The NY Times recently published a particularly snarky article on mommy bloggers entitled Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy, I’m Too Busy Building My Brand. While the article made me angry, I don’t think I can manage to express my thoughts as elegantly as Jessica in Don’t Bother Mommy She’s Rabid Right Now, Annie in Does the World see Moms the Same Way the NY Times Does?, Liz in Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy, I’m Writing A Mildly Annoyed Letter to the NY Times, Joanne (aka PunditMom) in An Open Letter to the New York Times About Mom Bloggers, Women Writers, & the Universe, Kelby in Newspaper Bias Against Mom Bloggers, or, my absolute hands down favorite, Cecily in Excuse Me New York Times, Don’t Bother Me. Because You’re Absolutely Fucking Right, I’m Building My Brand.
I see parallels with how the green industry dismisses green moms and even green women. Home based greening is not viewed as very significant by the more traditional green tech group.
But I don’t really want to talk about that either. What I do want to do is to tell a story. A story about Bette Nesmith Graham. Ms. Graham wanted to be an artist, but her life took a different path. She dropped out of high school to get married before her fiancee and then husband left for World War II. But, after World War II, Ms. Graham found herself divorced in 1946 with a son to support. She worked as a secretary to support herself and her son.
In those days, Ms. Graham was one of those women – women who worked outside of the home contrary to the stereotype of what women were supposed to do (and, which, we are still apparently supposed to do at least if you read the NY Times article).
But Ms. Graham was frustrated at her job. She was frustrated with the electric typewriters in widespread use after World War II. It was impossible to correct mistakes because of the carbon-film ribbons. Think about it – I can’t imagine having to prepare legal documents without being able to correct mistakes – a typographical error on page 10 of a 20 page document would, well, suck. More than suck.
The story goes that Ms. Graham wanted a way to correct mistakes (as I can well imagine). Just picture it – some jerk of a boss screaming at you because of an unfortunate typo in a document that you can’t correct and just need to start over? Ms. Graham knew that artists painted over their mistakes so she thought that the same could be done with typing. She put some tempera waterbased paint, colored to match the stationery she used, in a bottle and took her watercolor brush to the office. She used this to correct her typing mistakes. Along the next 5 years as she used the correcting fluid (often without her boss noticing), other secretaries saw the new invention and asked for some of the correcting fluid. After the first secretary asked, Ms. Graham found a green bottle at home, wrote “Mistake Out” on a label, and gave it to her friend. She continued to whip up batches in her kitchen for other secretaries.
Ms. Graham was a smart cookie. She got a trademark, got a patent and started the Mistake Out Company (later renamed Liquid Paper) in 1956 from her home. She turned her kitchen into a laboratory, mixing up an improved product with her electric mixer with help from her son’s high school chemistry teacher. Graham’s son, Michael Nesmith (later of The Monkees fame), and his friends filled bottles for her customers.
By 1967, it had grown into a million dollar business. In 1968, she moved into her own plant and corporate headquarters, automated operations, and had 19 employees. That year, she sold one million bottles. Ms. Graham eventually sold the business to Gillette Corp. for $47.5 million.
How is this relevant to the snarky mommy blog article in the NY Times?
Ms. Graham was just a mom. Ms. Graham was even worse than that in those days – she was a divorced working mom. And I’m going to guess she was mocked and dismissed.
Nonetheless. Ms. Graham invented (necessity is the mother of invention) one of the most widely used office products. In her kitchen.
The NY Times may dismiss mommy bloggers. Heck, mainstream media may dismiss mommy bloggers.
By doing so, they ignore a diverse group of very powerful, very passionate, very invested, very active women. We are moms, wives, partners, lovers, sisters, daughters. We are teachers, attorneys, scientists, activists, biologists, secretaries, consultants, flight attendants, police officers, and more. We are passionate about parenting, politics, cooking, the environment, education, music, books, shopping, beauty and more. Women just like Bette Nesmith Graham.
Mock us at your peril. Dismiss us.
But make no mistake about it. There is power in that connection and the conversations. Why else would countless brands want in?
And why would so many of us join in? We blog to share, to connect, to educate, to inform, to rant.
We blog to change the world.
We blog and the world will change.
So, NY Times, you may not think much of my mommy blog. But, well, that’s your problem.