I interviewed Gloria Steinem. She’s promoting her new undertaking, GreenStone Media, a radio station founded by women for women. There were nine bloggers on the call with me and we each got to ask a question.
During the interview I was routinely sidetracked by:
a) Gloria Steinem is the revolutionary we talk about when we talk about feminism. She is huge. I felt incredibly honored to be talking to her.
b) The other nine bloggers are huge. Not huge like Gloria Steinem, but huge like smart writing and big audience and I was dying to know what they were thinking about the call.
c) Emily Rice put the call together, and she identified ten top bloggers across blogging genres — tricky to do. Rice will generate publicity for GreenStone Media in an area that would have been hard to reach. I think she is a publicity genius and I got sidetracked thinking about ways to become her friend.
Here’s what happened on the call. The women asked very interesting questions, and Gloria gave very interesting answers. But the two were not particularly related.
Here are examples. (I am paraphrasing in places. If you need to hear the whole interview, here it is) :
Q: (From Catherine Connors) In your keynote speech you say that women want less conflict on radio. One of the criticisms of the mommy bloggers is there’s too much camaraderie. It’s too rah rah and we don’t disagree nearly enough.
A: (From Gloria, of course) People complain about the Oprafication of media. I think, if only the media were as good as Oprah we’d be in a different world. There is such a premium on agreement that we forget to tell the truth. There really can’t be community if it doesn’t include the freedom to say what we feel.
See what I mean? Catherine brings up an interesting topic that is very this-moment. And Gloria says some inspiring stuff that would have been an equally good answer to fifty questions people asked twenty years ago.
Q: (From me) In your keynote speech you say women are reading more than men and getting more college degrees than men. You say it like that’s a positive. But right now girls are working much harder than boys in high school and in college and it seems to me like a trickle down from women doing more work than men everywhere else. Do you see this as a problem?
A: Women need to ask themselves the revolutionary question, Is this really what I want to do?.. When mediocre women do as well as mediocre men, then I’ll know we’re getting somewhere.
Again, I bring up a topic that is very current, and Gloria gives an answer that spans decades. So this is one reason why Gloria is an amazing figure in history; the answers she’s been giving to the media for the last twenty years still resonate. But I couldn’t help feeling like I was in a press conference with some political figure who is sticking to talking points.
So for a minute, let me move past Gloria Steinem and GreenStone Media.
I want to tell you about the women on the call. I love their blogs because they are so honest and well written. I loved that each of us was so nervous and excited about talking to Gloria, and each of us was so eager to hear what the others would ask.
But, when you get a group of women together, the stay-at-home moms separate from the career moms. So it’s no surprise that the moms divided here, too.
Jenn Satterwhite, said, “If you are a mommy blogger you’re written off.” This is true. Many women dread working in an all-women space. And I personally have lost a job giving career advice right after I wrote about being pregnant. (“You should write for a working mom magazine,” my editor told me.)
So it did not surprise me that when Pamela Slim spoke she made sure to tell Gloria that her blog focuses on entrepreneurship, not parenting. And when I got on the phone, I said I write about work and parenting only as it relates to work. I said this because I would never, ever want to be called a mommy blogger. I’d lose half my readers.
But let me tell you something. While I was distancing myself from the mommy bloggers, I did something only a mom would do: built a fortress in my bedroom so that my kids wouldn’t bug me on the call; I had a mattress against the door to muffle screams and a dresser against the mattress to keep the door shut.
So in the end, we have a snapshot of women’s media in the new millennium: There is a group of bloggers asking contentious questions from the media’s edge. And there is Gloria Steinem, representing the establishment, and giving seasoned and wise but measured answers in an effort to promote her burgeoning radio empire. And while Gloria is marketing her conflict-free radio station, the bloggers are doing what they do best, celebrating conflict, even within ourselves.
Here’s the list of bloggers:
Catherine Connors, Her Bad Mother
Ingrid Wiese, Three New York Women
Jenn Satterwhite, Mommy Needs Coffee
K Smith, Almost Literally
Kristen Chase, Motherhood Uncensored
Leah Peterson, Leah Peah
Liz Gumbinner, Mom 101
Pam Slim, Escape from Cubicle Nation
Sarah Brown, Que Sera Sera