wherever and stay at nice hotels — the only thing I got from this story is that women who do the same are bad mothers. UGH.

    • Joanne Bamberger
      Joanne Bamberger April 26, 2013 at 11:19 am #

      Elisa, The sad thing is that from what I can tell by looking at the author’s Twitter bio, she is a working mom, too. :(

      • DIana April 26, 2013 at 11:20 am #

        well that’s sad on many levels too- that is what she THINKS goes on in these conferences!??!

        • Joanne Bamberger
          Joanne Bamberger April 26, 2013 at 11:22 am #

          I hope she doesn’t have a ticket to Mom 2.0 next week. If she was planning on attending, she might want to go in disguise and have a pen name!

  8. Kathryn April 26, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Thank you for continuing to call out the needless and shock-factor “hacks” who call themselves writers. Shame on the WSJ for publishing such drivel.

    Please continue your excellent work on behalf of all intelligent working women, mothers or not.

  9. Katie Sluiter April 26, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    As a mother with TWO degrees–a BA in Education/English/Spanish and an MA in English with and Emphasis on Teacher– (and applying for Doctoral Programs in the field of Literature), and a full time high school teacher, part time college adjunct, and yes, blogger, I give this the stand-up-long-slow-clap.

    Also? Boom.

    • Katie April 26, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

      Um, what?

  10. Kim April 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    Well said! I cannot believe this is still happening. So frustrating.

  11. Ana Flores April 26, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    The beauty of this is that these kind of nasty passive aggressive attacks on mom bloggers just make us stronger and more united…and louder.
    We’ve been a force in shaping the new media landscape for years now and traditional media still has a hard time coming to grips with it.
    Oh, well…we´ll just continue to go to our blogging conferences and not-so-quietly continue building our little media empires ;)

    • Joanne Bamberger
      Joanne Bamberger April 26, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

      @Ana You think they’d know that by now.

      Back to my little empire building ;)

  12. Gina B April 26, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    Wow, that is sickening! Now I know I posted you to on FB the other day that the mommy blogger tag doesn’t really bother me, but I should have followed up that what DOES bother me is the lack of respect! I’ve worked with companies that have used the term, however, have respected me and my writing, have treated me like a professional, and have paid me well – and on time. I’ve also worked with companies that would love to get free access to my audience too, or people who’ve said, “Yea, you have a great job! Just sit around all day & make money.” Geez, did they leave out the line about bon bons?

    Well, no, I work – good writing is WORK. Good blogging is work, and research, especially if you are playing by the rules, writing ethically, and helping your client build his or her rep or spreading the word about a cause. These graphics are insulting. And I promise you I will NEVER let anyone use that term again on me if it will help stop this disrespect.
    –stepping off soap box

  13. Sheila Luecht April 26, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    Well said. Thanks for the piece then and now. I have no idea why there is a faction feeding this anti women frenzy in a paper like that. They must all feel pretty threatened by the advancement with women.

  14. Randall "texrat" Arnold April 26, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    The sad thing is, the WSJ and NYT and all the others get what they’re seeking in the outrage: attention.

    They’re trolling, pure and simple.

  15. Daisy April 27, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Once again, thank you. I am appalled by the sexism that keep rearing its ugly head. When I was in high school (and playing tuba and riding a motorcycle to school), I thought this kind of nasty talk and demeaning attitude would be gone, long gone, by the time my children hit the working world.

  16. Estelle Sobel Erasmus April 27, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    Thanks for writing this Joanne. It is horrible how much misrepresentation there is. This Wall Street Journal writer got her start at women’s magazines (Elle or Mirabella I believe, and I met her several times when I worked for Hachette Filipacchi). I find it repulsive how much the media has warped the powerful and successful lives of mothers, women and bloggers into something much darker. I wrote my own response in the form of this bedtime story we must tell our daughters titled The Revenge of the “Mommy” Bloggers.

    http://musingsonmotherhoodmidlife.com/2013/04/26/the-revenge-of-the-mommy-bloggers/

  17. Joanne Bamberger
    Joanne Bamberger April 27, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    @Estelle, As a journalist from “back in the day,” the sensational, link bait type of journalism that is practiced by so many people today makes me wonder if there is any point in staying in the profession.

  18. Jennifer April 28, 2013 at 11:27 am #

    They’ll stop writing inflammatory click-bait articles like the ones you reference, when we stop clicking through to them in the first place. At least tell me you nofollowed those links.

  19. helen jonsen April 28, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    Oh, Joanne, when will the demeaning end? Many full-time professional journalists (like the WSJ writer) do like to lump all the so-called mommy bloggers together and marginalize their efforts at being “serious” writers. It’s the same as when people say, “all journalists are….(fill in the negative blank here)” or “the media is a bunch of…” You get the idea. This group-bashing should be beneath anyone who calls herself a professional. She should see that there are many levels of quality and different types of work. There are writers who blog and build brands and businesses outside the mainstream on topics from cooking to politics, to health advocacy, and there are those who review products and look for more opportunities to work with marketing teams. Those are very different jobs. And conferences, like all business conferences, are meant to offer a complete immersion for a couple of days into the world of work, even as it includes dinners and parties to connect with others of common interest. As you said, this is a long-held tradition in business. If it wasn’t Vegas and every other big city wouldn’t have a convention center or tourism and convention bureau.

  20. deb April 29, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    This kind of condescending trivialization of women’s work and writing IS so tiresome, isn’t it? Thanks for addressing it so articulately!

  21. Jeannette April 30, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    Joanne, as usual, you couldn’t have stated it better. I think women are still not being taken seriously. And the reasons you speak out are the same I do. I cannot look at my daughter and keep quiet. The article and illustration were so condescending and sexist. Thank goodness that at least the community came together to demand some respect.

  22. Tammy April 30, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    Well-done article.

    I would say that it is hard for people to appreciate what someone else does unless they walk a mile in their shoes, and let’s face it, few men can walk well in high heels at all, much less carry all the business supplies necessary for meetings at the same time. :-)

    You know what you are capable of doing, so does your husband – and the husbands of wives around the country who are doing similar work. You matter most to those who matter most to you, and nothing else that anyone says matters at all. May your daughter grow up to marry someone who encourages her in achieving her aspirations, also, as she encourages him in achieving his dreams.

    Blessings to you!

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