Thursday, July 9, 2009


From a recent (rather flattering) email:

hi Rachel! i just wanted to tell you that i love your blog! i followed the link over here from one of your comments on feministing because i almost always agree with your comments there. ive added you to my bookmarks now so i can check back every day. but I'm curious about the fact that you don't seem to belong to BlogHer? It seems like most feminist bloggers do.

I have mixed feelings about BlogHer that run deep. I guess theoretically I'm in favor of spaces that feature the thoughts, concerns, and writing of women. Sort of. I can see why some women advocate for it, but I don't personally feel the need for it, and when it comes to bringing about social change (which is what I personally am invested in, although I realize that not all members of BlogHer are), I think that conversations with a large cross-section of society are far more vital and productive. Although preaching to the choir can be fun too.

One of my issues with BlogHer is the relentlessly commercial atmosphere. As if it's not enough that women are cast as perennial consumers by our patriarchal capitalist culture. As if it's not poblematic that shopping is constructed as a central feature of Womanhood in our culture. So then we have to turn around and invent a space for this very kind of marketing to occur and target us where we live? Feels a bit like collusion to me.

But the main reason I generally avoid BlogHer is that many of the posts are entirely lacking in a nuanced or thoughtful approach to what I view as women's issues. For example, this post, Neutrogena Keeps Your Kids From Burning, by Susan Wagner, not only hawks a product of dubious health and environmental status (for containing possible neurotoxins and known endocrine disrupters, among other things), but it also mindlessly repeats the same old gender bullshit "Even my sons, who don't care at all about product. Boys -- sheesh." that has been used to maintain the gender hierarchy for ages. I think we get it already. Boys don't care about skin care but girls automatically do. From birth. It follows from merely possessing a uterus. Right.


So it occurs to me that it's rather ironic when friends in RL and commenters online ask me why I don't belong to BlogHer or feature the BlogHer widget on my blog. For one thing, in my view, too many widgets are a big no-no, as they clutter things up and detract from the conversations taking place in the main body of a blog. But beyond that, just because I am a blogger who also happens to have a uterus doesn't mean I should automatically belong to any community or provide free advertising for any particular group. And the fact that so many people assume I should ironically reveals the subtle and profound gender essentialism in our cultural worldview. The fact that the BlogHer bloggers and I all have uteruses (uteri?) does not automatically make us kindred souls, or allies, or partakers in a shared point of view.


  1. Well argued. I'm glad I'm not the only person who feels a little ambivalent about such networks, particularly the heavy commercialism. I guess I'm less concerned about everyone agreeing, whether or not all the women in question happen to have uteruses (what /is/ the plural? O.o)

  2. And I think this points to the fundamental issues that follow from both the gender essentialism (which you get from a LOT of the mommy blogs) that Rachel points out, and the strange position that leaves intersex and trans women in that Mattie refers to. Without a thoughtful approach, you unintentionally contribute to patriarchal and oppressive social ideas and (often unintentionally) exclusionary ways of thinking.

    God, I feel like my writing is really unclear today. Gah.

  3. Tessa,

    I think your writing is just fine today. But then, I spend a lot of time reading Philosophy, so I'm probably a piss-poor judge.


    I should have noted that this is one of the huge problems with an essentialist view. Which is what my sarcastic uterus comment was directed at. Besides undergirding hierarchy, it's intrinsically exclusionary (as Tessa so articulately notes.) When you're committed to an essentialist view, what on earth can you do with the intersexed and transgendered among us? Oh wait, I know, insist on referring to them as their assigned-at-birth gender regardless of their preference... Yeah, I really think thoughfulness and nuance are called for here, and you often don't find that at BlogHer.

    And I don't think another blogger has to always agree with me in order for me to endorse them. I often disagree with other bloggers who are in my blogroll. But some of the common themes and attitudes that appear on BlogHer just rub me the wrong way. That and the relentless commercialism...

  4. Tessa, totally made sense to me too! :)

    As someone who lives outside the US, BlogHer strikes me as also very US centric. Nothing wrong with that per se! But it's not really something that is made explicit either. I think there is a lot to be said for blogging rings and grouping blogs between people who feel they have complimentary voices. When they stop being about that and become something bigger, more meta, and indeed commercial, that goodness gets lost. Has to really! They are a different animal.

    Where this example trips up, in my opinion, is that it is trying to say that it is still something inclusive and community based, rather than acknowledging that it is rather more like say, Wordpress or Blogger, in it's diversity and range of voices. Nothing wrong with them either, but you can't dress them up as a true community and then expect it to really achieve that! It's less what BlogHer is, and more the difference between what it says it is and what it does that is key perhaps, which is very much what you were highlighting in your post!