Does Blogging Every day keep that nasty Feminine Mystique away?

by mraynes

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of reading through the Master’s thesis of one of the bloggernacle’s own.  Michelle Glauser has had a steady presence in our community for a couple of years and she is currently living in Germany and finishing up her Master’s degree in American Studies.  Michelle was kind enough to allow me to link to her thesis.

The topic Michelle chose to write about is one that is dear to all of us…blogging.  Her basic hypothesis is an audacious one:

The problem with no name which Betty Friedan wrote so famously about in The Feminine Mystique, has been all but cured for educated, middle-class housewives because of the advent of blogging and the community of moms that have developed around it.

One of the solutions that Betty Friedan gave for the problem was to encourage women to find some way out into the community and have their voices heard.  Stay-at-home moms have answered this call by blogging about their adventures in motherhood and homemaking.  Blogging is a hobby that can be done in the home, can be utilized by anybody who can write and has a computer and it has the potential for reaching vast audiences.

Mommy blogging also provides women with validation and support for their life choices.  This gives women a community in which to share the stories that are relevant to their lives.  Social scientists have argued that this virtual community is no substitute for the kind of support a real community can give, but recent occurrences like the interest and support for Stephanie Nielson prove otherwise.

But is mommy blogging, or blogging in general enough to circumvent the sense of dissatisfaction that often accompanies housewifery?

I’m not sure about this.  Personally speaking, my mommy blog doesn’t bring me a great deal of satisfaction; usually I just feel like I’m white-washing reality with cute pictures and warm fuzzies.  I do feel like I have found a network of like-minded people and friends through The Exponent and my personal feminist blog, First Fig.  But those people aren’t around in real life to help me vacuum my floor or take care of  one of my screaming toddlers.

And let’s not forget, finding community wasn’t Betty Friedan’s only prescription.  She also encouraged women to “unequivocally say ‘no’ to the housewife image” and not see marriage and motherhood as “the fulfillment of their lives.”  This would seem to fly in the face of what many mommy bloggers so often write about on their blogs and personally advocate for.

So who is right?  Are Betty Friedan and the 2nd Wave feminist bible  irrelevant for women in the 21st century who have access to social networking technology?  Can you really ward off the feminine mystique and its accompanying problems with tales of toddlers, tantrums and tablescapes?

Mraynes

Mraynes lives in downtown Denver with her husband and four children. She spends her time lobbying at the Colorado Legislature, managing all the things and preparing Gospel Doctrine lessons.

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16 Responses

  1. Madam Curie says:

    In my experience, mommy blogging about my son was not sufficient to take away the ache for outside-of-home fulfillment in my life. I realize that everyone’s experience is going to be different; however I would love to think that there were a few, albeit however small of a minority, like me out there…

    …anyone? anyone?

  2. Jessawhy says:

    I don’t think blogging in itself is enough to ward off the dissatisfaction, but for me it’s part of the package.
    In addition to blogging, I love to exercise, dance, and hang out with friends. Along with reading and dates with my husband (and occasional weekend getaways with or w/o dh), I keep my head above water.

    But, honestly, the best thing that keeps away the mommy depression is reminding myself everyday that I made the choice to be a SAHM, and to be grateful that it even is an option because for so many women it’s not. Lastly, playing with my kids, instead of just trying to keep them fed and occupied, helps me enjoy what I do at home all day. The more I’m actually into it, the more I enjoy it.

    So, in that way, perhaps blogging can be negative (at least non-mommy blogging) because it makes me yearn for more stimulation, and it turns my kids into pests that need to be ignored.

    I guess I have mixed feelings here.

    Great post, Mraynes!

  3. ZD Eve says:

    Excellent questions, m!

    I’m deeply ambivalent about mommy blogging. I recognize its value to many women, and I instinctively bristle when men who seem to dwell entirely in castles of abstraction look down their noses at the merely feminine and domestic and physical, the merely quotidian. It’s an old, old prejudice which new media have done little to allay.

    At the same time I have to confess that I’m often uncomfortable with mommy blogs. Many explicitly endorse a sentimentalized view of motherhood that (while no doubt deeply felt) I personally find unworkable.
    I think parts of Glauser’s thesis are intriguing, but I also have to wonder if the better model for much mommy blogging isn’t scrapbooking. The mess and complication of family life is acknowledged only to be neatly stylized into clever, cute anecdotes. There’s nothing substantial, nothing to sink my teeth into.

    If too many men seem unable to ground their abstractions in anything remotely personal, too many women seem equally unable to draw any abstract connections between their experiences that might reveal deeper, more interesting questions and patterns of meaning.

  4. Caroline says:

    I don’t think you can ward of the feminine mystique with mommy blogging. But you can find validation for a counter cultural choice there. With every friend or family member that comments about how cute your family is, how happy the kids are ,etc. a SAHM can feel validated in her choice to forego the career that so much of American culture tells a woman she should pursue.

