Do you think there’s any point …

Occasionally we stumble upon mommy-blogs in which the author is extremely anxious about the cleanliness of her house or her lack of making beautiful baked goods or what she’s doing or not doing with her children or I don’t know, whatever it is that the NYTimes is telling women and mothers to be anxious about.  Sometimes her husband is a lazy asshole and she feels like she can never measure up to his wants and needs while still taking care of the children and house (and sometimes, though not always, her job).  And she’s worried about her (normal-range) weight to boot.

And sometimes I will “poo” in her comments section, questioning why she believes that magazine or blog article she read telling her that her life is worthless if her kitchen floor isn’t sparkly.  (I haven’t seen articles like that, but bloggers claim they exist.  Maybe they have subscriptions to Patriarchy Monthly:  Keeping women down since the beginning of time?)

This little scat packet of mine rarely goes over well.  I’m not the target demo.  The target demo is other women who also feel like their kitchen floor will never be clean enough who are supposed to commiserate.  *shudder.*

And I wonder… is there any point to saying, “Cleanliness is next to cleanser, not next to Godliness” and “Why are you making yourself miserable because you don’t measure up to some artificial standard created by the patriarchy?”  (Because the blogger is always miserable.  And she always blames herself and never the magazines.)  Not usually in those words, but it doesn’t actually matter how gently or politely the words are phrased.  Harsh comments and gentle comments get the same response.

If it weren’t for the patriarchy or those women’s magazines, would they find something else to be miserable about?  Is it really the patriarchy bringing them down, and would understanding it do any good?

Really what I ought to do is to completely leechblock such blogs so I don’t have to read them myself, because they depress me.  Reading about women who are upset when they don’t need to be depresses me.  I don’t like reading about people who stay with lazy husbands they don’t love and don’t communicate with who make them miserable (and say all relationships are like that, anyone who says differently is lying, so why change).  I don’t like reading about people feeling guilty and anxious and worthless because they’re buying the line that the patriarchy is selling them.  I don’t like reading about people being determined to stay miserable and anxious.

And no, I don’t blame these women, but it makes me feel sad and helpless to see the comments agreeing that that’s just the way life is and everybody feels like that and all women are worthless and not measuring up to arbitrary standards that they believe are important that don’t have to be important.  And voices of dissent get attacked– it’s self-policing.  Will it always stay that way?  And is one lone blogging voice saying no, don’t believe it, doing more harm than good?

What’s the point?

113 Responses to “Do you think there’s any point …”

  1. ralucacoldea Says:

    Yes, there is a point in fighting the good fight, even if it’s uncomfortable and it feels like nothing changes. That’s how you know it’s a good fight :).

  2. Practical Parsimony Says:

    I m glad there were no mommy blogs when I was rearing children. Really, I did not need mommy blogs because I had a husband who came in each day to tell me things I needed to do and how to do it.

    I think it is worth speaking up. I do when I should probably stay quiet. You never know when your words will change something for a woman.

    Once, when I taught GED, I was trying to give a mother of two babies the courage and ways to leave an abusive husband. I told her to do whatever it took to leave. I meant to lose the cute, red car she did not want to lose in a divorce.. Well, I saw her a year later. She told me she had loaded his pistol and met him at the door, saying, “Do you want to be married to me and do things my way, or do you want a divorce?” He said, “What do you want?” She explained it to him and he changed on the spot. I was trembling and faint because of the way it played out. How did I know she would pull gun on this violent firefighter?

    When I see a worn-down woman with a black eye and bruises, I talk to her and tell her she is worth more than being a punching bag for a violent man. I beg her to get out, tell her that I will help her, tell her I want to give her a hug but won’t. I often wonder what happens to these women.

    Okay, it is not about a clean floor, but it is about the patriarchy and speaking up to and for women. .

  3. everydayhas Says:

    I get what you’re saying – I do – but we’re all fighting our own battles. For some of these ladies, it’s self-image and mommy-standards. That’s just where they’re at. I’m not sure that telling them why they are wrong is the best/kindest/most effective response.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Usually it’s not telling them they’re wrong, usually it’s a gentle question, “Have you considered…” “Would your husband be able to…” “One thing that’s helped me is…” (And it’s not just me that does this kind of thing… there are other even gentler commenters who get their heads bitten off! Tone is unimportant.)

  4. KeAnne Says:

    I snickered at “Patriarchy Monthly.” I think the issue is that not everyone is as enlightened and reflective as you are. The truth is that women still receive a lot of competing messages about how they should wife, parent, keep house, work, etc., and sometimes it can be difficult when you are tired and the kids aren’t listening to call bullshit on some of this. I consider myself to be fairly self-aware and even I was feeling a little bad last night because we never get pics of D with the Easter bunny or a special outfit. We’re not religious, so moot point, but I was trying to accept that we’re just not that family.

  5. Sarabeth Says:

    If you really want to be helpful, you need to be a bit gentler. The patriarchy gets inside people’s heads (and yes, via magazines sometimes. I think Real Simple is probably a good candidate for Patriarchy Monthly).

    It’s not as simple as “making yourself miserable because you don’t measure up to some artificial standard created by the patriarchy.” For many people, it’s not straightforward to turn off these kind of internalized social pressures. I agree that there’s an echo chamber effect, but acting as the one voice against that received wisdom is going to be more powerful if you aren’t triggering reflexive defensiveness.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      No, no amount of gentleness matters. I used to be a lot gentler. Heck, Cloud used to be a lot gentler (and she’s still really gentle, though I don’t think she engages as much as she used to, or at least I haven’t seen her as much). Tone doesn’t matter. No amount of softening language makes a difference.

