Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why Playing the Whore Card in Reference to Mombloggers is So Not Cool

I'm really really glad I missed BlogHer this year. Every account makes it sound like a Self-Righteous Fest rather the the community building, sharing, learning, and fun I expect from that event. Then, that spilled over into the rest of the online community, and now moms who blog have garnered a reputation for being greedy, graspy harpies who cage fight for minor pieces of swag, like deranged parents beating one another up for the last Cabbage Patch doll.

Way to further the rep.

Even if people had fun -- and good for you -- clearly there was a major undercurrent I had been calling Culture Clash (which provided private amusement because it dredged up funny old 80s bands to mind) but have now begun calling the Whore Wars. You can subtitle it: That Same Old Mean Girl Judge and Jury Fest We've Had Since 5th Grade.

It's because yesterday someone played the whore card in reference to the mombloggers + PR + Review = Sometimes Profiting/Being Compensated While Blogging.

Don't be a whore, this person entreated.

ACK

ACK ACK ACK ACK ACK

Let's be honest here for a minute. Who sees big bloggers making a bit of a living at this and doesn't wish for that, just a little? Who loves blogging but doesn't wish to earn a little something from it, too? Who found a passion in blogging and doesn't want to succeed at it, grow in it, go to the next level? Who NEVER EVER wants to earn something for doing something they love?

You are welcome to head back to your ashram, my friend. Go in peace and with my good wishes. Maybe I can be you in my next life.

Okay back to the rest of us.

I started this blog as a business. It was intended to boost business, keep a Web site fresh, etc. I started it to promote some of my artwork and my other services. I started it because I intended to require my authors to promote their works via blogs. It was the Hot New Marketing Model and before I asked someone else to do it, I needed to know how to do it, and whether it was reasonable, and how to do it well. (Also, members of my writing group such as Halushki and OmegaMom had talked it up as such a positive medium and experience. It sounded like a Can't Lose proposition. And it has, in fact, been a Win! On so many unexpected levels.)

It evolved into a more personal venture because I moved most of my business work elsewhere and also I learned a large number of crucial lessons along the way that caused me to change direction and refine my strategy.

Writing is a business for me, and my sidebar clearly says so.

I had no ethical dilemma about putting ads on my sidebar. Why in the world wouldn't I grab the chance to augment my effort with income? I put effort into this, writing is my business, and my goal has always been to earn from it. The fact that I discovered this was a wonderful way to interact with a marvelous community was a bonus.

My family still needs to eat.

I had no ethical dilemma about trying out products and reviewing them. I personally prefer personal recommendations and reviews from people I know to any other criteria for selecting a product, service, or serviceperson. (Why do you think Angie's List is so successful?) I bought Ecover dishwasher tablets because someone on Twitter assured me they were good, and if I liked the dish soap, I'd like these too. I bought the A/C I have because the Small House movement recommended several models for good price and good green status. It helps me.

By the same token, I like to tell people about things I particularly love -- such as the Spanx Bralellujah which is the BEST bra I've ever met (and no, I got no free products or entreaties for reviews, but if I had I'd take it in a New York minute) -- in the hope that it helps them.

Believe it or not, I consider this part of being a member of a community.

It was never a question to me whether I ought to accept any sort of profit or compensation for effort I make from this or other online writing.

When it was an ethical dilemma for so many, I was boggled. Seriously.

Think of me what you will, but it sort of felt like a more erudite airing of the young babysitter who says, "Oh I don't know, whatever," when asked how much her time is worth.

It also smelled a bit like a prettily wrapped but still sexist package: why are women expected to contribute out of the goodness of their hearts? Why is receiving compensation a prospect that somehow corrupts what they do and makes them into whores in the eyes of their community?

It boils down to this for me: I want to earn from this OR I don't. The don't side is fair enough, but it isn't, in my opinion, an ethical question or a question of right or wrong -- it's an "I don't want to be obligated in any way."

