Politics, Blogs, and Double-minded Feminism (Oh My!)
August 5, 2005

Among the many things I am proud to be, a woman is most certainly one of them. A reality that was once so simple is now made entirely too complicated at the hands of a relative society that tries to redefine itself more than Madonna. For me, being a woman isn't a burden, nor is it a curse or some thorn stuck in my eternal side. I've never been interested in male-bashing or blaming my current status on my gender and its limitations. Our perceived reality is the basis for how we live life. Being a woman is both a blessing and a responsibility that I enjoy every single day of the year. As well I should, since I cannot be anything else.

It is with that attitude that I agreed to be a speaker at the first-annual Blogher Conference.

The following are my reflections on the conference. I apologize in advance for the lack of flowery words and kumbaya around the issue (yeah that's right; I made "kumbaya" a noun so deal), but I'm not on the touchy-feely, "wasn't it great to be around a bunch of bright and talented women?" kick today or any day I have to hear phrases like "Michelle Malkin's husband writes her books," and "Condoleezza Rice is the Sally Hemmings of the 21st century," and "Gosh I sure hate (insert any principled non-white woman of character)," uttered at a supposedly "supportive," all-female gathering.

Talented and bright they were. The least I can say is that Blogher didn't flounder in proving that indeed women are some of the sharpest and most provocative minds on the Internet. Whether or not I agree with the presented brand of sharpness and provocation is an entirely different issue. In fact, it is the case at hand.

I have a problem and maybe you can help me solve it. Is there a point at which 250+ tech-savvy, smart and independent women can come together and the main focus of conversation not be rooted in a feminist perspective? Granted, I knew prior to the conference that I would be in the vocal minority, but if there's one thing that was glaringly evident last weekend, it was the absence of extreme philosophical dissent. Period.

When a person can stand up in one of the sessions and boldly proclaim herself both married and "Polyamorous," to a room that then thunders in applause of approval, it's time to call Houston because we have a severely lop-sided problem.

Although the conference was nonpartisan, throughout the sessions and breakout groups, there were a number of interesting assumptions made, the worst of which were the following:

  • Every woman in attendance was pro-choice.
  • Every woman in attendance was a feminist.
  • Every woman in attendance had the same working definition of feminism.

Much of the "opening session" was spent debating the question, "Does the A-list really matter?" The A-list of course, refers to the top percentage of bloggers with the most traffic, links, press, yadda yadda, who cares. I understand all the talk about how certain systems are strategic in consistently promoting and working in the favor of men. I am certain there is an online version of the "Boys' Club." I don't question this in the least, but for the love of Moses and Aaron, do not let that define you and can we stop camping out at the mountain of blog-ranking despair. This is America folks. Buck up.

The room seemed equally divided in their answers to if high-rank matters, but what stood out the most to me in the debate was the whining about how the top bloggers never link to lesser-known female blogs and the noticeable absence of a strong female presence in the Technorati Top 100. Which leads me to believe that my 6th tip in the "How to Blog Like a Rockstar" series is spot-on indeed.

Ambra's personal caveat: Get over the need for cyber appreciation, people. Write well, do your thing, provoke thought and eventually, the right people will take note. I would also like to announce that everyone who has a blog will not be popular. It is a fact. The word "top" indicates that there has to be a bottom. That is the way the world works. We can't all be celebrities. Caveat ended.
The day prior to my session, I had massive facial swelling and my appearance could best be likened to the lovechild of big Carnie Wilson and "The Godfather." I nearly called to cancel, but thankfully most of the swelling went down.

The session in which I participated, "Political Blogging Grows Up," was a cordial dialogue between myself, liberal blogger Roxanne Cooper, moderator Courtney Lowrey, and an audience of about 30, which if my memory serves me right, included both Kevin Drum and Dooce.