      • delagar Says:

        I agree — I get this argument made often to me here in Arkansas (if I want to be heard, that is, I need to change the way I’m saying whatever it is I’m saying — it’s the old tone argument, really) — but in fact, there is no way that people will hear what they don’t want to hear.

        It is, on the other hand, necessary to say it anyway. I too was not ready to hear the message of feminism for years and years. I resisted it from the time I was fifteen until I was nearly thirty. AND YET: I needed to hear it. It was having people speak that message to me for those fifteen years that made me, finally, finally, finally able to hear it.

        I was angry, every time they said it. I did argue with them. I did think they were stupid. I even accused them of being idiots. “WHY CAN’T YOU JUST BE A HUMANIST!” I remember shouting at people.

        And then finally, one day, I got it. I would not have gotten it if people had not kept talking to me, either. (People: BAH. If women had not kept talking to me. Lots of women.)

        Someday I’ll tell you how I stopped being a Libertarian.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        !!!! you were a libertarian!!! Well, I guess #2 was really into Ayn Rand in high school, but she grew out of it (like most people do).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Real Simple is to real and simple as Fox News is to fair and balanced.

  6. L Says:

    Speak up for sure, but don’t expect anyone to listen or to like what you say. (Most)women just don’t get the messages that it’s okay to be who you are, in their childhood when it really takes effect. Changing those ancient tapes to say “my best is the best I can do and that is plenty good” takes WORK. More work than most employed mothers have energy for. It is a vicious cycle, and one voice isn’t likely to change it — but as the “good fight” poster above says, ya gotta do it!

  7. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    Sounds like you’re just wasting your time. No one changes their mind about *anything* based on random pseudonymous blogge comments.

    For example, think about how you react to comments here on your own blogge when they are telling you things you don’t want to hear, such as how you could make exercise fun. You’ve decided exercise isn’t fun and you hate it, and you don’t want to hear otherwise. Other than you being convinced that you as a commenter on these women’s blogges are right and they are wrong, it’s the exact same thing.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Difference: I have, in the past, done all those exercise things. We both have. And I fully agree that some people get running highs. From personal experience I do not. I don’t claim that other people are lying when they say they enjoy running. I don’t say that exercising is impossible.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Plus, you have never talked about making exercise “more fun”.

      Me: I’m committing to regular walks while the pool is closed.
      CPP: you need to do calisthenics and running.

      Me: I’m trying calisthenics.
      CPP: you need to do three times as much. There’s no point in trying out what you’re doing even though it fits in your schedule and you will actually do it.

      The analogy I’m talking about would be us saying that exercise doesn’t work and everybody who says it does is lying or deluding themselves. Or they’re impossibly perfect and everyone should hate them. Which we don’t.

      • Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

        All of that just illustrates my point. You as the blogger here are convinced you are right and don’t want to hear anything to the contrary and have all kinds of detailed reasons describing how you are right. Why would you expect that just because as a commenter on someone else’s blogge your conviction that you as a commenter are right would be met with any different reception from that blogger, who is convinced that she is right? The situation is exactly symmetrical.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Except it’s not because I’m not telling you that exercise is impossible for anybody.

        I’m also not miserable or the least bit unhappy about the amount of exercise I do. When I am, I do more. I do what my doctor says and what research is pretty consistent is a fine minimum amount.

      • Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

        Whatever about the substance of the exercise question. The point is that these bloggers are as convinced that they don’t need to listen to your opinion about whether they should feel the way they do about their lives as you are convinced that you don’t need to listen to my opinion about exercise. In relation to “Do You Think There’s Any Point?”–which was the question you solicited input on–it is as pointless for you to to leave comments on these bloggers’ blogges telling them that they should feel differently about their dirty floors as it is for me to leave comments on your blogge telling you that you should feel differently about pumping iron. The fact that you think I am a wrong blogge commenter and you think you are a right blogge commenter doesn’t change this at all.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        No, I really don’t think that’s the same. For the reasons above.

      • Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

        Yeah, I get that you think your comments on their blogges are substantively right and my comments on your blogge are substantively wrong. I understand that you have detailed justifications for how I am not responding usefully to your expressed opinions about exercise on your blogge, and that you are absolutely convinced that those justifications are correct. Maybe they even are correct! From your description, it appears that these bloggers whose blogges you are commenting on have detailed justifications for how you are not responding usefully to their expressed opinions about how their dirty floors make them terrible people, and that they are absolutely convinced that those justifications are correct. But maybe they are wrong!

        Regardless of who’s right and who’s wrong, these bloggers are no more likely to be swayed by your opinion of whether they should be resigned to patriarchally induced misery over their dirty floors than you are likely to be swayed by my opinion concerning what exercises you should be doing. This is the case even if my comments on your blogge are objectively full of shit and non-responsive to your requests for input and your comments on their blogges are objectively correct and on point.

        Unless I am misunderstanding, your solicitation for input relates to whether it serves any useful purpose for you to comment on these blogges telling these women that they don’t need to feel the way they do, not whether you are objectively correct that they don’t need to feel the way they do. If I am mistaken and the question is the latter, then I agree with you that you are correct and these bloggers are deluded. But if the question is the former, then you are wasting your time telling them they are deluded, because they are no more likely to be swayed by your opinion of whether they are in the best possible world but should still be miserable than you are to be swayed by my opinion that if only you did an extra few sets of deadlifts every day you’d love pumpin iron.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Weight lifting was the WORST part of PE. As in, shoot me dead now this is so boring. STEP AEROBICS was better than that. Faculty senate levels of boring. Now, if I’d never *tried* weight-lifting before and was of the belief that weight-lifting didn’t exist, or that you could not possibly enjoy weight-lifting… that would be more analogous. But again, circles.

