Sunday, December 14, 2008

Facing Facebook

Maybe it is because I have had a lower on-line presence than in the past, but I must confess that I don’t understand the Facebook phenomena. News outlets have suggested that Facebook and other "social networking" sites are now more popular than internet porn. To me, that's just another piece of evidence of how screwed up our priorities have become in Bush-era America.

Don't get me wrong. I wouldn’t say that I am a Luddite, but I do approach technology with a sense of gravitas and skepticism. Market researchers who try to figure out ways to convince us to buy technology (that we don’t need) label me a “late adopter.” Not since I owned a Commodore 64 have I been on the cutting- edge of any technological innovation. Once again, I find that I am behind the times.

Blogging, the major “democratic” innovation of five or six years ago, has clearly become passé. “What? You still Blog?” one can hear others saying, “Ack – Do you do it while listening to your Victrola and in between viewing stereographs? Is your computer powered by a cathode ray tube, Grandpa?”

I am no expert, but I would guess that blogging lost its avant-garde status around the time that “Mommy blog” became an identifiable genre. Or maybe it was at the time that "academic blog" became part of the sphere. Whatever the case, Facebook now reigns supreme.

I still remember the first time that I heard of “Facebook.” It was long ago, way, way back. Like, three years ago -- a lifetime in internet years. I still resided in Texas and had just become the faculty advisor to a campus Latino/a group. During a training session for all new faculty advisors, representatives from student-services warned us that some undergraduates had placed themselves into some pretty bad situations through new-fads like Facebook and Twitter. Giving “status updates,” it turns out, offers a real time-saver for criminal stalkers.

Facebook therefore didn’t appear to be my scene. Much of your interest fades when you learn about it in the context of a conversation about restraining orders (Of course, little did I know about the number of nutty-nuts that I would encounter on this here blog).

Time passed and eventually “friend” became a verb (e. g., Those who know my Diana-Prince alter ego should feel free to friend me on Facebook). It seemed inevitable that I had to open a Facebook page. Many of my "RL" friends and colleagues raved about the hours they spent (apparently in near rapture) on Facebook. So, I finally opened a page about a year ago. In that time, I usually checked in on my homepage every couple of days.

Let me tell you: I.Just.Don’t.Get.It.

Part of the “not getting it” might be my own lack of technology savvy (I would be aware if I were “super poking” people, right?). Part of it might also be that I am a total passive-bottom in the Facebook world. I almost never send “friend requests” (Who needs the rejection?). Instead, I only engage when somebody else happens upon me.

I don’t own a digital camera beyond the one embedded in my cell phone. Therefore, the option of having an on-line photo gallery is fairly slim.

I also never use Facebook’s key feature: status update. There is the lingering association with the aforementioned stalking, but it also seems like a dubious proposition that people care to know the most mundane aspects of my life. Do people really login to find out if I am grocery shopping? Are people actually wanting to know that I just shoveled out the ashes in my wood-burning stove? FYI: I did shortly before I posted this entry, in case I am mistaken about the level of interest.

Faculty who have Facebook relationships with their students also baffle me. Do I want to open up my internet browser to learn that my student is seriously hungover five minutes before classes start? Do they want to know that I am equally hungover before classes start? I kid – I am never hungover before class. One has to be “over” to be hungover.

Most importantly, Facebook hinges on a type of communication that just isn’t my speed. The best “Facebookers” have a quick wit that plays out through short, declarative sentences. They can spin out well-crafted epigrams that involve more than just letting people know what they are cooking for dinner. They communicate something about the human condition, sometimes via virtual-graffiti on a Facebook wall.

I simply can’t be sly in less than fifty words. My sense of humor takes pages and pages of exposition, often for much less payoff. Blogging was so much more suited to my talents. And, let’s be honest, CoG was one the best blogs ever produced.

Now that blogging is declining faster than GM stock, I feel that I should give the Facebook more of an effort. The other night, out of the blue, somebody with whom I went to highschool “friended” me. Given that I hadn’t thought of hir in years, it seemed like an ideal time to test out my interest in Facebook.

So, following hir link, I began to explore other people who had graduated from our highschool. Keep in mind that I didn’t have the worst time in highschool. By the end, I found a niche in nerdsville geekopolis Student Government. Nonetheless, my travel down internet-memory lane convinced me that I have zero interest in knowing 96 percent of the people with whom I graduated highschool.

