I took my 9-month-old daughter and 6-year-old son to New York City during the first week of August to attend BlogHer. (To see a photo gallery of our trip, click here.)
As I wrote in the comment section on her excellent and thorough blog post about the event, it was my first BlogHer conference.
The blog I write at Mothering.com is called “Mothering Outside the Lines.” I’ve been blogging there for a little under a year. I’m under contract to update the blog three times a week. Though I think I’m getting the hang of it, I still consider myself very much a newbie in the blogosphere.
Though there is some advertising on the blog, this is all done by the Mothering staff and advertisers must adhere to Mothering’s strict code of conduct. You’ll never see an ad for a plastic diaper or a can of formula on Mothering’s site.
As a paid blogger, I have the luxury of not needing or accepting corporate sponsors. I have yet to do a give-away or accept corporate swag (though after checking with the magazine editors and arguing with myself, I did agree to accept a uniquely designed cloth diaper made by an independent manufacturer after telling her that I probably would not be reviewing it on the blog. I have also had several wonderful books sent to me for free, though I have yet to write reviews of them.)
I went to BlogHer looking forward to learning more about blogging, meeting other bloggers, and understanding the role of social media in today’s changing ecosphere. Though I did attend a couple of excellent panels (most notably the one with Beth Terry on blogging and activism and the one with SheWrite’s founder Kamy Wicoff on social media and book publicity), I came away feeling dismayed by BlogHer.
I still feel upset when I think of it.
As Beth Terry detailed in her post, the sponsor list included some really unconscionable companies and the organizers of BlogHer did a lamentably good job greenwashing the event.
The amount of swag was staggering.
The amount of waste and excess exactly what I am trying to avoid in my life.
I don’t want to think about how much trash was generated, how much food was thrown away, and how much cheap plastic shit will end up in the landfill as a result of a conference I attended.
The sentence that Beth wrote that rings most true for me: “[BlogHer is] also about corporate sponsorship, commercialism, and the tradeoffs made to create a platform and conference experience for 2,400 women.”
Maybe because I was there with a baby and I made poor choices about some of the panels I attended (at one the speaker was so disorganized that he spent most of the time looking for files on his computer that he could not find. I cringed with embarrassment. And then I headed to a different panel.) But I think it was much harder for me to get past the trade-offs and the ethically void corporate sponsors than it was for others who got more out of the conference.
From the devastating flooding in Niger to the oil spill in the Gulf that has made the water unsafe and has sickened sea life, we are being reminded on what feels like an hourly basis how urgent the problem of waste and excess is in our culture. We have to stop polluting the planet. We can’t greenwash events and think somehow pretending to do things differently is enough.
We homo sapiens are on a fast road to extinction (or at least to a greatly reduced population).
Some of the companies sponsoring the BlogHer event are so directly involved in creating and promoting suffering (for humans, for other animals, and for the planet) that I’m ashamed I attended a conference they were underwriting.
Instead of begging these companies to visit our blogs, we need to use the power of the Internet and social media–as Beth Terry does so eloquently and with so much integrity–to insist that these multinational corporations change. Now. For real.
Corporate greenwashing is intolerable. I think Beth Terry is doing it right–participating and criticizing from the inside in a thoughtful, well-reasoned way.
I wish I could be more like her.
But I doubt you’ll see me at another BlogHer event, unless it’s outside on a picket line.