While cruising around the internet the other day, I came upon a story I had been completely oblivious to…. And it raises some interesting issues about personal boundaries on blogs, worship of bloggers in general, and worship of one blogger in particular.
The dust-up apparently started on July 15, when a well-known Mommy Blogger who calls herself The Bloggess posted an article about another even more well-known Mommy Blogger (who strictly denies being a Mommy Blogger even though most of her writings are about sex, alcohol, or her family) who calls herself Dooce.
You see, Dooce has a level of popularity on the internet that has really reached mythical proportions. She (Heather Armstrong) started blogging in early 2001, writing about things that happened at work, which got her fired about a year later. She was an unemployed drunk (her words) for a while, but eventually turned her blog into something that supported her family by late 2005. Her husband Jon quit his job and they were officially full-time bloggers.
ABC News reports that Dooce makes $40,000 a month off advertising on her site, and gets something like 1 million readers a month. The advertising company she works with says the site gets over 4 million page views a month.
That’s a pretty good gig, if you can get it. And Armstrong apparently understands a lot about this whole blogging thing. I think it is cool that she could turn a one-person blog into something so lucrative, and she’s been able to also get a great book deal out of it.
So it’s no suprise that Bloggess wrote about the mythical proportions of the popularity of Dooce. So many people read the site and know all about Heather’s family. Bloggess referred to her as a mythical creature akin to a “hobbitt,” and it’s clear to me that this entire post was meant as a compliment to Heather.
But Heather is a primadonna, and this did not go over well. Apparently Bloggess ended up apologizing for offending her, but that wasn’t the end of it. At the BlogHer conference (huge event for women bloggers) which occurred several days later, Armstrong gave the closing keynote. And in it, she made a snide reference to hobbits.
How classless of Heather, particularly since this woman had already apologized in private. What? She just wanted to publicly embarrass her? Totally unnecessary and not cool at all. It just seemed like Dooce had some power as the speaker and wanted to flaunt it.
Sure, Armstrong is very popular, but so what? Does that mean she should go around being annoying and diva-ish to everyone? NO.
But that seems to be what’s happening. Sad to say, this blogger breaks down the situation well. (Warning, it’s a harsh piece.) Being a popular blogger doesn’t mean everyone has to bow down to you. Armstrong often uses the role of victim to boost the support by readers. Her husband is known to offer frequent smack-downs to anyone who doesn’t recognize her greatness.
Why do I even care about this?
I admit that I read Dooce fairly regularly, but not really because I like the blogger or the site all that much. It’s more because it’s like the bloody car wreck that you can’t look away from. Heather Armstrong displays her many neuroses for all to see, and it’s actually a bit frightening.
No topic seems off-limits to Armstrong, even though she claims she has limits. You’d never guess it from her posts that regularly include information on:
- Her mental illness
- Her religion (really lack thereof)
- Her promiscuity and other escapades during college
- Her sex life with her husband
- Drinking alcohol (which is quite frequent)
- Her problems with her family and their religious and political beliefs
- Her 4-year-old daughter Leta’s neuroses (inability to become potty trained, age-inappropriate finger-sucking, abnormal aversions to so many ordinary things, etc.),
- The problems of her dogs (totally untrained, pooping everywhere, eating their poop, etc.).
The list is far longer than this, but you get a flavor for what goes on at Dooce.
On the one hand, Armstrong is praised for being so open with her readers and for sharing her troubles without appearing ashamed. People with problems can relate to her and likely feel a strong bond with her and are thankful that she shares these parts of her life.
On the other hand, the blog is so frequently crude (both the language and the topics) and so often makes me pity her and her family. She seems to have no boundaries and doesn’t even make an attempt to respect the privacy of her young daughter, who has no choice in this blogging thing.
Oh sure, you could argue that with the income Armstrong is drawing from the blog, she’s creating a wonderful life for Leta. But frankly, should there really be a price for exploiting your child? Is it fair to make all her problems (which appear to be many) completely exposed to the public for the right price?
I think it’s wrong, but there are many who will disagree with me. There are plenty of bloggers out there like Dooce, who put their family business out there for the whole world to see. Disgusting, disgraceful, and disheartening details…. and the bloggers don’t respect boundaries or possess enough common sense to realize that certain things are meant to be private.
Heck, there’s even a blog called “Leta Speaks” which is apparently written by a Dooce reader who is pretending to be a teenage Leta… damaged from the choice of her mommy to expose everything that should have been private about their family. All for money.
Oh sure, if Armstrong wants to write about her stay in a mental hospital, more power to her. That’s her story to tell. And she shouldn’t be ashamed about her mental illness.
But her daughter’s story… Is that Armstrong’s story to tell? Or might she be better off erring on the side of caution with that?
Heather was recently on The Today Show, and Kathie Lee Gifford “dared” to bring up this very subject: Where to draw the line with pictures and stories about her daughter. And the blogging world was aghast that she’d dare suggest such a thing to the goddess of all blogs. Kathie Lee clearly didn’t know what she was talking about and should not have said such things!
I actually think that Kathie Lee brought up a wonderful point and that she knew exactly what she was talking about. She may not be blog-savvy, but from a perspective of a mom, she sure had her head on straight about boundaries and privacy for children.
So what does this all mean? Not much in the scheme of life. Armstrong will continue to write her blog and make scads of money being derogatory and irreverent, exposing all that should be private. But I’d like to think she could have an equally entertaining site that draws just as many readers if she was a bit less crude, a bit more careful, and a bit more discreet.