the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: mommybloggers

Badge of Honor


I respect the ideas behind this new idea titled Blogging with Integrity.  I’m fans of the four women behind the concept, and met two of them at BlogHer, so I a bit nervous to talk about it, but as most of my long-time readers know, I always have issues with blog badges, and this one is particularly powerful.   It quickly appeared on the blogs of hundreds of women and got media attention just as BlogHer ended.  I would love to talk about it further in a civilized manner, analyzing the pros and cons, and whether this is the correct approach to the problem.

This is the copy on the BLOG with INTEGRITY webpage:

By displaying the Blog with Integrity badge or signing the pledge, I assert that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is important to me.

I treat others respectfully, attacking ideas and not people. I also welcome respectful disagreement with my own ideas.

I believe in intellectual property rights, providing links, citing sources, and crediting inspiration where appropriate.

I disclose my material relationships, policies and business practices. My readers will know the difference between editorial, advertorial, and advertising, should I choose to have it. If I do sponsored or paid posts, they are clearly marked.

When collaborating with marketers and PR professionals, I handle myself professionally and abide by basic journalistic standards.

I always present my honest opinions to the best of my ability.

I own my words. Even if I occasionally have to eat them.

Sounds good and decent.  Who would disagree with that?

What is the real issue here?    Unless I am wrong,  I am guessing this is primarily about the new FTC ethics guidelines, product reviews, and proper disclosure, with the swag-fighting at BlogHer only adding fuel to the fire.   Something must be done to show that bloggers are serious folk!

Are we talking only about mommybloggers?    The press seems to say so —

Now a group of “mommy bloggers” is banding together to promote a group called Blog With Integrity. The self-organised, self-policing group aims to instill a new measure of credibility in the blogosphere by encouraging bloggers to come out and proclaim their incorruptibility. (Financial Times of London)

One of the promoters, Susan Getgood, explains it like this: Blog With Intergity is “a tangible and collective way to express our commitment to a simple code of blogging conduct.”

First off, it would be nice for an issue as big as this one would move beyond the mommyblogging world.    What about daddybloggers?  Are daddybloggers completely honest in their dealings online, while mothers need overseeing?   Why not include a daddy blogger on the “editorial board,” giving a signal to corporations that men will abide by the same rules as women?  This is one of the few issues that I believe should not be segregated by sex.  If we are going to start a blogging union with blogging rules, let’s open it up to everyone.

So, what is the problem?   Everyone wants to create a better relationship between bloggers, the readership of blogs, and the corporations and PR firms who want to sell things.  This badge would be sort of a Blogging Good Housekeeping Seal of approval, announcing to others that this blogger who displays it acts honorably.

Or as my blogging friend Teensygreen says on her blog —

By signing the pledge and putting a button on your blog, you’re aligning yourself with wonderful people who truly care about the content they’re putting out there.

My biggest issue with the words in the pledge are these:

I always present my honest opinions to the best of my ability.

I’m pretty honest.  I am being honest right now.  But the very IDEA of pledging to be honest goes so against the grain of everything I believe, that I am rather shocked that more of you don’t have a problem signing this pledge.

As much as I respect the sentiments, I hope this badge doesn’t become too popular.  I would hate to see a two tier system on the blogosphere, where one person displays a badge of integrity, like a preacher carrying the Holy Book for all to see, while the rest of us are branded as lying heathens in Sodom, fucking goats.  Isn’t the logical conclusion — the hope of the promoters — that marketers will notice this badge and work with those displaying it?   Do we really want that to happen?   Ask Sophia’s parents about life in the Soviet Union, when people had to take pledges before getting jobs and apartments.

Am I overreacting?  Probably?  Maybe this is all a clever PR campaign to get some buzz.   But I am taking what is given to me — at face value – and see some problems with it.

Think about what this pledge really means.   When you pimp a book, are you going to say that it was written by your blogging buddy and that you never really got past page one?   Will you stop stumbling your friends on Stumbleupon as a “you scratch my back” gesture and only link to posts of high quality?   We all do disingenuous things online.

