A few weeks ago, I attended a conference for my industry, something many professionals do to stay up to date with the latest trends in their fields of expertise and to share their wisdom and successes with peers from far and wide. When I was a sales rep for pharmaceutical companies, I attended quarterly business meetings and large medical conferences. When I was in retail sales, I attended trade and buying shows/exhibitions. Now that I am an online writer and blogger, I attend Social Media and Blogging conferences.
My favorite for the past three years is called Mom 2.0 Summit , and yes, it is a conference primarily targeted to the parent blogging and social media community. Like it or not, this is an industry, with an estimated 4.4 million mothers blogging at least once a month (2014 data).
It is hard to ignore the power and reach this kind of online presence has in our world.
And yet, there is a part of me that still feels as if, even though many women have carved out a space as well as an industry for themselves online – and are doing incredible things within that space and beyond – we are still not viewed as capital P – professionals in our own rights. Part of that reason lies directly on us and, in my opinion, on the words and “industry jargon” we use to describe and label ourselves. You know the ones; MOMpreneur, MOMMY-blogger, MOM-boss, GIRL-boss, LADY-blogger (that’s a new one I heard just this week), etc, etc, etc…
At the conference, I met a woman who has been emailing me and asking me to be on her podcast. I admitted to her that I had been ignoring her emails because I didn’t know how to respond to her without being a total bitch. Truth. You see she promotes the idea of “Mompreneurs” . That night I was definitely on fire (read: open bar) and I became quite lit up and shouty about this. I was not at all worried about coming off as the angry feminist blogger.
She challenged me. She told me she finds the word empowering and one that builds up women who are “doing it all”, and her goal is to celebrate these women and their accomplishments. I explained to her that while I am wholeheartedly on board with celebrating women and their accomplishments, what I am not here for is words and movements that marginalize and pigeon-hole women into nice little tidy categories that f eel like the business world’s version of a pat on the head and a “good for you sweetie, starting your own little business”.
Let me explain further…
In a room of 400+ women (and a hand-full of men), many people may identify themselves as mompreneurs. In that room, we all know what that means. We understand the sacrifices that have been made, the time, the money, the effort, the babies worn in carriers at business meetings, and the stepped-on Legos and muffled screams while on a conference call. All done to create, support and build our dreams. We are the Harley Davidson riding bikers that nod to each other while passing on the highway. We are preaching to the proverbial choir. We RECOGNIZE and RESPECT one another.
Step outside of that room, or onto your LinkedIn profile and say or type the word “mompreneur” and I guarantee you the spark of recognition from those around you diminishes. Some might read it as you are a mom first and an entrepreneur second, which is not wrong, but perhaps not the image you want to present when in a potential investor meeting. (I personally believe this assumption should be just that, the unspoken assumption that family comes first for EVERYONE-mom or dad) . Others might assume you have a nice little side-hustle in the direct-sales business, and smile and secretly hope they aren’t on the list for the blanket Facebook invitations to all your GNO home parties.
When the moniker of mother is tagged on to any other word, it is detrimental to women for two major reasons. First and foremost, the assumption is that all decisions are made from the place of motherhood and this is THE most important point of origin. As my friend Anastasia says, “It reinforces the notion that for women, the role of mother is and will forever be primary, regardless of other achievements or titles.” Another friend said, “There is nothing wrong with being a mom and having that inform your work, without needing a fake word to describe it.” No matter how much you try to convince me that it is an empowering word, all I hear when someone says mompreneur, is a grown-up version of “you throw/hit/shoot/play like a girl”.
The other reason I can’t stand the word is the subtle sexism that I feel it reinforces as well. Men who are fathers don’t need to feel empowered by calling themselves “Dadpreneurs”, they are entrepreneurs, plain and simple. In a Facebook post on a fellow blogger’s page this past week, two male bloggers were joking about a new venture and being entrepreneurs again. I corrected them and left the slightly snarky comment, “You mean dadpreneurs” . Their response to me was, “We’ll make the dad jokes around here Natasha!”. Which only further drove home the message that any mom-ing or dad-ing of words is a “joke” and not to be taken seriously.
And can we talk about the word EMPOWERED for a minute? I don’t think we realize how gendered that word can be. The definition states that it means “to give someone the power to do something or to make someone stronger and more confident in claiming their rights and controlling their own lives.” When we continually use the word empowered in our messaging to women and girls, we automatically make the assumption that they have little or no power. The implication is that they are never going to be on an even playing field with their male peers and will need some kind of help to get a leg up in the world. Being called a mompreneur or a mommy-blogger or a “business mommy”, does not feel empowering to me in the least bit. These words feel reductive and limiting and as such, I believe they convey this image and “brand” to the general public as well.
The truth is we all wear different hats and assume different roles throughout our lives. The role of motherhood, regardless of how life-altering it may be, should not be given the power to define all that we do and all that we are. Too many women already feel that motherhood is an all-consuming experience, there is no need to feed the fire . If we continue to do this, we will indeed be the ones on fire; burning up and out without ever realizing our own potential and power in this world.
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