Mommy & Me
Mommy blogs are big business these days. A recent Washington Post profile on ur-mommy blogger Heather Armstrong (a.k.a. Dooce) suggested that her site could be raking in up to 40 grand a month. While most mothers who blog are nowhere near as influential (and their sites nowhere near as lucrative), they take pride and satisfaction in the work they do, and the websites they maintain offer valuable community, a sense of connection to other parents, and occasionally a little pocket change. All kinds of mothers keep blogs, and the term "mommy blogs" refers to a huge range of content, from labors of love produced by one impassioned writer to online communities made up of moms writing collectively. And yet the image of the mommy blogger is about as progressive as June Cleaver—it overlooks the legions of mom bloggers who aren't white, heterosexual, married women.
The digital divide has been well documented: According to the Pew Research Center, in 2005 57 percent of African-Americans went online, compared to 70 percent of whites, and according to their 2007 report, 56 percent of Latinos went online. Given that blogging takes time and energy as well as money for access, there's a class divide at play as well as a racial/ethnic one. But how much of the absence of moms of color in the large mommy community is due to the digital divide and how much to racism, overt or otherwise?
The lack of women of color in the established mommy blogosphere—BabyCenter.com's MOMformation, Offsprung, and Club Mom, to name a few—likely results from a lack of recruitment. One fast-growing community, SV Moms Group, which currently has six blogs featuring more than 150 writers, boasts only a small handful of bloggers of color. Jill Asher, the site's cofounder and editor, says she mainly uses word-of-mouth techniques like e-mails to her existing writers to recruit new writers, but she also surfs the web, looking for that new writer who has "the right voice." Yet such limited outreach doesn't push individuals to look beyond their own circles for new voices and results in mommy blogs that suffer from sameness. The lack of moms of color matters for the simple reason that our different backgrounds—e.g., ethnicity, class, religion—are reflected in the way we parent; this difference should be seen on blogs that claim to represent moms in general.
When Mommy Blogger A waxes rhapsodic over the $5-a-pound local, organic heirloom tomatoes she picked up at Whole Foods, does that resonate with readers (or other mommy bloggers) who struggle to put an entire dinner on the table for $5? If Mommy Blogger B brilliantly paints the picture of how she had to fire her nanny over religious differences, can a working-class mom of color feel that story after her own 10-hour workday? This cross-cultural division extends to the comments section of blogs: What does it say to writers in a community when someone's snarky post about nanny stealing gets a ton of responses and another's post about explaining sexism and racism in the presidential race to her 10-year-old daughter gets not a peep?
A writer from the Chicago Moms Blog (a blog for which—full disclosure—I write) has said that one reason she likes mommy blogging communities is that they do offer a diversity of views and a huge amount of support. Still, these communities only offer that if you fit into the community that is already there. The ultimate question is this: Is it reasonable to expect that communities like Chicago Moms Blog or Babble have a diversity of voices, ones from all corners of race and class and religion?
At the 2007 BlogHer conference, devoted to women who blog, blogger Mocha Momma questioned the lack of diversity on mommy blogs and wondered why marketers don't target the blogs of moms of color. Given the huge number of perks—from books and body lotions to test runs of minivans and kiddie cell phones—that flow into the momosphere, when the blogs of mothers of color miss out on marketing, they miss out on not just these freebies but valuable ad revenue as well. They also miss out on a basic sense of acknowledgment and representation.
So how do we get more parents of color on mainstream sites—and, perhaps more important, ensure that they don't feel tokenized or out of place in those spaces? One solution is to support the work of mothers of color within existing communities. Commenting, blogrolling, and networking can be great tools for this. Another answer is to dig a little deeper and seek out equally popular but less commercially driven sites formed by parents of color, like Anti-Racist Parent, Mocha Moms, and Kimchi Mamas. These sites are opening eyes by engaging their readers in a conversation about raising children in a racist society. Jump in, start reading, and hopefully you'll find a few like-minded moms to create a community with, free diapers or not.