Oh, The Self Importance

Perhaps you are already aware of this this attack on a relatively new blogger. If not, I’ll wait while you get up to speed.

I’m still waiting for a thoughtful critical analysis myself. In the meantime, if someone I considered a friend pulled this kind of immature, insensitive crap and tried to explain her actions away as humorous, necessary and insightful, I would call her on her bad behavior, rather than rush to her defense.

I would also ask my friend to take a few minutes to remember what life with a newborn baby was like. To remember the sleepless nights, the hormonal highs and lows and how vulnerable she must have felt behind her ever-present sneer. I would also consider the possibility that this new mother–who already has several other small children–might also be vulnerable to the same postpartum depression plumbed to generate her friend’s own emo ridden, parasitic content.

Remember postpartum depression? Remember banging your head against the wall of early motherhood so many times, and begging someone to convince you life would get easier? Now, Alli seems perfectly cheerful and emotionally healthy, and I’ve yet to see any mention of PPD on her blog, but how can any of us know for sure? Tracey, did it ever cross your mind that cutting down a tired new mom could have caused real harm? Do you care?

No, women do not need to pretend to like one another, but unsubstantiated public attacks, on unsuspecting, newly postpartum women is not behavior that should be allowed to hide behind a label of humorous, straight-talking, cultural commentary. What the fuck is wrong with the lot of you who believe it should?

And on the topic of humor, the importance placed on pretending there is some wider ranging, meta issue of what constitutes original ideas for anyone with offspring to consider before launching a blog,rather than admit one of your own is simply behaving badly, is hilarious. Best of luck developing that discussion.

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25 responses to “Oh, The Self Importance

  1. You pretty much rule. As a sufferer of PPD myself, you especially rule for adding your thoughts. Had I known f. was fresh out of childbirth before now, I would have been reeeeaaallly all up in sweetneys grill.

  2. I would love to contribute thoughtfully on the whole kerfuffle, but I’m chasing a swarm of flies flies (oh god oh god oh god!!!) and trying to wrangle the kids and the dog just ate the boy’s dinner off the table. That one sentence has taken me about an hour to write. That second sentence took 10 minutes.

    ANYWAY, it reminds me of how a person might say “Stop being so P.C.” when you call them on being an asshole.

  3. Gah. I didn’t even know you had a new blog and when I come visit, it’s brimming with awesome. Nicely said.

  4. I just wanted to add one more thought to address HBM’s attempt at damage control.

    Is it possible that some brilliant marketing bot is out there trolling widely read blogs trying to crack the formulas that make those blogs successful, in order to re-purpose those recipes as their own? Sure. But wouldn’t a discovery on that level be fairly easy to prove, considering all of the ways professional bloggers monitor their stats? At the very least, wouldn’t such an allegation of idea theft be worthy of support in the form of a post comparing obvious ripoffs?

    Or is it more likely that Fussypants is simply “everymom” and she is generating content with fairly broad appeal?

    Instead of fast food analogies, consider more traditional print media in the same genre. A relatively new local parenting magazine I subscribe to has a decidedly literary bent. The content is heavily slanted towards personal essays. The layout and design even reminds me a bit of Brain, Child, and I suspect many of the readers of the newer mag also read Brain, Child. Yet in spite of the similarities,there are subtle differences. You could also compare Parents and Parenting. Again, I suspect both of those magazines share readers. They are similar, yet not identical.

    Or perhaps more relevant to the parenting blogger community, consider the naming brouhaha over Sk*rt(Kirtsy) vs Skirt! magazine. I agree with most that the legal action taken by Skirt! magazine against Kirtsy was a bit much, but isn’t it similar to the concern Sweetney was expressing about Fussypants vs Fussy? Why is it wrong or right to make those accusations based on who is pointing the finger?

    My impression is that Fussypants is a nice, friendly, upbeat person who genuinely enjoys the conversation with her readers. I suspect people visit her site to feel good. Unlike the blogs she allegedly copied, Fussypants writes in a cheerful, conversational voice. There is no manufactured angst or sarcasm clinging to every entry.(FTR I do not find Bossy to be either, but for pete’s sake she writes everything in the third person.)

    Fussypants comes across as simply a nice woman, with a bunch of kids, trying to generate goodwill and foster the very same sort of community that HBM claims to be so concerned about.

    And if Fussypants is exploiting good cheer as a marketing ploy, then more power to her for recognizing the void.

  5. Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve been reading along trying my damnedest to figure out why anyone would think it was ok to defend someone who essentially pantsed a freshman in the cafeteria to continue the high school metaphors that have been bandied about.
    You don’t have to be nice just because you’re a woman, but you certainly don’t get carte blanche to be an asshole either.

