Yesterday, I came across the Bitch Magazine article “Better Homes and Bloggers“ through Deva’s blog. “Are lifestyle blogs a new way for women to compare themselves and come up short?” it asks. This is the kind of meta conversation that I love, and this one happens to bring up some issues that I’ve thought about a lot lately. While the discussion about whether or not bloggers are “real” isn’t that interesting to me (I think there are a lot of perfectly good reasons a blogger may choose to keep her blogs positive, including, um, not being an asshole to friends/family/coworkers on the Internet) and I have mixed feelings about the whole “I compare myself to these bloggers and feel inadequate!” thing, the part that I really got into was the discussion on privilege, class, and diversity as it relates to the lifestyle blogosphere.
From the article:
“For many, blogging is a relatively easy, low-cost way to share personal anecdotes and explore interests in an accessible medium. And, in contrast to mainstream lifestyle media (Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living) that tends to be more intent on raising ad revenue than bolstering women’s spirits, lifestyle blogging puts representation into the hands of the homemakers themselves. At the same time, there is something a bit uncanny about the genre…coupled with the focus on domesticity and the home, bloggers start to resemble a contemporary, superwoman version of a stereotypical 1950s housewife. These women don’t just maintain squeaky-clean, camera-ready homes and adorable families, they also run independent businesses, wear perfect outfits, rock exquisitely styled hair — and find the time to blog about it.
…It is also worthwhile to point out what kind of lifestyle is being promoted and who the face of it is. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the most popular lifestyle blogs, the ones with the largest readerships and tendency to be featured in other media, are usually authored by Caucasian, middle-class, straight women. Claudette, who is black, remarked that the lifestyle blogs she reads are like an extension of mainstream society’s preference for ‘happy white women,’ and could not think of any lifestyle blogs by black or Latina women, though obviously they exist. Another reader echoed this sentiment, stating that while she felt there was an Asian-American presence, especially among blogs focusing on fashion and style, she recognized a strong whiteness to the world of lifestyle blogging.
…So while lifestyle bloggers can rightly claim that their ‘choice’ (that is, their privilege) to not work outside the home, their choice to be primary parents to their children, and their excitement about rewallpapering their downstairs bathroom is just that — an individual choice. But an accumulation of such choices promotes a homogenous narrative indistinguishable from those that have come before. And no amount of glitter can freshen that up.”
I actually don’t read many lifestyle blogs, mainly because I find them sort of boring — acquiring pretty things is quite low on my list of priorities these days. I tend to browse that section of my Google Reader when I’m in need of a pretty distraction; these blogs are like my version of reality TV. (Which is probably why it doesn’t bother me that they are carefully edited and not totally “real.”) But last year, as I sought blogging inspiration in many different niches, I started to pay more attention to them…and that’s when I really started to notice the problems outlined above. And I started to think about it meant for me, and for other women like me.
What the article in Bitch is saying is saying is absolutely true: lifestyle blogs are overwhelmingly white and well-off, and it’s frustrating that women of color and working women aren’t better represented. But…duh. Who has time for living the aesthetically-pleasing life and writing about it when she’s busy winning bread? (Or, in my case, trying to make enough bread to pay back all the loaves she bought on credit to put herself through college.) Not a lof of women — and I think that’s a huge factor in who is represented by lifestyle blogs (and healthy living blogs). Yes, blogging can be a low-cost way to share personal anecdotes…but successful blogs don’t come cheap. Blogging is time-consuming as hell and that time is absolutely a privilege. While I don’t begrudge anyone for having that time (and I actually think a lot of creatives dream of being supported by someone so they can focus on creating instead of on making money), I think this hurdle is what keeps most women who work outside the home from having successful blogs, particularly blogs in a genre that relies heavily on beautiful pictures and relatively time-consuming leisure activities. I say this as a woman juggling a full-time job and a few part-time ones, and who considers it a huge victory every time she hits “publish” on a post. (Seriously, every single time, I’m just like…amazed that I pulled it off, mainly because so many days, so many posts, I don’t.) Despite the fact that my jobs are relatively flexible and pretty enjoyable — two huge privileges that I’m incredibly grateful for, and that make me, um, not that much of an improvement on a lot of these lifestyle bloggers in terms of representing the average working woman of color — it’s still hard for me. I’ve noticed that the blogs that I follow that seem to be a little more grounded, a little more relatable, a little more diverse, tend to pretty much all be multi-author blogs, and I don’t think that’s an accident. With each passing week, I become more convinced that running a successful blog is a full-time job in its own right (but, of course, if you leave a “regular” job to blog full-time, you suddenly lose the thing that made you relatable to working women in the first place). So of course most women are going to say, “Fuck it.” Of course the women who have time and financial support are going to dominate this area.
And that’s a shame. I mean, I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to have a blog on top of a full-time job. And I don’t resent anyone for having the time or means to write about her life, nor do I think anyone who has that time has a responsibility to represent my life. So I don’t really have a solution (and neither does Bitch) but it’s something I think about quite often.