The Obligatory BlogHer11 Recap Post

Last Saturday, I spent the day at BlogHer11, otherwise know as The Event Wherein Way More Estrogen Than Should Legally Be Allowed to Convene in One Place, Convenes in One Place.

Women kind of scare me, to be honest. I never joined a sorority in college, and the majority of my friends in high school were guys (half of which I ended up dating. Yep, I was that girl). I feel more comfortable interacting with those of the masculine persuasion. They tend to be more direct, less catty. I can’t handle catty. I’m a dog person.

So it was with great trepidation that I entered the San Diego Convention Center, where I was sure that everyone would take one look at my “FearlessFormulaFeeder” name tag and either laugh in my face or smack me. I’m not egotistical enough to believe that more than a handful of my fellow bloggers are even aware of FFF, but the website’s name is pretty self-explanatory.

There were a few things I didn’t stop to consider, though. Like the fact that my NAME was far more prominent on my badge than my Twitter handle/web address, and my name isn’t Formula, it’s Suzanne. The font used for the BlogHer nametags was pretty tiny, and considering we were all women with lovely lady lumps, it was difficult to stare at someone’s tag without looking like a pervert. So I had that going for me. Also – and this was a revelation – there are blogs out in the blogosphere that aren’t mommy blogs! There are fashion bloggers! Special needs bloggers! Coupon bloggers! Photography bloggers! Food bloggers! Blog bloggers!

I was ignored, for the most part, and if there was any desire to smack me, it was kept under (Maya/Mobi/Becco) wraps.  I only had one negative interaction, and it wasn’t with a blogger, but a vendor.

Vendors of a variety of products frequent these convention, lurking in the Expo Hall, and sometimes (not so)surreptitiously lounging around the free breakfast (this Warner Bros dude sat at my table for about 40 minutes before realizing that he was in the wrong place. Unless his studio is planning an epic 4D adventure about breastfeeding… come to think of it, I bet that would be a hit…) Down where they belong, in the Expo Hall, the product reps give you freebies, and try and get you to do product reviews/promotions on your blog. I gathered as much free stuff as I could – ice cream bars, coloring books and crayons for the Fearless kiddos, tupperware…they were even giving out vibrators. No, I’m not kidding. Blogging conventions are sexier than you might think.

So anyway, I was wandering around the Expo Hall, politely listening to pitches so that I could score some swag, and I encountered an organic paper company. Their stuff was cute, and I was actually interested in it, so I listened intently to the rep’s schpiel about planting trees for every order, and so forth.

And then she asked what I blog about (cue the surreptitious glance at the name tag attached to my chest). Without thinking, I blurted out “formula feeding”.

Oh man. You should have seen her face. “…And breastfeeding!” I quickly added. Because, well, I do spend a lot of time discussing breastfeeding on here. Probably if you did a keyword search, the word breastfeeding would come up just as much if not more than the term “formula feeding”. I wasn’t lying, but it was kind of a brat move. I wanted to see if her expression would soften.

It didn’t.

“Well, which is it?” she snapped. As if there could be no universe where the two subjects could cohabitate on a blog peacefully. “Both,” I said sweetly, and stood there. She gave me a sideways look and turned her back, leaving me with nothing more than a sample pack of paper cards (which, incidentally, seemed inherently anti-environment. I don’t care if the card stock was made from recycled diapers, it’s a waste when you hand out 25 unusable sample cards with other people’s names/photos/invitation copy on them. They are guaranteed to end up in the trash, er, recycle bin) and my dignity.

Guess I won’t be giving away any organic paper products on this blog. Sorry to disappoint, FFFs.

Still, the overall experience at BlogHer was positive. Where else could lactivist bloggers and formula feeding bloggers (er, blogger, singular) snack on mid-afternoon hummus, side by side? Where else could you see a beautiful AP goddess making her way through a wine party at 11pm, nursing a toddler (I honestly have so much awe for people who can nurse on the go, considering I have a tough time walking and chewing gum) as she walked towards the dessert table, and have a childless fashion blogger step aside in awe of her earth-mother power? Where else could I have learned that it’s not only formula feeding bloggers who receive hate mail and nasty comments, but also kickass women who let their 5-year-olds dress up like Daphne? (The cutest Daphne I’ve ever seen, by the by…)

Seeing each other in flesh and blood is interesting. Many people were cuter in person than I’d imagined, others were older/younger/weirder/cooler. I got confirmation that many bloggers are incredibly uncomfortable in social situations. But overall, everyone was oddly polite. It’s one thing to be opinionated and critical behind the safety of a computer keyboard, another to talk sh_t when you’re behind your arch-nemesis in the taco line. There’s that old internet adage about only saying things online that you would say to someone’s face, and BlogHer brings that to a whole new level.

