Do you love the term or hate? If you aren’t sure, you’re not alone. I spent two years as a mommy blogger, during the tail end of a 20-year career as a newspaper journalist, and I went back and forth on how I felt about the term.
When I first started blogging about parenting issues for a newspaper in Upstate New York, I liked the term. It made me feel part of what was then this new powerful movement of women. Blogging felt like it gave women a voice – a voice they didn’t get in traditional media, such as newspapers, radio, and television. Blogging also let me get my own voice out. I had written objective newspaper articles for years, but blogging gave me permission to insert myself into my words. Finally, I could write what I felt.
But the term also made me chafe. I had spent nearly two decades as a newspaper reporter and editor, and telling someone I was an “assistant city editor” got me much more credibility than “mommy blogger.” I was still working at the same place and making the same amount of money, but suddenly people viewed me as less. At least, I felt they did. Especially men.
As I transitioned from journalism to academia, I decided to explore the issue by analyzing every blog post and blog comment I could find online where women debated how they felt about the term. The result was a study of 29 blogs posts and 649 comments that is slated for publication in the academic journal, Mass Communication and Society. A pre-publication version is available online. The full article, “Don’t Call Me That: A Techno-Feminist Critique of the Term Mommy Blogger,” is behind a pay wall, but you can get the gist from the free abstract on the site.
What I found in these blog posts and comments is that other women bloggers were grappling with the same conflict about the term mommy blogger that I felt. In some ways the term brings up the long-standing tension over how women fit in society. It made me think: How do I see myself? How do others define me? Why do I let them?
Mommy blogging created a new genre of media, and that felt amazing. But it also created a new way to feel like women were once again being pushed aside and told that what they were doing wasn’t that important.
In my study, women reported that they felt the term mommy blogger came with an implied “just” before it — you’re “just” a mommy blogger, as if being a mommy blogger were less than any other type of blogger. The fact the mommy blogger defines the blogger – not what she writes about – raised particular ire. Women noted that other blog types are defined by the subject matter of the blog, not by the writer. For example, technology bloggers blog about technology; political bloggers discuss politics. Mommy bloggers don’t write about mommies.
They also suggested that use of the word “mommy” was particularly diminishing because it conjures a picture of a mother of very young children, tied to their needs with little to say beyond that. Use of mommy blogger, they argued, seemed more trivializing than mom blogger or mother blogger, although I concede neither sounds as good. As blogger Nataly Kogan co-founder and chief executive officer of Work It, Mom! asserted in regard to the term mommy blogger:
“I hate that it makes me and what I do sound cutesy and childish. I feel that it diminishes the importance and impact of what I do … I do think if the term “mom” – such as mom blogger, or business mom, or mom wars – I’d feel slightly less irked. I am a mom, but why should anyone other than my daughter call me mommy?”
However, other women raised important points about how a term such as mommy blogger unites women who blog about parenting or children together as a recognizable entity. That felt good in a way, they reported. As blogger Karoli at the blog odd time signatures explained:
“The value of a term like mommyblogger is this: It defines a very powerful and voice demographic – a group of thinking, tech-savvy, engaged women … The real benefit of being part of a larger community called ‘mommy bloggers’ is the power that some with the rise of collective voice. Power to change things. Power to be heard.”
In my paper, I try to merge these two ideas, arguing that the act of mommy blogging may empower while at the same time the term makes some women feel marginalized. From the women’s blog posts and comments, it was clear that for many of them, the term re-affirmed a very traditional view of motherhood — an at-home mom of young children. I found that for some women that definition fit fine. For others, it gaped liked an over-sized sweater. And if this definition of motherhood didn’t fit, women seemed to find the term mommy blogger more constricting. As the blogger Redneck Mommy explained in a comment on a blog post at PhD in Parenting:
“I think perhaps my dislike of the term mommyblogger stems from not wanting to be marginalized or defined by another; stuffed into a mold that doesn’t fit me. I don’t need others to do that, I do it often enough myself.”
What do you think? Is this just semantics or is there a real issue of trivialization here?
Guest contributor Gina Masullo Chen is an assistant professor at The University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Mass Communication and Journalism in Hattiesburg, MS. She spent 20 years as a newspaper reporter and editor in Upstate New York, including two years blogging about parenting and children for the newspaper’s website. She blogs about social media and journalism at SavetheMedia.com. Gina and her husband, Peter, have two children who call her mommy. They live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.