The Gender Debate Part 1: When The Gender Defined Prefix Is Unnecessary

After a couple of incidents online recently where gender has been the catalyst to spark World War Three, I have decided to write a few articles about the Gender Debate. I really wish there wasn’t an “us versus them” mentality and that we could all get along nicely, but it seems this is why we can’t have nice things. The Internet, and it’s spawn otherwise known as social media can be angry battlefields where men take on women, and women take on men.

The Gender Debate Part 1 When The Gender Defined Prefix Is Unnecessary

I have a love/hate “relationship” with Mia Freedman who many would know as the founder of the website Mamamia and the head of the Mamamia Women’s Network (MWN) which was born from the great work she’s done as a feminist writer. I love what she’s achieved. I respect her for it. I think beyond feminism, some of the things that she has personally done along with those working for her to highlight so many things that other media outlets are not talking about is fantastic.

My own website Modern Father Online was partially named in her honour as I follow her personally on social media and her Facebook page where she speaks directly to her fans and followers is called Mia Freedman Online. When I was starting out writing about issues pertaining to parenting, especially those that I have faced as a male parent – there’s a reason I’ve used that term rather than dad or father – I looked at her as my hero (non-gender specific hero that is) whose footsteps I could follow in.

I’ll declare up front that I have had two stories published on Mamamia so that all disclosure is out in the open. During a conversation about child abuse on her page I shared a blog post that I wrote hoping to get a few people to read it, and when Mia asked me if she could publish it I was more than happy to allow this to happen. Although it originally ran on the short lived iVillage Australia which became The Motherish, when both of those websites were wound up all of their posts were merged onto Mamamia. With the widest audience of all of the publications in the MWN, I am not unhappy about that, let me tell you.

You can read that post on Mamamia here; The 10 Commandments of Parenting 

You can’t agree with everything or every opinion that one person has. That would just be ridiculous. It would be as though you can’t think for yourself. Although I consider myself a feminist, just like the time that self-confessed feminist Arianna Stasinopoúlou, known to most people as Arianna Huffington took on the Women’s Liberation for their excessive stance on feminist issues, there are times when I look at things that Mia Freedman or her team of writers has written and I think that feminist writers have jumped the shark.

MIA: ‘My kids can call me mummy. Anyone else who uses it is being a dick’
MIA: ‘My kids can call me mummy. Anyone else who uses it is being a dick’

On the 3rd March 2013, Mamamia published an article written by Mia called MIA: ‘My kids can call me mummy. Anyone else who uses it is being a dick’ 

The article mentions that the term “Mummy Blogger” is only ever used in the pejorative sense, or as Mia puts it;

“Why does the mainstream media insist on reporting it in such shocked, snide terms? Why is the term ‘Mummy Blogger’ always used so blatantly as a put-down?

This has happened three times now – twice last year and once this week – and the media coverage has been consistently incredulous that the Prime Minister would waste her time talking to Mummy Bloggers.”

I disagree with this sentiment. I know plenty of mums who write parenting blogs from the point of view of the female parent and as a result they are happy to embrace a corner of the Internet that Mommy Bloggers reside in (I had to include the original US spelling). Furthermore, I know that as Co-founder, Creative Director and, possibly at the time of writing, Editor-in-Chief of Mamamia, she doesn’t see this as only a pejorative term as evident in a post that was published only two weeks before.

In that article, How to teach your kids to be money-wise, readers were invited to “click through till the end to see Mia Freedman talking to mummy bloggers about their kids. And money.”

Mia Freedman talking to mummy bloggers about their kids. And money. Screen shot from this page.
Mia Freedman talking to mummy bloggers about their kids. And money. Screen shot from this page published 19 February 2013.

Earlier today I was alerted to an article on a website called Maxmimum Middle Age written by Natasha Chiam, who writes a blog called The Stay At Home Feminist. The topic of that post may be discussed at a future time, but what sparked my further interest in Natasha was a post on her own blog called **comma not hypen** (a.k.a. Not A Mommy Blogger based on the URL).

Natasha’s post has similar thoughts expressed in Mia’s article. It’s a wonderful post. I really enjoyed it. Towards the end of her post, Natasha writes;

“I am at a point in my own life where I realize that motherhood can not be the main or only thing that defines me. I will always be mommy to two incredible human beings and for that I am eternally grateful, but I am so much more. I am a whole human being, with complexities that go beyond meal planning, soccer game scheduling, household duties, the school PTA, the never-ending piles of laundry, and all other duties I fulfil as a mother and at home parent.”

In one of my own previous posts called What Defines You? I relayed my own thoughts about being pigeon-holed by just one thing, and I am sure that Natasha is, just like she wrote, more than “just” a mother. And ten points to her for the last couple of words separating mother, the female parent from her being a non-gender specific home parent, a role befitting to both female and male parents. She continues on with the following words;

“And this is why I cringe at the term ‘mommy-blogger’ or any other mom-ified words that get thrown around. It is not that I feel that the word Mommy is a derogatory one; on the contrary, it is one that I cherish, has deep meaning to me through my children, far beyond anything I could have imagined, and one that will always be the tug on my heart I can never ignore. And though I share the moniker with millions of other women on this planet, it is one so incredibly personal and intimate as well.”