I’m not saying everyone sat around singing Kumbaya. It was still divisive, and like stayed with like – I stayed with the skeptic/moderate/blogosphere pariah crew; most of the moms wearing sling babies stuck together (and many brought husbands. I could learn a thing or two from these women. My husband would never agree to follow me around a blogging conference like a glorified sherpa). And considering I could only scrounge up enough cash for a one-day pass, I am barely qualified to weigh in on the festivities.

I did have a revelation, though: I don’t really consider myself a “blogger”. I didn’t feel legitimate, surrounded by all these incredibly savvy social media pros. I started blogging because I was lonely, being the only formula feeder in my social circle, and pissed off at the inaccuracy of the information I’d been given about breastfeeding. I never thought about FFF as a business, or considered taking ads, or gave a damn about SEO.

That has to change. I’m realizing more and more that what used to be a single voice in the blogosphere has now become a mere cog in a rapidly evolving wheel. Formula feeding support is popping up everywhere, and while I think this is a beautiful thing, I also know that I need to step it up a notch to stay relevant.

On the other hand, I don’t want FFF to lose its focus or its voice, nor do I want to lose mine. That has become a fear of mine, due to recent events which I unfortunately can’t discuss (yet). So I promise you that even if I start taking this blogging thing more seriously, the worst that happens is you see me being more self-promoting around the interwebz to drive more traffic here; I may have to change the titles of my posts to please the SEO gods; and if anyone is ever willing to be associate with us near-do-wells, I might accept some advertising (hey, if Best for Babes can do it, so can I).

And thus concludes my obligatory BlogHer11 post. Consider it my lame attempt at “pledging” the blogging sorority.

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

18 thoughts on “The Obligatory BlogHer11 Recap Post

  1. @FFF, sorry you're having such a hard time with the blog.

    You make a really valid point about BFing gear. Companies don't actually sell breastmilk, (okay, there are milk banks, but they are nearly as widely used as mama's own milk or formula) but they do sell all sorts of products (pumps, storage systems, covers, nursing bras and tops, BFing friendly carriers, herbal supplements, etc) to aid in BFing. And some of them are pricey. While I don't pretend to think formula companies are saints, they're not the only ones making money off of infant feeding. It's really unfair, IMHO, that BFing blogs can put ads on their sites, and you can't/ have to worry about being accused of being in bed with Big Formula.

    I also find it insulting when people suggest FFers are duped by formula companies. Moms are grown-ups. They know what marketing is. They know ads, samples and coupons are an attempt to sell them something. They know TV networks, radio stations, stadiums and yes, websites sell ad space to help pay the bills. They can– and do– make their own assessment of whether or not to purchase a product being marketed to them. Furthermore, they know a lot of people think breast is best. They are perfectly capable of weighing the pros and cons of each infant feeding method and deciding what's best for their families.

  2. “My husband would never agree to follow me around a blogging conference like a glorified sherpa”

    That's probably the most awesome and accurate statement I've ever heard. =P

  3. I am happy i got the opportunity to meet you in person. you really are cooler in person (yes, i didnt think it was possible either). i do wish we had more time to chat though – that is the downside of such a HUGE conference. Maybe next year?

  4. You're not being whiny! You were just being contemplative about what direction you should be headed with this blog. And, in doing so, brought up a very good point about the ad thing.

    And even if you WERE whining, so what? We're all allowed. I do it ALL the time. 😉

  5. Oh man… everybody, I didn't mean to sound so whiny. I love writing this blog and don't need financial compensation to do so- I was just responding to the concept that I shouldn't accept formula ads, as just that: a concept. It just strikes me as hypocritical and silly that people would assume I'm pandering to big formula b/c they pay for an ad on my dinky blog. Not that they've offered, considering what I say about them in many posts…;)
    It has been a craptastic month for reasons other than this blog and I'm just extending my woe-is-me stupidity where it shouldn't go. Sorry about that, folks. Carry on.