        Maybe in simpler non-exercise terms (though the below examples are distilled from patriarchy and exercise as in the post and comments).

        Blogger: Makes a claim about SELF and EVERYBODY ELSE (that happens to make blogger and everybody else unhappy unnecessarily).
        #1 (on exercise): Makes a claim about SELF. Acknowledges that everybody else may be different and that my preferences should not have spillovers to readers who should be perfectly happy to find their own bliss points.
        CPP: Makes a claim that #1 is incorrect about HERSELF and that EVERYBODY should be like what he says.

        I don’t know the blogger’s personal truth, but I do know that the everybody else bit is bullshit (because I’m part of everybody else: counter-example). I don’t know about your experiences, but I do know about mine.

      • Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

        Why do you keep arguing that you are justified in dismissing my opinions about exercise but the mommy bloggers are unjustified in dismissing your opinions about patriarchy? No one is even contesting you on that point, and it has zero to the negative infinity power to do with the question this blogge post is supposedly about. Whether you are justified in dismissing my opinions about exercise or not, and whether the mommy bloggers are justified in dismissing your opinions about patriarchy or not, has f*cke all to do with the likelihood that your telling them how to feel is going to influence how they feel, or how any of the enthusiastic readers of their blogges feel.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Your opinions about exercise are valid for YOU. They do not match with MY LIVED EXPERIENCE for ME.

        I am not saying anything about the bloggers LIVED EXPERIENCES for THEMSELVES. I take issue with the idea that what they say is true for EVERYBODY.

        And, like I said above, it’s very unlikely I’ll change the blogger’s mind. However, there are spillover effects for anyone who reads the post. Not everybody who reads the blog is going to be a hardcore whatever because… I ended up on that blog somehow, and I don’t hate-read anything (leechblock helps there).

        In your example with the exercise, you’re not causing any positive spillovers for anyone. I’m not saying exercise is a bad thing, just that I don’t like certain types of exercise. Exercise is a good thing– practically nobody disputes that. There’s no patriarchy out there forcing people to not exercise. My blog posts about taking walks or doing the 7 min workout aren’t going to keep people from exercising.

        It’s not a good analogy on so many levels. If I were miserable and you offered a suggestion about how to be not miserable that I hadn’t tried, I would be more receptive (than getting advice saying, “you’re not doing enough” when it’s taking a lot of effort just to do something, and then denying my lived experience to boot, which is seriously irritating). How does one know that a blogger isn’t in that situation?

      • Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

        Based on what you’ve told us, these mommy bloggers seem no more receptive to your input on how they should feel about their dirty floors than you are receptive to my input on how you should feel about exercise. You can keep telling yourself that one of these days one of these mommy bloggers is gonna be receptive to your input because your input to them is totally useful and non-irritating in contrast to my input to you which is totally useless and irritating. But I am not hearing anything from you that suggests that any of these mommy bloggers or their readers are gonna be any more receptive to your input than you are to mine. You keep asserting that your input to them is useful and on point and my input to you is useless and irrelevant–and maybe that’s totally true–but why on earth would you think that your conviction about that would have any relation whatsoever to the likelihood that your input would move the needle at all for these bloggers or their reguar readers?

  8. taylorqlee Says:

    I wouldn’t bother, honestly. I mean, unless they are specifically asking “Blog readers help me!” in fixing their lives. I think many people (myself included) use blogging as an outlet. Maybe they just want someone to listen to their problem, not fix them. I feel like unless you are in a particularly receptive mental state, there’s really no way random seemingly hating blog commenter is going to paradigm shift your entire life.

  9. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    I don’t think that the OP is likely to change, especially when ze only needs one agreeing comment to validate. But what about everyone else who is reading and getting the message that guilt and misery are normal and being happy and confident means you’re lying to yourself and making people hate you?

    • Flavia Says:

      They wouldn’t be reading that blog if they didn’t already feel that way. The kind of negativity you describe is toxic to normal people. (Unless they’re hate-reading.)

  10. Flavia Says:

    If you feel you need to do it–in the sense that your conscience will really nag at you if you don’t–at least be kind. No point in being blunt if you *already know* (or strongly suspect) your perspective isn’t welcomed.

    But there’s another possibility, which is that some bloggers, *in addition* to having bought the patriarchy’s bill of goods, are just deeply negative and defeatist personalities. If so, then yeah: they’ll find something else to bring them down regardless.

    (And here I’m thinking of a negative & self-destructive non-mommy blogger, known to you, whom you took the wise course of not continuing to offer a different kind of advice to. You were wise–it’s not that area of her life that’s the main problem!)

    • notofgeneralinterest2 Says:

      Agree with Flavia on the toxicity. For about a year, I had a bad habit of (almost an addiction to) reading advice columns, which wasted time and made me aware of both the toxicity and futility of reading and giving advice. After a while I figured out that if those who wrote in to advice columns had read the column previously, they would know what to do, since the problems tend to repeat. Most of them were “Here is what the situation is, and here is what I should probably do, but I don’t want to because X.” Then the columnist would tell her to do X. That sounds like what’s happening in the mommy blogs: there’s an answer, and you’re spelling it out directly, but it’s not the answer the person wants to hear.

