Johnson & Johnson BabyGate: You Knew I Couldn't Stay Quiet For Long
(And in case you're wondering: Yes, I was invited, but no, I'm not going, because I'm speaking at BlogHer Business the very same days. But hey - if any of you campers want to sneak away from raiding the fridge and making out with your pillows to road trip it up to NYC Friday afternoon for margaritas, I'm all over that.)
Bloggers like Susan Getgood and today, Heather at BlogHer, have already assessed the issues far better than I from an PR standpoint, and of course I'm saddened reading the accounts of friends whose feelings were hurt and schedules upended after being disinvited (or not invited at all).
But the women like Julie and Kate who were not allowed to bring nursing infants in slings particularly bummed me out. And I've finally put my finger on it, in part after reading Alyssa Royce's comment on Heather's thread in defense of J&J.
I've been interviewing lately, pursuing freelance advertising opportunities around NY. I haven't had to sit across a desk answering rapid-fire questions for a while - most of my jobs have been through people who already know me or at least my work - and I find one thing has changed in the last five years (besides the fact that the economy has wreaked havoc on day rates): I have kids.
I've already had a few (male) eyebrows raise just a bit too high for my liking when I mentioned that I have young children. And so I do my best not to mention it.
Are there any men who feel they can't go on a job interview, point at a framed Sears portrait on the desk and say "Well hey there, I'm a family man myself!"
Are there any men who are scared that that when they mention their kids, a recruiter will think they aren't the best person to write a beer ad or a car campaign? Are there any men who worry that while the guy across the table is smiling and pumping his hand, that in his head, he's thinking "Hm, he'd probably be happier if he were home with the kids."
But here on my blog it's different. Here I can be both a professional and a mom. Both a person and a mom.
Sometimes even...just a person.
And you get it.
So when a mom blogger is not welcome at an event - hardly a professional one, although the sponsor company may see it that way - she is not "overreacting" when she can't arrive with her nursing infant in a sling. It's not "just business." She doesn't need to be told that with a sleeping infant in tow she will not be able to "focus" properly. And yeah, it's okay to be a little angry about it. Because even with all the progress we've made, all the talk we do about candidates supporting women's issues, fist-in-the-air and amen sister, we're still beholden to the patriarchal model of business. And we continue to feel guilty for having to choose between our family and everything else.
I know. I've been in that situation, with a sleeping newborn in a car seat ten feet from my home office workspace, inviting my boss in, and having him stare at her as if she were a live grenade.
Parents come here, to the world o' blog, in part because here we don't feel marginalized the way we sometimes do in other aspects of our lives (as Kristen has put it). Here we are a community of kindred spirits. We surround ourselves with other parents who get the juggle.
Here, we don't have to deny that mommy side of ourselves. We don't have to hide the pacifier quickly as it falls out of a jacket pocket at work, or pretend that we're not stressed out worrying about a sick kid at home while sitting in a meeting. We can even look at that other picture on the proverbial desk and shout ME TOOOOOO!
Basically, it's okay to behave like a woman here. It's okay to behave like a mom.
So if you're a marketer and you want to come here, into our world to work with parents, I think you need to play by our rules.