Mêtêr Politikon – Part I

June 16, 2006

(Mêtêr Politikon: Political Mother)

I swore up and down to myself that I was not going to do any more posts about blogging. This week, anyway. Between Flickian angst and CHBM-MOW celebrations and Dad-Blogger blogging, it’s pretty much been a week of bloggy navel gazing. With an occasional break for sleep-deprived rambling about gods and penises and stories about Zanta sightings.

But I can’t help myself. I cannot resist temptation. And, since it is my blog, why should I resist? It’s my blog and I’ll navel-gaze if I want to.

Both Izzy and Nancy wrote this week about the frustrations of the blogroll. Kristen wrote about the politics of commenting the other week. Scarbie wrote about her frustrations with blog politics some weeks ago. And earlier this week I wrote about my worries about being perceived as a blogger who plays politics. A common theme? That the blogosphere – that corner of it that is occupied by parents, in any case – is political. That it sometimes seems a lot like high school.

It was while reading Izzy’s post - and rambling on in an excessively wordy comment to that post – that it suddenly occurred to me what was bothering me about the arguments concerning blog politics: the assumption that politics is a bad thing. Commenters to the above discussions tended to break into two camps: those who are really bothered by blog politics, and those who try to avoid being bothered by blog politics (I situated myself in the latter category.) In both cases, however, the same assumption: politics is a bother. Politics is bad.

I didn’t question this assumption (shame on you, political scientist!). I totally empathized with everybody who said that they had had moments of frustration with the norms and mores of the blogging community. I nodded silently when ‘high school’ and ‘cliques’ were invoked. I didn’t think twice when the word politics was used again. And again. And again. But even as I nodded, I was a little bothered. I understood and appreciated everything that everyone was saying. But I was bothered, discomfited. Was it because it was all hitting too close to home? (My big fear for a few bloggy moments, especially after Scarbie’s post: that I was, or would be perceived as, big ass-kissy Tracy Flick of a politicker in the blogosphere. Then, after some self-interrogation and reflection, I confirmed for myself that I was not, and fuck anyone who thought otherwise.) No. So if not that, what?

Then, while commenting on Izzy’s post, and wondering again why I was so bothered by the topic (not, I should stress, by Izzy’s treatment of it), it hit me. I DISAGREED.

Entirely.

HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD.

I do not think that the blogosphere, or our corner of it, is political. Or, to be clearer, I do not think that it is political in the sense that people mean when they use the term ‘political.’ I think that to whatever extent the blogosphere is truly political, that politics is nothing to be unduly bothered by.

And I do not think that this little community is like high school.

I’ll explain why in a sec. Which is to say, in the next post. Tomorrow. (So, if you are, because of wrinkles in blog time, reading this tomorrow: in a sec.)

But first, I need to go all POL 101: Introduction to Politics on your asses. And, once again, sickeningly rah-rah.

Politics on a level with politicians is generally and understandably understood to be somewhat unseemly. Calling someone a politician has never been a compliment. Describing a social situation as political is usually shorthand for ‘socially difficult.’

High school, it is often said, is political. There is much jostling for social position and forming of alliances. There is exclusion for the purposes of defining the boundaries of such alliances, the better to demarcate circles of power and identify outsiders. It is competitive. It can be brutal. It is political. But it is only political in the narrow sense of the term, as it refers to the pursuit and maintenance of power, to the practices associated with the acquisition and/or exercise of power within a social body or organization.

(PRETENTIOUS ACADEMIC ALERT.)

The classical understanding of politics is much broader. Man, Aristotle said, is a political animal. (ho anthropos physei politikon zoon, Polit., 1253 a 2). To say that man (and woman) is political is to say that he (or she) requires interaction – rational, discursive interaction – with other human beings in order to fully develop as a human being. Unlike other social animals – ants, bees – human beings make meaning through speech. We reason through speech (the ancient Greek word logos (λογος) refers to both speech and reason.) We require community with others if we are to exercise, and so develop, speech and reason. We do not live in community simply to survive. We live there to thrive.

When we talk about high school being political, we are not thinking of politics in the classical sense, in the sense of that human dynamic by which we – through discourse – thrive. But that is exactly the sense of politics that I think of when I think about the politics of blogging.

I do not think about the exercises associated with the acquisition of status and power. I think about logos.

Tomorrow: why mommy-blogging is not Heathers, with special reference to the incomparable Mrs. Chicky, and blog politics according to HBM. And, a call to Toronto mamas about finally getting the fuck together.

And then, on Tuesday, she will stage a blog-production of Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae. In Greek.