Scrolling through the Facebook listings reminded me that a lot of people were really, really, really nasty to me in highschool. Sure, I had some satisfaction in seeing how dreadful their lives had become today: fat, saddled with too many children, boring jobs, and trapped in dead-end hetero marriages (Maybe Facebook’s real success is predicated upon schadenfreude). All of that also made it clear that these weren’t the people I want hanging around my internet world. Most of the people that I did care about in highschool were the type of folk who wouldn’t bother with Facebook.

Determined to make a better go of it, I decided to expand my search to include my alma matter. The problem there was that I graduate from a massive state university. Moreover, that university caterered to “non-traditional” students (The average age of undergraduates was 28). This means, of course, that most people did not graduate on a four-year plan. To make matters even more complicated, I often worked full-time as an undergraduate student. Most of my friends in college, therefore, came from the places where I toiled as a secretary. After all, I spent much more time in offices than I did on campus.

So, searching through my particular graduation year yielded almost nobody that I knew personally. It did, however, reveal people that I wished that I had known in college. ¡Ojalá! Then I thought to myself, why am I wasting time on Facebook when I could be on Manhunt?


Mel said...

I can certainly understand the ambivalence, though I would say that Facebook has largely been an enjoyable experience for me. Yes, I've found some high school folks who have turned out to be raving fundies - not surprising coming from SC - but I have also reconnected with some really decent folks from both high school and college, including one of my best HS friends, whom I'd been out of touch with for a really long time.

I think the trick is not to get invested in it as the end-all, be-all. Sure it's fun, but it can't take the place of sitting around with people you love and enjoying each others' company.

Earl Cootie said...

I'm late to the party as well. In fact, I'm not there yet. (And, psst, I can tell you this: I'm sure to be a no-show.) Social networking just isn't my forte. I have trouble enough connecting with people IRL.

I will say that I've been tempted to join up from time to time for no other reason than that you have to sign up to look at people's Facebook pages. (You say voyeur. I say vicarious pleasure-seeker.)

dykewife said...

facebook is sly. it encourages people to make networks with people they've never met. then these people find their accounts closed because they've not met the people in their network. they've been known to arbitrarily delete photos of kittens playing because somehow they contravene their users service agreement.

it took bran two weeks to find out where i can go to delete my account. prior to that i could only deactivate it. then, after going through their little hoops, i still have to wait 14 days for them delete it. one would think that having bothered search through their crap there would be some determination to dump it. i have no confidence that they'll delete the account.

Frank said...

I'm with you, GayProf: despite being at the higher end of the social networking generation range, I don't really "get" Facebook. I have a profile, but the sole reason is to spy on people from high school. I'm especially with you with regards to the whole "status" thing. My activities are so mundane and stultifyingly boring; who on earth wants to read a sentence about them? I torture my blog readers enough with my boring-ass-ness. But, then, I'm still participating in the tres-three-years-ago blogging phenomenon (though I think it's still alive and well, just not faddy like it used to be), so what do I know? I'm not cool, never was, and never will be, and I'm surprisingly fine with that.

Don't even get me STARTED about Twitter, BTW. The most useless and idiotic technological "advancement" ever, IMHO.

112yearsold said...

I certainly will not be the one to defend Facebook. The site requires a lot of negotiation, play and, yes, reckoning with being part of a large marketing ploy.

On the upshot, I do enjoy knowing what my friends across the world are cooking for dinner.

However: If I were your Facebook friend, I would be sending you a lot of "Crappy Gifts for Faculty of Color" and "Shite Gifts for Academics." Those are applications I truly enjoy.

historiann said...

GayProf, it's like you reached into my brain and read what I'm thinking. I'm a few years older than you, and I just don't get it, either. Your post reassures me that it's not because I'm old, but because I am a critical thinker that I just don't get the whole Facebook thing. I'm shocked at what young people today will reveal about themselves on line, and I hope for their sake that they all stay safe.

Anonymous said...

”Merely looking at a stranger’s Twitter or Facebook feed isn’t interesting, because it seems like blather. Follow it for a day, though, and it begins to feel like a short story; follow it for a month, and it’s a novel. “

Check out this NY Times article on the Brave New World of Digital Intimacy - one of the best I've read on the subject.

rosmar said...

