I have just finished watching all three first seasons of Downton Abbey. It took about three episodes of season one to hook me, but after that I was a goner. It really is a very well written, acted and produced show and I am looking forward to season 4.
I was drawn to the show for a few different reasons. One, EVERYONE and their well-bred dogs kept going on and on about it and so I had to see what all the fuss was about. Two, I have a secret obsession with all kinds of historical dramas set in England (I am a quarter British BTW). I have seen the Elizabeth movies about five times each, I am a huge fan of The Tudors, and this just seemed to fit in with the whole genre. And three, my maternal grandmother (the British part of me) was a governess for a very wealthy French family in the 1930-40s in and a glimpse into this kind of life, albeit an earlier version, was very eye-opening for me and somehow has made me feel close to her again.
The show also gave me chills at times, especially with regard to the way that women of that era where regarded. I grew up with MANY lessons from my grandmother on how to be a proper lady, on how to act properly and to know and show proper etiquette at all times. At quite an early age, I could have told you what all of the forks, spoons and knives where for in a formal dinner setting. Also, a lady never crosses her legs, a lady sits up straight and a lady has a dainty and ladylike laugh. My grandmother had a full set of the large sized Encyclopedia Britannica and would make me do laps in the house with one on my head, for proper posture of course. She used to brush my hair one hundred times a night. EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. And then we would say the Lord's prayer and at least one Hail Mary, in French, before going to sleep. I was on my way to being a good and proper little lady! Oh Helene (what we called my granny) if you only knew!
It may not come as a surprise that I have ended up relating most to Lady Edith Grantham as a character. She is not the overtly rebellious one like Sybil or the super-traditionalist, doing her duty for the family, Mary. She constantly gets overlooked by everyone and eventually comes into her own, by her own devices and finds a way for her voice to be heard, if not by her family, then by a much wider audience as a writer for a London magazine. Go Edith!!
Why all this Downton Abbey talk?
Well, it has been an interesting week in the "mommy blogger" world. Let me just check my calendar... yup, it has been about three months since anyone took a good swing at the bloggers/writers/business women who are also mothers. And swing they did.
The Wall Street Journal published the incredibly condescending article about "The Mommy Business Trip" and, well... you can imagine the fallout. Or if you can't, you can go read all about it HERE, and HERE and HERE and oh, just Google it, you'll see.... Hell hath no fury like a belittled blogger and mother!
I admit that I too was rather upset about the article. I am not a blogging conference expert or anything, but I have attended a few and in my former career, I have also attended multiple large medical conferences, as both a sponsor and an attendee. For the medical conferences, I left my husband for 2-4 days at a time, I stayed in fancy hotels, I ate at 4 and 5 star restaurants-sometimes on my dime, sometimes on someone else's and I attended sessions that were of interest to me and my profession. I also attended the sponsored cocktail parties and mingled and met with, and was awe-stricken by people whose names I had only ever seen in the British Medical Journal or the Lancet on papers that listed them as lead authors and researchers!
For the blogging conferences, I left my husband and children for 2-4 days, I stayed at a fancy hotel, I ate at 4 and 5 star restaurants-sometimes on my dime, sometimes on someone else's and I attended sessions that were of interest to me and my profession. I also attended the sponsored cocktail parties and mingled and met with, and was awe-stricken by people whose names I had only ever seen on Twitter or on their VERY successful blogs!
Anyone spot the MAJOR difference between these two scenarios?
Children. That's about it really. But that seems to be the crux of it. In the WS article, there is no mention of the men attending blogging conferences, no mention of the childless attendees, themselves also eating ten dollar bags of chips of the floors of hotel rooms. Nope, just the mommies, the ones not living up to some archaic notion of what a proper mother should be and do with her time (and from the implications in the article, with her husband's money as well).
Yes, I started blogging after I had children. My writing before then was of a very different kind. It was scientific and was about proposals and presentations and such. Those business trips and conferences were seen as an integral part of my job and it was expected that I attend them to keep up to date with the most current research, to keep my face and expertise in front of important clients from all over the world and to enhance my knowledge in my field.
My conundrum this past week has been this. Why is this so hard for everyone to understand about blogging conferences? Are the people who attend these conferences, YES, even the "mommy bloggers", not doing the exact same thing? Keeping up to date with the current (and VERY fast moving) pace of online publishing, getting those crucial face-to-face meetings with clients/potential partners and meeting the ever important "connectors" and "mavens" of the blogging world. And most of all, to enhance their knowledge in their chosen field of work, be it SEO, working with brands, finding writing inspiration, being a better photographer/vlogger, etc....
I made the mistake of reading the comment section of the WSJ article and what hit me the most, and what brings me back to Downton Abbey, is that, from the incredibly condescending lede, to the overall tone of the article (which, by the way, was written by a woman), the one major impression I got from it, and what I feel from a lot of these "mommy blogger", click-bait, page-view hungry articles, published mostly in old-school mainstream media outlets, is the incredible misogynistic tone taken against women and especially mothers. There is an overbearing feeling of someone reminding us to "know our proper place in the world". Of us being scolded and reminded of how to be the proper lady and the proper mother and the proper hobbyist. God forbid that we all decide, just like Lady Edith does, to use our brains and voice our opinions to a larger audience. To start businesses and be successful at them and then need to stay up to date with the world and work that we are doing through conferences and meetings.
It seems ridiculous that I have to point this out in 2013, but just like post-war 1920s in England, the times they are-a-changing people. It's a business trip. NOT a "MOMMY" anything.
End of story!!
Now, do please excuse me. I am off to brush my hair. 1, 2, 3, 4....