If you're a regular Dear Reader, you will notice that the following is content that is not at all my norm. I'm at the Type-A Mom blogging conference, and I wanted to post my conference notes to help other participants.
Please forgive the typos. I'm typing quickly, and I will edit when I can.
From the Type-A Mom conference program:
Think you're not political? Think again! Moms are using their blogs to raise the profile for causes they love. Learn how to use your blog to help advance political, social & educational causes you believe in. Trust me, “politics” is not a dirty word.
Political Blogging with Pundit Mom, Joanne Bamberger
This ended up being a small session, and it was more like a round table discussion than a panel speech. If you missed it, here are some highlights.
Joanne – Can you introduce yourselves and talk about why you came to this session?
MorningSideMom (Carolyn) Ã¢â‚¬“ I was a professional at Mount Holyoke college. Had children, needed to use my brain. I was desperate to get out my thoughts. I knew I'd write about parenting stuff and politics. That was about 2 years ago, and I came across PunditMom, and I was inspired because Joanne is a mom who is interested in politics and she is valued for that. During the election, I had a lot of things to write about. But now, I'm uninspired. I am tired of the anger and the hate and the sound bites, and I'm feeling like it's unproductive. There has to be more than that. I need some inspiration to maintain my momentum. I want there to be constructive discussion.
CNN started this new round table thing, and it's all men. Where are the women?
Julie Lloyd Ã¢â‚¬“ I'm trying to find a way to get 5 or 6 of my staff in to blogging. I'm a communications director, so my job is to get those people to maintain their blogs and to stay motivated. I also do wedding videography, so I'm sort of stuck in two different worlds.
Allie Ã¢â‚¬“ I want to try to use my traffic for good. No Time for Flashcards doesn't do politics, but I want to try to get into some social issues.
Tara – I write Feels Like Home, and I don't write many posts about politics and government, but there are issues that interest me.
Mindy Mazur Ã¢â‚¬“ I drove all the way from Boston with my cousin, Susan Epstein. I am enraged and frightened. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but there is only one truth. I used to love Air America, but I can't listen to it any more. They are giving air time to these crazy people.
MorningSide Ã¢â‚¬“ There is fear mongering, and it gives momentum to the fear.
Mindy Ã¢â‚¬“ I have a background in public health. I lost my job because my son was having a health crisis. I started advocating for parents in education and on health issues. I joined my cousin's company, Parenting Powers, and I've helped people to blog. I want to get better at blogging, and I would like to eventually have an outlet for my rage about this frightening climate we have. I can't explain it, but I've never felt this enraged, upset, and frightened in my life.
Dolcita Love Ã¢â‚¬“ I'm curious about whether blogs could be taxed and those issues. I'm hearing about that. I'm wondering if that will affect our voices. Overall, the media is only featuring certain stories, but now that people can create their own documentaries, there are other stories about horrible things happening to women. There's a documentary in town right now about a situation in the Congo where people are going in to harvest resources, but the women are being horribly treated.
MorningSide Ã¢â‚¬“ These media outlets are being controlled by large corporations. It's up to us to make the real stories heard. Sometimes people are not informed, so we have to make sure we're up on the facts, but it's up to us.
Dolcita Ã¢â‚¬“ How do we have the courage to step out? Even if it's not political, maybe. There was something toxic in the clay at my son's school. I was googled it and found out that it was very toxic, and that a lot of the chemicals are ingested by the students. I'm not sure what is going to happen. I'm not sure what the next step is going to be.
MorningSide Ã¢â‚¬“ There was this Victoria Secret thing. I got a bad rash from this VS bra. I contacted the company and they basically said “Sorry, Charlie.” They said I could have my money back, but it was not a satisfactory response. I wrote about it, and the comments came rolling in.
What rights do we have?
DowntoEarthMama Ã¢â‚¬“ I write occasionally politically. When I do, I tend to write a lot about education and the political side of education and the bills that affect it. I guess what I want to get out of this forum is how to write without fear about people coming to attack you. I don't care whether you're Republican or Democrat. I want to have a grown up conversation. I want an honest, real, constructive discussion without the fear of people who want to Ã¢â‚¬“
Mindy Ã¢â‚¬“ hatemonger.