Because the truth is, if you accept a job -- whether it pays in money or product -- you do accept a degree of obligation (or at least I do in my mind). I'm not per se obligated to write, or write positively, or on a timetable, but I do accept trying out the product, service, etc. I understand that by forming a relationship, I've agreed to Having Expectations on both sides.

Like I said...I'm a professional and this is a business. I know how to go about my business.

But now you've got the "it's for fun only" camp and the "this is a good business model" camp clashing, and suddenly you have insults such as "selling out" and "lacking integrity" being hurled until you reach the crescendo: whore.

A profitable venture is not inherently ethically wrong or lacking in integrity.

Yes, I wrote a positive review of a Ridemakerz event because it was an AWESOME experience for the whole family. I would never have tried that if they hadn't invited me. I subsequently had my kids' birthday party there and more parents found out it's fun. It felt like such a win-win.

Now I have paused to ponder that people I know and respect in the blogosphere consider that "selling out" and even possibly being a "whore."

That's so sexist and insulting. It really, really is.

Whore is, by its very first definition, about women: 1 : a woman who engages in sexual acts for money : prostitute; also : a promiscuous or immoral woman

An immoral woman. A woman who accept money for an effort. A woman who makes money from blogging is a whore, is immoral.

It sounds an awful lot like slamming a glass ceiling down hard and judgmentally on a group of people who have, by dint of a sexist workplace, already had to choose between career and family, and yet, by dint of wonderful technology and new marketing models, found a way to eat her cake (be at home) and have it too (contribute financially to her family and maintain her skills and independence).

Women, more specifically moms who blog, have begun succeeding in this market in major ways.

Suddenly, we have discussions about integrity and ethics and trust and ruining community. We use the whore word.

So some people aren't doing it "well" or meeting someone's standards. I have faith that this is a majorly impressively intelligent community and those who do it well and with integrity will succeed, and we'll begin avoiding those who do not meet those criteria. From backchannel discussions and intelligent conferences such as Mom 2.0, I know people know the difference between honest and with integrity and not. I know people I know who are doing this as a business are already employing personal integrity and standards.

Implying that it is otherwise on the whole has, I think, contributed to many negative perceptions, loss of opportunity, created an unnecessary divide within the community, and, I'm going to go ahead and say it, added to the National Advertising Review Council’s investigative units decision to impose rules, regulations and limits on bloggers that no other journalist or writer has, even when doing the exact same thing!

We're shooting ourselves in the feet, folks.

I bet some bloggers decided to forego any compensation, even if they needed it, because they were scared of alienating their community. Would you EVER ask that of ANYONE else?

"Dear Free Monthly Community Newsletter That Is So Wonderful to Read and So Useful to Me, Please quit running ads, I find them distracting, junky and they ruin my trust in your content. It makes you a big sell out. A whore."

"Dear NPR...please quit doing pledge drives. I know you need money to operate and bring me all that great content I ove and rely on, but I just hate it when you ask me for money. You bunch of whores."

ACK!

ACK ACK ACK!

Let's be reasonable. It's the business model, friends. I agree: some will do it well, and some not so much. You can trust spots like Cool Mom Picks, for example, and bloggers you know and like. You may not prefer it when they do things for compensation, but let's be fair, okay? Blogging takes time and ultimately it costs. It's okay to profit a little from it.

Let's roll back the debate, and stop using pejorative, sexist insults such as whore.

Instead of judging, asking "should we," and stating moral imperatives, why don't we instead use our voices to say "hey this one was good, and I like it when, and these are the best Dos in my opinion," and help each other grow and develop constructively.

It's not reasonable to ask people to stop or to make big soapbox ultimatums about refusing to cross paths with people who profit or advertise. You can do it, but it's not reasonable. It's not going to stop. I won't quit. I need an income. I know I'm not alone.

But we can -- and should -- speak up about when things are done well. It's new, this business model, and we can shape it positively instead of trying to destroy the opportunity, each other, and our community with glass ceilings and judgments.

24 comments:

Magpie said...

God, I love you. That is all.

cheekyketek said...

