Sunday, 10 November 2013

Feminism at Blogfest

Yesterday I went to Blogfest, a conference organised by the crazy people from Mumsnet. It was a sleek operation with very interesting speakers. The crowd who attended was a real mix of women, from the entrepreneur blogger to the mummy blogger, more on that in a minute.

I thoroughly enjoyed Paul Armstrong's Advanced Social Media talk and I shall be using some of the tools he recommended, Sprout and Canva being the ones I can't wait to get my fingers on. Here is a link to his presentation, if you are interested and, as Paul would say, take pen and paper and draw out your or your brand social media manifesto. Decide what is important and what is time wasting or the alternative is being caught in a loop of social media decisions and interactions, some of which are of no real benefit whatsoever. 

Meeting Gemma Regalado-Hawkey and listening to her session was also incredibly interesting. Gemma is a web developer who, unlike many of her peers, is able to talk about code and web layouts without making it sound boring nor complicated. Maybe one day people will finally stop using Comic Sans, who knows. Have a look at this and your eyes will be opened.

Finally, onto the last session of the day, the one that created controversy, women leaving the room in disdain and plenty of social media buzz for the utter joy of the Mumsnet organisers. The title of the session was 'Can you be a mummy blogger and still be a feminist?' and I'm disappointed to report that the debate led to no answer whatsoever, but a lot of women on women attacks which, all would argue, was a big feminism fail. *sigh*

Charlotte Raven opened the debate by saying that you can't be a feminist and wear high heels nor make jam. This had half of the audience fired up at the start. Things got worst when the debate moved to the word mummy. Alison Perry made the valid point that this is the actual name that her 3 years old daughter calls her hence a name that she is proud to own and use for her blog and most of the audience seemed to agree with her, but then she was met with a bit of ridicule from the panel. I'm afraid to report that it all quickly degenerated from there.

When Sarah Ditum talked about her life and revealed that she got pregnant at 19 and knew that finishing University was the best way for her to be a good mother as opposed to drop out of education, that was the end of the debate. The audience decided that this was enough.

People took the microphone pre-empting their contributions with sentences such as "Sorry, but I'm fuming at what I heard and..." or "I'm seething at what you just said and I feel like shouting..." or "I have boobs and they were designed to feed babies..." or "I don't understand anything about feminism, but I am a stay at home mum and a feminist'

Oh no, it was bad. It was really bad. It became a cliche story of women attacking other women's choices without listening to the other person first. Sarah Ditum was branded as the one who stated that educated women are better mums - she never did say that - and Stay At Home Mums who make some money from reviews on their blogs felt as if they were under attack. Thank God the 'boobs / breastfeeding comment' was not explored because I am sure that the women who could not breastfeed or chose not to were ready to open that can of worms too, had they had the chance.

What a disaster! It was a highly charged affair. Feminism lost and women reverted to what men describe us as, that is to say emotional, irrational, excitable, impulsive and all the other adjectives that often mean that a man is chosen for the job instead (and gets paid more)! *sigh*

Thank God for Jo Brand who took to the stage, defused the atmosphere and cracked this brilliant joke at the start of her contribution: "I believe that humour is the best way to deal with bad health issues, unless the problem is impotency". She went on making us laugh and encouraging women to work together and make themselves heard.

If only we could just listen to each other...

13 comments:

  1. Interesting account. I couldn't make the conference but was very curious about this session. Hate to say it cos I am a massive Mumsnet fan but the cynic in me is says it was probably staged controversy.

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  2. Was gutted that I wasn't able to attend the conference so i tried follow the blogfest hashtag. It saddens me that such a talk had to lead to so much controversy

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  3. What a completely sane post. I saw a massive flurry of tweets and thought exactly the same about Mumsnet. They'd thrown their grenade in and boom - lots of publicity. Very sad when women start turning on each other and can't see what's actually going on.

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  4. Hmmm you see this just backs up my cynical view of Mumsnet holding these events I'm afraid. They seem to actively seek controversy and bloggers fall for it. Last year Liz Jones, this year a so called debate on feminism. Such a shame. This is by far the best post I've read though so thanks for for giving such a balanced view!

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  5. Blogfest was a first for me. Maybe I have been stuck with my head in the sand but I hadn' t even thought about whether I was being a feminist or not! Oops. Maybe being a feminist has evolved may now hold many different guises. But I strongly beleive women should support each other in the decisions that we make even if the decision is not what you personally would have made. To quote my brother 'I thought we were all collegiate! which means that we are or should be a team of equal standing. Oh and just to add I always fall over in heels especially after a few gins!

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  6. It was a very highly charged debate! Luckily, the majority of women that I met seemed to come to the same sort of conclusion - we're much better when in support of the ability to have and make our own choices, which is the point of feminism after all.

    Thanks for coming to see me talk yesterday and really glad you enjoyed it :)

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  7. What a balanced post and an interesting account of Blogfest. I didn't make it this year, but followed the hashtag when I could to keep up with the day. I was thinking about going next year until I heard the controversy. I don't want to feed Mumsnet who do seem to like stirring things up to keep in the headlines.

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  8. Feminism needs to do something useful. I don't understand why (apart from generating publicity) this panel felt the need to attack a room full of women who have made their own choices (whether the panel thought they were 'suitable' choices or not) because we live in a culture where we can. Why can't they do something useful, stop the in-fighting, and go and help some women who can't make their own choices? Women who are victims of domestic violence or female circumcision. Women to whom feminism matters.

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  9. Yeeha for a sensible post! And good to meet you yesterday.

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  10. As always, F, you put your points across with flair. You know my view on it all - I bored you with it on stage, and afterwards at dinner. I agree that women should be more supportive of women.

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  11. What a superb post. Sorry for zooming in on one element of it as I am about to. I did read it all, but can't say more than "I agree" to the rest of it.
    The bit about boobs, I would like to comment on, as I was the author of that shout from the balcony. To defend my comment, I almost feel like I need to get inside the me, of Saturday 9th November to remember how I felt. I only know that somehow I felt like we were being asked to be more of a woman in SPITE of being a Mother. I am not as eloquent as you, so I'll struggle now to get my point across (as I did on the day). I wanted to say that being a Mother is what we are born to be. We have the anatomy for it (whether we use it or not). Those F ladies will say but what about all of the women who are not Mothers. Well actually, they are all Mothers too, which is why and how women get breast and cervical cancer, because we take issues and internalise them, into the areas where we feel they can be nurtured. If we don't elevate the issues and stew on them, they can literally distort our cells, which is why I have been involved in alternative medicine for 25 years. I don't want to start another debate, but I feel we are all women, all mothers. So I wanted to celebrate our Motherhood, rather than attack it. It felt like we were being told you need other interests and passions rather than just that of being a Mother, but we have to take our Mothering qualities, those that make us different to men, and in SOME circumstances better, and apply them to our other passions. If true MOTHER energy had been present on that stage, the session would NEVER have gone the way it did. I am terrible at explaining this, but I hope I have, in some way. xx

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