      • notofgeneralinterest2 Says:

        So, from a former advice addict, here is my advice: quit the destructive mommy blogs cold turkey and don’t look back. You will feel better, and after a while you won’t even want to look at them.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        The problem is that they’re on people’s blogrolls and sometimes will have enticing headlines that look like someone one would want to read. I don’t *want* to stop reading Ana’s blog (we really like her blog!), but it often ends up, through a series of blogroll hopping, on a destructive mommy blog.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        We do still enjoy thatbadadvice …

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Hahaha! She’s leechblocked for one of us, and the other one of us occasionally will say, “Flavia is trying to give good advice to her again.” It’s not just us! We see what happens when other people try too.

      • Flavia Says:

        Totally not just you! (And since obviously I’m guilty of still trying to get through, maybe I’m not the one to give advice on this score…)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Contingent Cassandra also sometimes makes the mistake of trying to give good advice, IIRC. (It’s been a while!)

        I still can’t believe that she says she’s poor and then goes on bragging about how her family makes over 100K/year. *cough* Now I’m starting to sound like GOMI, so I will stop. Because I don’t like to see this side of myself. Still, I like it enough that I will leave this comment instead of deleting it. No more though! That’s it!

  11. becca Says:

    Patriarchy is a mental illness not unlike depression, in that flawed attempts to connect with others from within the pathology are both potentially unhealthy and irritating to others. However, coming from the outside and saying “just don’t buy into that malarky” doesn’t address the disease. What you are doing is as futile as someone saying “why don’t you just try feeling happy now?” to someone with MDD.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t know that’s the case though because MDD is internal and chemical whereas these messages actually cause and transmit patriarchy. Plus there’s the spillovers to others. I dunno.

      • becca Says:

        Haven’t you seen the “depression is contagious” social network analysis? It’s all kind of muddled up.

        I will grant that there may be interrupting-the-chain-of-patriarchy-transmission arguments to be made for commenting on these blogs, but I do think it’s unlikely to get through to the primary author (particularly if they are seeking commiseration companionship).

        only quasi relatedly: best parenting advice I read today was “set a timer for Naked Time”. Ok, so that sounds way weird out of context, though hilarious. It actually wasn’t bad advice, in context (the question was how to make a 2 year old wear clothes).

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I’m not sure getting through to the primary author is as important as everyone reading… it’s like the vaccine thing. You’re not going to change the mind of a vaccine denier, but there’s a lot of women who base their vaccine decisions on trends. Can one disrupt the Bellweather?

  12. Sue Says:

    IMO, women are brought up to seek external approval. As a result, many of them get caught up in making others happy and never realize it’s a losing game. These women need to take a hard look at the expectations that are put about them (and the expectations they put upon themselves) and learn how to say f*** it. If they can, their happiness level should significantly increase.

  13. Calee Says:

    I deleted all the blogs that regularly made me angry or frustrated from my reading list several years ago. I’m much happier and I hope they are too.

    • Norwegian Forest Cat Says:

      This. So much this.

      I am not a mom and therefore spend zero time on mommy blogs, but I got caught up in the blogosphere of perfectly put-together 20something women and spent way too much time worrying about my cottage cheese thighs and my inability to draw a perfect cat-eye with my eyeliner or to make perfect salads in a mason jar… or really anything in a mason jar. Good for those ladies (and gents) who can craft such wonderful, beautiful things that don’t spill in their lunch boxes, but I just took all of mine back to my mom. I’m hoping she’ll make me some more of that tasty, tasty soup starter and salsa this summer, and hopefully I’ll come up with a better way to keep things from exploding in my lunch box. :)

      I find it more fun to read things and do things that made me feel encouraged and empowered about what I’m doing… you know, like reading financial blogs and feminist-y career blogs and “HEY ISN’T SCIENCE AWESOME” blogs and Amy Poehler’s book. I am still working on making “No” a complete sentence, but I will get there.

  14. middle_class Says:

    I hop onto the mommy blogs on occasion because many of these write about things that interest me when not fixated on guilt and measuring up to Real Simple standards. I pipe in the most on posts about work/life balance or chores because I think I can be helpful even if I am the lone dissenting voice. I think it’s funny that many women give advice like 1) ask the children to pitch in, 2) assign chores to kids, 3) look up fly lady and clean daily, etc.. without ever mentioning that the spouse can help, too! This happens even if both are working. I see this in real life, too.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Well, you know what happens when someone suggests the husband could pitch in, right?

      • middle_class Says:

        Actually, I don’t. I tend to comment and run, i.e. leave comments on blogs but don’t return to the comment section unless it’s a blog I follow regularly like yours. So who knows? Maybe on a few blogs out there, my comment has elicit tons of negative replies and I don’t even know it!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I think that’s probably true! Since I don’t usually read these blogs regularly, I tend to see them after most of the conversation has already happened. And I think a few years ago LV/WandSci etc. specifically addressed the husbands doing chores thing and boy that was a huge blow-up on the interwebs, IIRC. WandSci, as always, was very gentle about the whole thing, but it doesn’t matter.

      • Cloud Says:

        Hee hee! The chores post is still one of my most trafficked posts. Here it is for anyone who’s curious: http://www.wandering-scientist.com/2012/04/women-men-chores-and-relationships.html

        Or anyway, that’s the culmination post. I think it all started when I got annoyed at a feminist site for implying that it is not even within the realm of possibility that a woman might be married to a man who does 50% of the work around the house. You’re right, it did get nasty, although none of it ever hit my blog. I’m not sure how I avoided that.

        I’ve mostly given up talking about the chores thing now. I learned from that episode that for some people, the solution is worse than the problem… but that venting about the problem is cathartic.

