I had an interesting conversation with MFA Dad a while back (as usual, a dis-jointed one as we were simultaneously corralling the toddler & taking turns carrying him as we strolled down the sidewalk).
He asked me why so many women had created traditional, gender-based enclaves on the internet (i.e. mommy blogs & web sites) while simultaneously shying away from contributing to more mainstream media on the internet like Wikipedia (where women constitute only 13% of all contributors!)
The question seemed quite appropriate given that I had blogged about my maniacal focus on motherhood… This seemed like another frame for thinking about why I was putting energy into this blog or reading another hippy-dippy book on gentle discipline instead of blogging on the law or trying to rework that seminar paper into something publishable.
I didn’t really have an answer then. And I don’t now. But I have ideas.
And I know the answers I don’t like. … Like the one hinted at in the New York Times article on Wikipedia & women. Women are creating communities on the Internet & many are just as ferociously argued (if not more so…) as The Simpsons Wiki referenced in the article.
But parenting can be an extremely powerful experience. Its power is also transient (once you settle in as a family, once the children move on, etc. the overwhelming-ness can lessen & therefore the need to connect over it). Also, I am one of those women who find baby- & child-rearing endlessly fascinating. I like knowing that other women (friends or anonymous folk on the Internet) are going through similar experiences… Especially if I can learn something from them.
Is that a good reason for sticking to mommy blogs & not contributing to Wikipedia? Maybe.
Raising children is serious work & challenging! There’s definitely a coping-mechanism element at work here. But also, maybe if people put more energy into speaking about parenting & issues unique to families (as opposed to arguing about TV shows or video games on Wikipedia) then we’d be able to tackle the many problems children face today.
Which is not to say that all mommy Internet enclaves are having productive conversations. Probably the opposite is true.
But the more I think about the issue, the more I think it’s actually framed by problematic assumptions. No offense to MFA Dad (it’s definitely not his frame).
The issue seems to be a product of the typical public/private divide (which is both a hierarchy & a false dichotomy). Women (and many men, too) are bringing the “private” realm of child-rearing into the “public” realm of Internet discourse (with some making the private way too public in my opinion… But that’s a topic for another day…). Some of them are even making serious money doing it!
This chafes against the normal order of things, where certain areas of interest are deemed public & therefore more important or desirable.
This is not to say that every mother loves to participate in mama-related communities or discussions. But it does mean that for those who do, these are legitimate activities. Not less important or less compelling than updating the Wikipedia page on in personam jurisdiction.