  6. @Antigone – Yeah, that has been my reason for not accepting ads for a long time now. On some level though, I resent that I have to be so discerning. Lactivist bloggers accept advertising from pump companies, nursing bras, etc, and no one blinks. We all use formula here – it's like telling a recipe blogger she can't accept ads from cookware companies.

    That said, I won't accept formula ads b/c I realize the reality of the situation, and I am only as good as my reputation. It pisses me off though. I spend a lot of time on this blog, and as a mom of two who needs to pay a sitter in order to work, it's tough to find the time. Who is going to be willing to invest in this page? Any company who does may get blacklisted, so I'd imagine the only ones interested will be bottle and formula companies. The situation is just really rotten, and I resent that I need to be all high and mighty when the rest of the blogosphere can be financed at every turn and no one accuses them of being in the pockets of the baby carrier industry.

    I'm not angry at you for suggesting this – I totally get what you are saying. I'm just feeling particularly annoyed (and poor) lately…!

  7. Thanks for linking up your recap! I think it's a really fair assessment. I am sad that I didn't get the chance to meet you in person though. :-/ In terms of ads, you could also try to get BlogHer ads, or some other agency like Juicebox or Google Adsense.

  8. Umm…if I were a breast pump company or a nursing supply company, I would pull a classic move used by the formula companies and advertise the heck out of your page.

    I have two friends with toddlers (about a year older than my son), and both give me their Similac coupons that started coming in the mail a few months ago. Wait? Why is Similac sending coupons to mothers of toddlers? Because they're gonna get knocked up again! Heck, maybe they already did. And maybe they'll use Similac this time if they get some coupons! (Note that I no longer receive my own Similac coupons because they've already got me).

    At the very least, they'll give them to their friend who has a baby, and in the process they'll have to open the envelope, remember to take the coupons the next time they see her, and hear stories about her happy, healthy (formula-fed).

    So if I were a breast pump company or a nursing supply company, I would advertise all over your page. Because a lot of your readers are going to get knocked up again someday, and a lot of us are going to take a second crack at breastfeeding. And with our histories, we are a gold mine for future pump, herbal supplement, SNS, hands-free bra, etc. sales.

  9. I was at BlogHer, too, and I'm right there with you on not considering myself a “blogger.” But I was also surprised by the number of other women I ran into who were like me and had never tried to turn the blog into a business, and the number of people who had come simply because they were *thinking* about starting a blog.

    Anyway, I'm glad yours was a mostly positive experience. Mine was a mostly wallflower experience. But at least I got to have it in San Diego.

  10. Love the blog too and my daughter is five and I'm probably 2 years off from child number 2. I like how it deals with a plethora of issues relating to FF and hopefully plants the seed into some anti-formula types that we're not profoundly damaging our children physically or mentally.

  11. Just please don't accept formula advertising because then it would ruin this blog's credibility and that would be a real shame. We need the world to know that support for formula feeding isn't just about greedy evil formula companies preying on hapless women!

  12. This was an amazingly accurate and entertaining view of the conference and I loved it! Suz… you are such a talented and wonderful writer who is, without a doubt, a great blogger. I was so excited that I got to meet you for all of 2 minutes! We'll have to get together soon.

  13. Well, whatever changes you make around here, I'm sure they'll be fine. I'm still reading, and my daughter is 2 and a half. Your posts are interesting and informative, and it doesn't sound like you plan on changing that.

  14. While I see a little more support for those who have no choice but to use formula of late, I still see oodles of judgment against those who chose not to breastfeed. Even when those with medical reasons not to breastfeed are cited, it's still with that old “99%/95% of women can breastfeed” line that's strangely not backed by any evidence I can find, from a so-called “evidence-based” crowd. Maybe the pendulum is starting to swing back toward common sense, but it's still far, far out there (and is some ways, I think, still swinging farther). Even if there are hundreds of blogs supporting those who choose formula, there's still a lot of that arc left before the pendulum gets to the happy middle. If pro-breastfeeding blogs can find ways to stay relevant when you can't swing your arms without smacking one on the internet, I think it's safe to say FFF will be relevant for a long time, regardless of what you do or don't do by way of promotion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *