Are mommy bloggers sell-outs?

Blogs allow those who have traditionally had no voice and very little social power to be heard. In this atmosphere, “mommy blogs” have become big business. Dooce is the most popular personal blog and garners its owner forty thousand dollars a month in advertising. Meanwhile, rather than get direct profit through advertising, some mommy bloggers write product reviews in exchange for free samples of merchandise. Jessica Ramirez recently wrote an article for Newsweek, questioning whether this practice affected the credibility of these women.

Unlike traditional media, bloggers are only held accountable by their readership and their personal morals. There are no professional guidelines that they must follow, and anyone can take on the title of professional blogger. As the medium of internet publishing grows, advertisers and corporations are recognizing that this is an optimal way to get their product to a targeted market without a large outlay of cash.

The question that readers must ask themselves is this: if these bloggers are getting kickbacks for writing these reviews, can they really be trusted to relay factual information about the products in question? Keep in mind that we are subject to advertising continually. Commercials regularly use celebrity spokespeople to promote a product and we do not question their integrity, even though these celebrities are being paid for advertising said products.

Blogging is a very new form of communication. Purists don’t believe that any profit should be made from the endeavour whatsoever. Yet when one considers the time and effort that it takes to write and edit a successful blog, the idea that a blogger should forgo remuneration is ridiculous. We have a tendency to focus on the larger blogs in which people are earning a living, but many writers work in obscurity for what amounts to far less than minimum wage

Women already earn seventy-five cents for every dollar that a man makes. Even when men and women share the same profession over the period of a lifetime, men on average will still earn more money. The current recession has been referred to as a “mancession” as the jobs that are being lost are largely in manufacturing, construction and technology – areas traditionally dominated by males. This has caused a large strain on families where women suddenly find themselves to be the sole breadwinners.

Denigrating these women for finding ways to supplement their income is just one of the ways in which society is attempting to ensure the patriarchal norm of female poverty. Mommy bloggers are not the only ones that regularly write product reviews for free products or cash, but they are the only ones subject to such blatant discipline. We feel the need to hold them to a different standard specifically because they are women, and because we have constructed motherhood as self-sacrificing.

When one has to feed a child and provide shelter and clothing, self-sacrifice can only go so far. By finding a way to supplement their income, the mommy bloggers are providing for their children. The person viewing the blog post in question also has agency. The readership is more than capable of deciding for themselves whether or not this is a product that they wish to purchase.

It is interesting to note that in a society that idealizes profit, women starting a business and being successful is deemed problematic. The real issue is not that profit is being made, but that it is being made by women. If women are successful and achieve financial independence, they are better able to make decisions in their own best interest and it is this that is at the heart of the discipline aimed at mommy bloggers.

It should also be noted that not only do these women write for profit, they also share their personal experiences with other mothers. Even though the reader is being subject to advertising, they are still receiving some sort of value by being able to read these blogs for free. Socially, we have become accustomed to the devaluation of female labour because it is a necessary factor in maintaining our capitalist system. Whether they cooking, raise children or write, women are expected to labour for free. Our supposed desire to nurture is used as a weapon and we are deemed unfeminine should we dare to assume that our work has value.

As social services continue to decline and the economy worsens, it would not be in the best interests of mommy bloggers to take the purist approach to blogging. When they cannot provide for their families, mothers are quickly denigrated, because we have conflated class position with the ability to parent. Therefore, regardless of the stigma attached to mommy blogging, increasing the family income can only be a positive for all women. And it is when we hold male bloggers to the same accountability standards as women bloggers, then and only then, will the internet truly function as new frontier of gender equality.

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Renee Martin

Renee Martin lives in Canada and writes the famous Womanist Musings blog. She is as interested in socio-political issues as she is in television.

3 thoughts on “Are mommy bloggers sell-outs?

  1. Nice work. Of course, only women are expected to work for free. As long as there’s transparency about whether something is sponsored, people are free to read the blogs as they wish and pay as much or as little attention to the product reviews as they wish. The fact that a financial incentive is scrutinized when women are involved is very telling.

  2. I have such mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis that the shaming of women trying to make money for their families, and choose not to work for free, is particularly misogynistic.

    On the other hand, I see women devaluing their thoughts and demeaning themselves for far too little: a bit of swag, a few diapers, some plastic things they probably didn’t really need.

    Shaming the individual is absolutely the wrong tack, when the problem is the *culture* that places so little value on our work and our time and our intellects that women are forced to shilling for Swiffer if they are to supplement their income. But there *is* something wrong with it, and the paid product placements are symptomatic of a deeper inequity that absolutely disturbs me and must be addressed if women, particularly women who parent at home, are to achieve financial autonomy and thus personal agency.

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