    And seriously? When I started blogging like back in 2000 with my crappy little Diaryland page it never dawned on me to research what other people were writing about or what their pages looked like and whatnot, either to emulate or copy. It certainly wouldn’t have crossed my mind to do it when I made the move from Livejournal to Blogspot. Because, you know, I love my blog and I love writing but I really hope that What’s Your Name, Mommy doesn’t end up being my Magnum Opus.

  6. Well said, and glad someone did it! (Although I would have been clueless to the whole thing if I hadn’t seen it here.)

    As someone who just has a lame little blog that I started just to try to keep up with family when I moved away from them (and then came across bloggers I love, and I read THEIR blogs), I don’t get the whole “blog wars” and infighting. Or the people who read Dooce and Amalah and those huge professional blogs – that’s a weird one to me, so none of this really makes any sense to me. Why someone takes the time to attack another blogger is beyond me.

  7. I can see reading a more widely read blog if you really enjoy the content. The whole clique thing aside–and yes, I assume most at a certain level of readership are friendly or pretend to be—I do read a few larger blogs occasionally. I’m reasonably certain the blog authors do not consider me a friend or know who I am, but that’s fine. Not everything about blogging needs to be about building connections, but I do agree completely with Jen above that no one needs to behave like a complete asshole and then refuse to own it. Complete bullshit.

    This also reminds me a bit of pitching an article to a magazine, only to see them print something similar a month or two later. Or when a couple of fairly similar books are published around the same time. Similarities–and I honestly think it is stretching things a bit to compare one blog to 6 others—exist in other writing outlets as well. Crying foul publicly tends to make an author look ridiculous if they’re unable or unwilling to support their case.

    And it could just be similar to how when you buy a new Honda, suddenly everywhere you see Hondas. Look at all of those Hondas. Some are even blue and have a FSM magnet just like yours. The horror.

  8. It just boils down to “being a clueless asshole and then refusing to apologize about it, but running around commenting that they’re so hard done by and everyone thinks they’re a bitch”

    why gee, I wonder why.

    Shitty behaviour is a HUGE turn off, regardless of gender. And I don’t like either blog.

    What I DON’T get is why this annoyed me so much and sticks in my craw…

  9. Aside from being genuinely disgusted that any mom would think it acceptable to attack another woman who just gave birth, I really find the self-importance of the defense off putting.

    I love you Thor, but if you spouted off like that against some unsuspecting new mother I would call you on it. Or say nothing and hope it blew over. I certainly can’t imagine trying to re-frame and excuse that kind of childish crap as intellectually necessary.

    What’s next, an Official Naming Committee where all new bloggers with children must apply for review of “brand”(snort) and content before posting?

    Please.

    ETA: It may also stick in your craw because true freaks and geeks tend to not treat others so shabbily.

  10. The point of my post was not to rush to my friend’s defense (although fwiw, I had gotten pretty tired of seeing her called bitch and douche and cow and what-have-you, and felt that someone needed to step up and suggest that people knock it off). The point was to draw the discussion to a different level. That the way Tracey worded her criticism was unduly harsh has been well-established, and she’s taken her knocks for it. But it does nothing to mend the community – nor help us to learn anything from the incident – to just continue to bash her around.

    Tracey wasn’t aiming guns at at vulnerable new mom, in her mind (rightly or wrongly) – she was snarking a defense for her friends against what she viewed as an aggressive copycat blog (by a blogger who proclaims herself a ‘bloggy rawk star’, and who very openly researched the community on how to develop a successful blog.) FP has been successful with her blog, her efforts paid off, and she drew the some negative attention. Any of us who have been doing this a while know that IT HAPPENS. That doesn’t make Tracey nice or in the right or whatever, but the point that I’ve been trying to make is that maybe we should be talking more about why she did what she did – so that we can avoid more such misunderstandings in the future – rather than just shrieking BAD BAD BAD.

    There’s been lots of quiet discussion among bloggers about propriety and territory and copycatting in recent months, and it’s a subject that few like to discuss openly because it’s touchy. Feelings can get hurt. But it’s something that we should discuss if we’re all to really, truly get along. Seriously.

    Nothing would have been gained if I had just jumped on the bandwagon and called Tracey out . As it happened, there was much useful discussion in the comments to my post – from all sides – and the whole thing ended yesterday with Tracey and Alli getting together and hugging it out. So let’s move on from there, shall we?

