I remember the first time someone suggested to me that BlogHer was sexist. It was, of course, a man who could not possibly fathom why women would need to band together to carve out a space for themselves among bloggers. Why, oh why, in this day and age, would women need to shout to make their voices heard? Aren’t we living in a time of equal rights, after all?
I explained to that man that, while women have undoubtedly come a very long way since the days of not being able to own land or vote or wear pants in public, there were still many places where women were not absolutely equal.
In the workplace, for example, where women still earn less than men.
In politics, where we have yet to elect a female president and where we have had only one female Speaker of The House. The words “first female” still make headlines when they are attached to leadership positions because there is still much progress to be made.
As for the Internet?
It wasn’t all that long ago that a woman assumed a male identity in order to get ahead in the world of blogging and freelancing online.
The bottom line is that yes, we’ve come a long way, baby – but it’s still a man’s world. And in this great big man’s world, women are furthering their own agenda and pushing for progress and equality in part by carving out spaces for themselves. These spaces unify our voices so that we have more power as individuals and as a group. These spaces give us encouragement so that we are strengthened and revived when we have to go back out into that Man’s World that we live in every day. They are necessary and empowering and an essential part of the modern feminist movement.
At least, they are until we start letting in the men.
And then, my female friends, we are fucked.
And it is not the allowance of men that screws us, but rather our collective response to their presence that does us in. To put it simply, we go boy crazy. At least, that’s the momentum that I’m noticing around the blogosphere of late.
It began when men started showing up at conferences with names like BlogHer and Mom 2.0. Was it bad that men showed up? Not in my opinion. I happen to enjoy hanging out with quite a few of the guys that attend these events. If a guy wants to sit and listen to women discuss blogging and learn from and with women, I think that’s great. A man listening in does not necessarily make these female spaces less empowering. What I did object to, however, was the female response to the novelty of a man in the room.
The most polite way to describe it was fawning.
Have you ever been out for a bachelorette party with a dozen women and had a guy approach your group? Do you notice the way the energy of the group shifts to encircle the man at the table? That is exactly what I have witnessed happening when a male blogger goes to a female blogging conference. I’m ashamed to admit it, but as a group we women seem to lose our damn minds when a man enters our midsts. We lower our standards and our expectations and are simply enthralled that a man has deemed our little girls group worth of his attention. ”Oh, boy, it’s a MAN!”
You can practically hear the squealing.
And now, I fear, the squealing has gotten traction and we are actually handing over these sacred spaces to men because we are just so damn impressed with them! The boys! They have blogs! They have kids and they write about them! This is revolutionary and we should be giving them a platform to speak! “The dad movement is building, and it seems just right to have them in on the action.”
What? The hell?
Ladies, the men do not need us donating our spaces to them. The dads do not need to borrow our stages so that their voices can be heard. The dad movement is, in fact, building, which is why they put together their own damn conference! And they didn’t need our help.
The significance of the dad movement does not need to overshadow what women are doing online.
Please understand, I don’t blame the men. It’s not their responsibility to make our voices heard or to push a female agenda. We have taken on that responsibility and owned that power by creating things like BlogHer. But now we seem to be so enchanted by the fact that men want to be involved that we are giving those spaces away. Again I say to you:
What the hell?
There are lots and lots of places in this world for a man to be heard. There are lots and lots of places for men and women to meet as equals in the blogosphere. BlogWorld, which I had been warned was “man world”, was a gender neutral conference that focused on the business of blogging rather than the genitalia – and that was GREAT! Might I also suggest SXSW, WordCamp and other industry based conferences that don’t reference gender in their names.
But BlogHer? Mom 2.0 Summit? Type-A Mom Conference?
The fact that men have become such a prominent part of these self-identified female events sends the message that we, as women, are incapable of being successful, useful, and/or entertaining without the inclusion of men. We have to add men to our panels because… because why?
Because men are currently more interesting than women?
Because we couldn’t find a woman that was just as educated on that particular subject?
Because men are so far superior to women that even organizations that purport to be created by women and for women have to enlist the help of a few good men in order to stay relevant?
What the hell, ladies?
What. the. hell?
I want to make it clear that *my* understanding of the three conferences specifically mentioned here is that they were specifically and consciously created to be spaces for women and/or moms. I based this assumption largely on the names of the conferences and also on the marketing I have seen from each organization. My frustration was with the idea that a space that was originally created for women was being handed over – at least in part – to men in an effort to get along or be inclusive.
HOWEVER, it has been pointed out to me that at least two of the conferences mentioned were not, actually, designed to be places for women and therefore this discussion doesn’t relate to them. To include them here would be like discussing whether or not I was a good or bad Muslim when I had no intention of being any kind of Muslim in the first place.
From the comments, in the conference organizers’ own words:
“It is funny you bring up Type-A Parent Conference… I am actually renaming to that as well as renaming my site Type-A Parent. I added a dad track to the Type-A Mom Conference last month, and I think having dads there (even in small numbers) added to the conference and did not take anything away. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t notice any fawning (umm… that would be very creepy and weird). What I did notice was that the men said they got an awful lot from all the sessions (not just the dad track), and the men had some important thoughts to add as well as providing another perspective.” – Kelby Carr of Type-A Mom (soon to be Type-A Parent)
“The goal is to create a quality space to have a quality conversations between people who are site owners, bloggers, content creators, moms, and/or marketers. The audience is smart people who want to add to the conversation. We have always had dad speakers (or speakers who are dads). Always. Our first keynote conversation was between Karen Walrond and Guy Kawasaki, and it was fantastic.
Each year, we create a platform to facilitate a quality, relevant conversation… regardless of sexual orientation, color, creed, or gender. That’s our goal.” – Laura Mayes, Mom 2.0 Summit
It is not my place to tell someone else what the goal of their conference should be. I do, however, want to know what to expect when I plunk down money for a ticket.
Anyone else curious what BlogHer’s official position is now?