God, I hope I'm not really the first commenter, because I have almost nothing substantive to say. Believe it or not (and you know me, so you probably believe it), I would be happy on the blogging ashram. I just do.not.care about these issues that have everyone else pretzeled with anger or shame or guilt or jealousy or whatever the fuck it is. And by don't care, I mean, they are not applicable to me, have no bearing on why I blog or which bloggers I read. Because the people I read, I trust. And I assume that most other humans are capable of that same kind of discernment. And if they're not, then no badge, label, box, bag, or umbrella is going to make any difference.

What *does* bother me, however, is how this issue is one more in the never ending list of ways people pick their boat, their tribe, and then defend it to the ugly and bitter end. We all want a way to feel like we belong, don't we? And also, truth be told, a way to feel slightly better than at least one more person. So instead of working hard to get all the roosters out of the cage, so we all can be free, we concentrate instead on scratching and spitting and clawing to keep each other down. Because we're not sure that a)there are enough resources to go around outside the cage and b)that we could get what we wanted if there aren't.

Do I sound disenchanted with human beings? I am sometimes, I am.

And this, in the end, is why I refuse to compete in blogland. Because I find the whole system flawed on principle.

But back to YOU, Julie: the word "whore" is so fucking reprehensible on so many levels. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Backpacking Dad said...

There's a sublety to this newest outpouring that will always get lost because people like to summarize with short phrases and clear lines. It is not just that there are some bloggers who want to blog for themselves and can't stand those who blog as a way to make money. It is that there are some bloggers who blog as a way to make money, in addition to blogging for the pure love of whatever, and they are being mistaken for a different kind of person altogether: the one who starts a blog with no intention of particpating in any of the community aspects that the others do, but who sell themselves as doing so.

So, a flare up begins among the compensated blogging folks: those who care about their reputations being based on, they claim, their own actions, and those who care about their reputations being based on whatever they can get people to believe about them.

I've seen a little of the conflict between compensated and uncompensated bloggers, but that isn't the one that generated most of the recent talk. It's compensated bloggers, talking amongst themselves and for themselves, setting rules for their own protection and benefit.

EdT. said...

This seems a whole lot to me like other "professions" who create "regulations" designed to {delete}drive out the competition and keep them out{/delete} enhance the "professionalism" of the "profession".

That said (and it is really a side issue), I am getting tired of the use of "bitches" and "whores" as references to women (and you don't often see/hear them used as references to *men*, do you?) In fact, my latest blog post re: Hell's Kitchen contains some commentary to that effect (and I *love* that show). It is just demeaning, whether the one using the words is male or female (just as using the "N-word" is wrong, regardless of what color your skin is. Just MHO.)

Maybe we can agree on a new regulation: the first person to use the "B-word" or the "W-word" in a debate/argument, automatically loses.

Oh, and btw some of the *funniest* blog posts I have read are "product reviews". Especially given the nature of some of the products being reviewed. Even more especially, *any* product being reviewed by TheBloggess.

~EdT.

Julie Pippert said...

Magpie, mutual admiration society. :)

Cheeky, on the contrary, you had something very substantive to say.

First, this, yes, "Because the people I read, I trust. And I assume that most other humans are capable of that same kind of discernment."

Second, this, yes, "What *does* bother me, however, is how this issue is one more in the never ending list of ways people pick their boat, their tribe, and then defend it to the ugly and bitter end."

Absolutely. Some people are picking sides of the problem and sides of how one ought to address it, and judging the rest negatively.

BPD, yes and no. I agree pithy can lead to miscommunication and I agree that to some degree, that's a valid point in this discussion (and a valid problem).

I don't think the flare-up is exclusive to compensated bloggers setting protective and beneficial rules.

I think your theory presupposes certain mores that I'm not convinced I agree with.

I don't buy into all of the community rules and agreements I've ever heard, particularly about obligation, intent, reciprocity.

When we start talking about that, it usually evolves into panel judgments, pointed fingers and eventually, at times, ostracizing.