    (Writing with newborn in arms and Zoloft at bedside, FYI)

  11. Great, great analysis Karrie (why I love your blog–btw I need to check out Brain, Child and that other mag now).

    I don’t read barely any of the popular mommy blogs. I find them to be more guarded in general. I tend to read more science nerd popular blogs instead.

    I am glad some women can make a living with their blog but I don’t get the whole ‘copycatting’ issue with mommy blogging. Isn’t that just how things work (like when ‘grunge’ hit in the 90s)? If you have something people like (and you market yourself well) so be it.

  12. you know, the whole “they’ve moved on, why don’t you stop talking about it” thing is burning me up at the moment.

    If it’s ok to talk about someone else’s site/work in a snarky/bitchy way, and frame it as a discussion of copyright, why is it not also ok to then have the discussion about appropriate manners of discourse surrounding it.

    I hardly see how being directly venomous to a stranger can be considered a misunderstanding, unless it’s like the time I yelled “Kelly likes to suck C*&K!” loudly in a group of people, and it was totally misconstrued, and I really meant to praise her for her strong hetero leanings…

    The point is rising ABOVE acting like a 14 year old in any context. The only thing I’ve seen in most comment threads have been polarizing statements from either side. Personally, it’s only added to my disgust with the entire idea of blogging.

    Still also trying and failing to see why we’re excusing someone for being a jerk. All reasonings aside, we should at least be human to each other, right?

    and with that, I cease to hijack your comments. Sadly, it feels like Blogging Baby again. I missed all that painful homeschooling republican drama methinks. 🙂

  13. HBM: I want to make it very clear that I am not attacking you personally,and I appreciate you stopping by to clarify that FP was perhaps not just some mom who launched a blog one day, but I still view your post as damage control and a misguided defense of bad behavior. And the suggestion to “move on from there, shall we” does read as rather self-important and dismissive. Guess what? We’re not so easily intimidated or put in our place in these parts.

    As Thordora noted, discourse on the way these events unfold should be fair game, even if some of you feel it should not be, or that it was last night, but not today.

    And if you’re genuinely interested in avoiding misunderstandings, note that those of us who are outside your immediate community watch these sort of things unfold and really do think at times “What the hell is wrong with these women?” Or “Copycatting? Huh?? They really believe their take on motherhood, or life as a (mostly) white, well-educated middle/upper-middle class mom is completely unique?” Very, very few authors have a truly original voice or style. Why would moms with blogs be any different?

    Isn’t it possible to read several hundred blogs–or to have them in your reader and intend to read them someday? It sounds like many women regularly read all of the bloggers mentioned. So who would be hurt financially or otherwise even if there were intentional similarities?

    I liked MT’s comparison to grunge. Although really I still cannot see where FP is similar to the other bloggers referenced. In fact, FP’s blog really does feel “everymom”ish to me. It has a bit of a Vickie Iovine flavor to it, and that sort of voice does have mass appeal to many mainstream moms. (FTR, it’s not a style that usually speaks to me as a reader or writer either, but damn it the author seems so sweet and decent and genuine. If she’s not and is really simply another shrewd woman trying to leverage her brand she’s doing a bang up job of marketing that angle.)

    On the surface, I should enjoy your friend’s blog–I do think she’s bright and writes well–but holy hell is she ever rude and full of herself. Such a turn off. I was appalled before I realized who made those snarky, mean remarks, yet not at all shocked when I learned her identity. I don’t understand why she would continue to attack other bloggers after being attacked herself, and I think a lot of people reading see the irony there.

    If you’re going to make strong statements about other people you should own your words and admit when you’ve crossed a line, rather than pretend it was just joke all along. Agreed?

    And this critique comes from a pretty strong, outspoken woman. Who is long over caring who likes me, who follows this blog and so on.

    Enjoy your baby and your vitamin Z.

  14. I think “A-listers” in general have a problem when the minions don’t do what they’re told. That’s why I only read one or two. I think it bothers them that people are continuing teh discussion and continuing it where they like instead of in a place where the discussion can be controlled. And I don’t mean only this little manufactured kerfluffle but other things I’ve seen over the years. At least they have ttheir comments open in the first place.

    Plus remember that the individual blogs are only one money-maker for the “A-listers.” They’re in other ventures together and it makes financial sense for them to cover each other and to suggest that discussions be quelled when those discussions might threaten readership.

    Far as I’m concerned, what came out of it was that I found a cool new blog (Fussypants) that I wish I’d found a long time ago. And I think she’s done the best job of ending the discussion. She addressed it and moved on and continued to do just what she’d been doing without being intimidated.

