Geeky Gals at the BlogHer Conference

I know I was being cheeky by commenting on Stake Five that we might explore Feminist ColdFusion or ColdFused Feminism, but the interfaces between gender and technology do fascinate me. Unsurprising, now that I’m with a geek who’s feminist and slowly turning into a feminist gee-eek! myself (what else can explain my evangelism around Ubuntu, which is my OS, and various other minor joys around website constructions and blog creations?). Any which way, it made me interested in learning more about the second BlogHer (‘where the women bloggers are’) conference, held in San Jose, July 28-29.

Unfortunately, the BlogHer site is not quite as geek-friendly as you might expect. For one, I couldn’t, for the life of me, find the podcasts of the sessions; I was particularly interested in the Get Deeply Geeky session. For another, not all the live blogs being written about the sessions were as informative as I’d hoped they’d be. The person who blogged about the Deeply Geeky session for instance, was enthusiastic but uninformed (for which she apologised a million times online), but why would you be covering a session like that if you don’t know what ‘open source’ is?? sigh. But I did find some great blogs by Christine Herron on identity, race, gender and technology (though strangely, that didn’t seem to encompass issues of sexuality), as well as ideas from the sessions on disaster relief (which included a presentation by Mumbai Help‘s Dina Mehta), increasing blog traffic and blog community architectures.

However, I have a sense of unease from afar… So the disclaimer is: I wasn’t there, what do I know? Still, from the trawling I did do (and got frustrated doing, at times – dear organisers, please do a round up of the reports with links to the podcasts!), these are the concerns I’m left with: why did it feel as though the conference was almost entirely about advertising and commerce? As a co-founder of BlogHer is supposed to have said, “We’re the bridge between companies and these amplified influencers.” ‘Amplified influencers’ being the fancy term for those who can swing popular opinion with a stab of their keyboard. And I thought blogging was a space for popular – but more importantly, unpopular – opinion! What happened to asking the tough questions and getting tougher answers?

So here are a few more tough questions. Why did it feel as though the conference was overwhelmingly attended by those who were white, upper to middle class, with presenters almost entirely American (though Dina might have been a notable exception; still, why should non-Americans only be presenters for issues like ‘disaster relief’ and non-whites always talk about ‘identity and race’??)… privileged in one way or the other? The easy answer is that this is the community that blogs, anywhere in the world. But I ain’t sure that’s the only answer.

Why was there so little focus on the politics of blogging? Or even more simply (but not the same), political blogging? What about Iraqi women bloggers, for instance? Forget Iraq, how about, er, the US of A? One impassioned attendee couldn’t believe that so few people had even heard about DOPA, let alone were protesting about it. DOPA is the aptly acronymed Digital Online Predators Act, proposed by the Republicans and just passed, by 410 to 15 votes, which would mean kids without home computers have no access to social networking sites like MySpace, amongst other sillinesses.

And really, what is it about these nomenclatures for bloggers? Now perhaps I’m being snivelly from a distance, but my head whirled with the categories: ‘identity bloggers’, ‘food bloggers’, ‘edu bloggers’, ‘mommy bloggers’ and Geeky Mom who refused to be identified as the last! I ask myself, where would I – with a set of categories that far exceed my number of posts – place myself? Nowhere and everywhere?

I guess that was the great joy of the conference at the end of two days, though. That there was both a sense of community as well as a sense of audience – a great aspect of being content producers as well as consumers at the same time. And like Robert Scoble said, which other techie conference would have the entire bunch of participants sit down on the floor for a session? Or have a blog post devoted to the bags and boots of the conference? The last tough (or perhaps not) question is: are women really the stereotypes they says we are, or do we try hard to be the stereotypes in order to make sure we don’t upset the markets? And that’s all we are? Markets? ouch.

2 thoughts on “Geeky Gals at the BlogHer Conference”

  1. Hey Beth, I actually enjoyed the boots and bags! My concern is when women coming together, bonding, celebrating – and plain having fun – gets turned into a set of stereotypes, what do we do? And more critically, what happens when that set of stereotypes becomes seen as a set of markets?

    Again, I have to say, this was all a view from afar – entirely online based – but it did seem to me that a space for solidarity, for potential activism around women’s/digital issues (of whatever kind) felt like it became overwhelmingly a space for commercial opportunity. I’m not saying online commerce ain’t good – it clearly provides economic opportunities for women in convenient ways – but it shouldn’t overshadow everything else. I’m hoping you’ll tell me I’m completely wrong and got an entirely biased perspective because I didn’t find all the blogs about the good stuff and didn’t get to read the rest of your blog before I wrote my post. 🙂

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