I am a Mummy Blogger and a Feminist

The tension in the room was palpable, with sharp intakes of breath and much reiteration of what-I-meant-despite-what-I-sounded-like. The Mumsnet Blogfest 2013 Keynote Panel topic “Can you be a mummy blogger and still be a feminist?” was selected in order to be controversial, though one must ask, “To what end?”

Starting with arguably petty questions such as “Is making jam feminist?”, “Is wearing high heels feminist?”, many valuable points to be made were lost from the start. All delegates were invited to attend this session and yet, many would not have self-identified as feminists. The term is still grossly misunderstood and from the tweets during and following the blogging conference, it seems that there are a lot of women who find it divisive and would rather do away with it altogether. I am not one of them. Feminism has accomplished too much and has too much work yet to do to be thrown out with the bathwater.

For me, that was the core problem in this debate, the feminism presented in that hall at King’s Place was too small. We’d just emerged from a week where female genital mutilation is back in the media eye because of the huge figures of girls at risk and women and girls living with its ugly after-effects, right here in the UK. And yet, here we were, a room full of grown women, getting our feelings hurt (on and off stage) because we’re still hung up on what other people think of our decision to go to work or stay at home with our children.

OK, I admit that’s a bit flippant. Our identity is important and it’s often shaped more by what we’re doing now in the day-to-day than it is by the bigger picture. Our children are the piece of the world that we get to influence and the decisions we make around them do matter. Of course they do. I just wish we’d do more getting on with it and less worrying about whether another mother thinks we lack ambition or don’t love our families enough. I’m not sure many sensible people would honestly think that of us anyway.

Most of us don’t blog about issues like FGM – at least not on a regular basis. So where does that leave us? Does sharing recipes, blogging about potty training and even reviewing holidays consign us to complicity with a patriarchal system and its inherent commercialism? Not necessarily, and the reason why was touched upon in the session. I only wish it had been explored further as it was the sole useful point raised.

For too long, domesticity has been sidelined as unimportant because it is primarily the work of women. Now, one of the speakers on the panel argued that true feminism would attempt to subvert an order in which domesticity is considered a female pursuit but I take issue with that. Children are tied to their mothers in a unique way, whether or not they are breastfed. It is a biological imperative we can’t escape – and usually don’t want to, whether we work or stay at home. It is entirely natural that we would blog about our family life. There is something curious in any attempt to attach shame to that.

Which is why I shirk off discomfort over the term “mummy blogger”. It was compared to the word “girly” in the session and the chair even wondered if it was being reclaimed like the “N-word”, a suggestion which, though it was met with nervous laughter, I personally found offensive. The word “mummy” though mildly irritating in certain contexts, does not evoke an even vaguely similar history of oppression.

However, I believe the reason why we’re so awkward about words like “mummy”, “mum” or even “mother” (many have argued that we should simply say “parent”) is that we’ve accepted a lie that mothering is trivial. By extension, we’ve been conditioned to agree that being a woman is somehow other and lesser because being a man is normal and idealised.

Knowing that, why would I tip-toe around either of these terms? I am a feminist because I believe in change and will use all my womanly arts to listen, speak and act to create a world in which my children can grow up safe, confident and strong – regardless of their gender or sexuality. I am a mummy blogger because I know that, as a mother, the creation of that world begins with the way I raise my own children.

Mumsnet Blogfest

I thoroughly enjoyed Mumsnet Blogfest 2013. It was a great time to meet up with friends I’ve met through the Internet as well as an opportunity to brush up on social media, writing and photography skills. What a pleasure to be in the presence of speakers like Jo Brand, Charlotte Raven, A. L. Kennedy and Lionel Shriver. Many, many thanks to ARDO Breastpumps for sending me. If you haven’t yet read it, please check out my Three Things Every Parent Should Think About When Choosing a Breastpump.

PS: For more parenting posts, follow me on Facebook or Bloglovin’.


20 Comments

    • Adele Jarrett-Kerr
      November 12, 2013 / 10:32 pm

      Glad to have given more food for thought. It’s been really helpful chatting it through with people on Twitter too.

  1. November 11, 2013 / 10:03 am

    You say it so eloquently, what I tried to holler from the balcony, when I said “we’re the ones with boobs”. You say “Children are tied to their mothers in a unique way, whether or not they are breastfed. It is a biological imperative we can’t escape – and usually don’t want to, whether we work or stay at home”. which gets closer to what I meant. I was too hurt from a couple of things I heard, to be coherent. Such a lost opportunity. Thank you for writing a post I never could that addresses so many things I would love to say xx
    Liska (@NewMumOnline) recently posted..My Beta Blogfest 2013 and Why I am Not a Feminist

    • Adele Jarrett-Kerr
      November 12, 2013 / 10:33 pm

      I got what you were trying to say, Liska. And in many ways, I wanted to shout that too but the room was out of control and a rational discussion soon became impossible.

  2. Michelle @ Bod for tea
    November 11, 2013 / 10:38 am

    I wasn’t at Blogfest so could attend the session but the points you make about being a mother and a blogger and YES a feminist too resonate so strongly with me. Great post x

    • Adele Jarrett-Kerr
      November 12, 2013 / 10:34 pm

      Glad to hear it. Blogfest next year? x

  3. Jennifer Howze
    November 11, 2013 / 11:56 am

    Very eloquent and well-put post. I personally identify strongly as a feminist and think every woman — as long as she believes that her ideas and life are as important as a man’s — is a feminist, whether she claims that mantle or not. I also agree that too often “mum” / “mummy” / “mother” is used as some kind of diminutive or adjective to make something seem sweet or small. It’s time we quit looking at it that way and allowing it!
    Jennifer Howze recently posted..The top 10 worst people to fly with

    • Adele Jarrett-Kerr
      November 12, 2013 / 10:35 pm

      Thanks, Jennifer. I think I am asking us to reclaim the term, after all. Or perhaps reframe it.

