Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Queen Bees and Wannabees
You can read all about it here -- and here, those are the only links I'll be providing, because the last thing I want to do right now is directly push readership over to Marie Clarie, a magazine I won't likely be buying anytime again in the near future (then again, I never read it before, so no loss there).
Without getting too mission statement'y on this blog, here are my basic thoughts about this:
1) Yeah, if you blog, you have a certain responsibility to your readership. This is a powerful thing both for you and for them -- when I was training for the marathon, I cannot tell you how many times on race day, I thought to myself, "I could totally quit right now... I WANT to quit right now... but, damnit, then what do I write about when I get home?? I QUIT!? I don't think so." You guys have always kept me honest and accountable, and I appreciate that more than you'll ever know. On the days that I feel like grabbing a big mac and a coke and crawling under the covers, I remember the inspiration I've found here, and I make a better choice.
On that same note, I know that part of the responsibility of blogging and running an online community is that of being accountable TO your audience as well. You'll never see me promoting diet pills or ridiculous weight loss fads. I mean, I might slip up and TRY one of those things from time to time (though I don't think I have in the history of writing this blog), but I'm certainly not going to encourage YOU to do it, nor am I about to go evangelize the beauty of something I don't know much about.
I'm not a doctor, a nutritionist, a weight loss coach, a dietician, or a personal trainer and I do not claim to be one. You should always take everything I say as an account of my own personal experiences and feelings, and nothing else. Bottom line -- as with anything you read ANYWHERE in the mainstream or social media, you should think for yourself. Personal accountabiltiy trumps everything else.
2) BUT (hey, this blog always has a big but(t), right?) Part of the beauty and danger of the blogging community -- and any community really, but especially one semi-shrouded in anonymity -- is the power of groupthink and trend mentality. Because I work in social media professionally and also have a "home" here personally, I've seen firsthand how powerful that can be -- both in negatively and positively. The day I ran my marathon, I came home overwhelmed to the point of tears by the supportive comments I'd received... many of you commenting that you were actually following my bib number as I ran. Conversely, I'm pretty sure Marie Claire is regretting their (thoughtless) decision to publish an article basically lambasting a bunch of bloggers with readership in the 30K's. Their facebook page is a mess -- I mean, if I worked in crisis communications for MC, I'd proably be looking for the quickest way into a new job while pouring double martinis down my throat.
3) I read every single one of The Big 6's blogs every day, and a few of them I've even met at BlogHer. I had lunch with Kath Younger on my first day in NYC, and I can tell you that she's darling. Her plate was filled with food, albeit healthy, and she ate every bite of it... before organizing a group walk around central park. Comments were made out of context ("I just ran 22 miles - I am so hungry!") rather than understood and explained (Yep, she ran 22 miles -- because she was training for a marathon -- and of course she was hungry (duh), and after that, probably ate a whole bowl of (whole wheat) pasta.).
There is much more than a fine line between the healthy living blogging community and the Pro-Ana / Pro-Mia (pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia) communities on the internet -- one promotes healthy choices -- the other bastardizes and misconstrues the affliction of eating disorders into choices, rather than severe psychological and physical illnesses. The writer of The Hunger Diaries seems confused, portraying the "I'm so hungry; I just ran 22 miles!" comments as a prideful statement about exercise bulimia combined with food anorexia.
Both communities are supportive of each others goals and can be seen as semi anonymous. That is where the similarities end.
The Manfriend can't stand social media. He was one of the last people I know to join facebook, has no use for twitter, and thinks that blogging (gasp) is ridiculous (that's fine -- I've got no use for fantasy football). No, I'm not talking about my little blog, but in general he worries (validly) that as the mainstream media starts to lose power and prevalence, and bloggers (uncredentialized) start to rise, pretty soon you've got a bunch of non-authorities calling the shots, coalescing public opinion, and influencing the masses. Although the government t has recently tried to intervene, setting some standards for what is required for sponsored posts, blogs that generate revenue, etc -- there is only so much they can do. There are 200,000,000 blogs on the internet, so the Manfriend's point is a fair one -- especially given the fact that not everybody holds themselves up to as high of an ethical standard as they should. The lack of regulation is both the downfall and the beauty of social media. Everybody has a voice. And if that voice is used for good, think about what a wonderful place this world could be.
I do believe that at the heart of the article, the author was trying to express my boyfriends fear above: that some young, impressionable, body-dysmorphic teenage girl is going to read "I just ran 22 miles; I'm sooooo hungry," not read the rest of the story, miss the details; miss the points... think that this is something they MUST live up to... and stumble into disordered eating and exercise. And that's a valid fear.
EXCEPT. The author missed the point of intent. None of these bloggers have eating disorders. None of them want YOU to have eating disorders. And none of them are living even SLIGHTLY unhealthy lives -- on the contrary, they all have jobs, marriages, hobbies, healthy eating habits, fitness goals, etc, nor do they expect their readership to emulate their healthy habits. They are just sharing their lives. The article reminded me of the movie Mean Girls (based on the children's book Queen Bees and Wannabees), where a healthy, well-adjusted and gorgeous Lindsay Lohan (gee, how things change) describes "girl world" as a place where people pick on each other, tear each other down; gossip, ridicule, and exaggerate for sport. Where instead of women supporting other women and their healthy endeavors, they stand in front of a mirror, criticizing their (perfect) bodies, and then gasp in shock when all that confident Lindsay Lohan can come up with about her own flaws is, "Uh, sometimes I have really bad breath when I wake up?"
Girl World doesn't have to be this way -- The Big 6 have cultivated a community where it is not only okay, but REQUIRED -- to love yourself, flaws and all. One need only take a look at Caitlin's "Operation Beautiful" to see her commitment to changing our thoughts about body image, "one post-it at a time." They all worked together to create The Healthy Living Summit, an event to celebrate EVERY facet of health. I've been fortunate my whole live to live in a Girl World filled with laughter, friendship, and support -- certainly junior high wasn't always that easy -- but I've always been surrounded by strong female role models and friends who showed me that the way to happiness and success wasn't to crap all over each other, but to hold up a light that makes each other shine even brighter. I've found that friendship in real life -- family, friends, co-workers -- and in the blogosphere. I have no patience or tolerance for Mean Girls, and I feel sorry for the writer from Marie Clarie who has obviously never experienced how great Girl World CAN be.
Off and running,