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January 27, 2018 6:59 PM   Subscribe

Couldn’t read because Paywall but was instantly inspired to go check out what’s been happening at .... awwww yeahhhh
posted by armoir from antproof case at 7:35 PM on January 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

Heather Armstrong got a lot of fans - but she also got a lot of flak over the years. So has every "mommy blogger".

Which makes me wonder whether that may be why there's such a drive to look flawless. There just isn't any damn place where anyone wants to let women just be human.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:54 PM on January 27, 2018 [29 favorites]

More words and more grit, please.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:00 PM on January 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

There seems to have been a very minuscule resurgence in blogs in the past year or two, as centralized platforms increasingly disappoint with their necessarily milquetoast editorial stances. I’m curious to see if that will go anywhere, or if there will be a continued move towards newsletters. I get as much content and news by email now as I did in the early days of RSS and it feels like there’s potential there.
posted by Phire at 12:59 AM on January 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

As the moms go, so goes the internet.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:47 AM on January 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

The thing that has struck me (and this piece calls out) is how very seamless the advertising is. It's how these people choose to make money, of course, but it's so tightly-wound to the actual photo and description that it's like these platforms were made for advertisers first, or something. It was a banner ad on Dooce ten years ago, something very obvious; now it's "I'm standing here with this @Toyota #minivanlife" and a big check. When ad blockers don't work, the ads become the content.

One other important note the article blows by: all of these women are white. Kristen Howerton's family is of multiple races, but she appears to be the exception. There's a vital and unspoken angle here around race, how companies target demographics with these ads, and why black women weren't a part of this article.

Lastly: Thanks to “Serial,” a podcast series that helped popularize the platform, many moms are looking to podcasts, says Tremaine, who hosts one herself: “People are less branded on a podcast, and you can get authenticity.”

People are less branded. Yuck. And, this is a harbinger: once Apple or Spotify figure out how to easily monetize podcasts, assuming they do, that's all over. (If they don't, great!)
posted by hijinx at 6:32 AM on January 28, 2018 [12 favorites]

Way back when Pioneer Woman and I ran in the same online homeschooling parent / blogger circles.

Last month I bought a Pioneer Woman branded cast iron griddle at WalMart.
posted by COD at 7:16 AM on January 28, 2018 [32 favorites]

I miss the internet of yesteryear so much. I feel its absence every day. It has become both darker on one side and more sanitized/homogenized on the other. Mostly I say nothing these days. It is rarely worth the bother.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:35 AM on January 28, 2018 [65 favorites]

Also this was a really good article.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:36 AM on January 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised there's no mention of scary online mobs. I think a lot of the kind of brave, somewhat political writing early mommy bloggers were doing would get harassed off the internet these days. Certainly it's very, very uncommon to put all but the most milquetoast, anodyne content up next to your kids' photos and names.
posted by potrzebie at 8:37 AM on January 28, 2018 [18 favorites]

Seconding @potzrebie and @A Terrible LLama here.

Writing absolutely anything that asserts an authentic opinion online now is almost more trouble than it's worth. You're either getting harassed by soft-bellied Internet Nazis and hateful egg avatars, or branded "problematic" by people on the left, or just *shat* on by bored people.

Or just worried about what potential clients/employers might say, or friends/family that don't say anything but passively judge. Most people aren't emotionally equipped to handle a teaspoonful of what gets thrown at Lindy West before 10am, and they shouldn't have to be.

This sort of social pressure and scrutiny leads to a really powerful form of self-censorship and it's take so much of the joy and freedom out of creating or consuming anything online. It sucks. But between the commercial pressures of what advertisers want, and the desire to avoid constant assault, we've really sanded the edges off of something beautiful here.
posted by chinese_fashion at 9:10 AM on January 28, 2018 [36 favorites]

Becoming an adult surrounded by an internet culture that rewards putting up false fronts and pretending everything is fine has been absolute garbage.

The line between ads and content has been blurred to the point that it makes figuring out what’s actually normal and ok really hard. Including what it means to be a parent. These blogs used to be the only insight I had into motherhood when I was just coming out of high school and trying to take a peek behind the curtain of adulthood at what it’s really like, so I could start triangulating what having a family might be for me and whether I want to do it.

None of my friends have kids even though we’re almost all in our 30s now, so I have a very dim idea of what starting a family looks like these days, but if it’s anything like the sanitized white hellscape mommy bloggers project these days, I’d rather not.

