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FEATURES | summer 2009

Cyberhood is Powerful
The maternal impulse turns political when you mix moms, feminism and the blogosphere

By Kara Jesella

As a mother of three, there are very few things that are entirely mine,” wrote Jill Smokler of Washington, D.C., in a recent post to her blog Scary Mommy.

“My bed is inevitably invaded by all of the kids sometime throughout the night. My favorite foods are devoured by mouths other than mine and my cosmetics are used for dress-up these days as often as on my own face. My car is filled with car seats and stale Cheerios and my purse is so stuffed with junk for the kids that I can’t even carry my own sunglass case. But this blog? It’s mine. All mine. And that’s what I love about it.”

In the past, a mother feeling overwhelmed might have picked up the phone to call her best friend. Today, she also sits down at her computer and posts to her blog.

In the last few years, there has been a boom in “mommyblogs” such as Scary Mommy. Many of these chronicle the personal details of their writer’s family lives, such as ex-Mormon stay-at-home-in-Salt-Lake-City mom Heather B. Armstrong, whose popular Dooce blog includes her sharing her struggle with postpartum depression.

Not all the mommybloggers might self-define as feminists—although certainly there is a feminist impulse behind the avowed goal of many of them to change cultural perceptions of motherhood—but one might argue that what they’re doing is a virtual version of feminist consciousness-raising: They’re being exceedingly open about their experiences of mothering, and sharing those experiences in an (online) community with other mothers.

A strong subset of the mommyblogosphere is overtly feminist and proudly activist. And Chicago blogger Veronica Arreola notes that among women of color who blog, some are changing what counts as a motherhood issue to include working-class and lower-class issues, such as finding a full-time job, obtaining food stamps or changing immigration law. Arreola focuses her personal blog—Viva La Feminista—on feminism, motherhood and her Latina identity.

Many mommybloggers are concerned with subjects that immediately affect their family and children, such as universal health care and paid maternity leave. Overtly political mommybloggers are often affiliated with motherhood organizations that have developed a strong online presence,including Mothers & More, the Mothers Movement Online, the National Association of Mothers’ Centers and MomsRising. These advocacy groups are often involved in trying to get pro-mom legislation passed and in encouraging direct action.

Many mothers may not start out intending to be political, but as they find their voices, their blogs evolve into forums for political commentary, says Joanne Bamberger, who blogs at Pundit Mom. “I think a lot of moms who don’t identify as political activists or feminists are writing on sites increasingly about issues that are important to them.” Then, as they get comfortable talking about their own mothering issues online, they are “finding their political selves.”

Excerpted from the Summer 2009 issue of Ms. - join the ms. community at www.msmagazine.com.

KARA JESELLA writes frequently about culture for The New York Times, Salon.com, The American Prospect and other publications. She is coauthor of How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time (Faber & Faber, 2007).

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A few favorite mom bloggers

Mom-Blog | www.mom-blog.com
Gina Badalaty has been a mommy blogger since 2002, when she was pregnant with her first child.  Seven years later, Gina is the unexpected mom of two awesome special needs children, with completely opposite disabilities. Follow her struggles and triumphs in parenting, work, life, and faith at Mom Blog.

Momma Politico | mommapolitico.blogspot.com
Politico trapped in a working mom's body, Perry shoots her liberal views and family insanity into the blogosphere as a springboard for readers' opinions. Need a break from the insanity of mommahood? Enjoy politics and want to have your say? Click on Momma Politico and join the conversation!

Mother Talkers | www.mothertalkers.com
Elisa Batista, 32, is a co-founder and moderator of the progressive parenting website MotherTalkers. She also works as a blogger and advocate for the family organization MomsRising.org. She is a journalist by training and profession and has two small children, a five-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter.

PunditMom | www.punditmom.com
Joanne Bamberger, a professional writer and political/social media analyst, writes about progressive politics at her blog, PunditMom, as well as at The Huffington Post & BlogHer. She speaks frequently on mothers and political involvement. Her book about increased activism by mothers will be published in 2010 (Bright Sky Press)

Rookie Moms | www.rookiemoms.com
RookieMoms.com is two geeky best friends' guide to the first years of motherhood. Heather and Whitney share hundreds of activities that are more fun than wiping someone's tushy. They have been writing together since 2005 and published *The Rookie Mom's Handbook* in 2008.

Scary Mommy | www.scarymommy.com
Jill Smokler is the not-so-frightening mom behind Scary Mommy. This blog, whose name was coined by Jill’s children, presents an honest look at motherhood--the good, the bad, and the scary--and chronicles Jill’s experiences as a stay-at-home mom to three children, ages five and under.

this woman’s work | thiswomanswork.com
Raised by a feminist mom who was a charter-subscriber to Ms. Magazine, Dawn grew up on "Stories for Free Children". She has been blogging about writing, homeschooling, and open (transracial) adoption from a feminist perspective since 2001.

Uncommon Misconception | uncommonmisconception.typepad.com
From the dramatic to the mundane and back again. And again. Join me (Julia) as I attempt to figure out this mothering thing, freak out about receiving what I asked for, alternately complain and wax joyous about life in general and my husband specifically, and occasionally talk about waxing, boobs, and beauty products. Or not, your call.

Viva la Feminista | www.vivalafeminista.com
Viva la Feminista is the personal blog of Veronica I. Arreola, a professional feminist, mom and writer. Since July 2007 Veronica has explored what lives at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and her Latinadad and how they impact each other. She also reviews feminist books, films and magazines.

WoLFi TaLEs|  www.worklifeinterconnectivity.com
WoLFi TaLEs is a blog written by Aztec-Rose, a mother who is passionate about Work Life Family interconnectivity (WoLFi). Aztec-Rose's passion is also part of her PhD research which aims is to investigate how parents manage, balance, or juggle their paid and unpaid work with other aspects of their lives.

And some online mothers networks …

Association for Research on Mothering | www.yorku.ca/arm
An international feminist scholarly group, ARM holds “Mother Outlaws” gatherings and publishes the Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering. Mainstreet Moms  www.themmob.org These bloggers promote “bite-size actions” to secure a viable future for children.

MOMocrats |  www.momocrats.com
Mothers write here about politics from a parent’s perspective. The “Run, Mama, Run” series features progressive pro-choice women running for local, state and federal office.

MomsRising |   www.momsrising.org
Members of this grassroots community work for passage of such legislation as the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act and the Furniture Safety and Fire Prevention Act.

Mothers & More | www.mothersandmore.org
Primarily dedicated to consciousness-raising, but chapters are increasingly involved in direct action.

The Mothers Movement Online | www.mothersmovement.org
Interviews and essays highlight a variety of mothers’ issues, such as preventing maternal profiling and discrimination.

MotherWoman | www.motherwoman.org
MotherWoman supports and empowers mothers to create positive personal and social change through: powerful mother's group, innovative programming to confront the feminist crisis of postpartum depression, and effective political action. Mothers face enormous challenges, including unrealistic expectations, isolation, depression and appalling family policy. By valuing and supporting mothers, everyone benefits.

The National Association of Mother’s Centers  | www.motherscenter.org
This network of local mothers’ centers advocates for economic support of caregiving.

Do you blog on politics and motherhood? Want to be on our list? Send your url and a 50-word blog description to jstites@msmagazine.com.