Does mainstream media have mommy issues?

by Susan Getgood on August 12, 2009 · 27 comments

in Blogging, Gender, Parent bloggers

In April, I wrote a post called Has Dooce become the modern day June Cleaver? It got a bit of attention at the time, especially after PunditMom used it to relaunch her Mothers of Intention series.

Please consider this post the sequel.

In the June Cleaver post, I discussed how mainstream media was re-focusing on women in a very traditional role of mother, tripping lightly over our other achievements, and wondered:

Is the mainstream media stuffing women, in general, back in the mommy box because the US power structure relies on women staying in their traditional gender role? To some degree, I think the answer is yes.

Some people agreed. Others did not. Check out the comments on both sites for the true flavor of the conversation. I concluded the post:

Yes, this mom in the media trend makes me very uneasy. Tell me I’m wrong. I want to be wrong. I don’t think I am.

Sadly, very sadly, media coverage of mom bloggers AFTER I wrote the June Cleaver post has largely been evidence that I was on the right track.

Mainstream media has mommy issues.

Consider:

A May BusinessWeek story, Blogola: The FTC Takes On Paid Posts, led with an example  from a mom blog, and included two other parent blog examples out of a total of four in the story. The outlier was the well-known Microsoft Vista laptops example. In the same vein, a July New York Times feature, Approval by a Blogger May Please a Sponsor, focused on two mom bloggers, although it did include two other examples.

Newsweek asks: Are Mommy Bloggers Corporate Sellouts?

A Wall Street Journal article about the Mom Dot PR Blackout led with: “How can so-called mommy bloggers navigate the murky territory of sharing advice with other mothers versus getting paid for the products they promote?” and proceeded to make the inaccurate statement that the Federal Trade Commission was considering new rules for parent bloggers.

paidContent’s sincere question: When did Mommybloggers become the devil?

The BNET advertising blog’s sensationalist (and inaccurate) post-BlogHer headline: Mommy Blogger Blackmails Crocs Marketer; FTC Poised to Step In.

Just this week, CBS2 in Chicago ran a two-part series with the provocative title: The Secrets of Mommybloggers, leading with: “If you depend on mommy bloggers to tell you about the best diapers or strollers or baby food, there’s something you might not know about them, and it’s something that has some blog readers very annoyed.”

Even balanced pieces about the FTC guidelines and ethical issues focus on mom bloggers, even though the issues are universal.

Why so much focus on moms? Why does mainstream media have such a mommy issue?

The consumer products companies are targeting mom bloggers, and the media loves to pick on write about the consumer products companies. To some degree, moms are caught in that crossfire.

But that doesn’t explain why food, travel, tech and style/fashion bloggers haven’t been subject to the same media scrutiny. It’s not because they aren’t getting free products or trips. They are. It’s not because they don’t face the same ethical dilemmas,  or are somehow more ethical than moms.

To be fair,  from time to time, a story from another sector will bubble up to mainstream media. But it’s nothing compared to the inordinate amount of attention paid to the mommy blogger.

The FTC guidelines will apply to all bloggers. Why are they so often characterized as a mommy blogger issue?

During a podcast interview we recently did about Blog with Integrity,  Liz Gumbinner said, and I paraphrase, that the media like the image of the poor stupid mommy blogger shilling products for peanuts.

It’s a better story. Why?

Why is it better to create a negative perception of the mom blogger, instead of focusing on the many interesting ways women are using online and social media to make money outside the 9 -to-5 corporate space? Opportunities that would not have existed prior to social media.

There’s an unfortunate element of “oh you silly mom blogger” in many of the major media stories, and it’s generally worse in the comments. It feels just one tiny step away from “oh you silly women.”

Which brings us back to the same issues I raised in the June Cleaver post.

Is all of this just a form of subtle sexism that makes it easier to keep women down on the farm, and out of Paris? Is it somehow easier to marginalize women bloggers if they are generally identified as mothers, even though many are not? Are we perpetuating a society where men run the front office, and women are out back and/or keeping the home fires burning? Sure, we can be corporate execs. Some of us can run companies. Big ones even.

But it often seems that the cultural belief is we achieved success in spite of the fact that we are women and sometimes mothers. Not because of it.

There’s more than a little bit wrong with that.

If mainstream media could get over its mommy issues, would stop dividing women into mutually exclusive stereotypes, I believe that we’d be one step closer to fixing the problem.

We just have to stop letting it.

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