It took me a while to gather my thoughts on Mumsnet Blogfest – so many interesting speakers, so much to think about. In the end, I gave up on gathering my thoughts and just started writing without many thoughts at all. One of the seminars I attended advised to only publish a tiny fraction of what you write, and self-edit the vast majority of it…so this is probably the type of content that deserved to be edited out. And for that I apologise. (Although, as a freelance writer I have to pretty much use everything I write. It’s a great notion to “write all the time and be very selective” but I write all the time just to get stuff done. If I was more selective those wispas and slushies would have to buy themselves…) So, where to begin? I’m not going to bore you with a blow-by-blow account of everything that happened, so let’s pick out the 5 most interesting moments:
5) Stella vs Toby
Why not start the day with a rumble? This is Mumsnet, after all, where people call each other mimsywoowoos at the slightest provocation. But there were few arguments going on among the Mumsnetters when it came to Toby Young and Stella Creasy MP debating the issue of Twitter trolls. Stella testified that she’d been on the end of some very unpleasant messages on Twitter over the summer and what was Toby’s response to that? Well, once he’d stopped frantically googling things on his laptop, he tried to make some kind of weak point about freedom of speech and Saudi politicians. The room backed Stella. As one tweet read, “Stella for PM”
4) AL Kennedy vs Bad Writing
The “Cracking Yarns” session was a highlight for most people. I was going to write about Lionel Schriver’s footwear, but thought I might incur the wrath of the feminists for concentrating on a woman’s appearance instead of what she said (but for the record, I would comment on a man’s appearance if he was wearing pink wellies on stage. Or any other colour wellies.) So, I’m going to instead mention writer and stand-up AL Kennedy tackling the subject of how it feels to read bad writing. If I live to join Busted in the Year 3000, I doubt I’ll ever forget her succinct way of describing it – “it’s like a little bit of $#!+ in your stew.” Haunting.
3) Jo Brand vs An Atmosphere
I’m imagining a phone call here between Mumsnet Towers and the veteran female comedian: MNHQ: Hi Jo. Fancy a tough gig? JBHQ: Bring it on MNHQ: Great. You’re going on straight after the feminism debate. Good luck. Byeeeee! Credit to Jo Brand, she did a fantastic job in lifting the Atmosphere that had settled over Hall One following the Keynote Panel. A few jokes about impotence and how she gave lesbians a bad name (she’s straight) and everyone visibly relaxed. She then gave us some straightforward, deadpan advice on how important our blogging voices were and she soothed some of the bruising that our egos had all suffered a few moments before. She’s never been my favourite comic, but she was an excellent choice for keynote speaker and worked some kind of a miracle.
2) Jon Ronson vs Jon Ronson
This made it to number 2 for me because it was by far the funniest moment of the day. I almost cried with laughter. Watch this video to get the idea, but essentially it was deadpan northern writer Jon Ronson taking on a group of academics who had created a fake Twitter account in his name. If you manage to find a more pretentious group of diggers than this lot, then let me know…it’s probably an even bigger miracle than the one Jo Brand pulled.
1) Feminists vs Mummy Bloggers
And here’s the biggie, the one that Blogfest’13 will always be remembered for…the debate on whether you could be a feminist and a “Mummy Blogger”. Short answer was yes, long answer was that feminists don’t seem to understand what “Mummy blogging” entails (if you’ve read my blog and thought my life was perfect, then I strongly suggest you get your eyes tested). It was ugly, with breastfeeding, Joss Whedon and university degrees all being thrown into the mix. It was almost like AIBU bingo at one point. So many people have blogged about it better than I ever could, so I’m not going to try and pick the issues apart. Let’s just summarize it with the tweet from Older Mum, fuzzily reproduced below: “I’m a feminist and I bloody love jam.” But in case you think it was all mud-slinging and hostility, think again. It was also a great day for meeting fellow bloggers some of whom I “knew” from the network but had never seen in real life before. They were all lovely. There were cheeky cocktails at lunchtime, copious amounts of caffeine and a very fancy goody bag at the end of the day. I got some very good advice from Jax Blunt on going self-hosted and it was the only conference I’ve ever been to where everyone is encouraged to be on social media all through every talk. It helped to break the ice, being able to chat to people on Twitter as well as in real life. It did feel a little schoolgirlish at times, as when WonderWebWoman and I were seating a few seats apart and sniggering over my very off-topic tweet on the screen above Sarah Crown’s head. And then there was the very funny “In it for the LOLZ” session, with some excellent comedy writers and some good tips. The less said about Tumblegate the better… Who’s in for Blogfest’14?