Not To Be Trusted With Knives











{July 30, 2008}   My BlogHer/Feminism Rant

Wow, I’m like totally the captain of late blogging. BlogHer was like eleventy billion weeks ago and I’m just getting around to blogging my rant.

First of all, a picture of all the cards I brought home from BlogHer:

I don’t even have time to keep up with the blog feeds that I currently subscribe to, so I have no idea how I will find time to check out all of these. In fact, I haven’t yet checked a single one of these yet! But I *swear* will get to them, because there were definitely some cool people with cool sounding blogs that I need to check out!

Secondly, an obligatory feminist rant. Or rants, really.

Rant#1: I’ve already mentioned that the majority of the people I met at BlogHer were mommy bloggers, most of whom had little or no interest in talking to you if you had no kids1. When I’m at a conference, the first things I ask when I meet someone new are “What’s your name?” and “Where are you from?” but I can’t count how many women I met whose first question was, “How many kids do you have?” or “How old are your kids?” And, seriously, many of them didn’t want to talk to you if you weren’t a mom.

I noticed on the conference agenda that there was going to be a session called, “Who We Are: Women Without Children and the Blogosphere” and I thought, “Hmm…, maybe that’s where the non-mommy bloggers go.” But then I read the description, which said:

You might be childfree by choice because you always knew you didn’t want children, or it might have snuck up on you, and you decided or work to be content as you were. Either way there are definitely times when it’s like being a fish out of water in this society…online and off. Lisa Stone likes to say that “the only thing harder than being a mother in this culture is being a woman who chose not to be a mother.” Join Laurie White, Teri Tith, Suebob Davis and Laura Scott, who have a lot to say on the subject!

To me, that sounds like a “Hey! Did you decide that you never, ever, ever want kids? Or did you accidentally get old and barren when you weren’t paying attention and totally missed the boat? Come to our bitter fest where we complain about how people are mean to us because we are and forever will be childless!” Now, I realize that I’ve been complaining (some might say “bitterly”) about people being less than hospitable to me because I’m childless, but (a) I’m not (necessarily) childless for ever, so I don’t fit into that group any more than I fit into the mommy bloggers groups and, more importantly, (b) why do women have to be categorized by their uterine-status? Do men get categorized, judged and in- or excluded from things because they are daddies vs. childless?2

Which brings me to my Rant#2.  Specifically, a rant about swag. In the various swag bags that I picked up over the weekend3, there was not 1, but 2, samples of laundry detergent. At a blogging conference. Seriously. I mean, do you get samples of laundry detergent at your average (i.e., non-gender specific) blogging or tech conferences? Do men not do laundry? I know that, on average, women do more housework than men do, so I can see why laundry soap companies’ marketing departments, target women, but it doesn’t make it right! Shouldn’t we be demanding that men do their half the housework?? And what about single men? Don’t they do their own laundry? The single men that I know do, so why isn’t there laundry detergent in their swag bags?

And then there was iRobot, the makers of the Roomba. You know, the robot vacuum cleaner that cleans your carpets & floors. Now, I will admit that I TOTALLY want a Roomba. Because I, like any sensible person, hate vacuuming. But again, does Roomba show up at the exhibitor’s room at other blogging conferences? Well, I asked their rep and the conversation went something like this:

Me: So, do you go to other blogging conferences, or just this one?

Her: <pause> Well, this is the first one we’ve been to. We are going to see how it goes and then maybe we might consider going to some others…

Me: <pause> Really?

Her: Well, our target audience is what we call the “C.H.O.” – the Chief Home Officer. So, whoever is responsible for the home.

Me: …

Her: Yeah, women with kids. <pause> But, well, I’m single so I’m the Chief Home Officer at my place, because…

Me: Because you are the only one there.

Her: Yeah.

Me: What about single men then? Aren’t they a target audience for this?

Her: <shrugs>

Chief HOME Officer?? Really??! <barf!>. But what really ticked me off was the brochure that they handed out, which, citing a University of Wisconsin study4, said, in part:

Did you know that Women [sic] spend an average of 31 hours per week doing housework while men spend 14 hours – a ratio of slightly more than two to one? […]

Even in households where both the husband and the wife work full-time, paying jobs, the wife does 28 hours of housework and the husband 16 – a ratio just shy of two to one.

Said Sampson Lee Blair, associate professor of sociology at the University of Buffalo, ” – (Even) where she has a job and he doesn’t… where you would anticipate a complete reversal, you find the wife doing the majority of the housework.”

