There has been quite a bit of criticism of BlogHer from women who did not attend the conference (Shelley Powers, Tara Hunt, Kathy Sierra), as well as some who did (Melinda Casino and others). Hugh Macleod did a cartoon, which as Elisa Camahort points out, didn’t link to women who had been at the conference and wrote positive posts, only to men and posts of varying negativity.
Now we are all entitled to an opinion, and in this country, we have the right to express it. But, personally, I dislike criticism that doesn’t offer an alternative. Don’t like it, don’t go. Or don’t go again. There are things that concerned me during the conference — I wrote a bit about them in yesterday’s post, and I have some more thoughts here. But, offer the criticism with suggestions for improvement. Don’t just complain. Or if you think the situation is beyond repair for you, do something else, go somewhere else. No conference can satisfy everyone. To be fair, some of the women mentioned above have already said that is their intention.
The conference wasn’t perfect — no conference is. Some of the sessions were great, some were not. Some of the sponsors did a great job. Some less so. The hotel has really gone downhill, but I didn’t personally see any bugs, and the room was clean, so hey. Internet access was problematic, but it was also free. And besides, it was a good excuse to get out in the sun and talk to people.
Of course there was laughter and frivolous conversation. Pictures of and anecdotes about children and partners were shared. There was also a lot of serious conversation and networking. Just like any other conference. Maybe a bit less discussion of golf handicaps…..
My biggest concern? Tech and business folks were definitely in the minority. While I do not begrudge the mommy/personal bloggers any of their hard-won success and recognition, I do not wish all women who blog to be characterized as personal bloggers. We aren’t, and some of us for very specific personal and professional reasons. After hearing about the coverage in the San Jose Mercury News and on c|net, I wondered if maybe the public impression of women bloggers was shifting too far to the personal, ignoring those of us who do not blog about our families, personal lives or food. Many of the very things I value in the BlogHer spirit — community, participation, dare I say equality of opportunity — were somehow transforming into something soft and girly, and therefore less serious. Apparently we don’t laugh, we giggle. And so on. Yet there is absolutely no a priori reason why these values are "girly." It is a filter applied because the conference is driven by and for women.
And of course, why we needed BlogHer in the first place. I know it will come as a surprise to some but sexism does exist. Not as overt as it was before Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, among many others, burned the figurative (and sometimes literal) bra, and told the world that "a woman without a man was like a fish without a bicycle," but it is there. And women face it every day, whether it is the disdain given to a stay-at-home mom for her choice, or the roadblocks faced by a young career woman who wants to get ahead without becoming "one of the guys."
The older I get, the more I realize that we need spaces that are women-centered because no matter how you slice it, our culture is still predominantly masculine. And why I applaud BlogHer, and everyone — women and men — who participates in it.
The main BlogHer conference seems to be evolving into a place for the mom, the personal blogger, the solo entrepreneur. With BlogHer Business in New York in March 2007, we have the same opportunity to together build a vibrant community for women bloggers in the corporate space. Who aren’t worried about monetizing their blog as much as they are about building the business case for social media in the enterprise. Who want to talk with others about how to do it, not be lectured at by someone corporate, white and probably male.
So count me in. It’s going on the calendar today.
I met blogger/podcaster Nicole Simon at BlogHer. She had the best button: "Bubble 2.0." She also took a picture of me checking my email on my Blackberry during the Saturday reception as part of her ongoing research to prove that women have just as many tech gadgets as men. Yup, I’m a "crackberry" addict — even to the point sending an email to a client from Diamond Head in Hawaii last November. Here’s the evidence:
And finally, in the category of "you have got to be kidding me," just before the Saturday am session (you remember the Janes) a young woman went around to all the tables handing out little business cards for A NEW SHOW FOR WOMEN PREMIERING THIS FALL ABOUT LOVE, LIFE AND RELATIONSHIPS STARRING GREG BEHRENDT THE GUY WHO WROTE "HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU." Yeah, just what we need, another guy telling women how to fix their lives. Yuck. Well, at least we know he’ll be trying to be funny unlike the other guys who think they know what’s best. Calling Dr. Phil.
BTW, I don’t believe this was an official sponsor, just the energetic spirit of the show’s producers, so no fair tagging BlogHer on this one. Anyway, maybe it was something in the water Saturday morning……
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