The requisite post-BlogHer post, wherein I debate whether or not I qualify as a “blogger”

I just flew back from the BlogHer 2012 conference in New York, pharmacy and boy, cialis are my arms tired. Nah, I’m kidding. My arms are fine. It’s my back and abdominals that are aching with exhaustion, overworked from a particularly nasty bout of food poisoning.
Yep, in true FFF fashion, I managed to get struck down by a few bites of cheese. There I was, scared of an angry mob of haters storming my hotel room, when really what I should have been suspicious of was the ricotta crepes at Bar Americain. Somewhere, there is a lactating bovine (or sheep. Isn’t ricotta sometimes made from sheep’s milk?) with a vendetta against me.  Serves me right for breaking my two-month vegan streak.
The silver lining of my having my stomach contents expelled for nearly 24 hours straight was that, when the time came to read my piece about why lactivism and feminism have a dysfunctional relationship at the annual BlogHer Voices of the Year keynote, I wasn’t even worried about the crowd. On Thursday afternoon, when I’d met with the other 14 Voices of the Year readers for a walk-through, I’d been nervous enough to ask if anyone had ever actually been booed at a VOTY keynote. By the time I took my place backstage, the question in my mind was “has anyone ever projectile vomited over the audienceat a VOTY keynote?” (For the record, I’m pretty sure the answer is “no” to both those quandaries.)
Listening to the other VOTY readers, I came to a rather disturbing revelation, one that had been percolating in the French press of my brain since I’d entered the cliquey atmosphere of the conference: I wasn’t sure I was really a blogger. This was troubling, as I was about to read in a ceremony intended to honor blogging voices; a ceremony that the community takes seriously, and for good reason. I didn’t feel I belonged in this group of infinitely lovable, immensely popular individuals. Bloggers write unbelievably beautiful pieces about dying friends and food-pushing grandparents. Bloggers compose eloquent essays about how your identity is defined (or not defined) through attire. Bloggers make you pee yourself laughing over recollections of writing trite love poems on the iPhone or having unexpected liaisons with Aunt Flo on Aaron Spelling’s overpriced white chairs. Bloggers write in ways that make you want to be their best friend, ways that inspire you, and ways that make you worship them.
What bloggers don’t do is announce to a room full of some of the most powerful parenting voices in the Western hemisphere that they write something called the Fearless Formula Feeder. The silence after my introduction was deafening. Or would have been, were it not for the ringing in my ears. Thank god for e-coli.
Anyway, there must’ve been a few FFFs in the audience (thank you, Ivy, Shannon, and Kim, and anyone else who was there who I don’t know about) because a few folks were sweet enough to cheer for me when I made potentially offensive statements. Despite one strong wave of nausea that I managed to, um, swallow (sorry if that sounds gross, but trust me, it was far grosser actually doing it), I got through the speech. And then I ran, quick as my sensible Naturalizer shoes could carry me, back up to my hotel room to pass out.
The next day, after choking down a few saltines, some Gatorade, and a bite of a waffle, I sat in on some conference sessions. The nagging feeling from the night before returned. I couldn’t relate to conversations about leveraging Pinterest and Instagram to popularize my blog. I attended a fascinating talk about the state of blogging in 2012, but felt more like an interested outsider than a participant. I don’t typically write about products, so I felt like an impostor wasting the time of the vendors in the Expo hall (although I did manage to get some fun samples from a sex toy company. See, now that is the kind of company that should be advertising on FFF. There’s no WHO Code against sex toys.) Networking sort of fell flat, as anytime someone asked me, “What do you blog about?” I would mutter “Cough…Infant feeding and support for formula feeders…cough” and typically be met by a) a blank stare, because the person was a 20-something fashion blogger who had no idea what that meant or b) a suspicious glare, because the person was a parenting blogger and knew exactly what that meant.
Before I knew it, the conference was over (time flies when you’re stuck in the hotel bathroom for half of the scheduled events). I met up for a few minutes with a blogger I adore, and while we were chatting, a colleague of hers came over. “You know, when they announced your post last night, I braced myself,” she said, rather suddenly. “I’m very pro-breastfeeding.” This was when I braced myself, for the inevitable conversation where I would try in vain to convince her that I was pro-breastfeeding as well, and that my point was merely we should have equal support for all moms, etc, etc, I’m boring myself, etc., but then she continued: “I was surprised, though, because I ended up agreeing with every single thing you said.”
Now, I’d met a few folks over the weekend who’d offered some amazingly sweet comments about my VOTY reading that made me feel like a million bucks, and were far less backhanded than this. Yet, this was the comment which meant the most. This woman had been willing to listen with open ears, and allowed herself to have a subliminal dialogue with me. She was willing to consider another side of the issue; to allow herself to be changed in some small way.
And that is when I realized that I was, indeed, a blogger. Because unlike static forms of writing, bloggers care about the conversation. It’s about a give and take, a trust between blogger and reader which means we can allow each other in on a regular basis; we can agree on some days, and disagree on others. Bloggers are deeply affected by their readers, by their comments and criticism. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
There are times I’ve worried that other popular mediums have made this blog irrelevant; that now that the book is coming out, I’ve said all there is to be said. But this weekend, despite feeling like a bit of an outsider at BlogHer, I finally feel confident in defining myself by this particular platform. I may not do product reviews, or make people laugh or cry, but my blog allows me to work out my thoughts in long form; it allows me to learn from every one of you, the open-minded and the intolerant, the unbearably mean and the unbelievably kind. My twitter feed is shallow and undeveloped; my Facebook page is somewhat out of my control, and belongs primarily to the community; but this space – this blog – remains mine, in the sense that I get to drive the conversation, and learn from you all on a deeper, more reflective level.  And that is something worth celebrating. Once I fully recover from food poisoning.