We didn't go deep. That's nearly impossible in 60 minutes (although rumor has it that Dan Rather tried a few times). We talked about the monolithic nature of political blogs and the tendency for bloggers to "parrot" whatever issue or lead is being blogged about by the top bloggers of the moment. We also touched on the potential power of weblogs to press beyond appearing exactly like mainstream media (though I fear it may be too late). Nothing provocative or earth-shattering there, but it was good to hear peoples' thoughts. I'll upload the podcast whenever it's released. At least then you can officially hear me proclaim my distaste for Ann Coulter's wardrobe.

I am certain the panel wasn't the flaming match many had hoped for (with different panelists of course). Oh well, the only thing I know how to do is me. I will however say this: for all of Roxanne's toughness on her blog, and although we disagree on nearly everything, she still strikes me as the type of person who would bake you a casserole (or at least buy you one) if you were sick. I could easily sit down and have a meal with her and I don't just say that about anybody. Roxanne, thanks for being a panelist with me.

I give the conference organizers their props. They made up their minds to do something and they did it. Despite my distaste for the one-sided perspective, the conference was executed very well. I learned a few lessons along the way and I feel accountable to share them lest you make the same mistakes:

  1. When the professional-looking lady from CNN wants to give you her card and tape you because they're looking for regulars to be on their new program segment about blogs, don't have maxillofacial swelling, mkay?
  2. Blog business cards are for nerds. I refuse to get any. You should too.
  3. When lots of cameras are present, avoid quick gesturing because you will end up looking horrible in all your pictures. Roxanne, on the other hand, was a pro poser.
  4. If you have an Apple iBook, and the person sitting next to you has a brand new 17" Powerbook, it's best to just keep your computer in its measly little case because it will look pathetic next to 17-inches of aluminumy goodness.
  5. When someone says, "We" in an affinty group setting, always make them define it.
To my question of why there was a liberal slant on everything at Blogher, a reader's comment on Kevin Drum's post-conference re-cap pretty much sums it up for me:
Registration for the thing was open to all, you know, and the vast majority of attendees were self-selected...The real problem, of course, is that it was a women's conference that specifically grew out of a feminist purpose...Feminism, in case you're not aware, does tend to skew left, and yet it is an actual widespread and popular political force in this country--hardly the marginal feel-good self-indulgence you seem to think it is.
True oh true indeed.

(photo courtesy of Dr. Paradox)

Posted by Ambra at August 5, 2005 3:54 AM in Blogging
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Ambra, "Polyamorous"? Take a tip from a retired hippie from the last century; these relationships can not work! We all want to be stars in our own bedrooms, and not share with anyone else! Good health, Tom

I agree with you about Coulter's wardrobe! I love Ann's stands, her attacks on liberals, and her feistiness (sp?). But Ann wants so much to be glamorous and just can't quite make it. she is attractive and coul probably show up better if she dressed accordingly.

Keep up the good work! God bless,

Ron

BlogHer? But I just met her!

Sorry, couldn't resist. Been holding that one in for weeks now.

Nice layering going on there, with the AKA-esque pink and green ensemble, A.N. Lime is the new black, isn't it?

And thanks for expanding my vocabulary once again. I can't wait to use "polyamorous" in a sentence in Sunday School.

These may be obvious questions, but was this the first ever BlogHer gathering, and was this your first time there? Sounds like the answer is affirmative on both counts, no?

So, any witnessing opps while you were there? Sounds like plentiful bounty at the gathering.

Holla.

Ambra: Thanks again for being part of the one session that was planned with politics in mind. And we specifically were going for speakers who could *avoid* the typical flaming match.

As Drum's reader states, the registration *was* open to all, including people who you agree and disagree with, people you approve of and disapprove of. I don't think you should confuse the ability of most people there to listen and engage respectfully...and not descend into flaming matches...as lock-step agreement as you describe.

And thank you for lesson #3 above. It has now all become clear why pictures of me are always so disturbing (to me, anyway.) I am going to have try the "speak and pose" approach :)

PS-If you hadn't mentioned your face thing, I probably wouldn't have noticed it at all that morning.

Did Ron just use the f-bomb here? Oh how I cannot stand the word "Feisty" being used to describe a woman. Maybe I should have that word banned.

