Tuesday, 8 November 2011
Exciting times for the Dorries-approved womb (plus women and blogging)
So back at the beginning of September I wrote a post for Nadine Dorries, all about my womb, which I described as "just about the most boring uterus ever". Behold, it does the same thing once a month with no fuss, I said, adding that Nadine would most heartily approve because I'd never managed to "go and get myself pregnant".
Yet unbeknownst to me, my womb was harbouring a secret. A big (not literally), life-changing secret. One week after I wrote that post I was staring at a positive pregnancy test. It said "3 weeks +". This was not entirely unexpected; I'll add (more Dorries points for me). I was pleased I'd been out partying the weekend before and therefore had one final hurrah on the booze (that's what's known as hyperbole, concern trolls; I don't binge drink). Aside from that, I was, quite simply, freaked out. When was I going to start getting symptoms? Was I going to have hyperemesis, like my mother?
The past couple of months have been interesting. Much to my mum's chagrin, the dreaded sickness never reared its ugly head. Mostly, it's been all about complete exhaustion. I'm used to being tired - I get up at 6am, I have a long commute, a busy job, I write a lot in the evenings and I work out. If you're wondering why blog posts have been thin on the ground since September, it's because I've tended to hit "the wall" at around 2pm. For several weeks, I felt like I could barely function by the time I got home from work. I've dragged myself to the gym occasionally and genuinely felt as if I was about to nod off while on the cross trainer
I've also been dipping in to what is uncharted territory for me: parenting forums and blogs. This has confirmed what I knew already: that despite being great places for advice and support, these places often take judginess to a whole new level. If you blog about taking a "relaxed" (as opposed to "smothering and paranoid") approach to parenting, there are people out there who will email you to let you know you don't deserve to be a mother (yes, this really did happen to a friend). Let's not even go there with the monumental breastfeeding bust-up that's recently happened among certain bloggers I read.
And then, there's "mummy blogging". Or "mommy blogging", if you like. C. Jane has been talking about it a bit recently, following her talk to university students about women and blogging. She asked me if I had any thoughts about being a woman and being online. Clearly I do. At the time I'd just been to the Christian New Media Conference and had attended the panel discussion on gender and digital media. The panelists asked the audience if they felt that "blogging is a man's world" and almost everyone said "no". This much is true in the sense that women are a very visible presence online and we don't shy away from writing. Yet how are we perceived, as bloggers? This is something I've written about before and also something of a hot topic recently, as shown by this column by Helen Lewis Hasteley for the New Statesman.
"The sheer volume of sexist abuse thrown at female bloggers is the internet's festering sore: if you talk to any woman who writes online, the chances are she will instantly be able to reel off a Greatest Hits of insults. But it's very rarely spoken about, for both sound and unsound reasons. No one likes to look like a whiner -- particularly a woman writing in male-dominated fields such as politics, economics or computer games. Others are reluctant to give trolls the "satisfaction" of knowing they're emotionally affected by the abuse, or are afraid of incurring more by speaking out."
Over the last week the subject of abuse faced by women online has really taken off with discussion not simply limited to blogs or Twitter as is usually the case, but a number of articles, very long comment threads and links being exchanged back and forth across the pond. There's been a hashtag - check out #mencallmethings to see women discussing the abuse they've faced. Cath Elliott has also done a good round-up of posts on the issue here.
So we have the misogynist attacks, the insinuations that we know nothing about particular subjects, the "silly girl" and "hysterical and emotional" put-downs every time we get passionate about something. And then there's the distinct lack of sisterhood which comes hand in hand with a lot of the parental judginess I mentioned above - something I was privy to when I wrote a guest post for Courtney earlier this year and found myself being berated by other women for being "young" (and therefore ignorant) and not yet having any children, among other things. I wasn't even writing about children or parenting, yet for some readers, it was clear that as a childless woman, I was somehow deficient and not worth their time.
Courtney doesn't like the term "mommy blogger" because it always ends up having a lot of negative connotations and being associated with unpleasant and often misogynistic stereotypes. The freebie-hungry mother who's out for the giveaways and trips and products to review and nothing more. The vacuous mother intent on portraying her life - and her children - as winsomely perfect. The oversharing mother who regales her readers with every tedious detail of her little darlings' development. From the post on Courtney's talk I linked to above I gathered she discussed the commercialization of it all, the pressures of modern womanhood extending to the blogosphere and the kowtowing to patriarchy which she sees as a particular issue for women of faith, but which of course applies to us all.
I've been part of conversations where people - men and women - have pretty much spat out the words "mummy blogger", with great disgust, or otherwise used it in a mocking, smirking way. I've read mummy/mommy blogs from the excellent to the very, very bad; of course they're not a terrible thing per se. I'm not sure if I'll ever want to count myself among them, though. Because for the time being, now I'm feeling a bit better, I'm happy to keep on writing about my usual topics. You might see pregnancy-related posts (you may wish to avoid them), who knows?
Last week I had my dating scan and saw my baby for the first time. Things feel more real now, and less stressful, for the time being. And so, it starts. I am starting as I mean to go on and taking it to its first feminist conference on Saturday. Let's hope I manage to stay awake.