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.


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52 thoughts on “The requisite post-BlogHer post, wherein I debate whether or not I qualify as a “blogger”

  1. Oh you are so a blogger and a great one at that. Maybe you dont do reviews or giveaways but you do something better! You support feeding babies – feed them damn it! lol Anyway that works for you! Your support is amazing and I am blessed to have found this BLOG!! 😉 I am so happy you got to meet Shannon – jealous that I missed your speech though. I would have cheered! LOUD!! Maybe next year?!?!
    Thanks for BLOGGING! ;o)

    PS – sorry you got food poisoning! Not fun!! 🙁 Rest up!

    ~Censie :O)

  2. You are an awesome blogger and doing something much more important than so many bloggers out there. I am grateful for your words. And I hope you feel better!!

  3. Your blog has made me laugh and cry. It has given me strength and acceptance of my weaknesses. Your words have touched places in my heart I didn't know were there and the sensible, respectful and intelligent discourse, which results from (most) of those who also follow this blog regularly, restores my faith that women can treat each other the way we should.
    “Bloggers write in ways that make you want to be their best friends, ways that inspire you, and ways that make you worship them.” Sorry to let you in on this little secrete – but you are all these things: I couldn't think of a better friend to have, you do inspire and you are worshiped.
    This post, however, reflects something else I love about you. Humility. Here you are, the only blogger I care to follow, who inspires me, who makes me feel like you are one of my best friends yet you don't realize how great you are.
    Thankyou for this blog and for all you do, for all of us, in the face of great opposition (and vomit).

  4. You couldn't possibly have known how much I cried when I found your blog, but I did. I cried because someone took on the folks proclaiming themselves to be “evidence-based” and pointed out how that evidence often isn't really so much as evidence but opinion with fancy titles. I cried because someone else had walked a mile in my shoes and was still strong after that journey. I cried because someone else understood. The laughing came later, as I read more of your work and met other people through this place who had also walked the same journey–people who were attracted to an amazing person like you because they're amazing people too.

    So forgive me if I laugh at the idea that you don't make people laugh or cry. 😛 And congrats, congrats, congrats on having the courage and intestinal fortitude (I mean that in every sense of the phrase) to get up there and speak!!

  5. I'm with Teri. I've said it before, but I'm going to say it again – this blog changed my life. Epiphany style. Big “lightbulbs going on in my head then short-circuiting on the tears I cried” style. You were the first (and at that point, the only) person who had said that sexual abuse was related to a desire not to breastfeed. Seriously. I wish I could put into words how I felt upon reading that – “vindicated” doesn't go anywhere near far enough.

    To me, this blog is worth a million of pages about fashion or about sport or about whatever else it is people blog about. This isn't about passing fads. This is about people's lives. This is about right, wrong, and standing up for the underdog (who shouldn't be an underdog, because hey, aren't there more of “us”?).

    You are the original, and best, Fearless Formula Feeder. Hear you roar!

