Honesty and Snark in Parenting Blogs

06/15/2010 By Shawn Burns

There are a lot of differences between most mom blogs and most dad blogs. (I think. Maybe there aren’t a lot. But when I was taught how to write introductory sentences to introductory paragraphs I was urged to move from general claims to more specific claims, and eventually the arguments would focus on supporting the specific claims within a sea of general claims that are uncontroversial. So, I take it as uncontroversial, and therefore uninteresting, yet introductory, that there are a lot of differences between most mom blogs and most dad blogs.) Apart from well-known disparities in sponsor attention that dads claim to not care about anyway, there is a deeper, and more superficial difference, that leaps out of the screen at me when I read blogs: moms are more likely to snark about, complain about, reveal foibles of, their partners than dads. I don’t know why this is, but I fear, unhappily, that it is both more and less respectful, more and less egalitarian, more and less discriminatory, and that deciding on an answer is a bit of a Rorschach test.

As a preliminary, I take it as uncontroversial that dads are less likely to write negatively (even gently so) about their partners than the other way around. Maybe this is completely false and I have been sheltered in a strange way from those dad blogs that are critical in this way. I have no way to tell, beyond asking readers to enlighten me. That isn’t the interesting part, and if it’s not true it’s even less interesting. What’s interesting is the reason for the (assumed) discrepancy.

Superficially, the difference reveals attitudes about what is okay and what isn’t: it is okay to belittle fathers as husbands and parents, even in jest or love, while it is not okay to do so to mothers. I suggest this is superficial because, while it seems like this is a power imbalance in favour of women, it might be instead just be a by-product of a more general power imbalance in favour of men: it’s okay to sting giants, but not to slap babies, and there’s something unsettling about the giants raising a stink over it. What do you think? (For more confusing, but focused, opinions about whether or not this imbalance is okay, you can go read my Feminism and the Immersed Parent post. On the narrow question of whether the imbalance undermines feminist commitments I haven’t changed my mind; but on a more general question, not addressed in the post, about whether the imbalance is okay from outside those commitments I don’t have an opinion.)

I don’t think it’s appropriate to litigate your relationship on the Internet, with a jury of people your partner has no relationship with. But I may just be generalizing from one example, which is my own. I don’t think I’ve ever done that here in this space, but I can’t be sure. Maybe I’ve written a post in which Emily appeared more as fodder than partner. If so, then I regret it. But maybe not everyone ought to regret those discussions. Maybe the only way to keep from breaking in a relationship is to vent, and so the disrespect is only superficial and no one should be bothered by it. I know that some people believe that to be true. What do you think?

(I leave out of the discussion those forums that attract men overwhelmingly and in which the participants feel “safe” to reveal opinions or details of their relationships without their partner finding out. The point here is to find out why men don’t seem to do it with their partner’s knowledge, in their face so to speak, but women do. I’m not making any claims about the Internet being free of disrespect toward women.)