I still think this is about one group imposing their standards on another, with pejorative insults. I still think it's unreasonable to presuppose a lack of integrity because one begins with for profit intention. I still find it to be an issue of trusting and having faith in the each community member's ability to moderate and discern. And...i still find there to be a heady thread of sexism in it all, particularly in the use of whore.

Backpacking Dad said...

Dangit. I started a whole paragraph about the media picking up the conversation blah blah blah and then forgot about it. That's where the "short phrases and clear lines" thing was going. I wasn't even talking about this post, really.

And I actually agree with you about the need to cut "it" out. I was just pointing out that those who are behind the latest barrage about credibility and integrity are in fact compensated bloggers, not those who look down on compensated bloggers.

Julie Pippert said...

Oh Ed, do you feel the love?

Yes, I am tired of bitch and whore applied to women, largely because it is the most overt sexist attempt to keep women in between some arbitrary lines, not for their good at all, but to eliminate them as competition for someone else's good.

Why, much like you just said about creating regulations to enable monopolies and eliminate competition.

That's very much the heart of the matter. And very much my main, concluding point, "Implying that it is otherwise on the whole has, I think, contributed to many negative perceptions, loss of opportunity, created an unnecessary divide within the community, and, I'm going to go ahead and say it, added to the National Advertising Review Council’s investigative units decision to impose rules, regulations and limits on bloggers that no other journalist or writer has, even when doing the exact same thing!"

Julie Pippert said...

BPD, the media is the LEAST objective group to talk about bloggers, don't you think? They will, maybe even unconsciously, too often immediately grab the most offensive line and carry it out. So in other words, yes, I agree.

I think our points converge and merge at the point of entitlement, which is an intriguing cultural concept to ponder right now in light of so many of the current issues and debates.

cheekyketek said...

Fine, gah, you got me; I *do* have an opinion. I find BPD's observation that the credibility issue is from compensated bloggers, "not those who look down on compensated bloggers" to be incomplete. Because what the conversation implies, whether intended or not, is not that compensated blogging is wrong, but that a certain kind of compensated blogging is wrong, the kind that group A has, in fact, decided is wrong. And this implication speaks to what you and EdD are saying, that it feels like a way to protect the pie.

Case in point: I read more than one BlogHer wrap up post where the writer pointed fingers at "swag hags" (is that better than whore, do we think?) while defending their own collection of gifts by saying something like, "well, I only took the bags that had my name on it." And it's precisely this kind of entitlement, to use your word, whether conscious or not, that creates some of the very problems being haggled over today. Because many many bloggers want to be the kind of person who gets a bag with!her!own!name!on!it! And how do you do that? It appears, to a large degree, by getting there first, by getting to the blogging table first and then by figuring out the marketing and promotion angle first.

Now. Is that wrong? Or ugly? That capitalism produces wily capitalists? I don't see how there can be a moral component to that unless we're going to go after the moral underpinnings of our economic system.

But what I find disturbingly disingenuous is the the idea behind the current badging and purity rings that claims that it wasn't good business sense or clever self-promotion that made the difference, but that it was integrity. It was great writing. Sorry, no. NO. Many of the most successfully compensated writers are not, by a long shot, the best writers. Their blogs are not driven by this aching need to create beautiful writing. I'm not saying it's terrible writing. But it's not literature.

And it's time to come clean on that one.

thordora said...

Not a fan of ads myself, generally because in many cases they crash my browser, they overwhelm the actual content, or they are distracting or even offensive sometimes. Just as I do watching TV/reading a magazine, I'll stop reading when it gets obnoxious which frankly, occurs more often than not anymore.

Nothing is ever enough to call someone a whore however.

Julie Pippert said...

Cheeky, just...absolutely, yes, AMEN!

You have managed to hit EXACTLY what I am saying, succinctly and solidly, "Because what the conversation implies, whether intended or not, is not that compensated blogging is wrong, but that a certain kind of compensated blogging is wrong, the kind that group A has, in fact, decided is wrong. And this implication speaks to what you and EdD are saying, that it feels like a way to protect the pie."