And to take a step back, modern (content) advertising isn’t selling me a future I actually want. It’s all exceedingly aspirational and framed as things you should want to do, people you should want to be, but mommy blogging misses the mark for me so hard it’s repellant. I don’t WANT to be one of a group of white mommy friends who compare minivans over glasses of riesling. The word “mom” itself has turned into something Other for me, defined rigidly by advertising, my own upbringing, and my in-laws since I have few real-life examples.

Blogs as advertising means the more visible moms never EVER discuss the politics of motherhood, or how to maintain your own individual identity, or how men fit into the picture beyond paying for things or “giving mom a break”. You know, the messy complicated REAL shit that makes for a bad setup to mention your new @Walmart table settings.

(Actually, a lot of the moms here on MeFi are helping break this wall down for me and expand my horizons, in both exciting and disgusting ways, so thank you moms of MeFi, your comments and questions and advice give me a world-class education on what parenting really looks like!)
posted by Snacks at 9:42 AM on January 28, 2018 [29 favorites]

>> Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong. When I first wrote a bio for this site I called myself a SAHM—a Stay At Home Mom, or, Shit Ass Ho Motherfucker. More than a decade later I am now what’s referred to as a FTSWM—a Full-Time Single Working Mom, or, Fuck That Shit Where’s Marijuana.

Oh. Oh my!
posted by I-Write-Essays at 9:58 AM on January 28, 2018 [13 favorites]

None of my friends have kids even though we’re almost all in our 30s now, so I have a very dim idea of what starting a family looks like these days, but if it’s anything like the sanitized white hellscape mommy bloggers project these days, I’d rather not.

Believe me, Snacks, motherhood is less like Good Housekeeping and more like The National Enquirer. I can't count how many times people have told me I should write a book about it, but my children (and quite a few other people who would be in it) would never forgive me. It's still an adventure I wouldn't trade for anything.
posted by Miss Cellania at 11:19 AM on January 28, 2018 [8 favorites]

Hijinx and Snacks: MaximumFun has a podcast OneBadMother that I’ve been meaning to check out. I’m assuming it is much less sanitized as that’s what their marketing suggests, but also numerous people have pointed out it’s easier to be authentic on podcast as it’s so much harder to show up on a google search or get briganded.
posted by midmarch snowman at 12:26 PM on January 28, 2018

I started a site in 1995, that had recipes and short stories and thoughts and whatnot. Over the years, the tech changed, and I tried different publishing platforms like wordpress on my server, but on the first of this year, I shuttered the site and archived everything off to be inaccessible. I didn't have the heart to actually kill the domain, and I'll probably pay to own it until I die, just so nobody else can use it, but I just sort of realized that nobody was ever going to read it again, so why bother?

Back in the day, sites like mine were little vanity sites that because of RSS standards, allowed us to reach a small, personal, almost family like audience. Not like "family rated content", but community like family. And then...I'm not really sure what happened. Seriously, like I look back, and there's this spot where the WWW used to be, and where the Internet (tm) is now.

The MommyBlogosphere is a weird, weird place. As an older, browner, weirder, mom, I was not welcomed to that party, and so I just pushed it out of my thoughtspace and never went back. In reviewing what it is's just whiter and more for sale than before. It's performative advertising. Hard pass.

Also, I was one of the people very early on who was Cassandra-ing about people who used their kids real names and pictures, especially to product place. I think many people have not considered the ubiquitousness of an internet where you don't control the content. I can delete 20+ years in a few minutes, because I own the actual media space. Except where backed up on the internet archive, I don't have to jump through hoops to make stuff disappear. When you do sponsored content, or you use someone else's media space, you lose your ability to edit your archives in any large scale way, and all of those media platforms have verbiage in their TOS that allow them to keep AND display content even if you think you've deleted it.

Re: Being a mom, I didn't start that journey until 38. I have a teen now. Every day is a new challenge. I love him more than I can express, but it is not a sunny day trip through rainbows and lavender, picnics while pegasus fan the bugs away, or an opportunity to fill your house with absurd kitchenware. (Well, maybe the kitchenware....)