Facebook is light. It is trivial. But as Mel said, it can be fun. I "friend" anyone who asks (mostly students, some colleagues), and it is the only way some of my former students stay in touch. (They are more likely to send me a message through facebook than to email me. I can't figure out why, since the "message" feature in facebook seems exactly like an email to me.) Sometimes a colleague will put up pictures that I like seeing. Sometimes people are funny, with statuses like "I am currently destroying the rest of your life by giving you a B+ instead of an A-."

I like the surprise finds by old friends, too. One of my former union buddies friended me just two days ago--we had completely lost touch, so it was exciting to hear from him and see a little about what he is up to. (Googling him would have felt too much like stalking.)

I'm talking too much, so one last thing--I agree with you that I'd rather not know some of the things my students seem willing for me to know. I've stopped clicking on photos in my students' profiles, no matter how intriguing the album title.

tornwordo said...

I use facebook to play boggle and scramble. Still, I have reconnected with a couple people that I'd lost touch with. So that was a nice bonus.

Anonymous said...

Facebook is ALL about schadenfreude. And to my great despair, I find myself enjoying it.


Alan said...

I'm hoping to be the very last person on Earth who hasn't joined facebook. I just don't get it. Reconnect with people from High School? Ugh. Why would I want to do that? Reconnect with people from college? If I liked them I already have their email address.

If this is what passes for "connection", I'd rather be a hermit. :)

Antonio said...

I was on Facebook before it was cool. j/k Seriously though, I hopped on it back when it was exclusively for college students. I don't really get how people can waste hours with it. I enjoy catching up with people from high school (even if many of them I barely remember) and reading about whatever's going on in their lives. I can't help wondering what people are up to, even the ones I didn't know very well.

I also don't do the status update thing because I don't have much to share in that department. Work, eat, sleep, gym, TV, video games. Not that exciting. When they added apps I just about lost my mind with the flood of "vampire bites", "zombie attacks", and lame BS.

Still, it's a 2-5 minute diversion in my day.

afod said...

I am in the same boat as you when it comes to being up to date on the latest tech-savy internet service. I feel I made a big enough "leap" by blogging. I have no intent on doing Facebook any time soon. These faculty-student relationships on Facebook are a bit unsettling.

Jonathan said...

Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace seem like fun, innovative ways to stay in touch with friends you may not see everyday ... until the employers start checking profiles and discover those embarrassing pictures a friend posted of you chuggin' from a 6-ft. long beer bong!

Anonymous said...

I find facebook useful for keeping up with people who, for one reason or another, I don't get to talk to as much as I'd like, but that's about it.

Oh and also, being fat is not indicitive of having a dreadful life any more than being thin is an indicator of everything being sunshine and puppies.

Anonymous said...

Oh and also, being fat is not indicitive of having a dreadful life any more than being thin is an indicator of everything being sunshine and puppies.

Thank you, Anonymous. I was just going to say the same thing.

-- Another Anonymous

New Kid on the Hallway said...

I actually like having micro-updates on what people I know are doing, in the way the NYTimes article above describes. That's partly because 95% of my friends (on FB, but this is sadly true in real life) are people who don't live anywhere near me, and we're all way too lazy/busy to write/call/keep in touch however. Status updates are a nice compromise. (The other 5% or so of my FB friends are law school classmates, and since most of them are 10-15+ years younger than I am, it gives me an anthropological edge - without FB I'd have no idea how they think!).

It goes in phases, though - sometimes I check in regularly, sometimes I don't bother.

(I should confess that I am also on Twitter, which, like FB, was one of those things that made absolutely no sense to me/didn't appeal at all until I reached a kind of critical mass with it.)

David said...

I'm no technophile, but I find facebook very entertaining and useful, albeit in small bites. Since I have, thanks in part to blogging, a vast network of acquaintances, this really is a useful tool for me to keep engaged with them, especially those who live far away. A few high school folks have tracked me down but I don't pursue it with them. I'm enjoying it and don't find that it replaces my usual face to face contact at all. I'm still a social butterfly as well.

Anonymous said...

Manhunt definitely sounds better. I have noticed heightened Facebook activity during the grading season. Another peculiar phenomenon is this: I friended someone (a rather famous academic) who had actually stopped being my friend rather abruptly, and crazily. It was a way of saying "Hey, we could kind of be in touch, even if we're not really, well, friends." Also, I was beginning to suspect that zie was leaving snarky comments on my blog, since they seemed to be deliberately pointed to indicate a real acquaintance with me and also to provoke me. Since this seemed to be a bid for attention, I thought facebook would be a distantced way of doing that. I friended, and was accepted without comment.

