30 January 2013

Why are mummy bloggers special?

This morning, I had a fight with a dictionary on Twitter.

I love dictionaries and as an editor and writer, The Macquarie is my standard reference because it defines Australian language and incorporates new language quickly.

The annual Macquarie Word of Year survey is asking readers to vote for their favourite new words from 2012. Since 2006, this wonderful competition has made words like flashpacker, bromance and tweet acceptable in Scrabble.

"Mummy blogger" is on this year's list.


I thought we were over defining profession/job/hobby/interests by our gender or reproductive choices?

So, I asked @MacqDictionary what we call bloggers who aren't mummies.

The big dict answered: "Bloggers. Or if blogger is blogging about a specific subject then can incl the subject eg celeblogger, wine blogger, etc"

Firstly, how many grammar problems are in that tweet? If you tweet on behalf of our national dictionary, get someone to proofread everything you publish. (I'm a freelancer and will do it for a reasonable fee.)

But, back to the issue, Macquarie says that anyone who isn't a woman writing about her life with her children is a "blogger" and that adding an adjective is optional. So why are mummy bloggers so special?

I put mummy blogger with the likes of lady doctor, male nurse, chick lit, women's tennis and actress (yes, I need a whole post on this one); the gender definition acts to belittle.

Mummy blogger came into our vernacular over the last couple of years and is mostly used with quotation marks to be extra condescending and to ensure that "mummy bloggers" aren't confused with serious or real bloggers.

I dare anyone to argue that blogs about the experience of being a parent are not series or real. Or funny or terrific reads for non-mummmies.  And what do we call sites like mamamia.com.au, which started as a mere "mummy blog" and is now one of the most-read online magazines with writers and readers who aren't mummies?

@MacqDictionary also got back to me following a contributing tweet about reporting common usage with: "As a dictionary, we remain unbiased in reporting of language and its use. Common usage is king (or queen)!"

Because a discussion about gendered language is always made more funny by joking about gendered language. How about "Common usage rules"?

But if this were just a simple reporting of common usage, where's food blogger or travel blogger? I'd bet that there are more jokes made about food blogs than mummy blogs.

The common usage of "mummy blogger" is generally offensive and used to undermine the blogger.

According to Macquarie's Dictionary's Facebook page, the dictionary agrees by discussing how when women writers were invited "to have morning tea with Julia Gillard in 2012" it "emerged that not everyone is happy with the label 'mummy blogger' which to some seems to be a bit of a put-down."

So the unbiased dictionary appreciates and understands how even ladies having scones with our lady PM don't dig the term. And I'm pretty sure that a group of non-female writers would have been "invited to meet with the Prime Minister", even if they did have mini-muffins and tea in delicate cups.

I'm with those writers who don't appreciate the put-down. Mummy blogger is commonly used to undermine and separate "mummies" and women from other writers and I'm not happy seeing it in a new word survey by our national dictionary.

Sadly, voting for Word of Year 2012 closes on Friday 1 February, so there isn't really any time to fight to get it removed from the list, but I'm not voting at all this year and I hope that when the results are announced on 6 February that "mummy blogger" loses so badly that it becomes one of those terms that's forgotten as quickly as it developed.

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