Last weekend saw me attend my first ever blogging conference, BritMums Live. This was a two day event which brought together, bloggers, experts and brands to share knowledge about anything ranging from social media and promoting your writing through to learning about Carol Smillie’s new pants.
I didn’t really know what to expect or what I wanted to get from the event – I just went in with an open-mind and took things as they came. Looking back, it was a good experience and pretty awesome to hang out with and meet people I’ve spoken to for the past year, but I personally failed to get much from the event which I can put into practice from a blogging perspective – well apart from my business cards sent to me by Instantprint!
Whether it be the sessions I attended or the place I am on my blogging journey, I’m not really sure. I was open to learning but didn’t come away particularly inspired or with a 12-step action plan to put into place to make me the best dad blogger in the world. But, that’s not to say that I regret going – far from it in fact. I came away with a very positive experience of the event – largely down to the people I met – and would have no qualms in going again next year.
There has been one nagging thing that has been in my mind. Before I say what it is, this is NOT a sob story, poor me or play the smallest violin in the world type scenario. It really isn’t, so please don’t view it in that way. Instead, this is about me sharing my own perceptions, experiences and learnings from being one of the few dad bloggers at the event and the only one asked to speak in a vagina-laden room.
What I want to touch upon surrounds the lack of blokes at the event. I think I know the reasons, or can make a pretty good guess as to what some of these are – this includes:
- Being a man in a parent blogging community heavily made up of women
- Attending an event as a dad with the word “mum” in the title
- Being intimidated / scared about stepping away from behind the laptop
- Feeling that you are not a big enough blogger to attend
- The perception that your opinion doesn’t matter as you are just a dad
- Knowing that you will automatically stand out and be judged differently as a bloke at an event mainly attended by women
The list goes on. This isn’t self pitying, these are the real thoughts of dad bloggers and dare I say stopped a proportion of them even attending. Just to put things into context, did any of you mums get questioned by security when you walked into The Brewery? No? Well, we did because we looked out of place walking into the venue!
Of an event attended by around 750 bloggers, a handful were blokes. I don’t know exact numbers, but the going number is that 11 dad bloggers joined in the fun. That means 1.5% of people at the event had a penis, which is way down on the 8% of parent bloggers being dads which is quoted by Tots100. If things were representative, 60 dad bloggers should have been at the event rather than the 11 who actually were. So there is obviously something not quite right here.
(Photo kindly stolen from Dad Creek Without A Paddle)
I can only speculate as to the answer, but what I do know is…
The issue isn’t mum bloggers. It’s not a fight to the death between mummies and daddies. Far from it. Since I started blogging just less than a year ago, I’ve been welcomed with open arms by the parent blogging community and no mum blogger has ever said anything to suggest that I shouldn’t be sharing my thoughts or experiences on raising a kid. In fact, it has been the total opposite, with many a mum blogger saying that it is fantastic to hear a dad’s perspective and there should be more of us. I can’t agree more.
I also know that the issue isn’t higher up the pecking order. A few of us dads spoke to BritMums founders Susanna Scott and Jennifer Howze and they were hugely supportive of dads, even saying we were “the rockstars of the parent blogger community” – that’s an image I was more than happy to live up to as I threw the TV out of the hotel after a coke and prostitute filled late night party. In addition, just this week, I have been Blog of the Day on Netmums and been the first ever Dad Blogger of the Week at Mummy Pages, so I’m finding no obvious issues surrounding these parenting networks not wanting to hear or promote the dad blogger message. In fact, this seems to be quite the opposite.
So, the issue doesn’t seem to be at the top or even at the bottom, but perhaps somewhere in the grey area involving people who are not necessarily in the parent blogger bubble. It seems to be those people who have a slight glimpse of what the community is and instantly make assumptions – dare I say fuelled by the mainstream media who often portray dads as incompetent when it comes to kids, or companies who focus on mums rather than both sets of parents. Still, it is important to say that this perception seems to be changing, however it is a slow fight to gain some kind of equality.