  6. You ARE a blogger, and a fearless voice that speaks for so many of us. I was thrilled that you spoke at BlogHer, and I posted a picture of you speaking on our Attachment Parenting/Formula Feeding FB page. I captioned it with a teary-eyed “The FFF is speaking at BlogHer right now, and she's making us proud!” post. What you said is so important. So honest. So badly needed in this conversation. I am SO thrilled that your blogging voice stands up for us, and stands up for families….even when you are terrified, and even when you have food poisoning 😉 YOU DID IT!!! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  7. I think you should go with your initial feeling, because you are in fact not a real blogger. I am glad you are finally realizing that you have nothing to add in this world with your blog and that you are really just wasting everybody's time. Your time would be much better spent taking care of your family instead of writing “blog posts” filled with lies. Your title is more or less laughable (or something to cry about, however you want to see it) so I guess you could count that as an accomplishment. So please just pack up your blog and move on. Thank you.

  8. You have helped me make my pregnancy just a little sane. After the past 6 months (death in the family, family hostilities and petty drama, my brother moving out of state, and this pregnancy was a bit of a surprise…) I have really, really needed assuaging some of the drama/fear/guilt I was dealing with about my conflict over not wanting to breastfeed. I and most definitely my husband thank you for this blog from the bottom of our hearts.

  9. Seriously? Your time would be much better spent taking care of your family rather than trolling random websites and harassing people who disagree with you.

  10. Of course you are a blogger! You may not be a personal mommy blogger or a fashion blogger or a photography blogger; however your blog is completely unique which in my mind makes it even better. You serve a niche that no one else really does. Thank you.

  11. I assume you're Anna's husband. Welcome to the blog! I appreciate your suggestion but I actually never questioned whether or not I had something to “add to this world”. I was pondering whether this platform served the same purpose as most “blogs”, on a philosophical level; it was more a question of self-identification. Perhaps you're not familiar with the blogosphere, but there are, in fact, blogs representing every sort of opinion and “stance” out there. Not all blogs are about parenting or infant feeding. There are political blogs, craft blogs, religious blogs, feminist blogs, literary blogs…the list goes on. Just because you don't agree with someone doesn't mean their blog doesn't serve a purpose for others who do agree with what they stand for. It's the beauty of freedom of speech. Same right which gives you the ability to attack people online, and lucky for you I give mad respect to this particular right, because I would have LOVED to hit 'delete' on this comment.

  12. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that you are an awesome blogger! You write beautifully, your audience adores you, your readers respond to what you have to say, and you are great at getting information out into the world!

  13. I remember those early days when I was just trying to figure what had gone wrong, what I could have done differently, what I could have done better and just kept reading page after page of the same advice, the same statistics and the same shaming that was unhelpful and demoralizing.

    And then I found this page. Filled with sanity and reason, this is a website and a writer with a self-depreciating sense who isn't afraid of asking tough questions. A voice that is willing to seek the facts beyond ever popular the two-minute soundbite, a blogger who was speaking to me and to my experience.

    I don't think I could ever thank you enough for putting yourself out there, being our champion and giving us a community and a voice.

  14. You most definetly are a blogger and I LOVE LOVE LOVE that I found this page! It got me down off a ledge when I was contemplating parenthood (and completley horrified by the breast vs. bottle “wars”) and has given me the courage to embrace parenthood in the future without falling victim to the lies about breastfeeding/formula feeding.

    As for the troll, NO FUNCTIONING BREASTS NO OPINION. Plain and simple. EFF OFF! Men like you are the reason I'm glad divorce is an option in this world.

  15. I wish I would have found you long before I did. I think you are a real class act because you calmly and intelligently stand up to some pretty nasty, judgmental and rude people. I wish I could remain that calm. I love it here. There is one thing I wish I saw less of on here though. And that is all these beautiful, loving and kind moms that feel so guilty for not being able to breastfeed their precious babies. I wish I could take all that guilt from them all (and in some cases the person/people who may have attributed to that guilt by bashing them) and throw it away. Love those babies no matter how you feed them. If our babies could talk, they would say “hey mom, I'm ok. See me smile? Hear that belly laugh? See how much I'm growing and learning? I'm ok mom and I love you.” I don't think they would tell us we are lazy, selfish idiots who don't deserve to be their moms. Keep on blogging honey, because I think some of us would be lost without our fearless leader 🙂

  16. So, anyone who doesn't agree with you should shut up?

    Just what are these “lies”? I'm assuming you're referring to her questioning of infant feeding studies and the assertion that formula is a healthful option. The Fearless Formula Feeder does her homework and is very vigilant about accuracy, correcting herself on the rare occasion she does get something wrong.