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MISCELLANY
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My post of yesterday was my 100th post. Was I supposed to attach streamers and balloons to it? Or something?
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This week’s edition of Mrs. McFeely’s Weekly Squeeze will appear as part of the Dad-Blogger Shout-Out, to be posted early next week.

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There’s another visitor in the Basement tonight. Please go visit with her and offer your support. BYO cookies.
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    { 24 comments }

    Mel June 17, 2006 at 5:04 am

    Okay, I did it! Here ’tis.

    Mel June 17, 2006 at 5:05 am

    Arg! Did I not mention what it was I did? That would be the Daddyblogger post.
    Yipe.

    sunshine scribe June 17, 2006 at 7:06 am

    Okay. Yes. I “get” this. I do. You raise absolutely sound points about “politics” and blogging and you know what? The more I think about it, the more I am with you here. I don’t find blogging political either. Sure, I understand the challenges with the blog roll and comment obligation. But I haven’t seen any evidence of the consequence if you don’t follow those “politics” or “ettiquette”. And I don’t believe it is just about semantics or the definition of the word politics either. I have found this to be a very open and supportive community. But maybe that just means I suck at politics :)

    Anonymous June 17, 2006 at 7:21 am

    As someone with a blog with a slant of an agenda… yeah politics can hit hard, especially reactions from people who don’t like what you have to say!
    It is a little hard for me, I write about my children and my passions (the political issue that is)…. what does that make me?
    I get the two extremes, friendly and fire. huh.
    Too little sleep to explore this further. But thanks for the early morning wake up call…. you are better than coffee!

    Ruth Dynamite June 17, 2006 at 8:05 am

    I feel so…educated about politiks. Very interesting. I look forward to your upcoming production.

    bubandpie June 17, 2006 at 11:03 am

    Can’t wait for tomorrow! I’ve been feeling a kind of low-level uneasiness about the whole blogging-is-like-high-school thing, though I can’t put my finger on why (other than that I love blogging and hated high school) – and now I won’t have to! I can wait for you to articulate my thoughts for me tomorrow (as you do so often, and so well).

    Mrs. Davis June 17, 2006 at 11:09 am

    I’m curious to see where you go with this. So far, I both agree and disagree. I do think there are elements of “Heathers” in the mommy blogosphere, but that generally people are good-hearted.

    I do love how you identify with Tracy Flick, and have felt uncomfortably close to that character myself, too. When we saw that movie, my husband said, “That was you in high school, wasn’t it?” And I said, “Hell, that’s me NOW!”

    metro mama June 17, 2006 at 11:16 am

    Looking forward to tomorrow’s post!

    mothergoosemouse June 17, 2006 at 11:21 am

    Oy. HBM, it is far too early and I engaged in far too much celebration last night to give appropriate consideration to your points regarding politics.

    I will return later to read more closely, but I doubt that I will have anything substantial to add. I dig observing the sociology of the blogosphere, but I’m too lazy to worry about my place in it.

    suburban mom June 17, 2006 at 12:27 pm

    I am so glad I don’t even know what a blogroll is…. ;)

    MetroDad June 17, 2006 at 1:43 pm

    I believe it was the great philosopher Harpo Marx who once eloquently stated, “Politics, shmolitics!”

    Looking forward to your post tomorrow!

    Jenny June 17, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    I’m looking forward to the next post. I can see it both ways (which explains why I’m not a member of a political party I guess) but I want to hear more.

    Happy 100th, chick.

    L. June 17, 2006 at 2:14 pm

    I was a weirdo in high school, and a spectacular failure at office politics throughout my career, but I`ve found the mommy blog community, on the whole, to be a warm and fuzzy place, and I`m glad to be in it.

    (But maybe I`m just socially handicapped to the extent that I don`t even realize that I`m a pariah?)

    Izzy June 17, 2006 at 3:33 pm

    I see what you mean…the semantics of the word “politics” opens up a whole new avenue of discussion. And certainly, politics need not be considered bad, but of course, I didn’t use it in a favorable way. I guess after the past two presidential elections, I can’t say that I have good associations for anything that involves politics…lol

    To clarify, I don’t find the mommy blog world to be an unpleasant place at all. In fact, as I noted in a couple comments, most people are very nice. For me, the politics are in the rules and expectations more so than in my dealings with actual bloggers. And really, the word “politics” makes it sound much more serious and wordly than the topic actually is, IMO. But this is writing and a little drama in writing is okay, right? lol

    Her Bad Mother June 17, 2006 at 3:41 pm

    Izzy, I thought that your treatment of the subject was both self-reflective and refreshingly positive. It made me think about my own reactions precisely because you really wrestled with your ambivalence around what is probably better referred to as the norms of blogger social life. You really took the time to weigh the good and the bad, rather than just say, *this so bothers me, blog politics is so hard, etc, etc.* Which is what prompted me to realize that this all wasn’t about politics at all, but about our different levels of comfort with a new kind of social forum…

    So I have to thank you for that :)

    something blue June 17, 2006 at 4:29 pm

    Whew, I have been consumed with self inflicted guilt over not finding the time to comment on the blogs that I read. I was sure that I would be outcast into realms of the dark blogosphere.