I still love you Ron....

Language is interesting, isn't it? "Feisty" is never used to describe a man. But, I digress ...

Thanks for the props, Ambra. I'm not sure I deserve 'em, but I'll take 'em.

As for the lack of a screaming match, it would have been antithetical to the session's title ('Grows Up"). I think part of growing up means you realize you can attract more flies with honey. And that you can do that without abandoning your core beliefs. Although I don't always tow that line on my own blog, it's something I strive for.

I'm glad Eve was the smart one in the garden. We can all thank her (women) that we (men) are here. If not Adam would be all alone in the garden.

I just have to know... why would you declare Eve to be the smart one in the garden?

Think about it.

I agree...why do you think Eve was the smart one? She was the one who disobeyed God first.

Someone had to be first in order yo keep the commandment to multipy...

"Someone had to be first in order yo keep the commandment to multipy..."

huh!! I guess I'm a bit slow 'cuz I didn't get that one.

Please foregive the typos. Father gave Adam and a choice. Do not eat the forbidden fruit and stay in the garden forever. Multiply and replenish the earth. If they stay in the garden they cannot have posterity. ergo, Someone had to make a choice. Eve did first and Adam followed. As a result we are here.

My Bible doesn't say that. God gave Adam and Eve a commmand to stay away from that tree. Their choices were, obey and live forever or disobey and die, not obey and be barren or disobey and multiply. Don't try to excuse and exalt her by incorrectly saying she was just trying to do what God said as though He'd given them a choice between commandments. Eve was deceived by Satan and sinned. In those circumstances, Adam would be considered the smart one for loving Eve so much that he didn't want her to be alone in her exile from Eden so he sinned for her sake not for his. If they'd both been smart and completely obeyed God in the first place, we'd all have been born in Eden not this Dorian Gray version of a world.

Now all humans are dogs or has there always been that statistically unaccounted for female cheaters population, might have never voiced it at a blog conference though? On the technorati top 100, networks grow outside the blogosphere, and the fact that women aren't represented to the same degree strikes me, only because of simple non-linking? Maybe women need to network with men more, in the physical space. No really, great name for the conference, we need more voices instead of noises...persnickety wickety.

Going to a blogHER conference and expecting it to be anything but overwhelmingly feminist in perspective is like going to a gathering of average black Americans and expecting them to be anything but overwhelming Democrats. Do rightwingers ever NOT gripe about the unchangeable aspects of reality?

I beg to differ. It's an "all-women thing." If the conference had been predominately black women, there would have been an entirely different focus.

As for what "right-wingers" do, I don't know. Mayeb you want to ask "them"? I'm unqualified to answer that question.

Did you ever notice that God didn't have to make "be fruitful and multiply" one of the Ten Commandments?

He only had to say it once and BAM...

Good on you for wading into waters that may have been a bit chilly to your perspective.

Maybe we appeared a little bit in lockstep at BlogHer itself...but it has inspired some fun and smart debates afterward, on sites including yours. For example, check out the little one happening on Elisa's blog about next year's speakers. SourDuck makes a case for an all-women faculty. I make a case for the most talented, regardless of gender. There are an infinite number of points in between (and probably on both ends past us!). SourDuck and I exchanged some opinions on my blog, too, about La Queen Sucia, and SourDuck has started a great thread on HER blog, riffing on Mobile Jones' interesting point about women and anger that the room seemed to ignore. Never met the Duckster, but I loooove smart people, even if I don't agree with them. It makes me smarter.

Polyamorous? Sigh. I don't care one way of the other what anyone does in their bedroom. AND I don't think it's any of my business, any more than it's anyone's business what happens in mine. So, I for one would have been perfectly happy not to have had that newsflash. I don't think that makes me more or less of a feminist, just a person who found it TMI.

FWIW, in my coaching, I let clients know that the really interesting and powerful stuff is what happens *between* sessions, based on the issues the session brings up. I bet the same will prove true for BlogHer. See you next year!

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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