I was not the only person to roll my eyes and let out another sigh when a speaker would come to the stage at BritMums Live and immediately alienate all of the dads in the room. Saying things like “you fabulous women in the audience” or laughing off the fact that there is a few men listening to a talk about period pants, only compounds the feeling of not belonging. It surely doesn’t take much to be careful with your wording, consider your audience and not play up to a stereotype. Caprice should probably take note of this having insulted dads on numerous occasions in her very random keynote speech.
I’m pretty sure that there is no malice intended though. It’s just a few people who haven’t thought things through fully and are pandering to a long running joke about dads and men in general. This is a stereotype that is harmful and needs to be eliminated where possible. I’m not putting any blame at any door though. This is merely asking questions and trying to share my honest, and probably blunt, thoughts.
I know for a fact that us dads probably didn’t help ourselves at BritMums Live. A lot of the time, we found safety in numbers – much like in the playground, I hung around the other dads so that I was not separated and isolated. Yes, we could be blamed for sometimes keeping ourselves to ourselves, but don’t the likes of zebras stick together so they are not picked off by the lions? I jest, but there is an ounce of truth in that. Stick with what you know etc.
The last thing I want is positive discrimination or quotas in place though as that would set things back. Ensuring that x number of dad bloggers were shortlisted and then won awards at the BIBs because they have a penis would do no-one any favours. Similarly with speakers – there’s no point asking a dad blogger to run a particular session at BritMums Live if a more experienced, qualified and knowledgeable mum can talk about the subject infinitely better.
As the only bloke to stand-up at the end of the event and read a blog post in the Bloggers’ Keynote, I’ll admit that I wondered why I’d been asked. Rather than big myself up and congratulate myself on being chosen for this awesome honour, my mind straight away went to thinking that I’d been asked to even up the numbers – it would hardly be representative to have 13 women speak and no men after all, wouldn’t it?
(Photo kindly stolen from Mental Parents)
I hope that this is me just being self-deprecating though. From the nice comments I’ve had since my keynote, it appears that I was chosen because of my post rather than what is in my pants (FYI, check out the post I read, “An Open Apology To My 8-Month Old Daughter”). That is refreshing to know and fills me with confidence – truth be told, I’m still on a high nearly two days later.
It also has given me a sense of purpose – without sounding like a cock, it makes me feel like I actually have a duty to stand up and be counted. Just like the other 10 dad bloggers at the event, we could have easily not attended because it was easier and less scary. But we did attend. We maybe didn’t stand up and roar “I am a dad blogger” in scenes mimicking that of 300 or Gladiator, but I’d like to think that our presence alone at least made a slight ripple in the mum blogger ocean. From a personal perspective, I can only hope that my reading in the Bloggers’ Keynote gave a good representation of some of the immense talent we have in our XY chromosomes and went some way to showing why our under represented group were there.
So where does that leave my thoughts? To be honest, I’m not quite sure. I don’t have any answers, only questions. As I said at the start, the point of this post isn’t to say “oh, us dad bloggers have it so bad”, because we don’t. It’s purely to say that I was there, that I enjoyed it and that I appreciate the work done by the likes of BritMums to include and promote dads. But it is also to say that more needs to be done to include dads and dad bloggers.
Maybe I’m taking my over-egoed, keynote-speaking, penis-owning self too far by saying this, but as one of the few dad bloggers at the event, my new found responsibility and duty tells me that I need to stand up and be counted. After all, “I am a dad blogger”.
Were you a dad that attended BritMums Live – what was your perception of dads at the event? Were you a dad blogger that didn’t attend – if so, why not? As a mum blogger, what is your view of dad bloggers in general and attending events such as this?
Also check out Tim at Sloutching Towards Thacham’s post on Should BritMums Live Be Doing More For Dads? A much more eloquent and thought provoking post than this ramble!
(Featured image kindly stolen from Tim at Slouching Towards Thatcham)