With the touch of a button, iRobot can help you even the score. Let our home robots help with the dirty work so you can spend more time doing… anything you want!

(emphasis mine)

That’s right. The solution to this injustice is not to strive for equality, but for women to accept that vacuuming is their responsibility and buy their product.  Notice that no one is telling men that they have to solve the vacuuming issue before they do “anything they want.” They can just go do as they please and the women need to make sure the “dirty work” is done. Not. Impressed.

And speaking of lame things about Roomba, they were giving out these bracelets that open up to reveal they are USB memory sticks:

That, in itself, is not lame (although I would never, ever wear it as a bracelet). What is lame is what is included on the USB memory stick. Specifically, a song.  A song about the Roomba.

No, I’m not kidding. A song about the robot vacuum cleaner.  A friggin’ song about a friggin’ robot vacuum cleaner!  And it’s not even remotely good. Not even listenable, really.  And not even in an amusing way, like this song.  Just an awful, awful, awful Roomba song.

Thankfully, through the magic that is YouTube, now you too can hear the Roomba song!

Fortunately, in addition to the cleaning supplies that make me angry, there was some good swag, including I USB memory sticks from Smilebox and from some military thing. They had crap loaded on their sticks too, but didn’t appear to have any songs that I could mock, so I just deleted the crap and now I have a some free USB sticks.

I also got this thingy from topix that turns a power outlet into three power outlets – a great idea for a blogging conference which, surprisingly, I didn’t see a single person using. Instead, everyone just asked me if they could plug into my power strip that I had brought with me.

There was also this button. It made me laugh.

IMG_3816

And for any of the swag that you didn’t want, Zwaggle, a site that facilitates parents passing along “gently used” kids stuff to other families, has a swag recycling room where you could drop off any swag that you would otherwise chuck into the landfill, and grab stuff that other people left for recycling.  Like if you were just dying for more laundry soap.  They gave out cool t-shirts, so they get my thumbs up and my link love.

Of course, the most amazing piece of swag I got disappeared from my purse before the end of the first night.  But I don’t think I have the strength to talk about it right now, so that will have to be a blog post for another day…

1So many thanks to the lovely women I met who were moms (some mommy bloggers, some bloggers who happened to have kids) who *did* talk to me after I admitted I was currently barren.
2Perhaps you do and I just don’t know about it because I’m not a male. Male readers – what’s been your experience with this?
3And you know how I feel about free stuff.
4In truth, they cited a New York Times article which cited the actual study.

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Darren says:

I heard a similar ‘it’s all about mommy bloggers’ vibe from another attendee, who shall remain nameless.

And, on balance, I would’ve thought that young single men would the critical target market for Roomba. They’re all lazy bastards, after all, and they like robots.



Beth says:

Exactly! Lazy + love of robots should be their target market. I guess they figure that single men are happy to just live in their own filth?



miss604 says:

“Come to our bitter fest” hehe this is great stuff – I got the same vibe from a “Woman in Business” conference I went to in Vancouver… the “businesses” showcased were either selling watercolours, chocolate, jewelery or potpourri. I kid you not – c’mon ladies!



Yeah.. I am formulating a bit of my own rant on gender stuff and so on..based on my experience there and what other people have said…I will be linking…watchout!



Beth says:

Ya, seriously. Where do the hip geek chicks go? I guess just to the regular tech conferences….



Beth says:

@crunchcarpets – Cool! I’ll keep my eye out for it!



Raul says:

Ok, so I have to say that I expected a different rant but I loved this one. Darn it. You *are* good.

Ok, so a bit of history – I am one of five boys in a 7 people household (Mommy, Daddy and 5 brothers). My Dad used to be annoyingly macho and decided we didnt’ need house-working skills. Mom said “well, if they don’t learn house-working skills, they’ll be totally useless when they’re on their own”.

First brother moved out and found himself totally useless. Same with second, third, etc… One day I am making dinner for my brother and he looks at me with sweet brotherly eyes and says “Raul, you are amazing – you know how to cook/clean/sew your own seams/do laundry and I am so totally useless”.

Moral of the story – not all men spend only 14 hours a week in house chores. Some (like me) spend substantially MORE.



Beth says:

@Raul – Now I’m curious – what rant did you expect? And did your mom do all the housework (from the sounds of your dad’s attitude, I can’t imagine he’d be doing any)?