Backpacking Dad said...

I swear that what Cheeky just wrote is what I said.

I left a comment on Liz's (Mom101) post about Blogging With Integrity to the effect that what was going on felt wrong, and that I'd think about it. When I spoke with her after BlogHer I said a lot of stuff about Weber and status groups, but the crux of it was: the status group resists those elements being bought and sold that they think gives them status in the first place, so they set up rules to prevent those transactions from taking place. But that the status group has enjoyed the position it does is not some kind of reward, but an arbitrary seizure of power.

And then I apologized for talking about Weber.

Julie Pippert said...

Isn't that odd (and unintentionally dismissive) that I missed that, BPD. Maybe if you'd said Weber earlier or deployed code words such as entitlement and droit de seigneur. ;)

I did not miss you adding beautifully to this and appreciate yours and ALL these great comments and points.

sweetsalty kate said...

It was, for everyone I witnessed, a community-building, sharing, learning, and fun event.

There are fringe benefits to being blissfully oblivious.

Julie Pippert said...

Thordora, do you feel the same way about badges, blog bling, awards, etc?

Kate, for you (and those I am sure you were with who I also like and admire) I am so glad it was a good experience. I think it was, in so many ways, and I was disheartened and surprised to see such negative reports -- largely on this topic -- during and immediately after. I even asked several times on twitter if anyone had anything good to say, and only 3 people did.

Becky said...

Wait. Are y'all talking about philosophy now? Because that gives me a headache.

As for the badges? It's all about exclusion. Period.

And now I can't remember. Did I respond to your tweet? Because I had a positive experience at BlogHer. I wrote one post but have a few others knocking around and waiting to get out. I'll write them after I meet a couple other deadlines.

Julie Pippert said...

Becky, BPD is in da house, of course we are talking philosophy. :)

I recall 3 replied, I think one was you, one was Tanis, and I'd have to double-check the last because right now I'm attributing it to Maggie.

wheelsonthebus said...

The word "whore" is absurd in this context. HOWEVER, I think that the problem is that people are "reviewing" things, saying they are great, and getting us to buy them. But, if you write a positive review of everything that you get for free, you are basically cheating your readers and selling out your friends for some swag. (Not that you would.) I am going to write a whole post on this in a day or two. I have no issues with ads or reviews, but those who get stuff feel beholden and then post only positive reviews. Anyway, I have a post brewing on this that you can read later in the week.

Adrienne said...

My 2 cents (which these days aren't worth a plug nickel).

Sticks and stones - call me a whore a bitch a whatever, I'm rubber and you're glue.

Swag at BlogHer - I didn't see any of the horribleness that everyone talked about because I was the one that ran in got a bag and left immediately, Ahem.

Blog WIth Integrity Badge - What the hell is this. I will feign ignorance even though it has been pointed out to me that I am promoting it on my blog. WTF? I admit to having someone else author our Spotlight on PR post and she included the Blog With Integrity badge in it. Big fat hairy deal. Put it in don't put it on your site, who cares really? Does anyone actually look at all the badges and crapola that is on your sidebar - I don't.

Personally, I read everyone in a reader because a: I am lazy like that and b: my computer would die faster than it already is if I had to load all that shit everytime and c: if someone has music playing my head explodes and we can't risk that now can we?

I had a PR person that I met at BlogHEr tell me yesterday, I was "too open and honest" and therefore not a "good match" for any of her clients. ANY! Meh, whatev's. So all you bitches that put up the Blogging With Integrity badges? Better not actually mean it, we can't have any honesty happening in the reviews!

Angela said...

Ahem... As the person who may have mentioned the whore word is some innocent tweet about mommyblogging ethics, here is what I couldn't put into the 140 characters.

There's a difference between reviewing select products in a tasteful manner to saying yes to every single GD pitch that comes your way. The whole idea of a PR blackout is ridiculous. No one is forcing you to take these products and spending hours reviewing and promoting giveaways to the detriment of your family.

