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March 23, 2009

The Dirty Whores of Blog Dot Mom

-6 A few days ago I got a call from a reporter. I was expecting the call, expecting it to focus on my experiences as an mompreneur and a blogger and to touch on the topics of marketing to women online. I was wrong.

First of all, the interviewer informed me that she was a member of the traditional media. And as such, she never stooped so low as to endorse something. Her writing was strictly editorial. She didn't take bribes or sides. Just the facts ma'am. Not like... bloggers. Those loose lipped, open thighed, booty shakin' writers of the night.

Of course, she didn't say all that about bloggers. But the insinuation was there. Hanging in the air like a smelly burp. My hackles were up. Way up.

"So what's your price?" she wanted to know. "How are you compensated for your writing? What did you make  off your blogs last year? And what about all those samples that you have received? Isn't that just another form of bribery? Are all these writers making money from sponsor deals ethical? How much is the most you've ever been offered under the table to write a favorable post?" 

I was pretty sure I could tell what Ms. Impartial thought about bloggers and their business. She may as well have been asking me how much for a Blow Job? And if I'd ever consider something really kinky. For the right price. What price is my write price? 

I was instantly fearful that no matter what I said, my words would be misconstrued. That I would be quoted out of context, tricked. My heart was pounding. I hate being on the defensive. I wasn't sure of this reporter's angle, but I got a fresh whiff of tar being heated up, even as the feathers were being plucked. It occurred to me that I might be the chicken.

Everyone loves a good old fashioned whore tale. And all these pesky talented blog writers (so many of whom are literally giving it away, uncompensated) are starting to be a real problem for the traditional media. They just won't shut up. They're stealing readers. They're taking over the coveted advertising dollars as marketers wise up to their influence. Meanwhile traditional media outlets like the Seattle Post Intelligencer have started shutting down their print editions. This is significant social change, and with social change comes social unease. Sounds like time for a great new Urban Legend doesn't it? 

Thus I present you with the Cautionary Tale of the Dirty Whores of Blog Dot Mom: 

The Characters:

Once upon a time on the internet there existed two venereal Whores of Blog Dot Mom. Yes, there are two of them. Sisters who often don't get along and thus have to plan their own separate conferences. Sisters who also conveniently fit the Madonna/Whore archetype we all know so well. 

Whore A: She's probably a mom of several kids. Because big families are big online lately, and also as we all know, moms of many are extra desperate for cash to feed, clothe and entertain their many kiddos. She has a lot of followers. Maybe even millions per month. They hang on her every sage word, craft project, coupon clipping advice or last minute dinner recipe. They buy her same brand of shampoo because they trust her veracity. They pray for her and her relatives serving in the military. She's full of folksy wisdom, homesschools and shops at Walmart. She has someone in her life with a major challenge such as unemployment, chronic illness, or disability. She claims she's broke and probably naive. Though some suspect and suggest she's got a secret evil empire and argue she's hard as nails under that fuzzy exterior. But with all she has on her plate? It's no wonder someone like her might be a little desperate and vulnerable. 

Whore B: She's also a Mommy - so long as her sister hasn't called Child Protective Sevices on her yet. Whore B is so good at attracting readers because she's so openly bad. Witty. Telling it like it is. She's the devil on your shoulder. She's smart as a whip. She curses like a sailor, shares her fresh tats in photo pictorials and sprinkles her posts rather liberally with the word vagina. Vagina, vagina, vagina. Whores are obsessed with this, of course. She's likely had some hard times, ex issues, abortions, a teen pregnancy or possibly an addiction to contend with. Some suggect this has caused her moral compass to be installed a little left of center. She openly jokes with her readers that she'd put out for sponsors. They think it's funny. But the legend legal team sees it as further evidence against her. It's no wonder she's ripe for the corrupting,  she's halfway there already.

The Plot:  

At their very core, the sisters are inherently the same. Corrupt. For whatever reasons. They are greedy soulless bitches who are on the take. Whether or not they attend church regularly or smoke pot they have more in common than they care to admit. So when big brand XXX knocks on their doors in a secretive fashion, fanning their hot sweaty bosoms with a wad of bills? Both Dirty Whores immediately drop their drawers, and are all knees to ears. Eager to please. Whatever it takes to keep their cash daddies happy.