Several days later a number of my junior colleagues, who are actually my "friends" as well as being Friends, reported having received friend requests from this person -- who they do not know *at all.*

I found this really creepy, which is why, even though I know you darling Gayprof, I am posting this anonymously, just in case this person is lurking around looking to do further creepy things.

GayProf said...

Mel: It would be nice if Facebook became a venue to reconnect with people that I care about, but have lost contact. As of yet, though, that has not happened.

Earl: We can start our own party. A party so exclusive, it's just the two of us.

Dykewife: There is something odd (and probably not good) about the insistence of Facebook in keeping people signed up.

Frank: Alas, for "not being cool," I could write a book.

112YearsOld: Finding a means to subvert Facebook would be the most fun. If only I was more creative. . .

HistoriAnn: I can't imagine my Texas university was isolated in its experiences with Facebook and stalking. Yet, almost none of the news coverage over the site mentions some serious dangers for those who aren't careful.

Anon1: Thanks for the link. I wonder how interesting a novel or short story it would be, though.

Rosmar: It just seems strange to me that students have no professional boundaries in their use of Facebook.

TornWordo: The game thing makes sense to me.

K: I am sure the Germans must have another word for people like us who enjoy schadenfreude just a little too much.

Alan: My feeling about Facebook and highschool connections is that I don't (and never will) attend reunions. Why would I do so in a virtual environment?

Antonio: There are people who make good use of Facebook. Indeed, there are some very witty people who can really play with the Status Update. I just tend to be jealous of those folk.

Afod: Yeah, blogger was a big leap for me. I can't believe I have been at it for almost four years (more or less).

Jonathan: As the Obama camp found out, Facebook can be fun until newspapers start checking on those same photos and find you doing inappropriate things.

Anon 2 & 3: Fair enough.

New Kid: Maybe my problem is that I have (wrongly) always had an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality. I am not sure that Facebook alters that much.

David: I didn't mean to imply that people shouldn't use Facebook. It's just that I can't quite figure out its utility for me.

Anon4: I am hardly the first to point it out, but it is worth noting that some people seem to think that the internet allows them to do the most inappropriate things imaginable. I am not sure if it is about the lack of face-to-face communication or that the internet is just generally dehumanizing, but it is shocking what people will do to other people online (including, though not surprisingly, academics). Sigh.

Anonymous said...

"I am no expert, but I would guess that blogging lost its avant-garde status around the time that “Mommy blog” became an identifiable genre."
Ok so basically your point is that as soon as women (or dear lord, women who have children) become involved in something, that thing is no longer edgy or avant-garde. Misogyny much?

Anonymous said...

"I simply can’t be sly in less than fifty words." ditto.

from what I can tell, twitter is the newest best thing amongst activist bloggers. Almost all of my regular blog-reads "twit" and if that noun turned verb doesn't tell you why I don't . . .


GayProf said...

Anon5: In the same way that I think of Academic blogs (like this one) as mundane (the following sentence), I also think of "Mommy blogs" as mundane.

Now that you mention it, though, in a time of global overpopulation, and the fact that the U.S. consumes an obscene amount of natural resources, I do think that biological parenthood is one of the least progressive decisions possible. Men and women who have biological children (especially more than two) are not providing a form of community service and are not part of an avant garde movement. Sorry.

Also, as somebody who thinks of himself as a feminist, I am appalled by the continuing discourse that insists that women be defined through familial relationships. It seems to me that the genre "Mommy blogs" (though not all individual blogs that fall under that category) enforce retrograde assumptions about gender and, certainly, heteronormativity.

Thanks for asking.

PBW: I was on twitter briefly, but could not handle the information overload.

Anonymous said...

Dude, whatever. That completely solidifies your misogyny. Let's just direct our anger towards mothers and blame their reproduction for our worldly problems. Hey, you know what, there are actually enough resources in the world to support our world populations. Oh and secondly, let's not forget our histories of eugenics, where women of certain races and classes were sterylized against their will, which I suppose lowered the population, but more specifically lowered populations of marginalized groups. I bring up this history to support the idea that maybe your "solution" of controling women's reproduction is not exactly so avant-garde either.