Kids, to quote Wanda Sykes, are a lot of work. They are expensive. They are messy. They are chaos on feet. They carry crayons and are not afraid to use them. They make adorable faces and disgusting poos. They are bright, sharp, preformed humans, and every single one of them is unique, but every single one of them is a challenge. Would I do it again? Oh, yes. In a heartbeat. But, I am so glad I did it in my late 30s, when I was fiscally and emotionally more mature.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 1:44 PM on January 28, 2018 [24 favorites]

TBH, I'm impressed anyone posted a blog past 1995. That's when I shuddered writing down my thoughts. All I could see at that point was Under Construction *.gifs, white text on green backgrounds, incorrect font usage, too much comic sans or bold, and just... just... well... whatever. But whoever put themselves out there - it was there... and I could find out any and everything about you that you put up there. I could figure out people pretty well... and that revelation meant I really didn't want that same critical eye turned back at me - at least not at that point in my life.

And yeah... blogs and webpages and hobby sites and extensions of usenet groups were... cool I guess... but yeah... I didn't want the future where I was persistent and there and judged. What if people liked me and wanted more of me than I could give? Or, contrapositively - what if nobody saw and it was just mindless echoing into the night.

I mean - fuck... we wonder why people don't want to be out there anymore? and holy shit... I mean... doxxing alone should give people pause to consider their own personal demons... Unless you are a super sanitized version of yourself absolutely everywhere there is a persistent trail of your horrible self somewhere on the internet... Yeah... I bet that realization really helps people want to commit to something that doesn't pay bills.

I don't fault mommy bloggers for selling out.
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:23 PM on January 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Any more than one child and you can expect a daily hellscape. Is that mentioned?
posted by Brocktoon at 3:03 PM on January 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

in case you can't get around the paywall, try this Pocket view of the article.
posted by numaner at 4:25 PM on January 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Any more than one child and you can expect a daily hellscape. Is that mentioned?


I didn't have quite that experience with the Monsters, but there were definitely days...and the Husband required infinitely more management while ElderMonster was going through puberty than I had expected...but we all survived!
posted by MissySedai at 4:36 PM on January 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised there's no mention of scary online mobs.

.....that's.....kind of what I was getting at.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:52 PM on January 28, 2018

Can I just sort of sidestep the actual F.A. and point out how fucking lame Instagram was, is and always will be?
posted by signal at 7:25 PM on January 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Instagram is pretty good if you want to look at pictures of birds, TBH.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:29 PM on January 28, 2018 [14 favorites]

Which makes me wonder whether that may be why there's such a drive to look flawless. There just isn't any damn place where anyone wants to let women just be human.

Sadly, a lot of it is other women. The Blogess who is a self proclaimed crazy woman has a big following at my office, all of them initially men but they've converted some of us women now too. So did Hyperbole and a Half, we were talking about it the other day and the guys don't understand why she stopped posting as they think she is one tiny step below like The Big Lebowski or Will Ferrell on the relevant-to-their-lives comedy meter. They ADORE her. Meanwhile most of the women I know who are active online, especially the mid-to-late-30s mothers, are trying to be Young House Love or Gwyneth Paltrow. Women are so mean to each other. I guess they are all just trying to make money so they don't have to go back to work. I feel I can say this with authority as I love design and re-doing old houses and know lots of pros (including my own mother) and I move in that world a bit. The pros are making money hand over fist on it so they encourage it. We call it "pile of crap in front of a white wall instagram" design.
posted by fshgrl at 11:36 PM on January 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yeah, it's true about the mob behavior. I was trying to think of how to make that point without suggesting that that kind of gossipy cruelty was uniquely female. Men can and do engage in that sort of psychological warfare every day; women are called out on it so much because, historically, it has been their only weapon.

Not that I'm reclaiming that kind of hideousness as an ur-feminist behavior or anything. Sites like Get Off My Internets and the old Trainwreck site were, IIRC, pretty much all women-identified, and they threw down on Dooce like there was no tomorrow. How do I know? Because I used to read those sites. I wasn't a commenter, but my soul is no better for it.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:34 AM on January 29, 2018

Oh it's not uniquely female at all. I am also into photography and the men are hilariously awful to each other about camera gear. Every forum on gear is just "well actually" guys arguing over esoteric lens specs and being mean.