        I do like to keep putting my version of reality out there, because I occasionally get somewhat heartbreaking emails from young women who were convinced that there was absolutely no way they could combine the career they want with motherhood and are part relieved to come across me doing that, and part convinced I’m making it all up.

        I mostly keep my version of reality to my own blog these days, though, and to the comments sections of blogs where I think it will be welcome.

  15. Jay Says:

    It depends on the conversation and the question that’s being asked. I stopped reading bloggers who clearly have a set of patriarchal assumptions that I don’t share (“men just don’t see dirt” is a cue for me to hit “unsubscribe). Sometimes, though, I run into similar assertions from women with whom I have a great deal in common, and then I try to have a conversation – not to change her mind, but to broaden mine. I really want to understand why someone who holds and speaks feminist values would say…whatever it is. So I ask.

    One of those questions sparked the most interesting conversation on my not-widely-read and now-dormant blog. It came from a post on Bluemilk’s blog about women doing “everything” at home, and I asked – sincerely – why they did. Here’s the first post http://twowomenblogging.blogspot.com/2011/05/no-really-why-by-jay.html and here’s the follow-up http://twowomenblogging.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-and-why-not-by-jay.html (sorry, I don’t remember how to do the linky-thing).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Thank you for posting that, I just went and read both of them. #2 would like to emphasize that I love, love, love not having children. That’s just me, though. As I’ve said before, in our particular household we frequently solve the housework problem by *neither* of us doing it. But that only works for so long.

      • Jay Says:

        Not just you. It’s lots of people, and some who have kids and shouldn’t have. People will tie themselves into all sorts of rhetorical knots so they can say they *have* to keep doing something, rather than face the terrifying truth that they don’t have to, because the terrifying truth will upset something that feels more important. For years, I explained (loudly and at great length) that I HAD to follow my husband around the country for his work because it JUST MADE SENSE and was THE ONLY LOGICAL THING. When I was in my 20s, an older woman shook her head sagely and said “that always happens to women” and I was furious. She was utterly, completely right. It took me ten years to realize that. I try to remember that when I roll my eyes at women who say “I HAVE to do everything around the house”.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It’s weird we didn’t see those posts originally because some of our favorite blogpeeps commented on them! Maybe we weren’t hooked up with them yet though– it was four(!) years ago.

        We’re totally on board with the structural causes of these problems (aka the patriarchy).

        I do, however, take issue with the belief that “all couples fight” and if they say they don’t they’re lying or oblivious. That just is not true, and it is really sad that people think it’s true. Sometimes people aren’t miserable because they’re not miserable, not because they’re lying to themselves. Sometimes people are just happy and they have good relationships and they shouldn’t have to be told that there’s something wrong with them for not feeling guilty, miserable, or upset at their husbands. (@Middle class– the second link here shows what happens when someone says, “no not all relationships are like that, not all men are like that”– someone like blue milk calls her a dick who is lying to herself or has low standards.)

      • Jay Says:

        Can’t reply to the second reply – wanted to clarify. I didn’t say that “everyone fights”. A commenter did. When people say they are happy, I believe them. When they say “I am happy because I am biologically suited to be the Cleaner of All Things, and you have to accept, that, too”, I stop listening.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Right, Blue Milk said that (elevated to the post body).

        You said, “sometimes (probably often) people struggle to build the kind of communication skills that help us manage conflict productively” which we totally agree with! Though we don’t necessarily think it’s a struggle!

  16. crazygradmama Says:

    Speaking as someone who tends to read judgement from every interaction, I appreciate a (non-obnoxious) reminder that most people aren’t actually holding me to the same standards that I imagine they are. A cranky response would be unhelpful.

    However, mommy blogs can turn into giant echo chambers of patriarchy enforcement, and some of those could use an angry counterpoint or two.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Only CPP cares if you can run a marathon. I don’t think *anybody* cares if you can craft or not, not even Martha Stewart!

      • becca Says:

        I think nobody should run marathons, since they are linked to cardiac scarring, and cisgender men types should craft way more. But I am surpassingly judgey mcjudgeypants!

  17. CG Says:

    What if fighting the patriarchy makes you miserable and not thinking about it makes you go along living your life in a fairly happy way? Life is full of compromises….Not what you asked, I know, since the people you’re talking about ARE miserable.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      If you enjoy how your life is going, you’re not making the type of blog posts #1 is responding to. Yyyyeah. Plenty of people when they say, “My life is great, it goes like X and it makes me so happy!” then we say, good for you! Rock on!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        “an it hurts no one, do what you will”

        If torturing bunnies makes you happy, we don’t say good for you. But if you’re really into crafting or cleaning or whatever, go for it!

        And no, you definitely do not have to speak up. I think our post on Choice feminism talks about our stance on that. We’re pro- Choice feminism. (Also pro-choice feminists, but that’s different.)

      • sciliz Says:

        Actually, there is no one coherent cultural norm on bunny torturing. There is an Easter Facebook meme about stuffed animal bunny for Easter vs live animal bunny is a ten year commitment. Inevitably, the “or dinner” comments kicked in. And while I’m a bioscientist and support both preclinical and basic animal research, you would not believe some of the responses I get when I suggest perhaps cosmetics are unnecessary (or even the more moderate stance of perhaps we have enough cosmetics at this time and should not develop new ones), and maybe we should opt for less bunny torture on that front. Bunnies are right at the intersection of our cultural attitudes re: Pet Animals vs. Useful Animals, and thus there’s enough cognitive dissonance for several sociology dissertations on Bunny Torture.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        You can eat bunnies without torturing them first.

      • Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

        They taste f awesome!

  18. Debbie M Says:

    I don’t know the answer. I do know it can be very hard to go against norms, to decide that it’s okay to be different, and to actually change your belief system.

    My only advice (besides maybe to not look at the blogrolls of certain blogs, let alone click on them) comes from my background as a bureaucrat. It’s to remember that the fact that something is obvious to you and you’ve said it a million times doesn’t matter at all to the new person in front of you now. Even the person you have already communicated something to five times. It doesn’t make sense to them or doesn’t normally matter to them, so it gets forgotten, and you only told her five times, but you feel annoyed because you’ve had to explain yourself five thousand times (to multiple people).

    My best idea for a strategy is to say you’d like to recommend a different strategy for dealing with their problem, and that’s to remember that no one can be perfect in every way because there’s not enough time. So we should all focus on the ways that are most important and most fun. And maybe she could re-think whether clean floors fit in that category when she is already also raising healthy, happy children, cooking tasty, healthy, affordable meals in a regular fashion [and basically listing all the things at which this writer is awesome]. Of course, it’s not right to never ever clean your floors, so you might still also recommend a lower-stress strategy such as: clean spills immediately (while they’re still easy), teach your children and spouse to clean their spills immediately or at least tell you, and then do a thorough cleaning once a week or before parties or whatever.

    I’m rarely in this situation, but I do have friends and relatives who go a little wacko with the politics (in both directions) so I do try to remind them that the other side is generally made out of semi-reasonable people. (Not the actual politicians, who I can’t help feeling are bribed, but the people who vote for them.) Like some of your readers have said, I do it because I feel it’s my duty, even if it doesn’t “work.”

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m not sure that I believe that narrative is healthy either, that if you’re good at something you care about you have to be bad at something else that you care about. Of course, expressing that idea may have been what got me kicked into moderation on Modern Mrs. Darcy!

      And God forbid you ever suggest that a husband or kid could help. I’ve seen people do that and the aftermath is never pretty, especially if the children are boys or you mention the husband.

      • Debbie M Says:

        Oops, I just meant that you don’t have time for everything, not that you couldn’t be perfect at everything (if you had the time).

        Ugh, sorry about the helping. So sorry. When our own gender is sexist, it is especially enraging. Especially in these younger (than my parents) generations who should [cuss word] know better.

  19. gwinne Says:

    Patriarchy Monthly! HAHAHA.

  20. Insect Biologist Says:

    I’m not sure whether or not I’ve ever changed anyone else’s viewpoint, but I know that other people have changed mine, and, in many of those cases, those people have no idea that they had a positive impact. That’s because I often respond to opposing ideas with defensiveness or even hostility. Then, later (sometimes much later), I may ponder what they’ve said, and change my point of view. When the challenging idea comes from someone I don’t know well (like a blog commenter), they could never know that they had an influence.

    One example that doesn’t involve blogs or the patriarchy: I was biking fast on a mixed-use (cyclists and pedestrians) path and almost hit a pedestrian who stepped out in front of me. Another biker yelled at me that I was biking too fast, and I yelled back (as I sped by) that it wasn’t my fault if someone stepped out in front of me. The other biker would have been left with the impression that he had had no impact, but, in reality, I realized that he was right and started biking more responsibly when I was on the mixed-use path segment of my daily commute.

    So, pointing out that there are alternative ways to view parental responsibilities may have made some people’s lives better, even though it may not be obvious.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We’ve definitely learned a lot from blogging. Even if we don’t do what CPP tells us to. :) As I’ve gotten older, one of the things I’ve been better at is not having that initial negative response unless it’s something that I’ve thought really hard about already (like not wanting to run marathons! SWEAT GIVES ME RASHES.). So I’ve been doing a lot less of the “no way, … but later maybe,” but I used to do that a LOT. I’ve also gotten a lot better at apologizing instead of rationalizing. It could be that I’m just wrong more now than I used to be though!

      I do wonder if that occurs in these specific situations or not… if maybe they start questioning the way things are, or if that just causes them to dig in more and causes harm. I don’t know!

      • Insect Biologist Says:

        The backfire effect is such a bizarre phenomenon. I’ve been wanting to find a good book about the topic so that I can understand it better and to learn if there are ways to avoid eliciting it. I guess the kind of situations you are describing would be particularly susceptible to the dig-in response. Patriarchal attitudes are so embedded in our society, and letting go of them can be frightening. But there are times when I just can’t help but point out that some husbands do half of the housework, that dads are capable of looking after their children, etc. The two most common responses I hear are either the polite suggestion that I don’t know what I’m talking about or the offensive suggestion that men (such as my husband) who behave that way are wusses (and who would want to be married to a man like that?). But I like to think that every now and again, my comments may have a positive effect.

        I’ve also gotten a lot better at apologizing instead of rationalizing and at being receptive to opposing ideas. I’m sure that some of my improvement can be attributed to the efforts I’ve made, but I bet a lot of it can be explained by the realization that I have been wrong about a lot of things over the years. I wonder if middle-aged people are more open minded than younger people?

  21. seattlegirluw Says:

    Yep, we tend to buy in to this idea that we should be perfect, yet we rarely expect the same of our male partners. There was a female comedian who wrote a column asking when there would be a sitcom where the lead was an out-of-shape woman who was a slob, bumbles through mistakes with her kids and never did the chores her handsome, fit, picks-up-her-slack husband asked her to.

    Media teaches men that no woman is necessarily out of their league, no matter how slovenly, lazy or generally unhelpful they are. Meanwhile, women are told to look perfect, do it all and put up with their husbands’ crap.