What is also funny and ironic is your use of the term avant-garde, a term that has historically been, and continues to be, associated with white male heteronormativity and exclusion of those who are "other."

AND, to add to all of this, mommy blogs have taken a special role in society that allows mothers to find social support and talk about the issues they face, issues which I beleive our society pushes far to the margins. Even though women are pretty much told that they must breed, it is not like we as a society actually support mothers themselves. Where are our social programs to help working/single mothers? Why is there such a desparity in wages between men and women, when women are given the role as caretakers? Mommy blogs help fill that void that occures when mothers are so demeaned by our social systems, despite the social pressures to have children. Thanks a lot for just adding to these misogynist systems and blaming mothers for our world problems.

GayProf said...

Anon6: Clearly we see the world quite differently. I don't see the evidence that the planet can sustain this level of population. It certainly can't sustain the standard of living for U.S. children that is currently in place. Since 1980, the earth’s population has grown 30 percent. The United States, which accounts for just 5 percent of the world’s population, consumes 25 percent of the word’s resources and produces 25 percent of greenhouse gases. One new human born in the United States will consume 30 times more than a brand new human born in India and 20 times more than a new human in Africa. So, until we see the massive transformation that we all want in the redistribution of resources, I believe it is a responsible choice to limit the number of children born in this nation (and to not have any at all is a good choice, to my mind).

To clarify: I didn't (and wouldn't) propose controlling anybody's reproduction. Rather, I suggest that it is an active decision that women and men make to have biological children (and not a forgone conclusion that they should). What I want is for more individuals to make informed choices, including an understanding that having children has real environmental and social costs.

See how that works? I am calling for responsible citizenship. Along with this would come an increase in the availability of birth control, which I see as a basic human right.

I also don't "blame mothers" (but it's nice to see that you feel free to put words in my mouth). I blame both men and women who have children and a discourse that defines one's worth through biological reproduction.

I am also firmly committed equity in the workplace; that women who do have children should be given the same career options as men are given when they have children; and (not that you cared to know) sexism, misogyny, and other forms of social injustice have been topics of conversation here at CoG for some time.

Truly, I am not the foe that you seem to imagine. Rather than name calling, I propose that you think about ways to engage people politely and with respect, even those with whom you seriously disagree. I am not always right and, yep, I make mistakes.

But, by all means, feel free to despise me and declare us enemies. That's seems more fun and satisfying for you.

Anonymous said...

I do admit to coming off a bit harshly, but my intension was not exactly to declare us enimies. Angry, yes, but my intention was to call into question a casual statement with such misogynist implications. When you described the mommy blog as perhaps the first point where the medium lost its avant-garde qualities, this draws from numerous stereotypes and histories steeped in sexism. The term avant-garde in particular has historicaly been used to refer edgy _male_ artistic and litterary production. So many times when women have engaged in such production, their work is regarded as less than, moot, and dealing with "lower women's issues." Women's artistic and litterary productions have also historically been considered incapable of being avant-garde, as many have argued, on the basis of women's lack of a vibrant male sexuality, central to the production of edgy works and materials. This history holds deeply rooted meaning. When you talk as you did about a woman-only form of production, such as mommie blogging, you draw from these sexist histories and stereotypes, as they frame our current perceptions and discussions.

Additionally, I was angry because mommie blogs have played a supportive role for women who feel alienated by the very social systems they adhere to. Even though women are pushed into childbaring, as many feminists have noted, the very society that pressures them to do so does little to nothing to support them. Mothers are held to so many conflicting and degrading standards, consistantly policed for their decisions. A mother who works is a bad mother, a mother who stays at home is a bad mother, and so forth. So when you are talking about parents' choices as non-environmentally conscious, you are participating in this very system that ridicules and polices women for the "choices" they make. I say this from the perspective of a white women of socially acceptable childbaring age, and I can't even communicate to you all the bullshit pressures I face to breed. So I take very deep issue with someone who claims a sense of righteousness while policing the actions and "choices" of women, especially with regards to their reproduction.
You stated: "I do think that biological parenthood is one of the least progressive decisions possible. Men and women who have biological children (especially more than two) are not providing a form of community service and are not part of an avant garde movement." This reads to me as your way to shame women. (You also include men in your statements, but they hardly bare the brunt or whitness the same double standards and policing as women.)