  4. November 11, 2013 / 2:58 pm

    What I love about this post is the point you make about the trivialisation of motherhood. In that respect, being a Mummy Blogger is possibly one of the most feminist things you can do! What other genre of writer works harder at telling the world what it’s really like to be a mother in today’s society? What bothers us, what we want from society, and what needs to happen to make the future a better place for our daughters?!
    Very well said.
    Helen Wills recently posted..Life Lessons: How to be a Feminist

    • Adele Jarrett-Kerr
      November 12, 2013 / 10:36 pm

      All great points, Helen! And I’d add, a better place for our sons too. Sexism affects boys and men too, albeit in different ways.

  5. November 11, 2013 / 10:04 pm

    Simple brilliant Adele, so well written. Thank you. I’m really enjoying reading all these post that have come out of that session, my eyes are being well and truly opened. Mich x
    Michelle Twin Mum recently posted..Feminism – women for women #blogfest

    • Adele Jarrett-Kerr
      November 12, 2013 / 10:36 pm

      Thanks, Mich. Looking forward to reading what you’ve written. x

  6. November 12, 2013 / 3:49 pm

    Brilliant post, you put the point across about motherhood being trivialised so eloquently. My whole thing about the term ‘mummy’ blogger isn’t that I don’t like the word mummy, how could I not like the word mummy, it’s one of the best words in the world… it’s just that to me it is a name that is used for me by my daughter and I don’t really want anyone else referring to me as ‘mummy’ because I’m not their mummy. And when they do, it makes me feel patronised… I’ve blogged on the subject, because I had to sit and think for a while after the BlogFest session why the term mummy blogger doesn’t sit well with me. The feminist bit I didn’t have to think about at all… I’m a woman therefore I am a feminist.
    But bigger picture – and it is the bigger picture that is most important here – there is no more important role in this world than the role of being a parent and I totally agree with you that there is a special and intrinsic bond between a child and his / her mother that should be revered and not derided.
    After the potential for a great discussion around feminism got lost in the mix on Saturday afternoon it is wonderful to be reading posts such as this one.
    Luci – Mother.Wife.Me recently posted..Never mind the feminism, who’s the mummy?

    • Adele Jarrett-Kerr
      November 12, 2013 / 10:39 pm

      It’s so so complicated, I think. I guess, the question I’d ask is: “Why does it make you feel patronised?” And, unfortunately, the answer is that it’s often meant to be patronising. I guess for me it’s pretty clear that mine is a mummy blog, at least at the moment, because I primarily blog about mothering and draw great strength from knowing that being “mummy” to my child is worthy and in need of no defence. And there, we clearly agree.

  7. Polly
    November 12, 2013 / 5:12 pm

    I never considered myself a feminist before having my son. The word carries such stigma lol. I was also very selfish and self obsessed. Once motherhood took over and the selflessness and giving that motherhood requires took over my life I felt like I was slowly but steadily changing my views on the world. I think feminism means different things to different people (including men) and it’s too big to just be restricted by a box. I believe feminism is inclusive, not exclusive. So whether you’re a sahm “mummy blogger” or went back to work 6wks post partum I couldn’t care less. If you believe that women are equally as important and valuable to society as men (if not more, hehe) and should be treated as such I don’t care if you’re painting your nails pink, wearing a Hilary Clinton style trouser suit or blogging recipes and potty training tips. You’re a feminist. Don’t let anyone try & convince you otherwise.

    • Adele Jarrett-Kerr
      November 12, 2013 / 10:41 pm

      It’s interesting that becoming a mother made you realise that you are a feminist. I don’t think you’re at all alone in that. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details and while those things can be useful to interrogate (why do I wear this, why do I choose that?), I do wish we’d keep an eye on the bigger picture.

  8. November 13, 2013 / 9:46 pm

    having read your post a couple of times now, I think what strikes me most – was this was such a missed opportunity. can you be a mummy blogger and a feminist. Yes. How can we work together to move issues forward, raise issues important to us as mothers and women? FGM being a huge one. Bloggers as a community are significant and powerful voice – we can use our voice for change. That session was such an opportunity to remind us of that…..
    helloitsgemma recently posted..Do blogging conferences need to change?

  9. November 14, 2013 / 7:21 pm

    I am another person who pre-motherhood was very selfish, wrapped up in my own life and I really didn’t think about society as a whole or think I could have any impact on it. Having Harry changed that thought process and made me realise that I am a feminist. I want to bring my son up to respect everyone and treat all as equals as far as that is possible, women included. So yes. I am a mummy and I am a mummy blogger and I am a feminist. I wholeheartedly agree that this was such a missed opportunity.
    Mummy Glitzer recently posted..Mumsnet Blogfest 2013: A Reflection Part Two

  10. November 15, 2013 / 5:12 am

    I missed BlogFest as on hols, but have been reading several posts about this discussion. This was an excellent post to read, and I do think that the term “mummy” applied as an adjective can appear diminishing when it is in reality the most important job on the planet. Perhaps – just a thought – it could be because the word is one which sounds childish by virtue of it being what a child would call their mother; like calling someone a “booky person” as my friend’s daughter calls people who write books, author has a whole different ring to it.
    Mama and More aka Zaz recently posted..A Halloween Faux Pas – Heidi Klum goes granny

    • Adele Jarrett-Kerr
      November 18, 2013 / 9:33 am

      I would argue that it being a “child’s word” only diminishes it depending on what we really think of children’s perspectives though I do take your point. I like booky people. Think I’ll start using it. 🙂

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