And it is. Which is why I believe that so many women who do write parenting blogs DO embrace the “job title” Mummy Blogger or Mom Blogger.

In Mia’s article she writes;

“Using the term “mummy” as a patronising prefix to describe the things women read, write or say is becoming increasingly common. Mummy blogs, Mummy porn, Mummy wars…..they’re all condescending put-downs and it’s time we killed them off.

After all, why is there no Daddy anything?

Men just have porn. And blogs. And wars.”

I left a comment on Natasha’s blog post after I read it and I thought that it would be good to bring it over to my own Daddy Dad Blog. Although I had been meaning to write this a thousand times since March 2013 when Mia published her post, that date precedes the commencing date of this blog, and it really hasn’t been on my priority list to write. The words that I wrote on Natasha’s blog were straight from the top of my head during my lunch break and were based on things that I had festering in the back of my mind about the topic of the “Daddy anything(s)” that Mia asked about.

Although Mia suggested there are no “Daddy anything(s),” there are in fact a few, and these are also condescending. The thing is, sometime people only look at what’s on their side of the fence where there’s a problem and assume everything is rosy on the other side. But the grass isn’t always greener. In addition to many items where the Daddy prefix is used in a pejorative or condescending way, the same can be said of the prefix Man.

So here is my comment left on Natasha’s The Stay At Home Feminist blog. I only slightly edited it to fix a grammatical mistake.

“It’s not a man bun. It’s not. If I wear my hair in a bun because work safety tells me that having long hair that isn’t tied up in this dangerous environment is not conducive to my health and/or safety, then I don’t need someone saying “nice man bun.” I don’t want to hear it from another man. I don’t want to hear it from another woman.

I don’t carry a man bag. It’s a bag. It’s a satchel. It’s a shoulder bag. I’m not going to say handbag because I never actually carry it in my hand, and I don’t keep hands in there. Having said that, I would call it a handy bag because it is so darn handy to carry one.

I do write a Dad Blog. I do call myself a Dad Blogger. I’ll let you call me a Daddy Blogger but I’m not really a fan of calling myself Daddy anything unless I’m talking to my own kids. I would prefer to be called a Parent Blogger but the world of Parent Blogging is dominated by women so, regrettably, having Dad, Daddy, Father, Man, Pa, Papa or Pop kind of allow us in the minority to stand out and hopefully reach out to those men who are not sure how they should be as a dad in this modern world of parenting.

A few of my friends in the health system are not Male Nurses or Male Midwives, but they are nurses and midwives. I know sometimes that “male” has to precede their title because of those who say “I don’t want a man tending to me whilst giving birth” whilst their well respected and highly paid obstetrician is happy that the title Doctor has never been seen as a male thing or female thing. No one kicks him out of the room.

Do we really need to call men who look after other people’s kids Mannies? Do we need to call them Male Childcare Workers? Do we need to establish that a man who chooses to look after kids is running some sort of Daddy Daycare?”

I am not going to call Natasha Chiam a Mommy Blogger as she has pointed out that she doesn’t want to known as one. But whatever her category is, or whether her writing is far too wide spread to be stuck in one category, from what I’ve read of her work, and from what a mutual friend has suggested, she’s a damn good blogger. Full stop.

I followed Mia Freedman back in the days when she wrote something similar to a parenting blog, when Mamamia was a column first and foremost in the pull out lifestyle magazine in the Sunday paper. Back then her website was nothing more than being filled with the cute parenting anecdote stories that appeared in her Mamamia column. Of course, this was well before her website turned into hard hitting parenting issues, feminist issues, first world problems*, and real world problems.

As I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of mothers who write bloggers who do embrace the title Mommy Blogger and if you search the likes of Twitter you will find writers such as Allison Solis (My Mommy Rant) who has mommy blogger in her bio,  who is a blogger for the Huffington Post & Scary Mommy who hashtags posts with #mommyblogger, and Lizz Porter who states she’s a “blogger & mom, not necessarily a mom blogger” who back in 2011 described herself as “a mommy blogger” who “drive(s) a Mazda hatchback” in a post called Baby Steps. And yet, knowing Lizz personally, I know that she writes more than a mom blog, and she is more than “just a mom.” (I’d actually pigeon-hole her as Star Wars fan which I don’t think she’s object to).

It’s interesting that this happened, but about eight hours after I wrote that comment on Natasha’s post, and as my band was wrapping up band practice this evening, the singer noticed the Oroton bag that the drummer had.

“I like your man bag Roddy” she told him.

“Thanks” Roddy replied.

Although I stated that I don’t want you to call the bag I carry a man bag, there are those who don’t care about these things. There are those who just accept that men will have man buns and women who read modern day “romance” novels will be asked about the mummy porn they’re reading. With the way that marketing companies are throwing gifts, trips and money at those cyberspace influencers, especially those who are in the field of writing a parenting blog and who can call themselves the female parent, why wouldn’t you want to accept the mommy blogger moniker now and then?

No one will think less of you…

2 thoughts on “The Gender Debate Part 1: When The Gender Defined Prefix Is Unnecessary

  1. “It’s not a man bun…”

    I resonate with the entirety of that comment you posted. I find those gender prefixes irritating. It’s as though it’s a different line of work (male nurse etc).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s