I would argue that because mommie blogs provide an outlet and source of support for many women, women otherwise pushed to the margins and isolated by the pressures i described, that these blogs do, in fact, subvert the status quo and very poignantly engage in a form of avant-gardism.

Tenured Radical said...

I don't object to motherhood, but I do find the term "mommie blog" a little icky. Actually, even if I had a child, I wouldn't let it call me Mommy (ie). Or Raddy. It would have to be Radical or TR.

Anyway, Gayprof is not a mysogynist. I know this bebcause we had several drinks together and it would have come out. It is part of *being* Gayprof to say snide things about children.

And Mommies need not to lose their sense of humor.

Shazbat said...

Gosh, TenuredRadical, I don't think that was actually a very good response to a well-thought-out comment. Frankly, I'm rather offended (as a feminist, rather than a mother - I don't intend to have biological children for precisely the reasons that GayProf describes) by your comment that 'Mothers need not lose their sense of humour.' This again buys into an age-old and definitely NOT edgy discourse which states that whenever women object to something, they are displaying their total lack of humour - because making fun of marginalised groups of people is hilarious and anyone who can't see that must be a woman, or overly PC.

One can simultaneously accept that our current population is totally unsustainable, and doing great damage to the planet which we may or may not survive, and support the rights of women who are routinely degraded in our society. You don't believe mothers are degraded? They are assumed to lose all autonomous identity once they have given birth (look through a newspaper, and see how many times a woman is referred to solely as 'a mum, 43'), they are isloated from each other and hence networks of support by our Westernised lifestyle that encourages women to stay at home and relate to other mothers on a competitive basis, they earn less, they are vilified when they do work as well as when they don't, are expected to maintain sex-object status, or be deemed frumpy. In short, they are seen as less human because of their parentla status. To deride their attempts at putting their own voices out there smacks of misogyny for a reason, and further denies women agency and a voice.

I don't deny that some mommy blogs may be very boring to you or me, but it is not your place to state that their existence renders the whole medium 'un-edgy'.

Finally, stating that you don't think GayProf is a misogynist because you've had a few drinks together is naive at best, and at worst yet another attempt to privilege your own experience above the voices of people who say 'well, I feel that was quite offensive.'

Incidentally GayProf, I'm very sorry that my first comment on your site was so negative - I have absolutely no idea whether you are a misogynist or not, and suspect the latter, even if I think you should perhaps think about your attitudes towards women who have children. It was an interesting article, and I definitely think that the discussion of whether it is a good idea to procreate or not is one worth putting out there more often. In short, I agree (except about the mommy blogs. Maybe you should read the Radical Doula?).

Alan said...

I love watching academics fight, especially those in the humanities.

Alas, if only someone could have used the word "patriarchy", I totally could have filled my Post-Structuralist-Jargon bingo card. ;)

Anonymous said...

wow gay prof, I just came to fix my disability inspired grammar (which, yes, kept me up at night but did not motivate me to go to the computer) and saw the "mommy blog" convo . . .

I think this comment might make it worse, but I can't help it . . .

"Mommy blogs" as a genre are overwhelming white and middle class authored and certainly when featured in other media (books by "mommy bloggers," television interviews, television shows given to "mommy bloggers" etc.) they are all the more so. So while we are cautioning each other about language, I want to also caution against the mainstream feminist tendency to trot out the black female body to make a point about what is largely constructed as white female space. It is not lost on me, and therefore many here I imagine, that resorting to eugenicism and the spectre of racial reproduction, to make a point about a media that neither caters to nor often includes women of color in order to critique gay prof's supposed misogyny shifts the discussion to one of racism AND sexism (and also classism, since poor women were and continue to be caught up in eugenicism) so as to silence any rejoinder he might make in his defense. And I am glad he is better at these conflicts than me, and resisted the urge to take the bait.

That being said, there has been ample evidence that a redistribution of wealth and a shift to communal production and fair trade could in fact sustain the world's population. Both environmental and reproductive discourses have failed to acknowledge this literature precisely because of an investment in unfair trade, the kind of middle and upper class standard of living Gay Prof mentions, and the willingness/commitment to control stigmatized populations (poc, differently-abled, incarcerated, poor, indig, etc.) that anon mentions. In other words, there are interesting issues being exposed by both these positions and as gay prof says, engaging each other from a place of respect might have led to fleshing these issues out in a productive fashion.

Often I try not to speak on a blog until I have gauged a trend in the narrative so as not to make assumptions.

There is a certain level of misogyny in the dismissal of "mommy blogs" but I don't think it lies here at this blog. As gay prof points out, his critique is based in a question of middle class heteronormativity and its ties to unquestioned reproduction and the value placed on a hyper-capitalist depiction/measure of said repro that is often furthered by the most popular of "mommy blogs." That critique does not contradict the clear space that "mommy blogs" present for women, with access to computers, free-time, and possibly additional monies for blog software, to reach out to others going through similar joys and worries. There are many such non-virtual spaces like this for mothers that have been invaluable in fighting depression and stress or simply in helping spread key parenting information. It would be nice to see a critique that embraced and deconstructed both of these as well as the perpetuation of a largely white female heterosexual normativity. (And no, this is not to say that Latinas, African-Americans, and to a much lesser extent APIAs and indigenous women are not "mommy blogging;" instead, I am questioning the face and dominant culture of the genre particularly in light of thinly veiled accusations of racism here in defense of it)

-prof bw (pbw)

Anonymous said...

lesbians also "mommy blog" but they too are marginalized in the genre and I would bet that lesbians of color are all the more so. (I know of at least one black trangendered-lesbian family that has stopped blogging b/c it has not been a supportive space but that is anecdotal rather than statistical evidence.)

- pbw

Tenured Radical said...

Sorry I disappointed you Shazbat -- I can;t be pc on everything; my head would fall off.

But has anyone noticed that -- not unlike other blog flame wars -- Gayprof's post was about Facebook, and he says one thing about the mommies, and the mommies go ballistic and start calling him names? And now we are deep into a discussion of mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most marginalized of all?

I'll say it Alan. Patriarchy. There, damn it!


Alan said...



Oh, and we got "heteronormativity" in there too! Sweet! I think it's so gosh darn cute the way humanities people make up funny words to make it sound like what they talk about matters and stuff. ;)

GayProf said...

Anon7: all the bullshit pressures I face to breed. What?? Breed?? Are you equating women’s bodies with barn yard animals??! Misogynist, much?

Of course, I tease – Tease because I care. And because there is a lot of emotion and ink being invested in a single sentence of this entry.

Teasing aside, I appreciate the content of your more recent comment. Indeed, based on that explanation, I understand why my original flippant comment could be implicated in larger discourses that erase or discredit the work that women do. Certainly, it wasn’t my intent, but I am perfectly happy to be challenged on it (BTW, I imagined the real pay off of that joke to be that “academic blogs” were the truly mundane. Thus pointing out that blogging became less cool the moment that I personally started blogging. The only other identifiable genre of blog that I could think of to set that joke up happened to be “Mommy blogs” But, hey, there is something to think of there (beyond how unfun it is to explain how jokes are set up)).

I also appreciate that many women have found support networks through the internet. That is great and one of the true innovations of blogging. I hope, though, that many of those same bloggers who are finding a shared discontent are also thinking about/discussing ways to mobilize that discontent into social action that will improve the circumstances for all women.

Nonetheless, I probably won’t budge on the idea that having biological children should by itself be presumed as a positive decision nor a societal good until global relationships are seriously restructured. While I think that you are right that women have in other contexts been unfairly burdened with that decision, here at CoG I see it as choice made by two (or possibly more) partners. I would also propose that questioning the assumption that biological children is an automatic good/necessity opens up a larger discussion about the very pressures that many women, like you, feel to have children.

And, of course, we also need a larger discussion about the meaning of parenthood in this nation. Children continue to be treated as (more-or-less) the property of their parents rather than as individuals who have their own rights. Ensuring that they have access to basic services as individual citizens would go a long way to lifting the disproportional burdens placed on women. But it would also mean rethinking parental authority and might include unpopular expectations, like a child’s right to a free and secular education.

Tenured Radical: Did I not mention my master plan to enforce the subordination of all women when we had cocktails? Huh – I thought for sure that came up.

Shazbat: I didn’t mean to imply that individuals who have children can’t have progressive politics in other realms of their lives. Rather, I stick to my guns that the decision to have biological children is not progressive by itself. Also, there are many forms of parenting that are progressive. For instance, I knew a heterosexual couple who actively chose not to have biological children because of the environmental costs associated with it. They chose, instead, to adopt children in need (And, yes, adoption is not free from economic and racial problems. But we can think about larger realms there. Adoption is also better than allowing children to remain in unresponsive institutional systems).