    And if one more sitcom jokes about how these women are never in the mood for sex, I may grow huge and green and smash things. I wonder where one gets purple pants.

  22. Revanche Says:

    Kind of had to laugh at hate reading. I don’t do it on purpose but it flares up when I stumble across sanctimony. I have a friend who was very much like this for years and it was something she was going to be miserable about until she decided not to be and to find a way to fix it or deal with it. It was up to her to decide she was ready for the change. And even then it wasn’t to find a truly healthy relationship. Until that point, well…. It seems to be the equivalent of “better the misery you know than the happiness that might scare the shit out of you or make you regret all the years you’re wasting now so avoid that at all costs cuz regret is worse than never ending misery.” The point is preserving status quo, from what I’ve seen.

  23. zenmoo Says:

    If I happened across a blog such as you describe I wouldn’t comment. But that’s because I get those comments IRL (from my MIL/mother about my husband & how I can’t expect him to be home/do stuff/blah blah blah). Which is total bullshit. He is perfectly capable of making kid lunches, changing sheets, putting away laundry and buying his own presents for his family Etc.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I am so lucky that both my mother and my MIL spent significant time as breadwinners so there’s absolutely none of that (even if my father and FIL don’t do as much housework as my husband does).

      And YES on the buying his own presents for his family (I help brainstorm most years, but I help, I’m not in charge). My BIL’s wife does ALL of that stuff for his family, which is just bizarre to me– she’s the one who arranges things with my in-laws, she’s the one who picks out presents, sends Christmas cards, etc. I take care of all of these things for my own family… I can’t imagine doing it for two families.

  24. Tinkering Theorist Says:

    Part of the issue reminds me of my cultural anthropology professor talking about why we shouldn’t say that food stamp recipients are underserving/wasting money if they buy twinkies. Twinkies may actually be one of the cheapest ways to get calories (I imagine soda best, if you’re constrained to buy from a gas station), so it may be that they are making a choice that is appropriate or even optimal given their current goal of just making it through the day. Maybe they work lots of hours or have other constraints and little energy to spend on long term planning and it doesn’t make sense to think about their health further out than a few weeks.

    This is not exactly the same as what you’re discussing, since nobody would suggest that we should avoid having a discussion about healthy foods with food stamp recipients, but I would like to note that it’s possible that an individual woman’s choice to complain in order to seek others who can agree with her and somehow make her feel normal about her worries and “messy” house may be effective in helping make her feel better in the short term. She may not be ready to really work on the underlying issues right now, so maybe thinking about the fact that she’s screwed because what she’s doing doesn’t really matter but others want her to do it and her husband should help but he’s a jerk is just too much. Not that a gentle comment would suggest that, but sometimes people are just sick and tired of trying to fix a problem–maybe it should be easy, but due to patriarchy/jerk husbands/other issues it is actually hard, and even tiring to think about the fact that there are so many problems and why. In that case, maybe the comments will eventually sink in when there’s more mental resources, or when the situation is so bad that she can’t deal with it just by complaining anymore …

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, who knows. I would find that easier to believe though if these were people of limited means, but they mostly seem to be upper-middle-class people who don’t seem to be trapped in their situations by lack of opportunity. People for whom Laura Vanderkam’s advice would apply. (It’s also often not clear who is telling her to clean the floor other than the magazine… often the husband doesn’t even see floors. Though of course that varies, as some people do have obnoxious relatives whose opinions shouldn’t matter.)

      • Tinkering Theorist Says:

        I feel the same way–it’s one thing to say their husband isn’t able to clean correctly, but why do we need to imply it’s a biological difference between men and women? And if one argues with that, it really gets into the crazy talk … I can’t take it, personally, and will just shut up when something like that has been said.

      • Jay Says:

        If we accept that men are biologically capable of child care and cleaning and cooking, then we also have to accept that men who don’t do such things are choosing not to do them, even though their partners want them to and even though their failure to participate is causing their partners pain. “Men don’t see dirt” and “women are better parents and can make school lunches” is easier to swallow than “my husband is being a jerk to me”.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I can see that that argument also extends to “all men are jerks” and “all couples are miserable.”

        That’s so depressing. :(

        Of course, if anyone notes it’s depressing, they get mad too. *sigh*

  25. Ana Says:

    Oftentimes, when someone posts a rant/vent post, they are just not in the space to hear anything but validation. So no matter how gently you frame it, the hackles go up. When you say “I feel awful about this”, and you hear “you shouldn’t feel awful about that, because of xyz” its like hearing “that’s a stupid thing to be upset about…your feelings are stupid…you are stupid”. Or “you’ve let yourself be duped and brainwashed by the patriarchy” or in other words “you are weak and stupid”.
    I’ve been there—many times—on my own blog, and even off-line (for various issues, nothing to do with cleaning my house). The first instinct is to protect your reality, its safer and easier, so you lash out against anyone trying to upturn it. Its 1000X worse when its someone I don’t trust—someone that has never commented before, just met, or who has hurt me in the past.
    BUT, with time, space, hearing the same thing from people I trust, I can open my mind and start to accept that my version of reality may not be the only one. And the gradual shift in thinking occurs. And my life is better. I might remember that comment or bit of advice as the turning point and thank the person, but most likely I won’t because it was just one of a series of comments or events that piled up until I couldn’t ignore it.
    So I would say, if you feel compelled to comment, go for it. It most certainly won’t be helpful in the short run, but if the person is any way looking to grow and change (and not all people are!) it may be helpful in the long run.