    The Fearless Formula Feeder's place in this world– or in the blogosphere anyway– is offering support, reassurance and advice to those who use formula. And she does a bang-up job. Thanks for demonstrating just how needed she and her work are.

  17. 1) You rocked VOTY. You are not only a blogger, but one of the best.
    2) I can't BELIEVE you did that with food poisoning. I had to practice not throwing up for weeks and I had no such excuse
    3) Your words are so incredibly important and empowering to women (f off, troll.) I breastfed each of my kids for a full year, exclusively. I also hated almost every minute of it. And that, as you so eloquently point out, was MY choice to make.
    4) So glad to have met you, and looking forward to a beautiful friendship 😉

  18. Lady, you are totally in the right place. I wish I could have seen you read, and you know I would have cheered you long & loud!

    And you did it with food poisoning? You really ARE amazing.

  19. This site has been the only one that I've seen that supports women who can't breastfeed because of problems with previous sexual abuse. It seems like on a lot of sites I've been to it's basically offensive to them that a woman might have an issue with breastfeeding because it's a trigger.
    I also found lots of information about food allergies and what recent studies say about formula and kids with a strong family history of allergies. I found a safe place to vent when I found out the studies that I was being browbeaten by WIC with were flimsy at best or when I feel like the only formula feeder on the planet because I really only know maybe one other mom who's not at least partially breastfeeding.

    Generally this has been a safe place for me and many other people that I can never thank you enough for and I hope it continues to be.

  20. You probably felt out of place in that crowd because you're smart, thoughtful and use blog posts to think difficult matters through in a way that today's micro-blogging sharing-random-thoughts-at-random, hey-how'd-you-like-my-shoes versions of the form don't do so well. But you're bloody well creating community here in a way that none of us could have found elsewhere and I'm glad blogging allowed you to do this and to get your thoughts out there in a world where many of us don't really have someone to talk to about these very idiosyncratic, intensely personal struggles. (And rest up!! Food poisoning is truly awful!!!!)

  21. I may not have tits, but that doesn't mean I should be lumped in with people who post like one! If you take time to reflect on your “NO FUNCTIONING BREASTS NO OPINION” statement, Doesn't that mean that women with IGT, women who have survived mastectomy and a host of other issues which make milk production impossible have no opinion? Always be vigilant that we do not become the thing we despise.

  22. ACK!!! Neil (and Patricia) you both are absolutely right. I hastily posted last night after reading the troll's infuriating statements and didn't take the time to think about how that sounded. What I was reacting to was his accusation that this blog is full of lies when he himself will never have to breastfeed a baby (or make the decision to or not). So who is he to say that everyone's story/experience on here is a lie? Does that make sense?

    It also makes me see red when any man (who by default will never breastfeed) thinks he can tell a woman to nurse (or not nurse). And considering the nonesense he was spewing about this forum, it wasn't really a stretch to assume that he thinks all women should breastfeed and that formula feeding isn't a legit choice (because after all, everything anyone says on here is “lies” ).

    To anyone I may have offended, I am sincerely sorry. Lesson learned on thinking how something sounds before posting. For the record, I would NEVER say (or think) that someone with cancer, IGT (which I may have myself-showing some of the physical signs), formula feeder-shoudln't have an opinion. I do, however, think soemone who will never have to breastfeed and go through what many on this forum have described in their struggles has no right to accuse those same people of telling lies on here (which is what I should have said from the beginning). And that NO ONE (man, woman, doctor, nurse, mayor) has the right to dictate to a woman what to do or not do with her breasts.

    Also really good point on not becoming what we despise.

  23. Ok I dont know why “” was put at the very end of my post after “Also really good point on not becoming what we despite.” But I did not post that. I actualy legitmately do think that's a really good point and not sure why that was slapped onto the end of my post.

  24. I am so proud to call you a friend. I've watched this blog become a treasure on the internet, win awards, create pause and discourse in a space that often feels like it lacks critical thinking, and that is amazing. I know the book will be amazing, but I hope that you continue to post your thoughts here and blog as the FFF even as new projects emerge that might take you away from this space.