Also, not having any biological children is not the only option for thinking about the environment and proactive choices. Rather, deciding to have children later in life and willingly opting not to have more than one per two people (which would reduce the population) would go a long way. Even having two children per two people would at least maintain the status quo. More than two, though, it seems to me, shows a total lack of concern/awareness for the social and environmental implications.

Finally, I don’t think that all blogs that fall under “Mommy blogs” are defacto unprogressive or “boring” (As I indicated earlier, the genre doesn’t necessarily say anything about the individual blogs that fall under it). However, it seems to me that few people on this thread would defend a category known as “wifie blogs” whose defining feature centered on women’s relationships with their male husbands; or “princess blogs” that hinged on women’s relationships to their fathers (regardless if individual blogs under those categories were radical). So why do we think it is still “okay” to define women through their relationship to children? To my mind, the creation of a category “Mommy blog” to name the genre is implicated in certain (dare I say?) misogynistic assumptions that depend upon naming, and reducing, women’s identities, writings, and roles through familial relationships/ reproduction. Does that mean that some women aren’t/shouldn’t find support or validation through them? Not at all. But it does mean that we should scrutinize other issues at play here and the ways that the blog genre can simultaneously maintain the gender and sexual status quo.

ProfBW: Thanks for stepping into the conversation. Indeed, hidden assumptions about race, gender, sexuality, and economic class seem to inform most representations of the category of “Mommy blog” genre.

I hadn’t wanted to weigh into the earlier invocation of eugenics, but I am glad that you eloquently addressed many of those issues. It is worth noting, of course, that those same eugenics movements also depended upon defining white women’s roles exclusively through motherhood and defined their goals and successes entirely through children’s development (Often through expectations of total self-sacrifice). Moreover, there is a long, long history of discourses around white motherhood being mobilized to disempower women of color and legitimate inequitable social and economic relationships.

Tenured Radical2: What was about Facebook?

Alan1&2: See? This is why I don’t blog anymore (and also why academic blogs are mundane).

Anonymous said...

much like facebook, . . .

so: "noun turned verb" oops. "adjective turned verb"

as to the rest, ya me voy.


Anonymous said...

oops again. thanks for the thoughtful response gay prof. ya me voy.

Eloriane said...

In defense of Twitter, it was extremely useful when I went on a road trip recently; every couple hours, we could update my feed with my phone, to say where we were and what we were up to. Our parents (and my friend's boyfriend) appreciated the constant reassurance that we were still alive.

In most circumstances, though, it's not something I really get. I'm a college student, so I have a facebook, but it's mostly useful for when I lose something and a fellow student facebook messages me to tell me they've found it. (I'm still torn about being so easy to find-- it handy, but also handy for stalkers.) I don't understand how one CAN spend hours on Facebook-- what is there to do?

Luckily, I don't think blogs are dying. Certainly I won't let go of mine until I am old and shriveled!

Laverne said...

You know, I wander over here, see a recent post, and then, what's that? 37 comments? Do people really feel that strongly about Facebook? I must read them all!

And then, nope, it's someone wanting to debate your evil attitude toward women, mommies,and children.


I'm bringing it back to Facebook here. Last summer a friend said to me, "Hey, you should go on to Facebook. I could add you as a friend."

I was clueless, "but... you already are my friend."

I did sign up, but it was to give Tornwordo more opportunities to whup my behind at Boggle.

Chad said...

What is also funny and ironic is your use of the term avant-garde, a term that has historically been, and continues to be, associated with white male heteronormativity and exclusion of those who are "other."

No, it's not, Anonymous, although thank you for giving me a good laugh.

pacalaga said...

I hate people too much to care about social networking. I've had several RL friends invite me to join, and I just can't bring myself to do it.
Though seriously, I had been wondering about the state of your ash for some time.

baron-scarpia said...

I use facebook, but only with very close friends. (Under twenty)

This means I have no Facebook connections with anyone I was ever at school with.

vanzare apartamente cluj said...

I think blogs and Facebook have different uses. I'm sure you're right when you say that blogs are not a trend now, but I hope that the blogs will become more mature and their presence on the Internet will be a very good source of information