All uncircumcised men Room 211…



Dan says:

As a single man I have to say that my experience along the baby front is similar. What have I heard in regards to my lack of children?

1. I am not a complete human being because I have decided that I do not want children of my own.
2. I won’t ever know true love until I have a child. (Apparently it’s not only the Wizard of Oz that gives one a heart; babies have that power too!)
3. I can’t understand most things that ‘evolved’ people (a.k.a. parents) understand because I lack a child of my very own. WTF?
4. God wants me to have kids (good grief). It’s my religious birthright and Christian duty (te he, duty).
5. I am selfish because I don’t want children. This was told to me by family members. Religious family members. Religious Catholic family members who apparently or conveniently forgot that JC (according to their beliefs) was without child. And we all know (based on the stories about him), that JC was a selfish prick.
6. No one is going to take care of me when I’m old because I have no children. I LOVE that this argument is employed usually following argument 5. That is, it’s selfish of me NOT to have children, but I must have them so someone takes care of ME when I’m old. WTF?
7. I must be gay because I have no children. Because gay people apparently don’t have children or want children. The fun part of this argument is when the religious family members consider the implications of bringing this one up.***
8. Other parents couldn’t imagine their lives without kids, thus I need children too. Seriously? How does this argument even hold up? Their experience is based on deciding to have children. As such, they can not know what their lives would have been (since becoming parents) if they chose not to have kids. That is, they are telling me my life would be better because they assume the presence of children made their lives better. Not having kids could have been the event that made their lives even more fulfilled than it currently is. They can’t know both realities.

As for the other stuff:
1. Laundry detergent in swag bags? I WOULD LOVE THAT. I too love free stuff. Especially free stuff that I hate spending money on otherwise.
2. Soap Nuts? Am I the only one that thinks that is the funniest bag of laundry detergent ever? A BAG OF SOAP NUTS? Classic.
3. Roomba’s – although I wouldn’t buy one, I’d definitely try one out as I too loathe vacuuming.
4. As for housework, I do 100% of it in my home.
5. Chief Home Officer? Really? REALLY?
6. I love the button.

*** My personal stance on marriage (that is, my never wanting to get married) doesn’t help when this argument comes to light. Again, despite what I’ve read in the news, apparently gay men and women also don’t want to get married.



Raul says:

Whoa. Dude – way to start up the conversation.

@ Beth – Not sure what I expected, my own complaint of BlogHer if I had gone would have been “hey don’t any single men come to BlogHer just out of curiosity?” Being as I am a single young man who DOES want to have children but is currently child-less, I am sure I’d find some panels interesting/amusing. Anyways, not sure what I was expecting but I loved the rant.

As for my Dad – He wanted to never do house-work. But then my Mom got a PhD, a career of her own and told my Dad she would never help again with his legal stuff (both my parents are lawyers) and … Dad started making lunch for us every day and other household chores 🙂

@ Dan – Given that 100% of my Mexican friends are currently married with children, I face the same issues that you do with respect to 1, 2, 3, 6, 8. Unfortunately, I DO want to have children, but it’s not a MUST, it’s a WANT.

A few weeks back I talked on Andy’s blog about how the iPhone was a WANT and not a NEED. Same goes for children. I WANT children, I don’t NEED children.



@Dan – don’t get me started on this. I didn’t realize single men ever experienced this – so thanks so much for that.

Now the rant: I don’t want children. Never did, never will. I’m 34. Biological clock never installed. Not interested. Period.

I have heard all 8 reasons you wrote above and they all make me borderline homicidal in their condescension, but they all fall behind the most popular and insulting ones A) “You’ll change your mind” (Can I say that about how you feel about your children?! Or would you think that RUDE…?) B) “You’re a woman, that’s your purpose.” (But what about typing and answering phones?!!)



Dan says:

@Raul I love the fact that you recognize children as a ‘want’ and not a ‘need’.

@monicahamburg – OH MY FSM! As painful as those reasons are, I can’t help but laugh. First off, I think I might have to make a shirt that reads “I don’t want children. Biological clock never installed”. I LOVE IT. As for reasons A and B all I can say is WOW. Your responses to both make me feel that humanity isn’t completely devoid of intellectual thought.

@Beth77 Thanks for starting this dialogue. Very entertaining indeed!



Yes, the Cult of Mom can be rather freaky.

But it’s weird, once you have kids – they really do strangle your life and define your identity. The challenge is to still be true to yourself.