I know a blogger that went from about 50/50 review posts to personal posts to 99/1 review posts. I met her and mentioned casually that she's been so busy! To which she replied, "I had no idea that my blog would become so popular." Unfortunately she doesn't realize that this is not popular in a good way. This is popular with PR reps because they know she can't say no. This is popular with people who are giveaway crazy, spending all their time entering giveaways to get free stuff. Posting eight giveaways a day IS WAY TOO MUCH!! There is no way that you can be spending enough time with your families. And what do you get from it? Is it a good living? Or is it just a pile of junk that you didn't really want in the first place? You are doing their advertising for practically free.

I mention whore because I think these mommybloggers should not be so "easy" with the PR reps. Exercise some restraint, be selective, have some class.

TZT said...

I've been writing for the media for 17 years and you know, there have always been publications that sold out their content and publications that wouldn't. Readers are smarter than most people think... they can smell the difference between a mercenary review and an honest one. On one level it's good that bloggers are having these conversations, on another, it really will all come out in the wash eventually, regardless of which detergent is used.

MommyTime said...

As usual, Julie, I agree with you 100%. I also wanted to say that I, like BPD, have a problem with the Blogging with Integrity badge, which is largely that I think that I resent the implicit notion I've seen bandied about (not necessarily by the people who started the campaign) that if I don't add this button to my blog, I'm somehow a blogger WITHOUT integrity. I was a blogger with integrity before someone thought to put a badge on it, and I'm still one now, and I kind of think that -- along the lines of "innocent until proven guilty" -- I should be assumed to be a blogger with integrity without having to slap a label on it. I think MOST bloggers write with integrity, whether their blogs are private records for their families or tech blogs with tens of thousands of subscribers or blogs of struggling parents who can't live and breathe without writing a little periodically, or blogs of people who are writing professionals. Sure, there are some people who just want to get rich quick, but there are a few of those in every new venue that's ever existed in human society. That's no reason to call the entire population of that venue corrupt. Or a whore. Or to assume that they are all whores unless the walk around wearing a sticker that says, "Hi, My name is ___ and I'm NOT a whore."

Annie said...

I am late to this - and have been WAY out of the blogging loop lately - the mommy blogging loop at least. Here's my take on it.

Marketers have always, always, used individuals to test their products and give feedback to the companies, and to other consumers. This is not new a customer advocate is any company's most powerful form of advertising. However with the relatively recent proliferation of bloggers, and 'mommybloggers' it's just more widespread and visible. And like others have said many times, there are two things going on that feed into the negative reaction to this. 1. Some people are jealous that they're not getting the free stuff and 2. *Some* established bloggers/mommybloggers popular for the content of their blogs - for the standard of their writing are miffed that they're being lumped into the 'mommy blogger = freebie hungry fiend' category and they don't like it.

I would assume that those with enough confidence in their own integrity and the standard of their blog wouldn't need to put badges or anything else on their sites to point that out :D As a reader, I do with product review posts what I do with TV advertising - I switch channels - it's just that simple and I didn't have to get all worked up about anyone's motives in the process!

Karen said...

Julie - Wow, I am late - catching up on my reader after surgery and our move - but wow. I have been squirming for almost 2 months about this topic - and quiet on my blog, because the only idea seems to be that if you are paid alot that is okay, but if you are paid less, you are a whore. In our world many, many people do jobs for less than others...we don't actually blame those being compensated less, do we? There is alot of shame associated with middle-income type of poverty, not keeping up with the jones'....I've seen this in suburbia (which we recently fled) and in my husband's work culture (where he is paid some 20% less than more recent hires and people he supervises...), I'm sad to see it enter the mommy-blogosphere, with name calling on top. I'm said to see bloggers of good integrity justifying their need for income of any sort - even if it isn't as much as what some folks receive - or even justifying reviews which any reader would know are honest opinions. Thank you so much for blogging back, girl!