Joanne Ã¢â‚¬“ If you read the comments on my site, I have the same thing. There will be lots of productive comments and then a few people who say terrible things. We need a safe space where we can all discuss this stuff, as opposed to the Bill Oreily Ã¢â‚¬“ Keith Olberman clash. How can we create a space where we can have the discussion.
We need to be passionate about the topic without being passionate and hateful towards each other. How do we get to that?
DowntoEarth Ã¢â‚¬“ When things do get like that, how do you avoid being snarky back? If you wrote in a voice that was respectful,
Joanne Ã¢â‚¬“ If I feel strongly enough about something to write about it, someone else may feel strongly about it on the other side. Is it important enough to write about it and have the discussion and ignore the trolls. Their whole point is to scare people away from the conversation and getting attention for themselves.
It's not just for politics. There are trolls out there about all of the issues Ã¢â‚¬“ education, health. They want you to back down. They harass.
Mindy Ã¢â‚¬“ How do you educate people? Should we give them more information and link to sites? Many years ago, I was at the PTO board at my son's school, and I made a critical comment about the PTO in front of the school committee. It ended up being on tv. I received threats. People wouldn't look at me. I was ostracized.
Joanne Ã¢â‚¬“ If the issue is important, you have to decide whether it's worth taking the risk. It doesn't have to be a political blog at all. It can just be a woman who feels strongly about an issue. I wonder if there's some way to find a sense of community about women who feel strongly about things.
MorningSide Ã¢â‚¬“ I try to be as bipartisan as I can. My father is a Republican. We have great discussions and we explore things. PBS talks about the real facts. It's not as sexy as the networks. If I try to be like that, and I try to talk about a situation without blaming, I think other people respond in the same way. Usually. Not always. Learning about the Constitution isn't sexy, but it's good.
Joanne Ã¢â‚¬“ We have to find our voices. We have to say “I understand how you can say X.” and reach out to meet people in a middle place.
Julie Ã¢â‚¬“ How do you cite something that you've read or heard?
Joanne Ã¢â‚¬“ I link to it.
MorningSide Ã¢â‚¬“ I might put a quote in and then link to where they can find it.
Joanne Ã¢â‚¬“ There are so few women who deal with political topics. Only about 15% of the OpEd writers are women. It's almost impossible to get an OpEd into the NewYork Times, but there is no entry requirement to a blog. We can get our voices out there.
MorningSide Ã¢â‚¬“ Have you run up against walls in your situation where people are unwilling to listen to you because you're a woman?
Joanne Ã¢â‚¬“ I'm struggling with the two labels. Being a Pundit and being a Mom have been so different. When you label yourself as a mom, they want to pigeonhole you. They don't do that with men. But with women, if you label yourself as a mom, they want to talk to you only about mom stuff. Donna Brazil only gets addressed about racial issues. She's a brilliant woman who knows a lot about a lot of topics, whether you agree with her or not. Why do we have to be pigeonholed?
People aren't getting that we can use our online voices because the more and more we put things out there and link to each other, the bigger our voices will be with respect to our issues, whether they are IEPs, clay in the school, or whatever.
IzzyMom was blogging recently about water filtration systems because people are being poisoned by their water. It's not in the news. She is so passionate about it, and being online can allow her to find other people who are passionate about it, and they can join together to have a voice.
Down to Earth Ã¢â‚¬“ How do we get people to take us seriously? Just because we had kids, we didn't lose our brains. We love our children, but we still have opinions and ideals and thoughts. Why do they discredit half of the things that we say?
MorningSide Ã¢â‚¬“ Women have to portray this persona of a hard faced bitch in order to get credit.
Mindy Ã¢â‚¬“ I'm interested to see how Michelle Obama handles things. She's beautiful, has a wonderful career, and does all of these other things.
