I call Cindy Samuels my fairy blog mother. She and I met many years ago when we both worked at iVillage.com. Through the years Cindy has been a mentor, sherpa and confidante. She wrote this beautiful piece about the closing of iVillage.com, which makes me sad, too. Everything I learned about marketing, online community, and content I learned from the amazing women at iVillage.com.
Women need tribes. Need each other.
Two of the first online people to figure that out were Nancy Evans and Candace Carpenter Olson, the co-founders, along with two others, of iVillage. Together they built the best online home women will ever have. Parent Soup, where I worked for four years, was a mommy site before mommy bloggers or Babble or BlogHer. Vibrant, warm and well-led, it served – and listened to – women with inclusiveness and respect.
Well before blogs or social media, iVillage’s topical message boards, conceived as support communities like those in AA, engaged the site’s visitors and provided a sense of home and ownership that didn’t seem to appear anywhere else online. They shared parenting and relationship advice and once, right before my eyes, rescued a woman from a terribly abusive relationship as all the members of the board came together to support her.
Today we learned the site will “be shuttered” and folded into the TODAY SHOW Online under its current owner, NBC News.
I am thankful for the chance to raise boys who become loving men, committed to equality and life outside the “man box.
I realize that quote sounds waaay too earnest. I swear I didn’t mean it like that! And for those of you wonder WTF a “man box” is, you need to know. In “A Call to Men,” his powerful TED Talk, Tony Porter details his definition of the man box. A world where men are in charge, where women are not. A world where men are tough, strong, and never, ever emotional. This has stayed with me for years and years. And I will not let my boys grow up within the strictures of the man box.
I have been working in this field (marketing “social change” using the internet) for a very long time. Even though I love my work, I’ve been getting a little cynical. Every day I tell my clients, “Moms online are the most powerful force” and yet true change comes slowly. Women’s power doesn’t seem to increase as fast as we’d hope. Last week, at the Glamour Women of the Year Awards, celebrating the most incredible women’s most incredible accomplishments, I cried and cried as the horrific impact of gun violence seemed a hidden guest of the evening.
And then, there’s this: at some level, I’m still giving the same sales pitch about the importance of reaching women online as I was in 1999 at iVillage.com. I guess that’s reasonable. After all, when I do online fundraising work, I still focus on the importance of email fundraising, same as we were back in 2003.
So yes, I’ve been thinking about impact.
But this weekend I had the honor of attending a planning retreat for a non-profit board I serve on: PostPartumProgress. In the room, six fabulous women planned how to drive a hugely impactful organization to the next level. And here’s the thing: the primary vehicle of PostPartumProgress, which many women have said “saved their life,” is a blog. It’s a website, founded by Katherine Stone almost ten years ago. This weekend reminded me that not only do organized and vocal communities of women on the internet have the power/potential to change things, we actually HAVE. This probably seems like a subtle difference but in hearing your stories and diving into the work of PPI I realized change is happening, and change is us.
This morning on the phone my mother started to cry. She said, “sometimes I feel like I’ve lost you. You’re so busy all the time.” And my heart tugged, because this is how I’ve been feeling about my own children this week, even though they are only two and four.
Our nanny of the past 3.5 years left yesterday. It’s been a loss I didn’t anticipate feeling. Not only because she was part of our family, for better and worse, for all that time. Not only because my older son said her name before mine (which broke my heart at the time) and because my younger son knew her since birth and was partially raised by her. But because of the milestone this handover represents and the signal to me that it’s one step closer to my boys’ own independence. We’re entering a new phase, where both boys will be in preschool and neither is a baby.
We do have a wonderful new nanny. But as she dropped me off today with my boys in the car, I felt a tug I haven’t felt in years. As a mom who travels a lot, I entrust a great deal in child care providers. This is a bargain I made with myself a while back and came to peace with. Now the process of trusting has to start over again, and it’s painful.
This week I’m working at Women Deliver in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - here’s an excerpt from a piece for UN Dispatch:
The hidden subtext of the Women Deliver 2013 Conference in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, the largest global health event of the decade, is all about breaking taboos: Taboos about women and power, about sex, about relationships between men and women, and about the role of global institutions in quite simply talking about sexual health.
According to Marie Stopes International, 222 million women around the world have an unmet need for family planning. Access to this care would prevent unnecessary deaths and reduce poverty.
The consensus of over 4,000 highly educated and sensible people that “Reproductive health is a human right” feels revolutionary to an American in our current political climate. But at Women Deliver, family planning is depoliticized. Everyone here addresses sexual and reproductive health and rights as absolutely key to the health of global economies.
The connection between a healthy and economically sustainable planet and sexual and reproductive health is clear, proven again and again by data, but difficult to discuss, in almost every country.