On BlogHer

July 31, 2006

Sorry for the delayed update. Erika and I had a much important Oakland A’s game to attend. Even though we left the stadium during the sixth inning — the kids were getting cranky  — we hear our boys won in an amazing comeback in the bottom of the ninth. Woo-hoo!

Okay now for the serious stuff: The highlight of our trip to BlogHer — which had about 700 attendees — was the “Motherhood Manifesto,” a documentary based on Joan Blades’ book, that left us emotional, yet motivated. Blades included all the experts from her book like doctors supporting universal healthcare and a SEIU representative in Chicago making strides on providing a livable wage for childcare providers. Most importantly, Blades — actually the narrator, actress Mary Steenbergen — told the stories of almost all the mothers mentioned in the book.

There was the single mom of two in Pennsylvania who had a hard time finding work when her children were young.

There was the tragic story about a middle class couple that lived paycheck to paycheck, and had to endure some tough circumstances when their son was born prematurely. Mom returned to work four days after her baby was born.

Scarily, there was what appeared to be a solidly middle class couple that was forced into bankruptcy after one of their children was diagnosed with an immune system disease.

Once the documentary is out — this was a preview that is not even in its final cut — it is worth seeing with your friends. You will feel sullen, but you will talk about it the rest of the night.

We did have the pleasure of hearing from the pioneering women in the blogosphere. We attended a session on political blogging — a topic that really interested Amy and I. The panelists included, Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise, Lisa Williams of H2Otown, Jarah Euston of Fresno Famous, Kety Esquivel of CrossLeft, Courtney Hollands of Wicked Local, and Ann Althouse of Althouse. Beyerstein stood out because of her knowledge of the liberal blogosphere, sense of humor and optimism. She said that female bloggers have come of age not only in their numbers, but in prominence. She pointed out that three of the front-page posters on Daily Kos are women and the duo of FireDogLake are quickly catching up to the men in traffic.

It also appears that local blogging is becoming a trend. At least two members of the audience told stories on how they altered media coverage or had an impact on local politics by blogging. Panelists Williams, Euston and Holland, were all local bloggers.

If I can shamelessly give her my most enthusiastic endorsement, Kety Esquivel is a friend of mine who blogs at a progressive Christian site called CrossLeft. Unlike the silent majority of Christians who are letting the wingnuts claim Christianity for themselves, Kety, who has a passion for social justice, has refused to sit on her hands. She said she blogged about politics because she had a moral imperative to do so. Despite the uncomfortable silence and stereotypes surrounding religion — no thanks to the wingnuts — Kety has put herself out there, sitting on panels, hosting discussions, talking about how religion shapes her politics and what progressives can do to retake spirituality.

The only odd “man” out was law professor Ann Althouse who said conservative male bloggers like Glen Reynolds were very friendly to women. She actually admitted that she voted for George Bush in 2004. Considering we were in San Jose, California, Amy and I grudgingly agreed it was very brave.

After the panel, Kety, Amy and I strolled over to a closing keynote of panelists that included the star of the whole event, Arianna Huffington. Huffington, who reportedly has her most personal book to hit bookshelves soon, touchingly discussed her deepest fears about motherhood. One woman in the audience said she was always fearless in setting out to achieve life goals — until she became a mother. She asked Huffington how she overcame her fears as a mom.

“When I talk about fearless, I don’t mean the absence of fear,” Huffington said. “I mean not letting our fears stop us.”

Despite the fame she has achieved, including publishing her first book at the age of 23 — can you imagine? — she admitted feeling vulnerable about her parenting. One of her daughters, she confided, battled with an eating disorder. “It made me question my decisions as a parent,” she said. “Was I too concerned about my weight?”

Apparently, her daughter’s battle is detailed in her next book, which is supposed to read like a memoir. I can’t wait.

Unfortunately, we cut out of the session early because we were HUNGRY. If there is one really minor complaint we had about the conference is there was no dinner, only finger foods and a complimentary (bad) drink at night. My dinner was a few baked potatoes drowned in sour cream and scallions. (Okay, that was pretty good.) I downed it with a Lemon Drop too sweet for my taste.

We also regretted not attending more sessions. We arrived too late for the “mommy blogging” discussion. (Had more than an hour commute.) We purposely didn’t attend the technical training sessions the previous day because we are married to our current format. Sure it’s shortsighted, but we like the fact our blog is open source and has diaries.

What we got most from this conference were the women: the intelligence, passion and energy. It was also cool to see moms bring their kids with them. Women really are redefining the rules of the blogosphere and of business.

I, for one, plan to return to next year’s conference. It’s supposed to be held in Chicago.