  15. Typos above. Gah. This is b/c Hawk was yakking at me. Big one is “aren’t the only…”

  16. When I said ‘let’s move on from there,’ I meant that whatever discussion proceeds from there should move past the relentless focus on how mean Tracey was. I think that everyone – not least, Tracey – gets that a huge portion of the momosphere thought that her comments were at best ill-put, at worst heinously bitchy. Why do we keep discussing this? The point has been made. MY point is that further discussion should focus on the issues underlying this: why are some bloggers concerned about protecting their identities? why are other bloggers confused about this concern? why was everyone so sensitive about this? (this, I think, being the most important question – the underlying issue of propriety touched a nerve.)

    Tracey’s original, ill-put statement criticized the name of the blog first, the emulation of other innovations second. I personally don’t think that any blogger has propriety over style of content – and nobody has been so absurd as to suggest that mommyblogging conventions are subject to such propriety – but names/brands are another story. Some bloggers are really invested (emotionally and in some cases financially) in their blog identity and find encroachments on this troubling. Which everyone accepts as understandable in other media and other creative endeavors (SAG prohibits more than one actor working under the same name to avoid confusion; Brain, Child magazine would almost certainly sue another mag that opened up shop as Brain,ChildPants) – so why not here, where we self-publish?

    In any case, these conflicts cause bags of bad feeling, so mightn’t it be just good community etiquette to check out a name before you appropriate it? Many commenters have said that they were confused about who was Fussy/Fussypants, thinking that she was Fussy/Fussy. Fussypants researched the community in order to build an effective brand – that she ended up building something (having done her research, which maybe didn’t include a Google search of ‘Fussy’) that caused confusion – and this raised a hackle or two. If you disagree with the legitimacy of hackles being raised – fine, that’s a worthy debate. But the issue of how mean Tracey was is her hackle-raised state has, I think, been discussed enough.

    Again, my whole point has been to get away from the name-calling and on to more useful discussion. I wasn’t defending her behaviour, I was defending her (anyone’s) right to make a critique (I did NOT defend her snarkiness or the hurt caused – I did say that we need to move past that issue, but acknowledged that I’d be hurt too, if it happened to me.) And I’ll still defend that right. Open discourse ends when we start telling each other what we should and shouldn’t criticize. How we criticize? Fine. But not the critique itself.

    Thanks for responding to my comment (and for reading my original post, obvz ;))

  17. I wish tone were more easily discernible in this format.

    re:In any case, these conflicts cause bags of bad feeling, so mightn’t it be just good community etiquette to check out a name before you appropriate it?

    In the case of actively researching a blog with the intent of running at as business, OK. And I think that is where the women behind Sk*rt!/Kirtsy probably ran afoul. I was aware of Skirt! magazine when the other site launched, but would never look at one and mistake it for the other.

    I would think with blogs you have an even larger issue to address. Many hosts actively suggest alternatives when a name is already in use, and I think most of us have left off a letter when entering a URL and ended up with porn instead of travel content.

    And when you move away from launching a blog in conjunction with a business plan, I think most people probably assume if a URL is available, then great. I know I have never thought to check if Mom Voyage resembles another blog name—mostly because I’m not that serious about it. I do own the domain names for my former blog, but only because my tech-geek husband bought them when he realized–to him anyway—that a decent amount of people were reading.

    Brain, Children would strike me as an obvious rip off, or at very least a strange coincidence since it is a rather unique combination. Likewise, I know of a magazine–the one that reminds me a bit of Brain, Child—called Motherwords, and then you also have a MotherVerse. Those seem similar enough in this context for a new reader to confuse, but different enough to figure out–oops, wrong one. (I have more of a mag addiction than a blogging one……)

    Completely putting aside the other stuff, Fussy vs Mrs. Fussypants based on blog name alone seems different enough as well.

    The one exception I could see as possibly worthy of more consideration would be if someone ripped your blog off with the intent to parody. Say if someone–and I almost hesitate to suggest this–ran with Tweetney, and lifted Sweetney’s look AND voice. Sweetney is a pretty unique name, whereas being “fussy” is not so unique.

    Maybe the focus should be on selecting a very unique name from the get go.

    I think you probably need to show both a very similar name AND very similar content–content that was pretty original/recognizable to begin with– to have a real issue. I’m trying to remember the other examples I’ve run across, but I know here have been other similar names. IIRC, Flippy/Finslippy, which confused me once reading comments. I just checked and found one called Pen Flippy and another called Making Flippyfloppy.

    Oy.

