the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Manly Insecurities

(photo via ThreeSeven)

As you can tell, I keep on putting off writing about “being a man” for my BlogHim post, mostly because I’m not sure what that means, or what unites me to other men. Yesterday, Leah reminded me that I could have gone to BlogHer, even though I am a man. Even Sophia was pushing me to go to Chicago so I could see my friends and “promote” my blog.

OK, here’s where I reveal some inner thoughts. My main reason for not going to BlogHer is because it would make me feel uncomfortable. And I think it has something to do with this “man” issue. I have no problem hanging with a group of women, but I think that if I went to a women’s conference, it would make me realize that, despite my hanging out with so many of you gals on this blog, that I don’t belong there. I’m not a woman. I’m a man. It would just make me question what makes me a “male” blogger and whether I should be writing more for a male readership.

Besides, seeing so many hot women in one room would be too much for me.

I think this is more of a gender issue to me, than one of sexuality. I would feel more comfortable sitting with a room of gay men than a room full of straight women. At least, they are still men. Gay men don’t make me question my sexuality. Hanging out with too many women does. Maybe I’m just being a typical male, feeling uneasy not being in charge of things when I’m with a bunch of women (the perfect reason for having a BlogHer to begin with), but considering that I’ve been living with Sophia all these years, and half of my bosses have been women, I can’t imagine that to be true.

But maybe it is. I can imagine being at this conference and wanting to argue and talk all the time, not wanting women to get the last word in. Isn’t that terrible? This is how WE are brought up.

Now that I’m re-reading what I just wrote, I’m not sure this makes any sense, but I’ll keep it up anyway.

Sorry to be a little petty, but I enjoyed learning that women sometimes have identity issues as well. How should “women” be identified — as hipster mommies who are cooler than their boring mommies or geeks or real women who have the same issues as everyone else? One of the funnier “controversies” of the BlogHer conference concerns the hefty swag that everyone received from the corporate sponsorship. This year, there were more sponsors than for the Super Bowl. Women received all sorts of doo-dads, from cool bags to beauty products. (am I the only one to think this is an issue in itself — the eagerness for everyone to “sell-out”)

Some women were a little miffed at getting a freebee from Butterball — a potholder!

This is what Plain Jane Mom, my blog crush from yesterday, had to say:

These companies completely missed the boat. Seriously, a potholder? Yeah, I’m a woman. Yeah, I cook. But this was not a conference for cooking women, this was a conference for blogging women. You know, who use computers. And I know, Math Is Hard Barbie, but blow me. The more I think about the apron and the hand mirror and the potholder, the angrier I get.

Plain Jane, tell me if I am wrong, but aren’t you really talking about gender identity — the same issue I am about men? That you want a woman blogger at BlogHer to be treated like the geeky man who goes to a Microsoft conference — and not like a housewife? The main difference is that the men who go to these boring Microsoft conferences are REAL geeks who wouldn’t know how to make a turkey if you gave them Martha Steward to help. A lot of the women at BlogHer actually write about being mommies, poop, and making turkeys for dinner. And what’s wrong with that? I think Butterball is just acknowledging the obvious — women at the conference are GEEKY and DO make turkeys! Why be afraid of acknowledging that making turkeys is important to some women? Is Butterball a lesser company than Dove Soap or Apple Computers? Do we really want Butterball to change their staid image so they can better appeal to hipster Moms?

“Yo, Mom, shut off the iPod! What’s for dinner? Cool — Butterball turkey!”

I would love to go to a man’s conference where they would acknowledge us a individuals who could make a turkey, but I doubt you’re going to find Butterball showing any interest in BlogHim.


  1. N

    Great post, Neil. Most of my online friends are women… blogging mommies, in fact.

    For me it’s not so much an issue of gender identity as much as it is that I love how women think, and it helps me better understand where my wife is coming from.

    But I’m with you, I couldn’t comfortably attend something like BlogHer unless I had a wig, makeup, a good shave and some steel underwear to conceal my excitement.

  2. tiff

    If y’all get free beer as swag at BlogHim, you can get I’m crashing the party next year.

    I’m a girl, and I think I would feel uncomfortable at BlogHer.

    What we reallyl really need is a “Blog’Em,” good for everyone!

  3. melanie

    oooo a pot holder? I am so there next year…I used to work retail, and got tonz o’swag, most of it all ends up as junk you have to clean. And FYI, secretly? I never question my gender identity when I am around men. I question it when I am around women.

    yea. conflicted hormonal mess, thats me!

    maybe there should be a BlogBetweeners.