Allie Ã¢â‚¬“ And why does the media talk so much about her shorts and her arms?
Mindy Ã¢â‚¬“ Right! We don't hear about the good things she's doing with military families or the other projects.
I try to use humor when I can.
Joanne Ã¢â‚¬“ That really is a key. We have to tap into a common ground. We're never going to get the people who are hardcore and don't want to try to see the other side. They are so partisan that they're connected in with the fundamentalists. They aren't interested in the conversation. We need to find the people who are interested in a conversation.
Men aren't finding common ground. We can use blogs for finding a common ground.
Dolcita Ã¢â‚¬“ Where does that stat come from that only 15% of OpEd writers are women? I don't really pay attention to the name, I just look at the information.
Joanne Ã¢â‚¬“ It's interesting because that same percentage in a lot of other fields. % of women who are equity partners in law firms. % of women in the Senate. It is pervasive. The Op-Ed project really pushes women to get more involved.
Allie Ã¢â‚¬“ Right. Women aren't submitting. They aren't trying as much, either.
MorningSide Ã¢â‚¬“ I don't like confrontation.
Joanne Ã¢â‚¬“ Motherhood Uncensored is a totally uncensored blogger who did a thing called Blog the Recession. Girl's Gone Child did a similar thing where people could write their recession stories and post them on her blog. There are so many ways that we can engage with political issues without doing Politics. There are stories out there. There are many, many issues beyond Politics and the government.
Mindy Ã¢â‚¬“ I see a trend with doctors and schools saying that mental health issues are the result of bad parenting. They wouldn't say that about strep throat or diabetes. I wrote about that, and people got in touch with me about it.
Joanne Ã¢â‚¬“ Yes! That's an issue that you feel strongly about it. If you write it, and write it very well, you will be able to start the conversation.
MorningSide Ã¢â‚¬“ I remember feeling so grateful that the Momocrats were at the Democratic National Convention because they gave true access to moms.
Joanne Ã¢â‚¬“ People are writing about really important issues like Hear My Story about health care horror stories, and about writing about how sausage is made. There are a few political bloggers who are moms but don't self identify as moms and they belittle the moms who identify themselves.
Allie Ã¢â‚¬“ A reader wrote to me and asked if I had any reviews from real teacher reviewers. I wrote back and said “I think you could consider me a real reviewer. I have a B.Ed. In early literacy…” I didn't, but I wanted to ask “How could you bring me down like that? Why did you have to bring your husband in as the voice?”
MorningSide Ã¢â‚¬“ Why do people bring each other down? There's plenty of room at the top, and we can push each other up instead of pushing each other pulling each other down. We have to link to eah other
Down To Earth Ã¢â‚¬“ We need to get out there and support each other and help each other to avoid the attacks. We're afraid of the attacks. How can we go from the conversation into actual action? Into making real changes?
Allie Ã¢â‚¬“ There's so much power and so much potential in the conversation. I want to get the moms who read it to do something, action-wise.
Mindy Ã¢â‚¬“ Women have always been so powerful, especially in other countries. If we want something, we're going to get it. How can we tap into that?
Down to Earth Ã¢â‚¬“ With this whole recent education thing that I wrote, I got a number of people who said, “Why don't you just run for school board?” and I thought, Hey! Maybe I Just Will.
Joanne Ã¢â‚¬“ Write Like She Talks is doing that. She is running for Pepper Pike Town Council because of the issues with her blog.
Morning Side Ã¢â‚¬“ Branching into governmental Politics gets into a whole different area. That goes beyond the written word. Why aren't I doing that? I have to go pick up someone at kindergarten, so I might not have time to run a political campaign.
Allie Ã¢â‚¬“ And that is SO important. Raising our kids is the first priority.
Joanne Ã¢â‚¬“ I brought my daughter with me to CNN. I had to. I picked her up early from camp, and I took her with me.
Down to Earth Ã¢â‚¬“ That is such a great example. You took her with you and she saw you making a contribution and being powerful woman with strong opinions.
© 2009, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.