This is My Kingdom, No Apologies Here

What’s this, I hear you ask, two posts in one weekend? Why yes, that’s what happens on this blog: it’s anarchy, no rules! Okay, I’m being a bit silly here, but there is a reason for it. This blog is not structured the way some other blogs are. Any regular features that I do have happen when I feel like posting them, or when I’m compelled to write about them, not through a set and pre-determined schedule. I tried that once with my poetry, trying to post it on Wednesday as a regular feature. This failed miserably, because this blog, and my written content, are rarely things that can be scheduled neatly. They just happen. Do I therefore think my blog is better than blogs that do schedule their content? Absolutely not. Some of the best blog features I like happen regularly, on the dot, on specified days. Is this a critique of blogs that are different from mine? Nope. So why am I talking about this? Here’s the deal ...

I get tons, and I mean tons, of unwanted and unasked for ‘suggestions’ and ‘advice’ from strangers and marketing companies on a regular basis, telling me what I need to do to turn my blog into a ‘popular’ one. While some of these suggestions mean well, the majority are thinly veiled attempts to turn me into a type of ‘brand’ to be exploited, or, when they come from individuals, to make snide remarks about my blog. These are some of the complaints of what’s ‘wrong’ with my blog (things in quotation marks are direct quotes):

: : My content is too “controversial” and I should “tone down the feminism”
: : “Women find smart women intimidating”, I should consider simplifying my language to be more “accessible”
: : My posts are “too long” and I’m “too articulate” (seriously!)
: : I’m too “opinionated”
: : My posts should aim to be “no more than 350-500 words”
: : I shouldn’t say I have a PhD, because that implies “you’re better than everybody” (WTF?)

I could add more, but I’m getting angry again just typing these. Let me answer all of the above in a few simple words: no way, ever, not going to happen. Firstly, the presumption that it’s okay to ‘advise’ me in this manner is wholly condescending, and honestly, I highly doubt a male blogger would get such emails on a regular basis, as if he were some child in need of guidance. Men with opinions are allowed to be smart, serious and articulate, but when women do it they are “intimidating”, threatening and unrelatable. I’ve worked hard for my education, and English is my second language. I am proud of the fact that I have studied, that I can express myself well and that I choose to be serious on matters that are important to me. And if this alienates or intimidates anyone, tough; I can’t control how others respond to me. I will not bend myself to please others on my own blog. I’m not here on this earth to be eternally pleasing to everyone around me, and neither is any other woman.

There is this constant subtext that women mustn’t rock the boat on blogs, that they must represent a ‘mass appeal’ to the public, men, other women and their readers that makes them all feel good about themselves. Guess what? That’s not my function in life, I wasn’t born to serve anyone else. I have my own life to lead, and if I choose to write about the things that matter to me in long and serious prose, anyone who encounters my blog also has a choice to either read it, or not. But they do not have the right to tell me what to do.

I’ve been reading through some of my previous posts today where I’ve addressed some similar emails I’ve received. I cringed at my apologetic tone in some of my replies. And I felt like a hypocrite, because how can I expect other women to stand up for themselves, when I’ve apologised for being myself? So let me say this now: this is my kingdom, you’ll find no apologies here anymore about how I post, what I post, and when I post. But there is another issue here that is bigger than me alone.

This is the issue of what we want blogs to be, in a blogging culture that can often be largely dominated by women. Blogging can be such a wonderful medium for women to voice both their lives and wider concerns. Do we want all blogs to become market-driven, homogeneous ‘brands’, constructed and polished by companies, or are we going to demand diversity in the blogs that are popular? Yes, okay, let’s have mass-driven brand blogs because some women rightfully want to aspire to that. Nothing wrong with that. But let’s also have different blogs alongside them, and let’s not assume everyone likes the same things. This is a topic that I’ve been thinking about after reading this article on lifestyle blogs by Holly Hilgenberg. I also read some of the comments below it, and while I agree with some of the criticism aimed at this article, I also think some of the comments missed the point. To me, this article was not an all-out attack on all lifestyle blogs, or popular bloggers. Rather, it was a way of starting a discussion about the lack of diversity in the blogs that are popular.

Whenever I talk about aspects of lifestyle blogs, my comments get misinterpreted, as if I am suggesting that there is something ‘wrong’ with lifestyle blogs per se. Not at all, this is not about judgement. Each woman (and man) to her own. There is nothing essentially ‘wrong’ with any of those blogs, and some of the smartest women I’ve encountered through blogging run such blogs (who I consider to be my friends). I’m terrible at delivering beautiful lifestyle and fashion content, which is why I leave it to other bloggers. My interests also lie elsewhere, and I think it should be possible to enjoy a variety of blogs without requesting that they all be the same and imitate one another.

The problem as I see it however, is that the majority of ‘advice’ about blogging I read, and conferences on blogging I hear about, seem to imply a general model of blogging for all, where diversity is killed off. And as Holly Hilgenberg notes, the blogs that tend to get imitated on a mass level are those that “reflect the most limiting vision of traditional femininity”. As much as I know that I will probably lose favour and readers by stating this, I agree. But the other side of me finds it hard to critique any female blogger who works hard to create a blog that may support herself and her family, even if I may not agree with her politics. There are no easy answers to this debate, we just have to be real, voice our honest opinions and keep talking about this matter. So by saying I agree, I’m not attacking other women or other blogs, I’m simply asking for more diverse voices to make it to the ‘top’ list of popular bloggers. And I’m also asking that people stop trying to make me fit into a mould that really shouldn’t be placed on women in the first place.