  4. melanie

    tiff said it better. darn it. Blog Em sounds like a rumble I would totally attend… πŸ˜‰

  5. Jurgen Nation

    You’re awesome, and so is your lady. I enjoyed the Butterball potholder more than some of the other things because I really need a potholder for the rare moments I throw something in the oven (and naturally fuck it up). I would NEVER buy a potholder for myself, just out of spite of the notion that I should know how to cook. I hate cooking. I hate the gender crap as much as anyone else, but it was better than the bib last year. Although, now that I think of it, it may have made a decent potholder.

  6. MammaLoves

    I love that you took this as an opportunity to discuss your gender identity.

    I would definitely love a Blog’Em conference.

    I’m up for whatever swag–as long as it’s good. I threw away my potholder (actually I pawned it off on my kids as a present mommy brought home for them from her trip), but I kept my jump drive.

    Frankly, the whole hip mommy/geek woman thing is more apparent than I thought it would be and that was disappointing. The best part however was being around other people to whom you didn’t have to explain what a blog is.

  7. Bre

    I think the problem is that each gender has so many different aspects that make it up as a whole. Advertisers look at the most obvious – women tend to be the primary meal creators, shoppers, consumers of beauty products, and child caretakers, so that’s what they target.

    But where the conference as a whole gets it wrong is that, by allowing advertisers to spotlight those roles, they leave the rest of us feeling like we don’t quite fit in or accurately represent our gender.

    I think that there are a lot of reasons for women bloggers to get together and celebrate and learn from each other. I also think that there are lot of reasons for men bloggers to get together and celebrate and learn from each other. It’s OK to celebrate your gender and what makes it unique!

    That being said, I absolutely agree with Tiff that we should all just get together for one giant blogging extravaganza!

  8. Finn

    Why can’t they just give out turkey sandwiches instead? Everybody has to eat!

    As a rule, I don’t particularly care for gender-specific anything unless it’s sexual. Mostly because I’m only a REAL girl in certain aspects.

  9. psychomom

    I too would rather be sitting with a room of gay men than a room full of straight women.

    I find myself around males a lot and struggle to be accepted as an individual. I don’t appreciate the roles some assume any of us should play and will vocalize to my sons when I don’t agree with how men or women are portrayed. Maybe I push the issue too much, my son called me a “sexist” the other day.

    But not liking to cook or dress girly and liking to play sports and mow the lawn doesn’t make me a lesbian and men who dance and set pretty tables aren’t necessarily gay.

    I vote for a “Blog Em” conference and that they feed us Butterballs.

  10. By Jane

    Wow! I’m amazed. How did BlogHer get to be such a target? Everyone who’s doing a “with ’em’ or agin ’em”–hey, Freud lives.

  11. deezee

    Why be afraid of acknowledging that making turkeys is important to most women?

    Making turkeys is important to most women? I gotta call you on that one, Neil. Painful assumption.

    But I welcome the discussion of gender specific conferences, which probably isn’t so different from the conversation on female only schools.

    I like there’s more than enough room for both.

  12. Neil

    By Jane — I think BlogHer is a terrific organization. I would hope that you think a BlogHim should follow. After all, the Girl Scouts followed the Boy Scouts with much success.

    Deezee — You know what I mean. If you are going to have a specifically woman’s conference celebrating women bloggers, you should celebrate all types — including those who want to stay home and make turkeys for their family. Is it my imagination or do SAHMs look down at working moms as selfish and working Moms look down at SAHMs as “old-fashioned?”

  13. Neil

    Changed my “give me an erection” line to “Besides, seeing so many hot women in one room would be too much for me.” since the original line felt too stereotypically male to me (and cheap)… and it isn’t true. So many women would probably have the opposite effect on me!

  14. Danny

    Damn, I really wish you had gone to BlogHer, I so want to hear your persepective on it. (Such an event SCREAMS for Neil Kramer parody!) But you’d be wise to keep your mouth shut at such a gathering. I find the corporate sponsorship of the BlogHer events a little creepy but I also had to laugh at your turkey comment. I’ve never been with a woman (including my ex and current wife) who would know a turkey if it bit them in the rear–I’m the one who is obsessed with the perfect Thanksgiving bird.

    I have no problem with gender-focused conferences. I wonder how many men actually attend BlogHer (and why). I was horrified to discover recently that the famous Michigan Women’s Music Festival that several friends of mine go to every year does not allow transgendered women, even AFTER their surgeries. I have no problem with the women-only policy there but I am appalled at the discrimination against post-operative transexual women, especially since they claim to be so GLBT friendly. What do they think the “T” stands for?

  15. Neil

    Just for everyone’s info — Danny is the best cook around.

    Danny, how long do you cook your turkey? And is Butterball really the best?

  16. MammaLoves

    I heard someone say (sometime over the weekend) that 25% of the registrants at the conference were male. Don’t know if that’s a fact. But it was a conference organizer who said it.

  17. Erika, Plain Jane Mom

    “Why be afraid of acknowledging that making turkeys is important to most women?”