I think these women have done a great service to get the ball rolling, so we call all discuss the issue of honesty and integrity online.

I understand the FTC issue and the disclosure issue.  The women who created this badge are funny, creative women.  I just want to play devil’s advocate, so we remember that sometimes the best intentions can have negative consequences.

I blog so I can be creative.   Hopefully, I will win your trust with my actions, not with a pledge.

Power Struggles


I’m flying to Los Angeles on Friday for a couple of weeks, partly to take care of work-related matters.   I’m already feeling the anxiety.   Writing in Hollywood does not exactly fit my personality.   Networking is essential and there is a good amount of backstabbing.    In the entertainment industry, the aura of power is very important.   While I do have a competitive side, I would probably make a better junior high school English teacher.   That is more “me.”

One of the reasons I love blogging so much  is that I can avoid this competitive nature of writing.   Where else can I write a silly story and have pretty girls show up and applaud?   I don’t have to deal with agents or schmooze with people I don’t like — and best of all, the hero in the story gets to be ME, not Matthew McConaughey.

As blogging matures and becomes more business-like, it becomes just like Hollywood, which is people struggling for attention and power.   This used to trouble me, but now I just accept it.   It is human nature.   Sadly, life is less like a John Lennon song, and more like a game of music chairs or singing on American Idol.

I enjoy reading posts about the mom bloggers, because they are the most “successful” of the personal bloggers.  They have the most at stake, so there is always some internal drama going on that rivals “All My Children.”   “Important” moms argue over who is the most “influential,” as if motherhood was now a spectator sport.   Some writers now spend more time fighting over the direction of mommyblogging — what to say, what to do, what to call “mommyblogging” — than discussing their daily life.

I learn from these strong-willed individuals, much as I did with Sophia.   I have no problem with women being power brokers.  I wish I could be as strong and as sure of my opinions and wants.

You can catch up on the latest drama as my friend, Erin, Queen of Spain, who once rallied mom bloggers to “become a business,” now outs new bloggers as “carpetbaggers,” because they skip the “content” part of the writing completely, and just do giveaways.

I don’t disagree with Erin.   The bigger question is “who calls the shots?”   Who decides what a mommyblogger, or any blogger, should or shouldn’t do?   Who gives community leaders the power to speak for other individuals?

A commenter on Resourceful Mommy said it better —

What I find funny about this conversation (and several other conversations similar in topic and tone) is that the original Big bloggers were some of the first to push boundaries–the first pursued for reviews, the first to be paid bloggers and blog community leaders, the first to set up businesses connecting companies with bloggers.

It’s okay for one generation to redefine and raise eyebrows, but now everyone else must be controlled by their limits?

When there are limited resources, there will always be power struggles.  It doesn’t surprise me that as the economy has faltered, there has been more nastiness online.  People have agendas, sometimes personal, sometimes political.  This is the same for men and women.  Just watch an episode of “Survivor.”


On Saturday, I saw a production of Mary Stuart on Broadway, with Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter as Mary Queen of the Scots and Queen Elizabeth 1.   As with many dramas that were first produced in London, the acting was phenomenal.   I don’t know if I would recommend it to everyone.   It is talky, and I found myself dozing off a bit during the first act.    Luckily, during the intermission, I went into the lobby, turned on my iphone, and read about history on Wikipedia, filling me in on the backstory of this great power struggle of the 16th Century.

After the death of Mary Tudor, Henry II caused his eldest son and his daughter-in-law to be proclaimed king and queen of England.    From now on, Mary always insisted on bearing the royal arms of England, and her claim to the English throne was a perennial sticking point between Elizabeth I and her, as would become obvious in Mary’s continuous refusal to ratify the Treaty of Edinburgh. Under the ordinary laws of succession, Mary was next in line to the English throne after her father’s cousin, Elizabeth I, who was childless.   Yet, in the eyes of many Catholics, Elizabeth was illegitimate, thus making Mary the true heir as Mary II of England.   However the Third Succession Act of 1543 provided that Elizabeth would succeed Mary I of England on the throne.

