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The War on Women and the rise of the mommy bloggers

standard November 2, 2012 Leave a response

I started blogging long before it was mainstream. Back then, as far as I could tell, the women blogging were either crafters sharing their projects with each other or women struggling to create families.

I was lonely on my couch while M worked his way through law school and I latched on to both communities, drinking in their words, knowing I didn’t really belong in either community, but unable to tear myself away from this amazing group of women who had an amazing gift.

They shared, openly, without fear, their hopes, their struggles, their dreams.

Vulnerability, taking its rightful place at the center of innovation and change.

These women had a gift. They had the uncanny ability to draw in readers with their words, to weave stories gilded with emotion and truth. These women put raw honesty on display and it was impossible to not be seduced by that pure level of real.

It was a first. Right? Unedited, unfiltered articles, shared with the world without having to bypass the scrutiny of a head editor’s red pen? No one had ever had that before. For the first time words didn’t have to be censored to please advertisers. Emotions could be put on display. Fears. Truths. Raw honesty. All laid out for the world to drink in.

It is my opinion that these early women bloggers, by opening themselves up to the world, paved the road for a female revolution. They gave a platform to people who never knew they were craving one. They allowed muffled voices to sing out. They allowed people who had always stood alone to suddenly discover that they were far from alone in their daily struggles.

The power behind that notion  is strongly contradicted by the terms used to refer to our online community. Could it be possible that the intentional belittlement of women bloggers through the use of seemingly derogatory terms like “mommy blogger” come from fear of the raw power wielded by women not afraid to share the truth? It’s a simple term. It shouldn’t come with a negative connotation. You should no more ever say I’m “just” a mommy blogger than you should say I’m “just” a mom. If there is no harder job than raising children, what can we say about the act of sharing your parenting stories with the world?

At first there were 800 “mommy bloggers.” Today there are 10 000. With so many true stories being shared daily it is no longer possible for anyone to pretend that motherhood resembles in any way the happy, sunny, sterile life portrayed in 50’s sitcoms.

Day after day the unrelenting strength of the average woman being put on display for all to see. Day after day, blog post after blog post, story after story. The joys, the fears, the hardships, the raw emotions, all are put on display and echoed in comments, tweets, retweets, shares, likes, and emails.

“Read this!” “Me too!” ” How did you put into words what I’ve always felt?”

Women who used to feel alone now know that they aren’t. Women who always felt like misfits because of how they felt now know they are not broken or different.

There is power in that unity. There is power in sisterhood. There is power in having your fears, your hopes, your inner thoughts validated and echoed.

Is this uprising and strengthening the reason for the so-called “war on women?” Is this why certain politicians, certain men, are fighting to keep us down, to keep us voiceless? The unrelenting efforts to strip us of our rights to appropriate medical care, our rights to making our own reproductive decisions, our right to equal pay, our right be to the strong people we really are?

Does it all stem from the fear of seeing what women can accomplish by simply standing tall, shoulder to shoulder, and speaking the truth as we see it, as we experience it?

There was a time when women lived in community, working together to make everyone’s burden’s easier to bear. Civilization as we know it has separated us from our sisters, forcing us to parent behind closed doors leaving us to face our worries and challenges on our own.

That time is over. The Internet has broken down the walls.

We are not afraid to show things as they are. WE are not afraid to shine the spotlight on things that are hard to face. And we are not afraid to stand up for what we believe in, for ourselves, and for our sisters.

Through blogs and everything else the Internet has to offer, we will not be silenced and isolated again. We will stand strong and take our rightful place in the world. Anyone who doubts that this might be true just needs to spend some time in our blogosphere to see how the world has changed for the better.

I’m not going to tell you how to vote on Tuesday. You’re smart and you can make your own decisions, but, just, please, look beyond the taxes and the other things that usually clutter political agendas. Consider how far women have come in recent years and how far we still have  to go. Do we want to go back to being voiceless, powerless? Can we make sure that Women as a whole aren’t getting hurt in the process?

On Loss, Love, and Connections

standard January 23, 2012 5 responses

I went to a small high school. I had a handful of close friends and a handful of people I knew, but that was pretty much it. Other than the dude who would drink a 6-pack before homeroom and the guy with the drug problem, everyone was pretty much healthy and average.

I went to a huge university and attended two programs at once. Overnight the number of people I encountered on a daily basis grew exponentially. Suddenly I knew people, lots and lots of people. People with health issues, people with mental issues, people with family issues, and people who were absolutely totally average.

I finished school and went to work for a synagogue. Suddenly, I didn’t just know people, I was actively involved in their day to day lives. I was the front line for every health or family crisis. And it was a big synagogue, so there were many, many crises.

And then, because apparently, I can’t get enough of being in the thick of people’s lives, I got addicted to the internet, where millions of people share snippets of their lives every day, weaving webs that entangle you in their ups and downs.

It’s a wondrous thing being constantly surrounded by people. It means that you always have someone to pump you up when you’re down, or someone to chat with when you need a sounding board. It means that you have friends all over the world. It means that no matter what you’re going through, there’s someone out there who can relate.

