Monday, September 21, 2009

Marketing to Moms: Panties in a Bunch over Pasties

I'm reading: Marketing to Moms: Panties in a Bunch over PastiesTweet this!

I waffled on this post. I sketched it out in my mind and then I brushed it aside. I let my ideas slip. Now here I am, trying to recapture them, after all.

Jason Falls put up a post that had my panties in a bunch early one recent Saturday morning (9/12). Jason is a thought leader in the social space and by all accounts a nice guy. He seems like the kind of guy you'd like to hang with over a beer at a tweet-up, though he lives in Kentucky, so likely he's more of a bourbon guy and anyway, rumor has it he's partial to Reese's Cup Blizzards. The point is, he seems like Good People.

And not just good, but smart, too! His blog Social Media Explorer is currently number one on Ad Age's Power 150 list of marketing blogs.

So, Jason had a post up, 10 more reasons you should come to BlogWorldExpo, which was witty, yet convincing. He gave a shout-out to folks beyond the good ol' boy network.

For example, this excerpt: Amber Naslund (Radian6), Connie Bensen (Techrigy) and Margaret Francis (Scout Labs), all competitors, will be on the same panel talking about social media monitoring. Arm wrestling may ensue.

As I read his post, he had me going with a smile and an understanding nod, until I got to the #10 reason: "Sparkling Pasties."

Had we actually been at a friendly meet-up when he shared this list, I might have playfully tossed a salty little pretzel at him and rolled my eyes, while sighing, "Oh, Jason...." After all, Blog World takes place in Vegas, home of showgirls!

But perhaps because I read the piece online, when I got to reason 10, I reacted more with a WTH kind of comment is that? And tweeted as much.

Why? Perhaps it's because I'm a feminist bitch with no sense of humor who can not take a joke. At least that what the reaction of some.

Or maybe it's based on a lot of buzz I heard last over the summer. Although I'm not deeply immersed in feminist or tech circles online, I caught wind of several conversations and read a few posts about tech conferences that marginalize women or actively promote a frat boy atmosphere.

Seems to me it's best not to mix in talk of tatas and tech.

As a woman. A petite woman and a "mommyblogger" {cringe}, I feel that some don't take me seriously. (Fortunately, others are smart enough to actually hire me).

Really, how seriously can people take "mommies?" My boys stopped calling me mommy when they were 2 and 4, because "mommy sounds babyish."

And it's not that there aren't petite women who happen to be moms speaking at BlogWorld. Take Eliza Sherman, for example. But she is a self-proclaimed Cybergrrl/Webgrrl. I'm a technospaz who dipped my toes into the blogging world and eventually dove into social media. Sometimes feel like a technoposeur.

When BlogHer came to Chicago in 2007, the traditional media coverage of what was then the world's largest women's blogging conference was scant. Yet the Daily Kos Conference, which took place a short time later, got loads of coverage.

Of course, 2007 is ancient history in social media time. Back then, marketers were just discovering the power of connecting with women who blog.

Now mombloggers are hot. Mombloggers have gone beyond BlogHer. Some moms have started their own blog conferences-- small, estrogen-laden affairs like Blissdom, Blogalicious, and the upcoming Type A Mom Conference. I admit it; to me, there is something safe and welcoming about these events.

But BlogWorld seems larger, less cohesive, possibly even unwieldly. I've heard talk about making it more women-friendly to the point of possibly adding lactation lounges. And this year, not only will there be many women speakers, but I even know several of them. Still, I didn't buy a ticket.

It's quite possible that someday I'll put on my big girl panties and attend BlogWorldExpo, but when I see jokes about pasties, it's a sign that it's not yet the conference for me.

To his credit, Jason "changed [item 10] to something less funny … Er potentially offensive."
I am sorry if I caused any mud to be slung in his direction. We exchanged a few DMs clarifying our thoughts, but I wanted to post to better explain my reaction and concerns.

