The Flip Side of Lisa Belkin’s “Jinxed” Theory

Wed, January 19, 2011

Changing the World

As a general matter, I enjoy reading the posts at Lisa Belkin’s New York Times blog, Motherlode.  I’ve met Lisa and she’s a lovely person, a great writer and her column has interesting food for thought.  But there are times when one of her blog topics misses the mark. Her recent column titled  “The Mom Blog Jinx” is an example of one that I read and went, “HUH?”

Her theory is that there might be a curse associated with the world of mom blogging because there are numerous examples of bad things that have befallen bloggers who also happen to be mothers — accidents, strokes, depression, cancer.  The most recent example of that theory Belkin cites is a blogger who was one of the shooting victims in the Tucson rampage that took the lives of six people and in which Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot.

Belkin’s theory bothers me for this reason — it’s taken so long for many women not only to find their voices, but to have a place to write about them in real and genuine ways, that if we start believing that they have somehow been the victims of cosmic retribution for having the audacity to share their lives online, many will stop.   And others who were just getting ready to take the leap of embracing the world of writing will pull back, keeping their stories to themselves.

That’s a potential loss I never want to see happen.

Finally, women writers have a venue with no barriers to entry and no big red Stop sign at the editorial desk saying  thanks but we don’t need any more of that “chick lit.”  I’d hate to see a jinx theory stand in the way not only of women embracing the power that writing can bring, but also creating new communities that could never have existed without the world of blogs.

The reality is this — bad stuff happens.  All the time.  It’s not a jinx to be out there in the blogosphere writing about life.  Actually, it’s the opposite.  For so many women, myself included, writing online has led to a myriad of connections that are priceless, and they are ones that would not have happened if we’d been published in more traditional outlets.  Those connections and friendships and relationships have sustained and supported many women of the blogosphere.  That’s a blessing, not a jinx.

When the fabulous and much-loved blogger Anissa Mayhew had a stroke, the whole blogging community reached out to help support her family in a variety of ways.  I don’t believe there was some karma on the lookout for Anissa that caused her to have a stroke.  But it’s not a stretch to say that Anissa and her family were supported by many, many more people after her stroke as a direct result of the friends and connections she made through her blog.  And thousands of us follow Susan Niebur, a blogger who is as kind and loving as she is popular, as she has shares her journey as a mom with cancer, allowing those of us who have become her friends as a direct result of the world of blogging, to be there for her and help, even if in small ways.

There are things that happen in all of our lives that we can’t foresee or prevent.  To suggest that a blogging jinx exists that causes tragedy will certainly keep some women out of the writing world and will cause others to hold back, censoring themselves in how they write for fear of inviting the wrath of the blogging gods.  I hope that doesn’t happen, since the world of the blogosphere has led many of those “mom bloggers” to share their expertise on other topics, like science, the environment, politics, education, and a whole lot more, leading those women to view themselves as the authorities they are, staking well-deserved claims in professional and avocational niches.

The idea of a mom blogging jinx makes for amusing cocktail party conversation, but it’s the flip side of the blogging coin that really deserves the attention.  The world of writing online has created a larger and more connected community of women who can support and advance each other in ways as never before.  That’s no jinx — that’s what we’ve been waiting for and we’re not giving it back.

Plus, I know that if Anissa or Susan caught wind of someone saying their writing had jinxed them, they’d kick some serious ass.

Update: As I later read through the comments at Motherlode, Belkin responds to one of the comments by claiming that she didn’t really think bloggers were jinxed, but that she was using it as a device to talk about the bad things that have befallen many bloggers.  That may well be, but as I read the piece again, it didn’t seem as tongue-in-cheek as Belkin says she meant it to be.  I suspect a headline that read “Mom Bloggers Support Each Other” would have had less SEO sex appeal.

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9 Responses to “The Flip Side of Lisa Belkin’s “Jinxed” Theory”

  1. Jessica Says:

    Right on. Amen. Agreed.

    Shame on mom bloggers for having normal lives like everyone else with strife and pain! Illness. Divorce. Financial troubles. Shame on us for having, and sharing, bigger problems than whether the brownies come out right.

    The non-blogging mothers I know also get sick, face tragedies. We babysit their kids and bring meals and take them out for wine and long talks in real life, and when it’s our turn for life to hand us a crap sandwich, our friends do the same.

    When tragedy hits our blogging sisters in another state, we send our love online with comments and emails and small PayPal love to help, and they get us back when it’s our turn.

  2. Minks Says:

    Sigh. How I wish I could write such an elegant and well thought out response such as this! My response went a bit more like “Hmph! Pshaw! Ridiculous!”
    I agree with you on all points, it’s so lovely to have found my voice and to read and relish other womens. It makes the world smaller and more personal.
    To suggest that blogging is a jinx is simply absurd and nonsensical.

  3. Elaine Says:

    I can see Belkin’s point, that there are a lot of bad things happening to bloggers. But I think the bigger point is that these are happening to everyone. And maybe we didn’t realize quite to what extent they were happening, until this online publishing world opened up and gave us space to share. Maybe before, these moms would’ve just holed up and become increasingly isolated. But not now. Now, moms share their very real stories, making us all more aware, and making this world a little bit more humane as we all learn what’s really happening, and we figure out ways to reach out.

  4. jodifur Says:

    I think a better post would have been how the community rallied around these bloggers. But that would have been too “nice.”

  5. jodifur Says:

    I need to re-frame my comment. I mean the media in general seems to always focus on the downside of blogging, online predators, internet addiction, never the good side, like community. I did not mean that Ms. Belkin herself was not nice, as I do not know her.

  6. Lisse Says:

    I think this jinx discussion is the same kind of thing that people used to talk about with regard to rock stars or the Kennedys. While most of us would not expect to be assassination targets, other tough things happen to everyone, it’s just that some have them happen on a larger stage than others.

  7. Justice Fergie Says:

    This sounds to me like the “if a tree falls in a forest” theory. Every single person is experiencing challenges of some kind. The fact that some women choose to blog about them doesn’t mean that they are inviting trouble or jinxing themselves; it just means that they are voicing their struggles. The tree still makes noise if it falls in a forest, even if no one decides to blog about it, right?

    The flip side, as you so thoughtfully put it, is that many times the women who do choose to blog their lives, receive an immense showing of support in return. And that’s a blessing, rather than a jinx in my book.

  8. Suebob Says:

    About 10% of the American population have blogs…So I guess there is 10% of the population that bad things are never supposed to happen to, or it is some kind of trend?

    I work with actuaries. Lisa’s premise would make them scream with laughter.

  9. Jennifer James Says:

    I have to admit I don’t read Belkin’s blog at all. I don’t know her writing style or parenting perspectives, but when I got wind of this post it made me sad. She fell prey to that little monster inside all blogges that says, “write this and see how much noise you can make.” As a respected blogger, she has to tame that little monster.

    I expect much more from her. And on top of everything her hypothesis was simply ridiculous.

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