This was an epic battle between two powerful women, between family members, between two religions, that changed Europe and the world forever.

Clearly, Erin of the Queen of Spain (funny how everyone wants to be a Queen!)  is not going to chop my head off for writing this.   She is a very nice women.   As I mentioned earlier, I learn from these dramas.  I shy away from conflict (at least in real life), although I admire those who take a stand and fight for it.   We all have to push ourselves if we want something worthwhile.   Even something as beautiful as all the money collected for the March of Dimes last week for Maddie required volunteers organizing and pushing for money, and focusing our energy on the importance of this charity, opposed to the many other good charities in the world, like prostate cancer or muscular dystrophy.  Even Good Deeds requires leadership and someone (or some organization) getting slighted.  Everyone wants the attention focused on them.

I perfectly understand the feeling.   One of the problems in my marriage was this feeling of a power struggle, over “who was in charge.”

Today, my mother and I were walking in Times Square when we encountered men dressed as cartoon characters. Kids would run up to, say SpongeBob, and the parent would take a photo. At first, I thought these were sanctioned characters presented by the Disney Store, but then I noticed that Sponge Bob was pushing for tips, and that the “Elmo” character was in direct competition with SpongeBob. He seemed to be pissed that the kids considered him “2008” and only wanted a photo with SpongeBob instead.   Two blocks away was the production of Mary Stuart, but I didn’t have to pay a hundred dollars a ticket to see great drama.  It was right in front of me.   Two hard-working guys (or gals), stuck in hot, uncomfortable costumes in the heat, battling for tips from tourists from Germany.

Another example of limited resources, and a power struggle for dominance.

Now, honestly.   Where ELSE can you ever read a blog post comparing mommybloggers, 16th Century English royalty, and SpongeBob?

By the way, the exchange I had with my mother over these cartoon characters was amusing.

My mother and I encountered Sponge Bob in the center “island” in the middle of 42nd Street.


Mom:   “Who’s that?”

Neil:  “Sponge Bob.”

Mom:   “Is he supposed to be a piece of swiss cheese?”

Neil:   “No, I think he is supposed to be a sponge.”

Mom:  “Kids play with sponges?”

Neil:  “I’m not exactly sure he is a sponge. Let me ask my readers.”

I took a photo of SpongeBob with my iPhone.

Mom:  “You should take a photo of Oscar too.”

Neil:  “That’s Elmo.”


Mom:  “Everyone is taking a photo of the sponge, but no one is taking a photo of Elmo. Look at him. He looks so sad. He must be shvitzing in that costume.”

Neil:  “I don’t want to take a picture of him.”

Mom:  (Jewish motherish)   “Go on. Take a picture of him. You know you want to.”

We crossed the street and immediately ran into Mickey Mouse and Shrek.  While SpongeBob and Elmo were doing their shtick for tips on “the island,” these guys seemed to be professionals hired by Disney.

Mom:   “Hey, it’s Mickey Mouse!  You want a photo of him?”

Neil:   “I don’t like Mickey Mouse.”

Mickey waved at me.


Mickey Mouse:   “Hello. Do you want to take a photo of me?”

Mom:   “Go ahead, Neil.”

Neil:  “No, thanks.”

Mickey looked disappointed.

Mom:  “What about a photo of Shrek?

My mother looked Shrek over.

Mom:  “I thought Shrek would be bigger.”


Neil:   “It’s not really Shrek.”

Mom:   “I know that.   He’s in the Disney musical.”

Neil:  (to Shrek)   “Are you and Mickey working with Disney?”

Shrek:  “Yes.”

I pointed over to SpongeBob and Elmo.

Neil:  “And what about those guys?”

Shrek:   “I don’t know WHO they are.   They’re just doing it for the money.   They don’t care about the children.”

Mickey overheard our conversation and came over.

Mickey:  “Those assholes are stealing our customers.”

Mom:   “No wonder they call Bob a sponge.”

Neil:   “Don’t they need a license?”

Shrek:   “Who knows?  (to Mickey)  We should tell the cops on them.”