    Um, what? I need to see your data on this.

  18. Neil

    I heard that also. I made some calls to some of my male friends and from all accounts, out of the 25% of men there, only 2% got lucky with any of the women at BlogHer, and 1% of these were with their wives, and only got lucky because the wives felt obligated after their husbands agreed to shlep along to this convention with them rather than just staying home, watching Cinemax on TV.

  19. Erika, Plain Jane Mom

    “That you want a woman blogger at BlogHer to be treated like the geeky man who goes to a Microsoft conference Ò€” and not like a housewife?”

    Yes, that would be divine. Except for the part about being treated like a man. Just a geek would be fine.

  20. Dagny

    I buy my potholders at Ikea and I don’t buy Butterball turkeys. I like my turkeys all natural. Oh, and I learned how to cook the perfect turkey from a male roommate in college.

  21. Neil

    Erika and Deezee — OK, OK, I’ll put down the toilet seat next time… uh, I mean I changed the line from “most women” to “some women.”

    From now on, I go to Danny’s for Thanksgiving. He seems to be the only one who enjoys making turkey anymore.

  22. L.A. Daddy

    Neil! I’m starting a BlogHim, ya know! Click on my link to read the post…

    I’m gonna have to contact Butterball about a sponsorship now.

  23. Neil

    Good for you, LA Daddy! Let’s get that ball rolling!

    Speaking of balls, maybe Butterball can come up with a clever ad campaign for men… something like “Only a Real Man has the Balls for Cooking a Butterball!”

  24. butterfly

    Hmmmm…respectfully, to the lady-blogger, the outrage over the Butterball oven mit…seems a little silly.

    Don’t get me wrong — there is a part of me that is reminded of my own outrages over such things — I’m sure there was a time in my life that it would have really gotten my feminist-ire up. Like after I read Backlash (Faludi) or Where the Girls Are (Douglas). That said, I think I have mellowed a lot with age — because I found the anger made me feel more divided from men — in the midst of equality. Later, I took more of a stance of assuming my equality, rather than asking “may I have this?” I just picked it up as if it was mine, because frankly, “it just IS mine!” Period. And people tend to fall in line with this pretty easily πŸ˜‰

    Anyway, my point is, this shift in my own female-identity made the world slightly less adversarial — so that things like an oven mit amuse me. Really, to me it seems almost obvious, what else would it make sense for Butterball to give? Every time SOMEONE (male or female) in the house uses the mit while cooking, they’ll be reminded of Butterball…simple product-placement from a food-related-sponsor. I wouldn’t want a Butterball mousepad (that’s just stupid), but I would use a Butterball oven mit. Better yet, I would bring it home and give it to my boyfriend who is the official turkey-maker in my home! And the apron too! [We both love electronics, tools, cookware, nice sheets — we don’t get hung up on the “gender” of the item.] The important thing is that the swag bag is well-rounded, for many types of blogging women to enjoy! — I am a sucker for thumb drives and other tech gifts, but it is also cool to get handy stuff. One of the things I was most annoyed about losing in a recent move? The handy little rubber-sheet-grippy-thingy that State Farm Insurance sent me in the mail once, which made it possible for me to open jars (without a man)!! I didn’t take it as an affront to my feminist identity. What I would care about is whether or not the female employees of State Farm make $1 for every $1 a man makes. Whether they provide domestic partner benefits or not. These are the things to get annoyed about…

    So, you see Neil, women have identity issues in bulk. I think it is great that so many women read your blog…but, I do think it would benefit you to make purposeful forays into some more “man only” activities and possibly an occasional topic-shift? — to preserve your own identity and pride as a man! I think you sound a little estrogen-soaked and possibly hen-pecked, poor guy. Even women get sick of being around too many women. Get with the men and restore your man levels! I find my friendships with men to be just as important to my sanity as my female ones. But, too much of one thing will make you crazy. You’ve been out of your own pool too long πŸ™‚

  25. Danny

    I wouldn’t be caught dead serving a Butterball turkey–I think they inject those babies with all sorts of stuff to artificially keep them moist. Yuck. I’d much rather spend ten times the amount and buy a free range fresh organic turkey–I want my bird to have a happy life before I slaughter it. And I prefer longer cooking times at lower heat.

    I still question why so many men are attending BlogHer, I’d like to hear from some. Despite my discomfort with separatist events in general, if I were on the board of BlogHer, I’d discourage male participants. But maybe I’m not really getting what goes on there…

  26. butterfly

    BTW, I wouldn’t get a Butterball turkey either, but I would use the mit. FREE is FREE!!!

  27. Dagny

    Sign me up for Thanksgiving at Danny’s as well. Obviously a good turkey since he knows better than to buy Butterball.