Next thing you know, the cautionary tale warns us, Whore A's every blog post is sprinkled with subliminal messages to buy cheese and her every photo includes an oddly placed brand name deodorant. Whore B meanwhile talks incessantly about the (brand name) coffee she drinks to cure her hangover and how nice the (brand name) car she drives vibrates against her vagina even better than her favorite (brand name) vibrator. 

The readers don't get much respect either in this Urban Legend. At first they are too clueless to even be incensed. They need a Primetime Special or at the very least, a public Twitter Smackdown between the sisters, to clue them in to the dirty truth. Which is (according to legend): That the Dirty Whores of Blog Dot Mom have never bothered to mention to their poor trusting sheeplike readers that the cheese, deodorant, coffee, car and sex toy companies have paid the Whores bigtime for the chance to love their readers long time. Plus the Whores are cashing dirty bonus checks every time the readers check out this tainted junk and click the links in their posts! Those readers have been HAD up the brain bum. Digitally sodomized. It's scandalous! These whores are so filthy they are giving the entire internet herpes! (The End)

Reaction:

Sound familiar at all? If you haven't heard the tale yet, it's likely you soon will. This tale is getting ample play in the newspaper, on the conference circuit and in the self conscious mirror of the online world. But guess what? Like so many cartoon villians constructed of stereotypes, the Dirty Whores of Blog Dot Mom don't actually exist. They are a Modern Urban Legend. It's only a matter of time before we find the Mom sisters wearing pointy USB bras and studded mouse panties on Snopes

This is not to say that there are no unethical bloggers out there. Wikipedia puts it succinctly "Like all folklore, urban legends are not necessarily false, but they are often distorted, exaggerated, or sensationalized over time." Scratch the surface of any community and you can dig up a few bad seeds. 
But these would be  the rare exception, and not the rule. Real life bloggers hand-wring about ethical practices and authenticity. Real life bloggers are not afraid of the dark. They are afraid of the grey area that looms over the digital frontier that they call home. And the Urban Legends that live there. 

For the most part when successful bloggers are approached by large corporations, it is usually for paid ads, advertorials or a sponsorship that is above the board. This contractual agreement between two parties is thus announced, acknowledged and transparent. It's familiar even. It comes from traditional media, As in "This Program has been brought to you by cheese, deodorant, coffee, cars, and sex toys". Like it or not, Blogging is a business for many people. They need to eat. This is not a crime. We cannot expect them to subsist on loving fan comments alone. The traditional media pays writers. Where does the money from their salaries come from? Sales and ads?


I'm not buying the Dirty Whores of Blog Dot Mom Legend. I am pissed off about it. I'm sick of bloggers feeling uncomfortable or defensive about what they do. Why the need to apologize and explain themselves without any actual  evidence of wrong doing?  In the absence of this evidence, all I can say is that I wholeheartedly support women being paid for their work. I think recognition, in the form of ads and sponsorship is an applaudable thing. It's an appropriate reward for those whose leadership qualities, talent and abilities have enabled them to entertain and inspire readers. Without the financial support, many of them would not be able to continue writing. And the world would be a dimmer place. 

I'm not just a supporter of bloggers. I am also a supporter of readers. Contrary to what the traditional media and cautionary tale tellers would have us think of them, blog readers have the worlds keenest bullshit-o-meters. They are the bloodhounds of inauthenticity. The very first to recognize bogus posts. They vote with their page views. They are not a collection of confused clicking zombies, wondering why their homes are filled with useless cheese, cars, coffee and sex toys. 

The jury may still be out on this so called "issue" but my own verdict is in. I'll drink to the Legend of the Dirty Whores of Blog Dot Mom, but the real life version? Haven't met her yet. Fingers crossed that she won't be me when that reporter who interviewed me publishes her final article.


This is an original post to LA Moms Blog. Ciaran Blumenfeld is a writer and designer and online Momfluential. She's neither Whore A or B or any other stereotype. She has never taken a bribe to write a post or praised a product she does not personally believe in.  Read more about Ciaran on her personal site or on  Twitter

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