I just had someone find my blog by typing “greedy heather armstrong.” I feel compelled to write.
Background: Heather Armstrong is an extremely successful blogger. You can find her website Dooce.com here, and I recommend you check her out. Lots of people don’t like Heather Armstrong. I am not one of those people.
This past week, there was an article in the New York Times written about her journey in the blogging world. It was a flattering article, in my opinion, and fascinating to watch how she became someone like me (writing a blog that is read mostly by friends) to, well, her (someone whose blog has mind-bogglingly high readership and pulls in some bank, yo.)
Some of the comments on this article, however, were brutal. People were eager to share their negative opinions of Heather, tossing schoolyard names to and fro, and then just swooping in and saying that the whole mommyblogging community should be banned from the internet forever, because they are horrible awful selfish boring bad writer idiot people who are exploiting their children. (I’m paraphrasing, but only slightly.)
(Sidenote, can we please, please for the love of God, PLEASE do away with the name mommyblogger? I find the term woefully insipid. How ’bout blogger?)
Heather has laughed off the criticism by calling attention to the comments with her usual self-deprecating tongue-in-cheek tone, and I applaud her decision not to defend herself.
Other bloggers were offended by the comments to the article and have reacted to it and similar personal criticisms on their blogs. I’ve linked to their reactions. Liz Gumbinner of Mom 101 and Catherine Connors of Her Bad Mother are two examples. (And, for the record, though I dig Heather’s choice not to defend herself, I also dig what these ladies have to say in their (our) defense.)
I hadn’t planned to write anything about this, to be honest, because the issue is quite simple and I find the act of arguing over it rather comical.
Any person who feels compelled to share their story has a right to share their story. The end.
Do I believe the memoir blogging market is oversaturated? Yes.
Do I believe that there are bad writers posting drivel online? Yes.
Do I believe that some parents exploit the private lives of their children for personal gain and that this practice is to be frowned upon? Yes. (I’m looking at you, Kate Gosselin.)
But to suggest that a person does not have a right to share her story, for any reason, is, quite simply, absurd.
These stories? Perhaps you don’t relate to them. Perhaps they offend you. Perhaps they even horrify you. But hearing them has made you a more whole, self-assured, connected person — even if it’s by vehement disagreement. Especially if it’s by vehement disagreement.
These stories that we tell one another, whether in a coffee shop, over the phone, online or anywhere in between, they are our means of relating to one another.
Here is my story. What is your story?
You feel that way? I feel that way too!
You feel that way. Why? I don’t understand. Help me to.
You feel that way? You asshole. I never want to see you again.
Why are people minimizing these vital exchanges? I’m really asking that question. And if someone has a hint of answer, please leave it in the comments.
I don’t know of a single solitary life that isn’t fascinating to someone. If you doubt it, read about my experience with a woman named Chris in my Royalty of Ordinary. This was a woman who was actively dying. I had no real interaction with her other than to sit by her side until her death. I knew nothing about her. At all. And she has had one of the most profound impacts on my life to date. She wasn’t even trying, but simply knowing she had a story was revelatory.
To suggest that there are whole walks of life who don’t have stories worth telling? It’s absurd.
Even more absurd? Claiming that Heather Armstrong is greedy for telling her story (and telling it well), then googling “greedy heather armstrong” in order to spend extra time wishing that she’d just go away. You are in a hate vortex, my searching friend, and I suggest, while I write this post pointing that out, you go home and have yourself a nice relaxing bath.
There is no need for a defense. There is no argument to be had. A world where stories are unwelcome is a sad, sad world. Everyone has a right to share their story.
Now I’m off to go see what Heather is up to.