Some, however, just dont have their own personality and are quite fine being defined by their children.

I was almost assimilated into the Cult of Mom at a recent library storytime.
http://www.buzzbishop.com/blog/2008/07/24/the-cult-of-mom/



@buzz I’m sure they do take over – and that’s understandable. And my rant (to the Stepford Wives, not to you) is that that’s FINE.

But a word to the cult: it’s also FINE to not have kids. I wonder if, instead of being polite about the condescending comments directed at the child-free, cult-of-moms (thanks for that, Buzz!) would prefer we take an equally insulting stance and respond to someone telling us they have kids with “You have GOT to be kidding me!!!”

@dan – Thanks so much 🙂 And I appreciate the use of the word “intellectual” placed anywhere around my name.



@Beth – BTW – absolutely loved this post. Funny, smart and thought-provoking. Kudos.



[…] I wonder…why the outrage? When as dear folks like Beth mentioned in her own rant – just look at the swag and sponsors that dominated the event seemed more […]



Love the footnotes; thanks for representin’ the good Zwaggle vibes.



Beth says:

Wowsa! I wasn’t expecting so many comments! This is awesome!

@Dan – I love, I repeat LOVE, your rant! Awesome to get a male perspective on this!

And I was hoping someone would notice the Soap Nuts. Made me giggle almost as much as we giggled over the syrupy “balls” at the Indian buffet. *giggle*

@monica – “What about typing and answering phones??!” had me laughing right out loud!

@buzz – I can only imagine how much kids take over your life (heck, I only have a niece and she’s redefine me as “Aunt Beth” and my parents as “Grandma & Grandpa”) and I can see that would be a struggle to be true to yourself. But to me, that struggle would be worth it, because I don’t think anyone should become defined solely by parenthood. More like a combination of your parent identity with your other identities.

And, as Monica points out, it’s OK to not have kids too!

@Jody – My pleasure! (Bet you are glad there wasn’t a Zwaggle song for me to mock, eh?)



I think you also need to look at it from the pov of the marketers.

Women at a blogging convention. Odds are more than likely, that a majority of them will have / want children. Yes, there will be some non breeders there, there will also most likely be some gay bloggers there as well… but. .. when trying to deal in majorities and probabilities, you have to generalize, pigeon-hole and stereotype.

it’s not wrong, it’s not right, it’s just how it is.



Raul says:

Agreed.

One point that is important to remember is that parenthood may indeed define some people. My brother and my sister in law just became parents recently (last year, late in the year) and they feel as though in many respects, they are no long S and B but they are L’s parents. To me, they are still individuals, but to themselves, they are L’s parents. It’s an interesting change of perspective.

Sometimes, when I am angry at the way my brothers educate their children, or my brothers respond to my Mom or Dad, I get this response “you are not a parent, you wouldn’t understand”. And my blood boils. But the truth is, there are experiences I haven’t had as a father, and I can’t speak to those. However, and in complete agreement with Dan, the fact that I am not a father doesn’t mean that I am not able to understand certain things. I may not have the experience, but I can kind of get it.

Fatherhood is something, as I mentioned before, that I cherish and want but that I don’t necessarily need, much less to be defined by it.



[…] How she does it? I don’t know. I attribute that to her being ultra witty. But I digress. Beth started a post-BlogHer discussion that I couldn’t help but read, and re-read, and read the commentator’s […]



melaniea says:

I think I’m a blogger who is a Mama, rather than a Mommyblogger. I think. At least with my current blog. I started blogging while I was pregnant, but found I had a lot more to say than would fit in a pregnancy/mommyhood blog, so I started a new blog. There’s still lots and lots of stuff about my son and being a Mama, but other stuff too. (Ok, so some of it – like recipes and photos of cakes I’ve decorated – is still a bit 50s Hausfrau-ish… But I also use footnotes!)

And by the way, as I’ve been reading this post, my husband has been doing the laundry 🙂 In fact, while we were away on his sabbatical, he did about 98% of the laundry. He’s also the one who does the ironing.



melaniea says:

Oh, and I’d also love to get a Roomba – but because I’d love to see how my cat would respond to it.



Sarah says:

I am late to the discussion…

@buzzbishop, you beat me to my point.

Marketers of personal care produts and the like see a group of women in their 30s (especially in the US, where people get married more often and much younger, and have kids much younger, than countries like Canada or others in the EU) and they salivate. The Blogher ads on blogs I read are almost invariably for diapers, etc. Gross generalization, ho! But marketers must believe that the lion’s share of Blogher attendees will have kids and run households (based on US demographics), and so aim roll out products that correspond.

