This year’s BlogHer conference – held this past weekend in New York City – drew more than 5,000 individual bloggers. In addition to three days packed full of workshops, panels, and parties, attendees were also treated to a video address from President Obama, and keynote presentations from the likes of Martha Stewart and Katie Couric.
During each of the breakout sessions, a variety of choices were available and grouped into easily navigated categories, like The Personal, The Political, The Professional, The Technical and more. Included in the three-hundred dollar individual ticket price, bloggers could take a workshop on iPhoneography, how to balance private life with blogging, or how to turn blog posts into published essays.
The bloggers themselves came from all over to attend the conference, resulting in a diverse group of folks, ranging in age, ethnicity, blogging experience and focus, and even gender. According to BlogHer, 10-15% of attendees are men. Still, women ruled the conference, making up the majority of attendees, panelists, and all of the keynote speakers.
Cecily Kellogg, writer of the the blog Uppercase Woman, focused on the importance of women in the blog-o-sphere: “Blogging as a woman is a radical act. Even if a woman doesn’t identify as a feminist – and may, in fact, be opposed to feminism – it is still radical because women raising their voices about their lives IS inherently feminist. Because I also personally believe that feminism is about choice, having such a huge representation of the myriad ways that women live their lives is powerful. Revolutionary, even. So for me, I feel that BlogHer’s foundation is Feminism and is present throughout the conference.”
Kellogg is not alone in her observations. Many of the bloggers I spoke with that attended BlogHer12 felt that while not officially promoted, there was a strong feminist presence at the conference. Writer and speaker Veronica Arreola, who was a member of the Latinas in Elected Office panel, shared her experience about this past weekend, “I spoke on a panel about Latinas in elected office, went to a panel about using online tools to elect women. I know there is a great feminist presence at Blogher…I just we had a better way of signifying it.”
But perhaps, as BlogHer continues to put more focus on the political – in addition to President Obama’s telecast, there were multiple panels dealing with the election and political engagement – the visibility and recognition of feminist bloggers will also grow. BlogHer isn’t new to politics either, two of BlogHer’s founders, Elisa Camahort Page and Lisa Stone, helped to create the organization after talking about the presence of women in the political blogging world. The inclusion of political panels certainly had some intention behind it, and while some attendees noted that many of the political panels weren’t as packed to capacity as other panels, the interest was still there.
Political/Media analyst and author Joanne Bamberger of PunditMom, who spoke on the panel, “Using Online Tools to Get Women into Office,” noted the shared activist spirit between politics and feminism when she spoke about this year’s conference, “I was pleased to see there was a full political track at BlogHer this year and that helps promote a growing feminist presence, and there were several panels sponsored by Latism about the growing role of Latinas in the political process. We’ll see if that continues in non-election years.”
Lauren Marie Fleming of QueerieBradshaw.com has hope that BlogHer will continue in a progressive manner. Fleming spoke on two different panels, including one about sex and erotica that included two women of color, a woman over sixty, and Fleming, who identifies as queer. The diversity within that panel impressed Fleming, who feels that BlogHer is truly a part of the contemporary feminist movement:
Our packed room had an interactive discussion about the right to sexual education, satisfaction and freedom, and dismantling the shame built into our society over women who celebrate their bodies in any form. On my blogging as a business panel, we talked about valuing yourself emotionally and monetarily as a woman and writer, giving yourself permission to self-promote and sitting at the table of business instead of shying away in the shadows. Both panels were the epitome of feminist dialogues, both panels empowered and encouraged every woman in the room – and that’s what BlogHer is all about.
Perhaps next year’s conference may even include the panel “Feminist Blogging?” With the direction the conference has been headed, their focus on diversity and political engagement, and the general enthusiasm from this past weekend’s attendees, it just might be in the cards.