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What Women Write

today Deborah Howell at the Washington Post, Nicholas Kristof at the NYT and Rod Dreher over at Crunchy Cons all have stuff up about the lack of diversity among pundits. For good measure, Rod Dreher adds bloggers to the mix and links to an older Heather MacDonald column about blogging saying that women aren’t good bloggers and blacks and hispanics are missing because they are currently illiterate. There are all sorts of reasons thrown around for this lack of diversity, almost all of them pretty much completely off base. So I roll my eyes and move on until this afternoon when I came across an article by Laura McKenna called “Let’s Give the Mommy Bloggers Some Respect“. Ding! Ding! Ding! Let’s give the little lady a prize.

For those few of you not in the know, here’s Ms. McKenna’s explanation of the term “mommyblogger”:

the term have come to describe mothers (with the stray stay-at-home dad in the mix) who maintain blogs that chronicle and deal with raising their kids and their life after kids. These bloggers vary greatly in terms of tone and focus, but in general, they take a very intense and irreverent look at parenting. They discuss potty training in graphic terms. They talk about tossing back a beer with other parents. They show off projects that they are working on. They complain about the amount of homework their kids get and agonize over how many hours they are in front of the television or (ironically) the computer. They cheer on and encourage their fellow online parents. Some mommybloggers have particular niches, like parenting kids with special needs or moms with PhDs and form sub-communities revolving around those interests.

All well and fine you say, but what do women writing about dirty diapers have to do with the lack of women writers in newspapers? Well, as anyone who has bothered reading mommybloggers already knows, many of these moms are talking about their kids and families along with politics:

Many of them reside in the intersection of politics and parenting, like Bitch, PhD, Half Changed World, Electric Venom and my blog, 11D. Some mommybloggers have made the jump to full-time political blogging, such as MOMocrats. In this world, there is no separating the personal from the political.”

But surely if these women were writing interesting things people cared about, people in the know would have noticed by now. Only people in the know have noticed; it’s just the people who only know what a pundit looks like when they conform to a male ordered paradigm who are missing them. These blogs are enormously popular:

Marginal? Not according to the numbers. Dooce [a top mommyblogger] is number 41 on Technorati’s Top 100 blog list. She has more readers than most of the well known political blogs and she’s linked to more often than Andrew Sullivan or Michelle Malkin. In April 2008, she had 5.5 million pageviews and her comments number regularly in the hundreds. A recent post had 814 comments.” She’s not alone. Blogher lists 3,200 self-identified mommybloggers on its blogroll, but those numbers aren’t close to their overall numbers.”

There are literally millions of mommybloggers out there with many more millions of readers. The problem isn’t that there aren’t women who write well about things people care about. The problem is that there aren’t women devoted to writing and building writing careers that look like men’s. In her article, Heather MacDonald speaks of a lack of women in the “elite” blogosphere. Would she include a mommyblogger with more hits than Michelle Malkin on her list of “elite” bloggers? Or does mixing diapers with discussion of the farm bill disqualify one from playing with the big boys?

Really, this just gets back to what I have written about previously about how mysogynistic our expectations of women in our culture are. There are millions of women writing about politics and food and kids and clothes, all mixed up together. Many of them are doing it while staying home, raising their kids. Some of them are excellent writers with interesting, insightful things to say. But because they’re not doing it like the men, they don’t count. The aristocratic gate keepers of our punditocracy never stop to think that instead of trying to increase diversity by searching for a woman who walks, talks, writes and thinks like a man they ought to be looking for a woman who does things like – gasp – a woman.

Do these people ever stop to consider that half of the population is female and may relate better to a woman writer who can mix discussions about kid’s haircuts with economics? After all, compartmentalizing is a classically male behavior. Why should we hold up this male trait as a sign of a competent political writer? And perhaps it’s high time media along with the rest of corporate America stop looking for ways to get more women to fit into the male designed and approved career and work arrangments they’re used to. If they’re so concerned about a lack of diversity, why aren’t they trying to figure out what they need to change in order to fit us? Personally, I find the idea that women need to, as Deborah Howell puts it “step-up” insulting. Guess what?  A lot of smart, talented women have stepped up – we’re just not doing it in ways that someone expecting us to look, talk, think and act like a man might recognize.

Which is a shame, because we really need to expand what is discussed in our media beyond a narrowly defined definition of politics and current events. It has been my opinion for a long time that we are seriously suffering in this country from bad parenting and bad priorities. We can reach political nirvana, but if we haven’t raised good, responsible, healthy people it won’t matter. And if nothing else, mommybloggers represent a view of life which is much more likely to get us the healthy adults we’ll need to have any hope of reaching anything close to political nirvana:

When their blogs describe in detail the hours that go into potty training, the lengths that a parent will go to get a picky eater to eat carrots, the insanity of projects sent home from school, the sleepless nights worrying about a child’s speech delay, that information not only provides respect and legitimacy for the work of parents. It may hopefully even provide more understanding in the workplace for the parent who needs to leave early for a parent-teacher conference. Mommybloggers are also making it clear that while raising the kids is hard work, it’s rewarding work and a worthwhile pursuit.” [emphasis mine]

If that doesn’t have a place in our major papers and magazines, then it’s not women who are the problem – it’s them.

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