With so many blogging conferences out there, I'd love to hear how other social media moms decide which ones provide the right fit.

More on marketing to moms who blog.


Jessica said...

Kim, great post. I think you make some great points and while my degree of being offended probably wasn't to the same degree yours was...for a top 10 list, there are so many other cheeky reasons that could have been given.

Having met Jason Falls at BWE09, I am sure his intentions were on the up and up...and it sounds like you gave him the benefit of the doubt based on that. Kudos to you both for hugging it out.

Bravo to you for standing up for what you believe in and standing behind it even when the heat might have gotten turned up.

I went last year and enjoyed it, however, this year I have a speaking engagement during the same time frame at another event and won't be able to go. Next year perhaps!

Tee said...

Confession (as a mom and an woman with a fair dose of body image issues):

I'm really not any more put-off by a comment like that, especially because it's connected to the venue (Vegas) more than anything, than I am about the women who tweet or blog things like "OMG HOT FIREFIGHTER CON NEXT DOOR!" from various womens' conferences. Seems like a double-standard - because it's all objectification in the end.

I also cringe a little bit, because from some spirited conversations I've had with men about this kind of stuff -- decent guys, nice guys, guys who nod and agree about those things when they're talking with women because they don't want to get in trouble or appear disrespectful -- hearing/reading stuff like that isn't making them see women as stronger, more independent or more equal. Instead they've said (and I would agree) that it ends up casting women in a diminutive, whiny, weak, victim-based light, and even role from there forward, which is counter-productive to the whole feminist argument.

But of course they admit they won't tell their feminist friends/girlfriends/etc that, for fear of backlash. They'll just keep nodding and smiling and agreeing. So if we're changing the behavior out of fear, but making no progress on the internal attitudes (or making them worse, as was said above)... what do we win?

I know that's a controversial thing to say, and position for a woman to take, but I still wonder if we wouldn't send a stronger message in the end by just rolling our eyes and not even giving that stuff or those people any attention at all. We're above it, right? Strong enough to not feel offended by one person's general, tongue-in-cheek remarks, especially when they're the same type of thing women are known to do, yes? I'd like to think so.

Jason Falls said...

At the risk of exposing myself to a bit more criticism, which I'm (obviously) happy to discuss and debate with anyone, I will say this:

What I originally wrote can certainly be taken the wrong way and a lot of people can infer what they think it or I stand for as a result. I knew that going in and (even though not consciously) elected to post it anyway. My hope was that the light and playful tone of the rest of the entries prepared people for punch lines and I could get away with a Vegas reference.

Unfortunately, intentions are often lost in reactions and people get sideways, offended or even hurt and despite the fact I would be horrified if I ever really hurt anyone's feelings. I am gloriously unsophisticated sometimes. Sure, that means I might tell an off-color joke from time to time, too. And even though I've apologized for my humor before, I keep trying to make people chuckle in ways that make some folks frustrated.

There were others who reacted more strongly than Kim. One person even said that because I used those particular two words, that meant that not only was I a misogynistic pig, but so were the other people involved with Blog World, Blog World itself was and the environment would not be welcoming of women who didn't want to be objectified.


I'm not defending a bad joke. I'm only pointing out that transferring your reaction to someone's intent, then multiplying that by anyone associated with that intent is short-sighted and mistaken thinking.

It was, after all, a joke. Bad one. Not well thought. Not funny to some. But a joke.

And it might surprise you that I'm glad you didn't like it and glad others didn't as well. Because I learned a lot from the ensuing debate and discussion. It's helped me be more aware and sensitive in what I write. Even if my intent is good, I still need to be sensitive to those who might misunderstand it.

Thanks for pushing back. I learned a lot in the last week.

Evenspor said...

Oh. This explains those comments I saw about the Baby Gluton doll. I thought pasties were a Cornish pastry filled with meat and potatoes.

Boy, do I feel sheepish.

sarah said...