  18. There are two things that fascinate me about this whole situation.

    The first is that many commenters on Mrs. Fussypants’ site mentioned that they’d never heard of Fussy. Or Amalah.

    Now, if you were blogging seriously as recently as 2006–seriously enough to have even contemplated attending BlogHer06, you’d have heard of them.

    But two years later, it appears that the blogosphere has grown so much that up- and-coming bloggers don’t recognize the Big Names.

    To my mind it’s like a Rolling Stones fan who has never heard of Bo Diddley or Chuck Berry.

    But it’s happening. And the so-called “A-listers” need to understand that their market share and their ability to influence other bloggers is on the wane.

    The other thing I notice is that people who have been blogging the longest are still trying to control the discourse. And they aren’t going to succeed, because so many other voices have joined the discussion.

    And I’m glad they haven’t succeeded, because I’ve discovered some powerful and intelligent voices that were new to me.

    karriew, I have a girl crush on you. I loved this whole discussion, and I’m subscribing to your blog toot sweet!

  19. Poppy, you raise several excellent points. Mwah!

    I did attend BlogHer last year, but got the sense, and overheard several people comment that it was more lowkey than previous years–in terms of “A-listers”. There was still a very recognizable core group though within the parenting blog genre. But yeah, on more than one occasion, during “getting to know you” events and just milling around, I met women who I had NO idea who the hell they were who seemed sort of annoyed by my ignorance, and then anxious to move on and hand off a stack of business cards and trinkets to someone else who might be better connected.

    I did not have this experience to the same degree if talking with bloggers in other genres–it did still happen, but not as often. And in the sessions where parenting bloggers were present, I did notice the same voices speaking up again and again. (Although to be fair, those sessions were also mobbed, so it may have been those who were more used to using their voice claiming their right to do so, and the rest just taking it in.)

    In contrast, I went to a couple of political track sessions basically for the hell of it, and it was very, very different in terms of give and take, and everyone participated.

    When I first started really reading blogs, it was because I noticed a couple of book and magazine authors I enjoyed also maintained blogs. I moved on from there, and a few of these authors had linked to higher profile bloggers. I had no idea that there was some kind of pecking order in place within the parenting blog community—until I asked questions in the wrong places. Oops.

    If you start discussing intellectual property within a community that is much, much larger and more diverse than the most visible people within, and one that lacks easily identifiable boundaries, how on earth do they propose even beginning to manage that? We’ve easily established here that many women with blogs only read a couple of blogs–maybe they start with a relative or friend’s blog, and add a couple from there, but for whatever reason never really get swept up into the mix. There are plenty who have no ambition or desire to be as HBM mentioned “bloggy rawk stars.”

    FTR, I have never felt entirely comfortable with the mommyblog label, even though both of my personal blogs have had mom or mother in the title. This one primarily exists to have some kind of record of crazy trips I take with my preschooler. With a little of anything else that comes to mind thrown in, if I feel like it.

    I barely have the time and/or motivation to post these days, so I definitely do not have the time or energy to keep tabs on any other crazy women who drive cross country and/or camp in the middle of nowhere, with a 3 year-old and their 60 year-old mom. If you’re out there and think I have ripped you off somehow, my apologies. 🙂

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  21. Wow. Well, I’m just going to bow out gracefully (or not – I’ve never been one for grace ;)) now. The whole idea as a blog as a business is beyond me. Intellectual property with a blog? Say huh?! Just seems like nonsense being shoved into the heads of women who attend blogher. So, I won’t even go there.

    HBW – Congrats on your new baby and I smiled when you mentioned the vitamin z. You’re probably a real cool person but I’ll never read your blog. That’s not meant to be insulting but blogs just don’t “do it” for me anymore and the ones that do have to be pretty special for me to invest my lunch hour to. On that same note I’ll never read sweetney’s blog because I just plain don’t like her or her material and never have. I encourage others to invoke that right as well.

    Oh and one more thing. I used to read Eden’s blog back in the day. And when I heard of this blama days ago I knew right away Mrs. Fussypants and fussy.org were not the same thing. I think it’s pretty hard to confuse the two. Maybe that means they both have branded themselves just fine and that their blogellectual property is A-ok!

  22. As someone who is so out of the loop re: blogs and cliques and who’s who, I find this all terribly fascinating.

    My standard for blogs is pretty much my standard for all other forms of art and entertainment. I want the blog to be well written, to make me laugh, to make me think, to be honest, and if it is all that, I will probably fall a little bit in love with the blogger and cut them slack for their moments of blandness and un-originality because I will remember their flashes of brilliance.

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