    Everyone handles this differently but I keep adding to my blogroll out of respect to the amazing writers. Eventually I will leave them all comments but I do lose sleep thinking that I should go back and comment on every post.

    In actuality they probably don’t care that I haven’t left a comment but I’m beating myself up. If someone could just remove two clingy children that are attached on me, I’ll be able to end the added stress. That’s just something that goes with being a mom that has a blog.

    Sign me up for your shindig and congrats on your 100th post!

    Motherhood Uncensored June 17, 2006 at 4:46 pm

    100? Holy shit balls, woman.

    And for a second, I thought something was wrong with my screen. All those symbols… MY EYES… AAAAh.

    You are the queen of analysis, my academic friend. Blogging isn’t like high school because HELL, I never went to high school.

    Politics? Maybe not, but there seem to be circles, of sorts. Perhaps we can bridge them all.

    Or just a few. :)

    Mrs. Chicky June 17, 2006 at 8:08 pm

    Sandra took my comment. Darn her!

    But, to repeat what she said, I think of blogrolls and returning comments and the like as good blog ettiquette as opposed to politics. I don’t routinely visit other people’s blogs because they’re popular but because I genuinely like what they have to say.

    Even if it is Greek to me! :)

    Oh, and incomporable, huh? I think I like that.

    Mom101 June 17, 2006 at 8:17 pm

    I like hearing this side of the story and I think I’m pretty much with you here (as I said on izzy’s blog). I think there are individuals who make it political by imagining all sorts of alliances and cliques when I haven’t seen it that way much myself.

    So maybe what there is in the blogworld isn’t politics at all but some false expectations on the part of a few individuals. These expectations includes instant friendships with any and all, reciprocal blogroll mentions,reciprocal commments, instant fame, fortune, and of course, book deals.

    If only! Well, at least the fortune part.

    Nancy June 17, 2006 at 8:35 pm

    Congrats on your 100th post!

    And thanks for the link love. I’ve been of course intrigued by all the discussion (though it can get super mired in minutia like discussing the semantics of the details of the process can get) and I am looking forward to your part 2 post.

    I am sure you’ve read my thoughts ad nauseum on the blogrolling post and the post where I discussed the pros/cons of giving up the blog. I guess my main point on the blogroll post is that I initially started a blogroll to highlight the blogs I read (and the friends who read my blog) but found the concept of changing the blogroll to be perhaps fraught with social implications. And I guess that the “cease blog” post was mostly a reaction to being overwhelmed about certain aspects of blogging — from the blogroll maintenance, to commenting, to coming up with thoughtful and interesting posts on the regular. But actually, I really feel that most of the pressure I feel on the blog front is self-imposed, and not from any (or much — I won’t be absolute) peer pressure from the community of bloggers who I am aligned with.

    I do see some sign of politics in the blogsphere — maybe I won’t define it as such after I read your part 2 — but I guess what I mean is that there are people who feel it’s important to measure their blog popularity and even compete in that arena, to cut down the “popular” bloggers out of jealousy or whatever, to act disrespectful toward other bloggers in comments. But like you, I try to stay the hell out of those discussions. I try to conduct myself with dignity on my own blog and treat everyone who visits like a welcome friend (sounds corny, but it’s like I’m inviting people into my own house.)

    Anyway — enough hijacking of blog comments. Thank you for continuing this discussion. :-)

    Mel June 17, 2006 at 9:00 pm

    Well, it would be easy enough to get my feelings hurt because some poor blogger I just commented to didn’t add me to his/her blogroll right this very now, but honestly, that really is just an unrealistic expectation. Any person who takes a moment to think that out would be much better off, I feel.
    And, since I am not a poli sci person, I will just say that I did finally re-read and digest what you wrote here, and by god, I totally agree. Can’t wait to see your follow-up.

    chelle June 18, 2006 at 12:04 am

    I just wanna have fun! I do not want to care about all of this. I do care, I have feelings, however I am not going to change who I am to fit in. I will forever be the fringe chic that does as she sees fit and well f*** anyone who cares to criticize.

    mo-wo June 20, 2006 at 12:40 am

    So within with blogger ostrakon I type for the sake of democracy?

    true.

    Kara June 20, 2006 at 8:59 pm

    happy blogday!!

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