Yesterday, I saw the trailer for American Blogger, a documentary about
bloggers women upper middle-class white women with Wordpress by Dallas filmmaker Chris Wiegand, who knows all the fonts, and my eyes still haven't stopped rolling.
There's so much happening here (the voiceover, the presumptiveness, THE VOICEOVER), but what really stood out for me was this little nugget:
This documentary will remind you of the value of your voice and the power of sharing your story.
This is a lie.
Last year I completed my master's thesis on how media complicates representations of race in motherhood, using mommybloggers as my primary subjects. I did a lot of rhetorical and textual analysis of blogs to understand how new media perpetuates racism and classism, and to understand how the racialized aspects of technological access are affected by the politics of race and class privilege. My argument was that new media is not a social equalizer, which I had to say in this convoluted, academic way:
Reproductive liberty is shaped differently for those with race and class privilege, and that the community of mom bloggers reinstates women of color as second-class citizens and reproduces normative ideas of motherhood as dictated by a Victorian ideal, perpetuating the judgment of African American mothers by Caucasian cultural standards.
Shorter: White lady bloggers think they're radically reinventing the wheel, but they're perpetuating the same old shit they have for centuries, and I have two years worth of research to back it up.
So this trailer, then, is interesting. If you go to the site's Meet the Blogger section and scroll through each individual blogger featured in this film, you'll see that of the 52 women featured in this documentary, only 2 are women of color. It's possible that this overwhelming lack of diversity* is just a result of Wiegand myopically deciding to only talk to his wife's friends, but I think it lends itself to a bigger idea: when it comes to valuing voices and sharing stories, we're still doing it in the framework of whiteness.
That isn't to say that there aren't people of color blogging, using social media, and sharing their stories—they just aren't getting recognition, and they aren't getting paid.
I know that American Blogger isn't primarily focused on mommy bloggers, but they're a representative subset. I want to give you an idea of who is getting paid to blog, and which voices we tend to value and emphasize. Using the Babble Top Mommy Bloggers of 2012 as my starting point, I looked at the top five white mommy bloggers, and the top five consecutive women of color mommy bloggers, and examined their blog-based income. At the time I wrote my thesis, Federated Media Publishing, one of the top ad revenue partners for bloggers, wasn't representing any mommy bloggers of color. The top five white mommy bloggers working with them earned an average of $12,038 per month and $144,456 per year through CPM revenue (cost per impression). This is just ad revenue from their blogs, and did not include book deals or paid appearances.
Conversely, the top five women of color mommy bloggers earned practically nothing. Since none of the women of color mommy bloggers partnered with Federated Media or other publishing companies, very few had advertisements on their sites at all. A couple worked with the BlogHer Advertising Network, whose pay rate per CPM ranged from $0.10 to $10. Most women of color mommy bloggers advertised to their own products (e-books, self-produced movies), which seemed to be their only blog-based income. Women of color earned an amount so small it wasn't even measurable.
This sort of behavior is replicated all over blogging—which fashion bloggers are the most prominent? Who's running well-paid news sites, or pop culture blogs? White white white wickety-white. It's no surprise, then, that Wiegand ended up with a trove of white women when he set out to make his movie. It's lazy, perhaps, but not surprising.
I've met a ton of fantastic people online, and I'm sure the women in this documentary value the strong communities they've built through blogging. I don't begrudge them that. I'm just not going to sit through a movie that reinforces this fucked up notion of voice and storytelling by focusing on the same old people that always have a voice, and always get to tell their stories.
Also, a documentary on blogging that doesn't feature 95% of the people in yoga pants and pizza-stained t-shirts is just lying right to your face.
Also part two: A documentary on blogging.
*I reached out to Chris Wiegand for a comment, and he has not responded.