What We Talk About When We Talk About Sexism
It's been a few days, but I still cannot get this thing off my mind. This week, I'm attending a conference for women and mothers in media and marketing.
Ooops, I mean a vodka-infused sorority-style pool party at a posh OC resort where I'll strut around in my best Tory Burch and then maybe pass out into the arms of a cabana boy. Or a fellow mommyblogger. Who knows, anything can happen when us domestic fraus tear off our aprons, bribe our slightly amused, slightly pissed hubbies to cover for us with a few days of babysitting, and, like, totally dare to escape the drudgery of our desperate, mac-and-cheese-encrusted lives.
At least that's what the recent article in the Wall Street Journal about Mom 2.0, a social media, industry and brand conference in Laguna Niguel, would have us believe. That women who leave for a business trip that features networking and workshops on Social Media CPR, Turning Pitches Into Profit, and Empowering Your Small Business for Growth are really just trying to sneak away from their lives for an overindulgent liberation (libation, anyone?) because they cannot handle the job of being mothers.
Just the way daddies slackers men who head over to SXSW, E3 and CES are just trying to get out of mowing the lawn, right?
But this is my audience, and, dear readers, I cannot let this one go without making sure that instead of hanging our heads ashamedly and pretending that story and even more offensive accompanying cartoon never happened, we remind each other that it did. Mothers need the memories of elephants on this one.
It's hard to even know where to begin, there are so many legitimate arguments about why this article is so wrong. Because it patronizes mothers who are pursuing a career development and business networking opportunity the exact same way fathers (typically identified as men) do. Because there are hundreds, thousands, of events just like this every year catering to every professional, male and female both, from pipe-fitting union members to Wall Street traders to ad executives to medical residents to yoga instructors and mortuary owners (you know they must really belly up to the minibar).
Because being a parent and being a professional are not mutually exclusive. Because the writer, Katherine Rosman, is guilty of switch-and-bait bad journalism.
Because a mere three days before I arrive at Mom 2.0, a friend of mine, a guy, will attend Brainstorm Green, a Fortune conference at the same exact hotel, and no one had to read about daddies like him on the loose in the WSJ.
Because even if a small percentage of women attending Mom 2.0 are doing so as a vacation, seeking a well-deserved respite from their daily work (whether that work be web editing or public relations or the equally demanding but unpaid job of parenting), they did not earn the right to be mocked by a major news publication any more than the millions of Americans who partake in holidays and vacations, from Vegas to Hawaii to a cabin by the lake did.
"This July, 5,000 will descend on Chicago for BlogHer '13, where they will listen to speakers give pointers on making money through blogging and taking stylish photographs for Instagram. Ticket packages range from $199 to $1,100, and don't include hotel or travel costs," the story states, as evidence for its vague premise that a novel mommy-conference industry is filling a void in the souls of bored, breeding women.
I went to Disneyland with my family last month. The trip — hotel, food, daily admission, souvenirs — cost a bundle. I've been to conferences on reporter training, health-care for American seniors, and magazine publishing awards in hotels around the country. I'm not sure what this proves anyone guilty of.
The story isn't even accurate. "A booming industry is providing stay-at-home moms with blogging, yoga, cosmetics and home decor conventions," it states. Funny, I'm not a stay-at-home mom. But I'm guilty by association.
Moms are clearly under attack here, for sticking their heads up out of the gopher hole and daring to pursue interests and careers and multifaceted identities.
I know it's crazy, but I don't feel any better. Because it happened. It was published, and that alone shows the persistence of a pervasive problem, a dirty little secret we cannot be quiet about keeping.
It's sexism. Bullshit sexism. It's mothers getting their hands slapped when they stray too far from the kitchen.
Wrapping a garden variety professional conference in the manufactured cloak of the exhausted-mommy-turned-escaped-slutty-binge-drinking-party-girl stereotype is insulting to mothers. This includes stay-at-home and work-outside mothers, and the family members who support us, the companies that rely on our expertise and professionalism as valued employees, and all our children who are looking to the example we set around equality, gender and respect as they ready themselves to one day enter the workforce.
Shame on the WSJ, and to the writer, Katherine Rosman.
This is what we talk about when we talk about sexism, people.
In between school drop-offs and coffee binges, Natalie Singer-Velush is ParentMap’s Web Editor. In her former life she wrote for newspapers and once pumped milk in the bathroom of the King County Superior Courthouse while covering a murder trial. Natalie lives in Seattle with her husband and their two school-aged daughters. Follow her whining, moaning and deep parenting insights.