What it also means is that you know a million more people who are going through tough times.

When I had a handful of friends my life was pretty sheltered. I knew about the usual, run of the mill challenges that people face. As my social and professional circles have grown I’ve seen more and more of the horrors that life can bring.

Most days I love being hyper connected. I thrive on all that connectedness.

Other days the weight of what my friends face makes me want to shut off the world, curl up under a blanket, and never come out.

It was easier when I hardly knew anyone.

My friend Susan is struggling today. I’ve known Susan, first virtually and finally in the flesh, for over 5 years now. She’s the only rocket scientist I can claim to actually know. She’s wise, funny, caring, and a pillar of strength. She’s fought not one, not two, not even three, but four cancers over the last four years. FOUR cancers. She has two little boys and loving husband. She has friends all over the globe. She’s changed how I see science and how I want my daughters to see it. She’s touched my life and improved it. And no matter what happens over the next few weeks, there will always be a little Susan shaped part of my heart. It’ll glow when I show my kids a cool science trick or help them learn about a woman who has changed the world of science.

I know a million people (give or take a couple thousand) and in putting myself out there I’ve opened up my heart to a million heartaches. My heart breaks daily, but if I weren’t putting myself out there, weren’t opening myself to the possibility of sadness and horror, I wouldn’t be opening myself to the possibility of meeting people like Susan.

And if I hadn’t met Susan? Well my life would most definitely be poorer for it.

(One of my favorite posts by Susan: http://toddlerplanet.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/its-not-fair/, demonstrating that strength and wisdom I mentioned above.)

The power of a network and of friends

standard February 9, 2011 5 responses

First there were the Twitter friends. The people I turned to when I was first freelancing and so lonely sitting in the crowded coffee shop day in and day out. I didn’t know the people around me, but I had friends in the computer.

Then there was the bloggers. Silicon Valley Moms bloggers, local and not. They were my friends online and my friends in real life. Not friends I had playdates with, just friends I saw regularly at blogger events.

After that came the more extended blog network. Bloggers I’d worked with, met at conferences, met online, or just gotten to know through their blogs.

Late to the game came the Facebook network – a hodgepodge of real life friends, old school friends, blog friends, twitter friends, and, here and there, family members scattered all over the world.

In the middle of all that virtual connection I discovered a craving for real life tangible friends who could share a cup of coffee, not just “java.” With trepidation I walked into a mother’s group meeting at my daughter’s preschool. A year and a half later I have a real network of local friends, real, amazing people, who do real amazing things, and who are there for me when I need them.

Two years ago I thought my online network was more than sufficient. Today I know that I was missing something. I needed that balance of virtual and real, of online and off, of “colleagues” and friends.

In my mind both of my communities were clear cut and had their own roles. The online people were essentially work relations, the real life ones were friends. But life isn’t ever that neat. Each has bled into the other. I have real friends online and my real life people have proven over and over again that they have my back when it comes to my work and my career.

Either way, I win. I have great people in my corner. Amazing people I’m proud to have in my network and even more proud to count as friends. Their friendship and their faith in me gives me wings. And sometimes, I get to relax, share a mocha or a glass of wine and just enjoy being a friend back.

Ripples of kindness – I need your help

standard December 8, 2010 15 responses

I love doing little random acts of kindness. Helping a stranger here, doing a favor for a friend there. It makes me happy to give someone an unexpected reason to smile.

Last year Yahoo! organized a “pay it forward” campaign, urging people to perpetuate random acts of kindness. The campaign was so successful that they’re doing it again this year – and asking the Yahoo! Motherboard to help spread the word.

So here’s the deal.

I get $100 of seed money to start the ball rolling. Now, $100 in tiny increments can go a long way and while I know that kind of money could make a big difference to one family or one person, the challenge here is to create random acts of kindness, not random acts of charity.

I considered buying a $100 Starbucks card and asking the baristas to “buy” coffee for all the regulars at my Starbucks.
I considered paying for someone’s gas.
I considered buying a bunch of paperback books and leaving them in public places.
Then I considered asking you.

So, what are your thoughts. If you had $100 to spread some kindness, what would you do?

How about if I told you that I’ll give $50 to the two best ideas so you can go out and put them into effect. (This is above and beyond what Yahoo! is sponsoring for this project and not the money Yahoo! is giving me. That money will go towards the random acts of kindness you inspire.)

I’ll pick the two best ideas to seed $50 to on Friday December 17th. You can comment and let me know that you’re not interested in the money. That said, this is a kindness sharing campaign. If I send you the money I’m counting on you to do the right thing.

If you need inspiration hop on over to the Yahoo! Ripples of Kindness page where people are sharing their acts of kindness. It’s neat to see.

So go on, go forth and comment and help me spread some joy already. Please?

*** PLEASE NOTE: This is for random acts of KINDNESS. I give to charity. This is different. This is bringing a smile to a stranger or friend completely and utterly regardless of need.****