Specific to this post though, the mommy blogger world has been taken over by lifestyle gurus types and wannabes. There is good money to be made and they know it and they're ruthlessly eliminating the competition. And their audience for affiliate ads is 99% female so they have created this aspirational lifestyle that is designed to make people (women) feel bad if they don't have it. Even thought it's 100% bullshit anyway. No one without a staff lives like that and who wants to spend all day, everyday hanging around your kitchen anyway? But tons of women I know literally feel bad about themselves because they don't grow their own herbs or whatever. Also they push this gratitude humble brag thing that seems to imply women should be happy and grateful and not complain if they have a nice backsplash. What more could you want?

It annoys me every time I see a friend use the hashtag #blessed. None of my friends even go to church.
posted by fshgrl at 8:57 AM on January 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

As someone who grew up in the golden age of blogging and was around when Heather Armstrong started dooce, her final word in the article really resonates with me: "Before, it was, ‘I just want to feel less alone.’"

For me, that's really what drove a lot of the blog-centric internet for me: reading other people's thoughts about life, with a few neat links sprinkled in here and there. It was a more intimate version of leaving the radio on late at night just to hear a live DJ talk about random shit while they played you music. (Something else that feels pretty dead nowadays.)

There are people from way back when who I still remember almost as if they were people I knew as acquaintances. Some of those people went on to start services like Twitter. (Remember evhead?) But the vast majority of them just became normal people with more grown-up lives and either stopped blogging or took their stories to other venues. I still have a bunch of them bookmarked, even though 99.9% of the links are dead.

I agree that the environment that allowed that kind of writing to flourish is dead. Harassment on one side, corporate pressures on another, and the growing weariness of leaving too much of yourself online, even independent of the first two concerns, on a third.
posted by chrominance at 9:18 AM on January 29, 2018 [9 favorites]

Plus typing and viewing on a phone has changed peoples tastes. I hate reading long form writing on my phone.

I move in the kind of middle class circles where it seems like every other woman I know resents the fact they have go go to work and can't just stay home and take pictures of croissants once a day. I know some slightly successful instagrammers etc and I'm like "do you know how much work that is??" And how much your looks factor in? And location/ contacts/ talent? Half these people have art history or design degrees! When they say their instagram income "just happened", they're lying.

But I guess so many working mothers with very young children are so stressed and unhappy that they cling to the dream. Which is sad too. Otoh, I've never met anyone with 3 teenagers who's dream is to stay home and spend more time with time so I guess it's a self limiting period of unhappiness and stress.
posted by fshgrl at 11:52 AM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I move in the kind of middle class circles where it seems like every other woman I know resents the fact they have go go to work and can't just stay home and take pictures of croissants once a day.

One of the reasons I don't have kids is because I know how much I'd resent coming home from work and still doing more housework and childcare than my partner, and I know that it is very very rare in heterosexual couples, no matter how enlightened, that those things are divided evenly.

Stack on top of that the fact that right around the time you've been working a job and doing a second shift at home for a couple of years and are sick of it, is also the time you look around and realize that none of your top executive are female, your female cohort has plateaued in middle management, and there's a good chance your husband is making more than you -- it's very easy to throw up your hands and think: what the hell is the point of this?

You always feel guilty for spending time away from your kids, and maybe that's how you'd feel anyway, or maybe it's partly society telling you you're a bad woman if you're not giving 100% of yourself to your family members at all times. And it's not like your career is going to advance. Who wouldn't want to have less stress, less guilt, and just stay at home if they could afford it?
posted by mrmurbles at 2:57 PM on January 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

To address TFA more directly, my sense is that the new aspirational mommy blogs are kind of a perfect synergy of the culture wars and capitalism. My understanding is that a lot of the famous aspirational mommy blogs are disproportionately Mormon, culturally more strict about gender roles than a lot of the general population. So that to some extent you've got a population defending the idea that a woman's place is in the home, supported by corporations interested in selling women on the idea that they're not good wives and mothers if they're not adhering to a certain standard.
posted by mrmurbles at 3:34 PM on January 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

Most of them are subtly religious too. It's odd to see how smart people I've known for years are so heavily influenced by these blogs, which are clearly marketing tools. I think it speaks a lot to how unsatisfactory modern life can be when you have small kids.
posted by fshgrl at 3:38 PM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Instagram is pretty good if you want to look at pictures of birds, TBH.


It's also pretty good to look at nature photos from non-bs accounts that don't overphotoshop. And also to keep track of new exhibits to museums you like. This is given that you're not as active on FB and Twitter.
posted by numaner at 4:25 PM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

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