THE BLOG
19/11/2013 08:32 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Can You be a Mummy Blogger and a Feminist?

Writing about making jam and homemade baby food and wearing high heels because they are something that you enjoy and something that brings you pleasure is a good thing but that doesn't necessarily make it a feminist choice. This doesn't mean there is something inherently wrong with making jam or wearing high heels but these are 'choices' that are made within patriarchal constraints.

This is one of those questions to which the answer should be immediately obvious to anyone with a passing familiarity with feminism; at least, until recently, I thought the answer was an obvious yes. It should be possible to be both a feminist (of any stripe) and be a 'Mummy blogger'. Yet, the blog responses to the panel on feminism and Mummy bloggers at Mumsnet's Blogfest 2013 demonstrate how naïve this position is because of the differences in how women define the terms feminism and Mummy blogger.

Personally, I hate the term 'Mummy Bloggers'. I find it patronising, rude and dismissive. It's the equivalent to 'yummy mummy' and 'MILF'. It's about the denigration of women rather than an acknowledgment of the realities of women's lives. Women who label themselves Mummy bloggers do so for very personal reasons and, whilst I dislike the term, I support the right of women to use the label to define themselves and to label themselves as feminist Mummy bloggers.

Equally, I find the vitriol directed at 'Mummy Bloggers' patronising, rude and dismissive. It's the exact same vitriol directed at every single thing women do: its patriarchal abuse at it's most dangerous: forcing women into taking "sides" instead of supporting each other.

More fundamentally, what the debate over 'Mummy bloggers' does demonstrate is the misunderstandings of 'choice' rhetoric. Every 'choice' a woman makes is not a feminist choice just because a woman made it. It just doesn't work that way. All of our choices are constrained by the culture we live in. Having money makes a huge difference to individual women's choices. Having access to a good education increases women's options. Having a supportive family and partner who does 50% of the childcare and housework changes the options women have.

Unfortunately, the list of things that constrain our choices is much larger: poverty being the biggest barrier to women's abilities to make choices to benefit themselves and other women. The pay gap between men and women is a reason many women 'choose' to stay home with their children; it's hardly a 'choice' if the woman's salary isn't enough to pay the mortgage whilst their male partner, even working in the same job, can afford the mortgage and the bills on their salary alone. Class, sexuality, trauma, race, and disability: these all change women's abilities to make choices. Having access to clean water and indoor plumbing fundamentally changes women's 'choices'.

And, this is where the division between feminism and 'Mummy bloggers' gets messy. Feminism isn't just about equality. If it were, there would be no pay gap between men and women as that is entrenched in law. The pay gap exists because equality in law in a culture that classes women as subhuman will never work. Feminism is about liberating women. It is about recognising women's basic humanity. It is about recognising that all our 'choices' are seriously constrained and denied in our culture. It is about recognising that most women are just trying to survive the best they can.

Writing about making jam and homemade baby food and wearing high heels because they are something that you enjoy and something that brings you pleasure is a good thing but that doesn't necessarily make it a feminist choice. This doesn't mean there is something inherently wrong with making jam or wearing high heels but these are 'choices' that are made within patriarchal constraints. Women who behave as a "good mother" get more rewards than women who do not and the definition of who is and is not a "good mother" changes drastically from literally one minute to the next.

Contrary to suggestions made by Amana Manori, 'Mummy bloggers' aren't ruining feminism. There are 'Mummy bloggers' whose blogs reinforce heteronormative gender stereotypes that harm women as a class and there are 'Mummy bloggers' who actively campaign against such problematic constructions of motherhood. The mass media is far more dangerous than 'Mummy bloggers' in reinforcing heteronormative gender stereotypes and controlling women. Women who write from the perspective that motherhood is the most important, or only, thing that women do which has value are not feminist because they are limiting the options of other women. Mummy bloggers who write about their lives whilst recognising that their 'choices' are not universal are merely women writers defining their own experiences. In many ways, these blogs are a powerful way of subverting the damaging rhetoric about 'motherhood'.

Some women are Mummy bloggers and feminists and some Mummy bloggers are horrified at the thought of feminism, and, whilst I find women objecting to the liberation of women weird, I do not have the right to tell those women whether or not they might be feminists. My feminism is fundamentally different to many women who would label themselves feminists and Mummy bloggers. I certainly wouldn't use the term Mummy blogger myself, despite being a mother, but I understand why some women do so.

However women bloggers label themselves, we must remember that not every 'choice' women make is feminist by default of women making it. We need to acknowledge that our personal 'choices' can harm other women and we need to acknowledge that sometimes we just don't have a choice. We must acknowledge the constraints within which we make choices that actively harm women as a class without taking this recognition. personally. Surviving doesn't make us bad feminists; it just makes us women.

A little bit of kindness, understanding and listening to other women wouldn't go amiss. After all, we are all trying to survive in a capitalist-patriarchy.