    I would think that more meaningful blogging, where a person throws out ideas about life or reflects on experience or questions long held patterns of behavior would do more with ameliorating the mystique. There a person could (I think) develop deeper online friendships and find more kindred spirits than one could with mommy blogging.

  5. mraynes says:

    Madam Curie, don’t worry, you’re not alone there. I got a lot of satisfaction out of working and writing on a blog doesn’t quite cut it. I think Jessawhy is onto something, you have to fill your life with many things you enjoy and find interesting in order to feel fulfilled. And I’m sure that the mommy bloggers that Glauser writes about in her thesis do this very thing. Thanks for your comment.

    Jess, I was hoping you would comment on this post because you are one of those feminist stay-at-home moms that I really admire. You do so much with your kids in an attempt to enjoy your choice. I think that your right, really owning the choice to stay at home must make a huge difference in one’s level of happiness. This is one thing that really impresses me about mommy bloggers, they seem so secure in their choice, I’m glad you feel this as well. Also, interesting point about non-mommy blogging and increasing the desire for stimulation, I’ll have to think about that one.

    Eve, excellent points! There was a thread over at BCC a couple of months ago, which I can’t find at the moment, that exhibited all of the things you mentioned: male bloggers doing their best to be patronizing and mommy bloggers unable to see the bigger picture. On the one hand, I really appreciate what mommy bloggers do because I appreciate the stories of women. On the other hand, I think mommy bloggers walk a fine line between telling the stories of motherhood and falling prey to the expectations determined by a patriarchal system. These women can then be used as tools to minimize women with different stories. Anyway, I’m glad you brought up these criticisms, they’re vital to make if we’re going to have any truthful discussion on the importance of women and blogging.

  6. Jen G. says:

    I think I would go crazy if I only did mommy blogging…personally I don’t really like it. We have a family blog, but I have purposely tried to not let it be all about the kids. They’re a big part of it, but not all. I feel bad saying it, but when I look at a lot of mommy blogs they feel really fake…although I know it’s a great way to keep up with family and friends…I just wish more of them were well-rounded and not so idealized. I also make my hubby contribute. Actually ‘make’ is the wrong word, he really likes doing it, not that he or I do it a lot. But with both of us on there it has a nice balance to it.

    I’m really grateful for blogs like this one though that have such a wide range of discussion available. I think it’s a real lifeline for many sahms.

  7. Hellmut says:

    As long as mothers dare to pursue and to consider what is best for them, mommy blogging can be a good thing.

    If the blog is merely complying with other people’s and institutions’ demands then mommy blogging will reinforce unhealthy behavior.

    David Hume and the Scottish enlightenment provide the best corrective to our Mormon foibles: do what’s best for you.

    A solid dose of self-interest can restore sanity to our lives.

  8. FoxyJ says:

    I have a few friends whose blogs are all sweetness and light and all about how much they love being a mother. The thing is, I know them in person and they really do believe that. While they do have bad days, they generally feel that happy and fulfilled. To be honest, sometimes I’m envious of them and wish my life were that simple.

    That said, I know plenty of other women who are more ambivalent about their lives and roles as mothers. Some have blogs that are more honest about their lives and others don’t. I always wonder. I guess if we’re defining ‘mommy blog’ as something like an online scrapbook that only reflects a certain view of reality then that probably won’t be enough.
    Many women I know have blogs that are a little bit of both; I am still grateful for a blogger who was honest about her post-partum breakdown because she helped me face the fact that I was having one too.

    We have one blog with pictures of our children that is mostly for family members, and then my husband and I maintain our own personal blogs that cover a variety of things. I’ve always thought of mine as at least partially a ‘mommy blog’ because I talk quite a bit about parenting. I don’t think that for anyone a blog is going to be enough to maintain mental sanity. I agree with Jessawhy, though, that it can be a useful tool. I also agree with Hellmut that we need to be honest in our reasons for doing so. If you are only presenting a sanitized, happy vision of your family because you feel that’s what you are supposed to do, it’s not going to work and you will be unfulfilled.

  9. Madam Curie says:

    FoxyJ, I really appreciated your statement. That is a lot how I feel. I have a mommy blog and I have a personal blog, and they definitely fill am important role for me in my role (since I am a writer, both by profession and craft). But they don’t meet all my needs for outside fulfillment.

    I also agree that it is all about balance – every woman is going to be different in terms of their personal needs for fulfillment. I happen to require more than many women, and that is OK. The problem with Feminine Mystique was that it painted a picture that NO WOMAN can be fulfilled by simply being a housewife and mother; that is not true, I have seen many women who are fulfilled that way. However, I have noticed that the mommy blogs do tend to paint the opposite picture: that no woman should be unfulfilled with just being a wife and mother. And that isn’t a very fair statement, either.