  28. Neil

    Butterfly — I don’t know you that well, but I’m officially choosing you as my therapist. “Estrogen-soaked and possibly hen-pecked, poor guy.” You understand me! How much do you charge? Better yet… what are you doing Saturday night?

    Danny — I don’t buy the 25% men deal. It makes no sense.

  29. V-Grrrl

    Yawn. BlogHer. BlogHim. BlogNot.

  30. Neil

    Perhaps the real importance of BlogHer is not that the audience is mostly female — but that the conference speakers are 100 percent women, so these speakers can then move on to talk at the other web conferences and make a name for themselves. Even when women are empowered, it is usually the head honchos who are the most empowered.

    Diversity of speakers at web conferences from Kottke.

  31. Two Roads

    I cook the turkey for Thanksgiving in my family and love doing it every year. My recipe is pretty simple but produces the juiciest turkey ever!

  32. butterfly

    teeheehee — boy, my past educational background really outed itself today, huh? It just so happens that my original career choice and love was…Psychology. That’s what my degree is in. Way back when, I wanted to be a therapist — but when I was done with school, I felt like I was still a little too screwed up myself to really be able to help people (!) I switched career paths long ago — and in spite of my artistic parents steering me away from the starving-artist life, the pull was too strong — hence, my ending up a graphic designer with a tendency to psychoanalyze people in her spare time. I’m not so much a “starving artist” as much as a “comfortable creative” — so that’s a happy compromise…

    I’d love the extra income, but I am afraid it would be unethical for me to charge you. I’m not licensed. “Unofficial therapist” is probably the safest legal option, LOL.

    As for Saturday night? I’ve got no plans…but my boyfriend and my Right-Coast locale might be a problem πŸ˜‰

  33. Otir

    I probably shouldn’t post a comment now, since I haven’t read all the contributions of others, and also since the post is already from yesterday, but I’d love to add my two cents, even if I am taking a risk to be out of the point.

    Your post is very interesting, as always. The question of identity is critical and central to everybody. The problem with an outsider “definition”, like sponsors would like to imply with chosing a gender-oriented gift, is that it focuses on what people “do”, when the whole issue is about what people “are”.

    Yes “being” a mom is different than “being” a daughter (which you necessarily are, when being a mom is not the fate of every single woman). Being a cook is totally different, and is not gender defined, that is what women say when they get angry that the pot-holder would define them as such.

    I would add that this is a very tough quest that you go deep into, Neil, when you so hardly long for understand who the other is, as if this understanding would help you understand who you are yourself.

    My point is not worth more than two cents, and I truly apologize for stating in such a lengthy way, but it is dear to my heart. Being with others should lead us to accepting them, not necessarily trying so hard to understand them, because it takes us too far away from ourselves.

    The first step is to accept oneself, and acceptance will eventually lead to understanding… a little better.


  34. Otir

    I also apologize for the broken English. It looks like I have a terrible accent there.

  35. tamarika

    After an NAEYC conference with 10% male turn-out, I would think you know all about this! Excepting that at NAEYC there is no choice about this. At BlogHer there *is* a choice. This is such an important post, actually, Neil. I have amazing issues with inclusion and exclusion. I am hearing you loud and clear about all of this and would need to talk about … in person … otherwise my comment is going to turn into some kind of professorial lecture!

    It’s this Patriarchal model thing all over again – women are sucked into it as much as men – to keep up. I want us all to meet in the middle, share everything we have to offer and make a stand for one another. Am I an idealist? Are you? Do any of us know what I am talking about?

  36. Shannon

    If it had been an oven mitt, rather than a potholder, I totally woulda kept it.

  37. Neil

    Tamarika — I think we need to meet again soon and have another Patriarchal model talk!

  38. deannie

    People complained about FREE things? DECLINE IT IF YOU ARE SO OFFENDED. That would send the message far more effectively than petty sniping AFTER the event.

    You also wrote: I can imagine being at this conference and wanting to argue and talk all the time, not wanting women to get the last word in. IsnÒ€ℒt that terrible? This is how WE are brought up. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that is how YOU were brought up? And would your mom concur with that or is that more your perception? I know that many men in my circle of friends were NOT brought up that way at all!

    In reality, we are all so very imperfect with our own weaknesses. This gets translated into our being raised with unreasonable notions about the opposite sex, impressed upon us either by society or our own parents. I have found a great deal of happiness in coming to grips with who I am, understanding my beliefs more (not the ones I was told to hold, but rather the beliefs I honestly live by) and changing attitudes I saw in myself that I don’t like because they were misguided.

    I guess I really can’t empathize with the things you write in this post being a gal and all but keep talking about it. It may be I need to have my eyes opened to something I am really blind to now.

  39. Neil

    Deannie – On a positive note, I think each generation gets less neurotic about these issues as people get less stubborn about what a man or female is supposed to “act” like. I feel a little stuck between my parent’s generation and today.

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