    • Ana Says:

      You CAN just ignore my blogroll, you know. (I don’t want you to stop reading my blog) ;)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        The big problem is that some of the excellent bloggers on your blogroll *also* have interesting blogrolls and then those blogs have blogrolls, and then I end up where I never meant to venture. This problem is worst when I’m procrastinating.

      • Ana Says:

        Then hopefully any mention of “clean house” “baking” or “pinterest” should be your key to GET BACK TO WORK. kidding. I know the rabbit hole well.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I like baking! The bad baking posts are usually saying nasty things about women who bake from scratch. That seems to be less of a “thing” now though than it was a few years ago. The new fad seems to be minimalism (which was a fad in the pf community a few years back, but seems to have just reached mommy bloggers with that kondo book).

      • Ana Says:

        Haha! I did fall down a “minimalism” rabbit hole last month. I agree with the general concept of “don’t let your stuff own your life” which works best if you just don’t buy crap to begin with (hence the connection to PF) but the fact that people spend so much time and energy “decluttering” or “simplifying” their stuff kind of denotes the opposite, right? Isn’t it simpler and less stuff-centered to just ignore your stuff altogether?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah, it’s one of those things where there’s a happy medium. There were some really funny memes going around when it was big in the PF/life-hacker community.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        This is the PF version, but the mommy-version would be different (presumably not so much leaving your wife!).

  26. Ana Says:

    Also “Patriarchy Monthly” made me snort laugh out loud. thanks for the laugh!

  27. Cardinal Says:

    Aren’t all “women’s” magazines really just Patriarchy Monthly under different guises?

  28. MutantSupermodel Says:

    This got a LOT of traffic. For what it’s worth, I think you should always say something. You just never know when someone is finally ready to listen. Also, there are other people reading than what makes it to the comments.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Oddly not as much traffic as our school lunch post from last week!

    • Donna Freedman Says:

      Absolutely! You might influence other people who don’t sign in to comment, and you may reach the blogger at the exact moment when she’s had enough and is thinking, “There has to be a better way to live.”
      Maybe not. Probably not. But it’s possible.
      One reader’s come-to-Jesus moment was after paying the bills and realizing that she and her husband had $25 left in checking and a couple of weeks until payday. She went online looking for articles about how to be smarter about money, and found the (late, lamented) Smart Spending blog on MSN Money. From then on the two of them made it a kind of game: How can we pay down all this consumer debt into which we’ve mired ourselves?
      They cleared all the debt and started paying extra on the mortgage. They were calmer and happier. And it’s a damned good thing that the debt WAS cleared, because a few years later her husband died in an auto accident. Because he earned more than she did, she might have lots the house if they’d still been in the hole when he died.
      So that one day way back when, she was finally ready to say “There has to be a better way to live.” Sharing a (gently worded) suggestion might help a person on the one day s/he is prepared to work for change.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        But in your example, the person wants to change! I don’t think there’s a problem with us pontificating from our own soapbox of a blog, it’s in the comments sections where we’re possibly not welcome that’s the question.

  29. Leigh Says:

    There were comments on the Mr Money Mustache April Fool’s post saying that white male privilege is not a thing. On the plus side, there are actually women at my new job!

  30. First Gen American Says:

    I think some people like to use their blogs for the sole purpose of venting their feelings unfiltered. I kind of see venting and doing something about your problems as two different phases in a multi-step process.

    Perhaps the lack of reception to your comments isn’t that all mommy bloggers just wallow and never change but because some of them haven’t arrived at that next phase yet. I am a problem solver by nature so i can’t read something without jumping to an answer but I also know that not everyone is at the stage to be ready for an answer even if it is sound advice.

  31. chacha1 Says:

    If your intent in commenting on a blog post is simply to communicate something important to you, then certainly there’s a point: the comment itself. If your intent is to change someone’s mind, you’ll never be satisfied because you’ll probably never know if you succeeded. The person who reads the comment and thinks “hey wait a minute” may not have that thought until days or weeks or months or years after she’s read it. And her immediate reaction may well have been to write an angry or dismissive reply.

    I think getting through to people who have strong opinions is a matter of slowly wearing away their bias, and I don’t think you can reasonably expect to accomplish that with a single blog comment – or even a series of them, as with the CPP exchange above, and that’s with someone you “know.” Most often when we are speaking to someone through the medium of a blog, we are speaking as strangers to people we *don’t* know. Why should they listen to us? Blog communities, like all communities, are intrinsically self-reinforcing. Outliers are automatically The Unwelcome Other. Any blogger’s space is HER space, and the people who agree with her are there for their own reasons, which do not necessarily include “trying to learn.”

    In order to effectively and positively lead another blog’s readers in a different direction, I think you’d first have to establish yourself as someone a ready-for-change reader would want to listen to. That would require a lot of persistence (= time), and a lot of repeating yourself in a venue where most readers are going to disagree with you. Too much repetition of advice or observations counter to the blog’s theme, and you will very likely get blocked, unless the OP *likes* commentroversies and fights, in which case ew.

    Also, given that most blogs have the trackback feature (meaning a reader who’s intrigued by what you say could follow you back here), it’s probably safe to assume that people who have the “hey wait a minute” response will find you here. So you don’t have to get into arguments or even conversations in comments threads: people who *want* to connect with you, can. Make the comment, and then bail.

    I never read “mommy blogs” because I’m not a mommy. I don’t often explore blogrolls either. The Internet for me is a source of information first and entertainment second; I rarely want to spend more than a half-hour at a stretch clicking around because it never ends with a sense of accomplishment, just a sense of having wasted time.


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