  10. mraynes says:

    I’m sorry I missed your comment, Caroline. You make an excellent point about mommy blogging providing validation for women who chose to stay at home, and I think that’s important. I don’t think any woman should be made to feel insecure about the choices she has made for her own life.

    Jen, I’m so glad Exponent is a lifeline for you, it is for me too. I love what you say about bringing a balance to your blog. I try to have mr. mraynes equally contribute to our family blog as well but it has been a lot more one-sided recently. I’ll have to remind him that it is his feminist husband duty to make sure our family looks like an online Norman Rockwell portrait :). Thanks for your comment.

    Hellmut, thank you for making that point. I think your right that Mormons sometimes need a healthy dose of self-interest (within reason, of course). We are so often socialized that the self is not important and instead we should live for the comfort of others. I believe that this is out of step with the restored gospel. Your right, as long as Mormon women are writing about things that are interesting and important to them, then it blogging is probably harmless, if not really helpful. Thanks.

    I know exactly what you’re talking about FoxyJ and I feel envious of those women too. Good news though, I just read an op-ed by Maureen Dowd that cited a study that the majority of women in the world are unhappy so at least we’re in the majority! 🙂 I’m glad you brought up that there are certainly mommy blogs that deal with the reality of family life, I would hate to paint all mommy blogs with the same brush. I also want to state emphatically that I think women should blog about their children because motherhood is an important story in many women’s lives. I know that I write about my children on my personal blog and here as well as at my mommy blog. But I love the suggestion that Eve gave to use the stories of motherhood to illustrate deeper patterns in life. I know when I do this, I do feel fulfilled from blogging.

    Madam Curie, again, excellent points! I couldn’t say it better myself. Also, what kinds of writing do you do? Do you write from home? If I could figure out how to write coherently between demands for juice and kisses, I think home life might be a better fit for me. Again, thanks for the comment.

  11. aerin says:

    I haven’t read Michelle’s thesis, although it sounds intriquing.

    I think it’s important to note that there is not a one size fits all women or families solution. It has been years since I read “The Feminine Mystique”. I do think there is danger to imply that there is one path to happiness, or one path to being a fulfilled person.

    If I remember Betty Friedan’s premise – part of the issue was that women (at that time, middle to upper middle class) were explicitly discouraged from continuing their education or to work outside the home after being married or having children. She (Friedan) observed that women were taught that they could only find fulfillment in being a wife or mother. She advocated that women should continue their education and develop their own human intelligence.

    It’s a difficult question, and one that many people/families have struggled with over the years. How do you make allowances for everyone’s needs? How do you help everyone in the family to continue to learn and grow at every age?

    I think blogging is great. I respect bloggers who tell the real stories of their lives, and those who merely chronicle a family’s in’s and out’s.

    But I disagree that merely blogging will work for everyone (not that anyone was suggesting that), and will discourage women from realizing “the problem without a name”. Being a stay at home parent is hard work. But figuring out your own passions and finding your own fulfillment is also critical (in my view).

  12. Madam Curie says:

    mraynes, I am a science writer. I write pieces for academic science journals. Although I work from home, our son goes to childcare. We tried various permutations (keeping him home, working at night, nannies, part-time daycare, etc.), and that was the one that worked for our family.

    I just wanted to express how joyful the comments on this post have made me feel. I wish that someone could cull this insight together and give a talk on it in GC. The women of the church would be so blessed if they felt empowered to make decisions in their lives based on personal situations.

  13. D'Arcy says:

    I find I need much more than a blog. In fact, in taking a break from my blog for the past few months, I’ve actually focused more on getting out and speaking out in various public, live forums.

    I don’t think I’ll put my Betty Friedan on the shelf just yet, but I do think blogging is VERY beneficial and helpful and I’ve seen it play key roles in many lives.

  14. Kelly Ann says:

    I have to say I love the mommy blogs I read. For some of my friends it is a real outlet. I say the reward really just depends on the person. I know that the Exponent has also been a lifeline for me.

  15. Hellmut says:

    That makes a lot of sense to me, Kelly Ann. Parenting is hard. So are a lot of other tasks but as a parent, you don’t get recognition. A mommy blog is an opportunity to show to your community what you have done all day long.

    During the baby boom, a mom just had to go to the playground to meet other moms. Today, that’s a rare opportunity for community.

  16. britt says:

    I actually love this! Am a blogger myself and yes I believe there is something therapeutic about spewing life’s tales of toddlers, tantrums, and tablescapes on the internet for any and all to see… or not.

    Me? I don’t sugar coat. You will see cute pictures of my kids and funny stories of what they say and do, but you will also see raw feelings, trials, and nothing is really sugar coated.

    I dont’ know that what I have to say even makes a difference, but I dont’ really care. If my readers dont’ want to read, they don’t have to, but there is something about the comaradarie *sp* of women blogging.

    I dont’ know if it waves of feminism, but it sure helps me to wave off some steam every once in awhile:)

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