  25. You are still my favourite blogger. I don't have much time for reading blogs or following much on facebook lately, but yours is the blog and the facebook community I always go to read when I have a moment. You have made me laugh a lot and cry a little and I have absolute admiration for your openmindedness, thoughtfulness and self-questioning, even when I disagree with you. For those who think I'm some formula-loving, breastfeeding-hating type (because FFF knows I'm not, as she is not), I breastfed for a total of 12 years (longer if you counted years of tandem-nursing) and have been an LLL leader and lactivist for over 16 years.

  26. It's funny how your perspective on stage can differ from the one on the audience. What I heard were a whole lot of cheers at a few points that you made. Tons of nodding, and thoughtful acknowledgment (as Magpie said) at a few new revelations. And finally a huge whopping round of applause for an incredibly articulate blogger (yes blogger) who read a compelling piece with the passion and poise of a best-selling author.

    I had no idea you were sick at all.

  27. As someone who breastfed her first, is breastfeeding the second and has no intentions to formula feed- I do like your blog an awful lot. You are a wonderful blogger. You have helped me get over my “sanctimommy” attitude I had with the first few months post partum with my son. I wish there was a parenting community somewhere that could take the attitude that you bring here of support to all mamas.

    And @ the troll…. go back to your bridge, there's a billy goat who is trying to cross it….

  28. Your post made people think, and to reiterate what I said to you at the conference, you did a wonderful job presenting it. We may be decidedly different on paper, but I was more than happy to have you represent our community at VOTY. Well done.

  29. Keith, you may not get anything from this blog, but there are many of us that do. I will be forever grateful for finding the FFF. The saddest part of your post isn't your harsh words, but the fact that those words do absolutely nothing to promote breastfeeding. You are just getting enjoyment out of being mean. This is a blog for intellegent and informed people. It isn't just for FF's, even though you will find a lot of us here. I do have to thank you though for being the poster child of a beastfeeding bully. You have perfectly illustrated why this blog is so desperately needed and valued.

    FFF, you are a godsend:) I'm so sorry you were plagued by food poisoning while at BlogHer. I wiah I could have been there!

  30. I missed VOTY, but I would have applauded loudly for you. In my humble opinion, you are a WRITER who blogs. Many blogs are boring, tedious, and uninteresting, but yours is utterly readable. Congrats on your VOTY and on making it through Blogher with food poisoning – and a sense of humor.

  31. I was in the audience as you read your post. And I hooted and hollered like I was the Captain of your very own cheer squad. We may not have met, but what you said RESONATED. And on behalf of formula feeders such as myself, and WOMEN everywhere, it was glorious to hear you voice your opinion in such a truly spectacular fashion. You rocked that VOTY as much, or MORE, than all the others. Truly. Congratulations. You are a FABULOUS blogger.

  32. I've almost forgiven you, Brooke, and Megan for missing the conference this year. I hope you can get your butt to Chicago so we can recreate 2011.

  33. Rina, that means so much to me. More than you could possibly know. And I learn so much from you – you are one of the people I was thinking of when I wrote this. Blogging allows me to converse with people like you who open my mind in new ways and chip away at some of my innate biases… thank you for that.

  34. I'm starting to feel like a broken record with all the 'thank yous' so I just want to say – you guys have blown me away with these comments. Each and every one (well, maybe Keith's) has been like a tiny gift in my inbox. That sounds remotely dirty, but you know what I mean.

    Thanks, all of you. I mean it.

  35. Hey- I jumped over here to read your blog after reading your comment on mine and loved the philosophical questioning about whether you are really a blogger and your conclusion that you are! I didn't read all of the comments, but the one particularly negative one I read just added to your point, and made me remember why reading the comments section is often an absurd way to spend your time. But anyway- I'm so sorry to hear that you were so sick- That's awful! I wouldn't have known it listening to you speak. As a feminist who has breast fed, I thought your talk was brilliant- I even took notes. For me, it came down to three things (your quotes) 1. “it is every woman's right to define what being a woman means to her 2. Breastfeeding needs feminism but formula feeding also needs feminism 3. and that formula feeding allows women to not be “reduced to biological functioning”
    What you said was powerful and revolutionary! Absolutely keep up the fight. This is about women's choice and we should not be divided as women about how we feed our children (or anything for that matter). I applaud you, again. Thank you for your blog and your voice. And yes-next year we should get a feminism and blogging room up and running! Thanks again!
    -Liza Wolff-Francis, Matrifocal Point

  36. Other than the occasional comment that really doesn't contribute to the conversation, I find the comments here, in particular, to be part of what makes this blog so fantastic!!

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