The thing I found the most astounding, though, was the total number of hours for housework specified by the Roomba people – 44 hours a week. Now, granted, Dave and I do not have kids (ducks tomatoes) yet, but WOW! Does this count the time that a washer or dryer are running? Or that stuff is baking in the oven with minimal intervention? With the two of us at the cats, even with a large house, that seems like a LOT. Doesn’t it?

Now I sound like a slob, but Beth – you have stayed with me in virtually every place I’ve lived. And it’s pretty clean, right? Even my Mom, who keeps an immaculate house, does not spend THAT much time doing housework. That’s just CRAZY TALK!



Just popping in to say hi and loving the discussion…

with the kids or no kids….You just can’t win either way really…

Last night we were shopping for a wedding gift with the kids in tow….there was a couple there going to the same wedding. A obviously childless couple…the looks WE got from them….I can only imagine.

Most of our friends don’t have kids..they think we are weird. They think my brain stopped working when I decided to stay home.

So really..dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t.

And I feel that your choice is your choice…and how else would we get some rocking aunts and uncles….(I feel the best one’s are the childless one’s)

– A Roomba would take one look at my house and tell me to fuck off.

– I think BlogHer swag last year included SEX TOYS! Condoms at least.

– It did feel more mommified and less ‘tech’ to me…but I tend to know more mommies anyway.

– The guys in attendance seemed to be either daddy bloggers, husbands or PR and Marketing dudes.

BlogHer is great…but again….the question arises…do we need a woman only thing or should we be trying to avoid that. People (some women) get in a stink about men only clubs…is this the same or not? Does blogher provide something that we would not get otherwise? – part of me thinks yes..specially for women who are either THINKING about starting online ventures or just exploring blogging as more than an online journal…and heck if you wanna make money..you need the connections.

All very interesting.



Beth says:

@buzz & @sarah – Oh, I know that marketers are going to target their audience to the people who buy most of their products – that just makes sense given their goal of selling stuff. And I wasn’t talking about any of the parenting products, of which there were many. I was more bitching about the housecleaning products being targeted at women. My point is that I don’t think we should just blindly accept that “women do the housework” – I’m raising the issue that we should question that. I don’t expect the marketers to do that, their presence there merely reflects the inequality. But I certainly can question it!

@sarah – I’m glad you pointed out that 44 hours seems like a helluva lot of hours of housework. Because I thought that maybe it was just my slovenly ways that made me think “44 hours a week? That’s at least 20 times as much as I spend on housework!” But I can assure all that Sarah & Dave’s house is always very clean. And they give provide you with a set of matching towels when you stay there. Because they are clean AND organized AND they own sets of matching towels.

@melaniea Can you send your husband to my house to do my vacuuming?

@crunchy – Now I feel doubly screwed (and not in the good way). Where is my BlogHer sex toy swag??



melaniea says:

Beth, he’s even vacuumed while ‘wearing’ the baby in a Baby Bjorn. Sorry, he’s mine! 😉



Hey I met ya at lunch the second day (or first, really it is a blur) I did not make the wall of business cards (whimper). I have do have kids but don’t blog about them much, mostly about my business – and I agree, lots and lots of mommy talk. I write for collaborative blog and we got not one but two swag bags – with nursing stuff, slings, baby shoes, baby toys, baby, baby, baby stuff – my kids are 6 and 9, and I am NOT nursing them! I thougth the same thing – would this stuff be at a conference for BlogHim? And….what about the make-overs? My husband never comes home with a new ‘do and a shopping spree at Macy’s. Cheif Home Officer?? Now I have heard EVERYTHING!
Look forward to following you in the future!



Skye says:

Beth, enjoyed meeting you at Blogher. I have to say, though, that I’m disappointed to read your comments about the “childless” panel. I wish you’d found out more about it. It was a great panel, specifically asked for by women without children who felt somewhat sidelined around all the mommybloggers. They wanted to be “categorized by their uterine-status” so they could talk about what they have in common. It wasn’t a bitter-fest, and I learned a lot. The panelists and moderator were wonderful.



Beth says:

@Skye – I only had the description in the conference brochure to go by, and as it was described, it didn’t include me. Glad to hear that you enjoyed though.



Beth says:

P.S. I have your “100% Heroine” sticker on my laptop!



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