Awesome post.I have definitely stuck with all-women events because I do feel safer there. I have no problem with men but those events just haven't worked out in my schedule and I haven't gone crazy trying to make them either. I think of things like BlogWorld for those serious only about making money at it and those at the mom blogging conferences as those looking for something deeper/richer -- connection AND information.

Naomi said...

"Technoposeur" is the best new label, ever.

kristina said...

I always like your posts Kim because you are authentic and say what you think. You also introduce me to the latest buzz in the social media world.

As for what conferences I attend: well, I only went to BlogHer last year because I'm newer to blogging. I'd love to go to Type-A and the others that you mentioned, but cost is an issue right now. Because I can afford to attend few conferences, I'd likely pick a more female-friendly one. However, should opportunities arise, I'd go to almost any as long as they were in my field.

Anonymous said...

Great post Kim. Thank you for following up with this. While our initial discussion was on Twitter as with so many other subjects this is far too complex a topic for 140 characters.

Even though I would have never made the joke Jason did, I defended him pretty vehemently.

As I said in our twitter discussion the truth is we are imo a very female friendly event. This is not a new development. We have consciously tried to be as inclusive as possible to female speakers and attendees.

It wasn't a marketing ploy or a strategy it was just a common sense good idea that Dave Taylor deserves the credit for.

Dave served as our conference director in 2007 (our first event) and very early on in the process he told me during a phone conversation "we should reach out to women and include them as speakers".

As soon as he said it I knew it was the right thing to do and we actually ask ourselves the question for every session we do "who are the women that can give this talk or participate in this panel"

The misogyny that can be found on many tech blogs and other tech conferences is obvious and I personally find it offensive. If anyone spoke to my wife, or mom, sister, or nieces in that way they would be getting a crack in the head.

People forget their manners on the internet and it has always been an issue for me. I hate it and I call people out for it whenever I can.

With that said when Dave made that casual comment about women speakers, I realized we had to continuously make an extra effort to attract female speakers and attendees.

It is just a simple fact that 90% of our submissions are from men. We have to chase the women speakers. We get out in the community whenever possible. I have been to the last two BlogHer's. We send emails and tweets and leave comments on posts and let women know there is content at our event for them and they are welcome here.

It's not because it fits our marketing strategy, its because it fits our mission of being the industry event and gathering place for all new media content creators no matter their content, community, race, or gender.

All of us have a common cause of growing this medium, and we are all stronger together than we are divided.

Back to Jason's joke. My partners Dave and Libby (yes one third of BlogWorld is owned by a woman)produce BlogWorld to make money, but it is much much more than that to me. This is a personal passion and I think it is very important that I am true to myself when representing this event.

Did Jason's joke cross a line? Undoubtedly for you and some others it did. For anyone that knows him or me or our event I don't think it did and I was obligated to defend him, us and the spirit in which the comment was made.

I am sorry you were offended but I am grateful for the discussion and I am very confident that when you finally do make it to BlogWorld, you will find your fears about our "frat boy atmosphere" are unfounded.

Rick Calvert
CEO & Co-founder
BlogWorld & New Media Expo

Leighann of Multi-Minding Mom said...

As always great post and excellent comments.

I've been to Vegas a couple of times and as "family friendly" as they market it now, I will say that my least favorite aspect was people trying to stuff fliers into my hands for strip clubs, etc.

If I had heard that comment about pasties in person I probably would have said under my breath "idiot" and moved on.

Was he trying to emulate Letterman?

However when seen in print, especially by someone who is deemed an influencer, I would probably have taken it a little more seriously.

The pasties comment was a little off color, but what I found truly appalling was reading (from your link) about the Flash conference and the incredibly distasteful presentation. I don't care who you are, in a public arena, nobody "gets a pass."

Shari said...

I cringed when I read his comment because we have girls. Even the most brilliant women are still defined by their looks. It just never changes.