Mickey:  “Good idea.”

Mom:  “C’mon, Neil. NOW you have to take photos of your new friends!”

I caved in and took photos of Mickey Mouse and Shrek.   I lost the power struggle with my mother.

Celebrity Strollers

Elisabeth Hasselbeck with her Maclaren Stroller 
(thanks to the lovely Cheaty Monkey.  More strollers on her blog)

I hope I didn’t insult any women in the last post by questioning our special male/female friendship. 

I really do enjoy reading the blogs of women.  I learn a lot about your gender.  I’m supposed to be a writer, so it is important to get insights into the minds of women.  One day, I hope to have the ability to write a real, three-dimensional female character who doesn’t just have sex with strangers in alleyways and shoot people with the revolver she has hidden in her garter belt.

In my last post I made a joke about mommybloggers who write about celebrity strollers.  Rather than making fun of this, I might as well learn more, in case I ever have to write about this subject.  It is good to be well-rounded. 

So, tell me.  If you’re a mommy strolling down Rodeo Dr. or Fifth Avenue or Main Street with your baby in a stroller, and you meet another mother, do you actually take note of the BRAND of the stroller?!  Is it a status symbol, akin to a guy driving a Ferrari or a Hummer?  Is there that much difference in the quality of a stroller?  Would you be afraid to be seen using a stroller from Walmart?  Does one stroller fold more easier than the other?   Have any of your babies had more than one stroller, and actually preferred one over the other?

Naomi Watts and her Bugaboo stroller.

Let’s get down to my writing.

Imagine I’m trying to write an episode of some new TV show about mothers who live in, say, Pittsburgh.  The show is called Pittsburgh Mommies.

Producer:  “We need a re-write!  Bring in that Neilochka!  He KNOWS how to write women!”

My assignment:  There is a crucial scene between two mothers who meet in the park, the roles played by Jennifer Garner and Teri Hatcher (who left Desperate Housewives to star in this show).  Would something like the following sound believeable to a real mother? —

Jennifer:  Teri, how are you?  I see little Tyler is feeling better.

Teri:  Oh yes, the little munchkin is perfect.

Jennifer:  Hmmm…

Teri:  What, Jennifer?

Jennifer eyes Teri’s new stroller with jealousy in her eyes.

Teri:  Oh, I see you’ve noticed this little thing…

Teri laughs nervously.

Jennifer:  How did you get the new Bugaboo?  It hasn’t even been released to the general public yet?

Teri:  Oh, one of Michael’s clients works for the Bugaboo company.  We paid for it, of course.  Isn’t he a darling husband?  He’s always bringing me little presents.

Jennifer:  This isn’t just a little present.  This is a brand new Bugaboo.  Do you know how much this costs?

Teri:  Oh , Michael wouldn’t tell me.  He just said, as long as the baby is living in comfort — that’s all that’s important.  I mean it’s not essential to have a Bugaboo.  Your Maclaren stroller is perfectly good enough for your Sarah.

Jennifer:  What do you mean by that?

Teri:  I mean, I know Eddie has been laid off lately.  A Bugaboo is a little out of your price range.

Jennifer:  So are you saying that Tyler deserves better than Sarah?

Teri:  Of course not.  The Maclaren is an excellent stroller.  As is the Siver Cross Pram, the same one Maggie Gyllenhaal uses!  And the… It’s just that Michael…

Jennifer:  Michael!  Michael!  I’m sick and tired of hearing about your stupid husband Michael!  Maybe if you moved your eyes once in a while away from your stroller you would notice that he’s shtupping Ashley Friedman at the Hyatt Hotel every Thursday Night during your vibrator and dildo selling  party!

Teri: — You bitch.

Jennifer turns over Teri’s stroller, with the baby still inside.

Jennifer:  — I hate you!  I hate you… and your Bugaboo!



Lovemaking scene between Teri’s husband, Michael, and Ashley Friedman.

OK —

Mommybloggers, did this baby stroller scene ring true?   I know it did.  Thank you for letting me learn about your secret lives.

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