At church I’m a liberal.
I am repeatedly amazed at the complex nuances of personal political identity and the bizarre need we feel to categorize each other along party lines. This becomes confusing because the way I’m categorized changes dramatically depending on whom I happen to be sitting next to. In an LDS Sunday School class, I’m fairly liberal. In the BlogHer organization, I feel like some sort of right wing extremist.
Elizabeth Edwards was the closing keynote speaker for the conference on Saturday afternoon. I knew in advance that I wouldn’t agree with many of her political views but was fascinated to hear her speak. She is an intelligent, strong, candid and passionate woman who has long been involved in blogging and maintains a blog on her husband’s campaign website.
I wanted to hear about how she balances personal opinion with the consolidated public message of a presidential campaign. I wanted to hear detailed examples of how the blogosphere is shaping political policy and how politicians are trying to carve out a niche online. I wanted to hear about her personal struggles with cancer and how she and Senator Edwards decided to carry on with the campaign. There were so many non-partisan issues I wanted her to cover in her speech.
However the questions very quickly turned to policy and much of the time was spent discussing her husband’s platform. The meeting came to feel very much like a campaign stop, with talk of how Senator Edwards’ positions differ from other leading democrats and even a statement that she assumed everyone in the room believed pretty much the same things with regards to women’s issues.
You cannot talk to a diverse room of women about your plan for universal healthcare and assume we all believe the same things. Growing up in Canada, I watched a friend’s mother die BECAUSE of socialized medicine. Although I want everyone to have access to health care, I’m not convinced that John Edwards’ plan is viable.
You cannot talk to a diverse room of women about your views on abortion, the Iraq War, gay marriage and other highly divisive issues and assume we all believe the same things.
Anytime we create an assumption of political consensus in a group of intelligent thinking adults, we’re headed for trouble. By saying, “I’m sure we all agree,” in essence what you’re saying is, “Any sane intelligent person would agree with me,” and I have a problem with that.
So although I vote for various parties at election time, register as a Democrat in the primaries and consider myself an independent, I raised my hand to speak to the fact that the discussion was being dismissive to conservatives. There was time for one more question and Elisa Camahort handed me the mic, potentially annoying several other eager people in order to let a conservative have a voice. I’m very grateful.
I’m not actually sure what I said since I was shaking at the time, standing in front of several hundred people and directly addressing the possible future first lady. The session video was uploaded to the BlogHer site but my question is strangely missing, an occurrence I assume was no more sinister than the video blogger running out of tape at the end of the session, but which strikes me as an odd coincidence.
Basically, I pointed out that the session had been dismissive to conservatives and that since I wasn’t planning on voting for her husband, I’d rather talk about blogging and technology than the specific policy of the Edwards campaign. My question was, “How many people review your blog entries before you post them to the internet?” Her answer was, “ZERO!”
I was amazed. With all the spinning and planning and message management that goes on in a presidential campaign, I am completely blown away that she is given total freedom to express herself on the Edwards 2008 website. Now I’m sure she is in constant contact with John and his many advisors and she’s smart enough to know which way the wind is blowing and where she should funnel it. Nonetheless, it was refreshing to hear this response from her.
Regardless of our political differences, I have great respect for Mrs. Edwards and feel strongly that she is sincerely doing what she feels is right and standing up as a bold force to promote her beliefs.
When I approached her at the cocktail party later that evening, she said, “I was just answering the questions in the room,” and it was true. She was just answering the questions in the room. I had a problem with the whole direction of the discussion, not her responses, and not the fact that she was a Democrat.
A friend (not a conservative, if that makes any difference) came up to me after and said she had the same problem. The whole discussion was too political and party-specific for such a diverse group, especially for the closing keynote of a blogging conference.
She gave the analogy that it was similar to inviting the head of Google to be the closing speaker and then letting him spend most of the time fielding questions about how to use Blogger software.
At the end of the closing session, someone asked me, “If a Republican had been the speaker and the conversation had gone the same way, would you have called her on it too?”
Absolutely yes. Although it’s hard to imagine that I’d need to. With the number of bold articulate women of the left in that group, people would have been tripping all over themselves to bring the discussion back on track.
I’ve heard Lisa Stone say that BlogHer is a nonpartisan organization and that if you have a different opinion, you should stand up and make it known. I often think those of us with leanings to the right feel so outnumbered that we’re afraid to speak up. I for one do not want to turn my site into a political blog because I enjoy the fact that I have a diverse group of readers and I like DaringYoungMom as a place for us all to come and be silly together.
However I’d like to be more of a catalyst for diverse political discussion among female bloggers in the future, if not on my personal site, then elsewhere.
Julie Marsh has written about this over at The Imperfect Parent and you can see most of Elizabeth Edwards’ interview on the BlogHer site, minus my question at the end. This is cross-posted to BlogHer.org.
Rocks in my Dryer says
Excellent post, Kathryn.
I am growing increasingly weary of the assumption that all women in the blogosphere believe the same.
Antique Mommy says
Well stated Kathryn.
An Ordinary Mom says
My political identity seems to change, too, depending on where I am at and who I am with.
Excellent points in your post. We all need to learn to be more respectful and tolerant of each other. It frustrates me to no end that people think we all need to think alike and if we don’t that there is then something wrong with us or our relationship/friendship.
I am considered quite the liberal at church too, but I was very curious about your take on her remarks after Shannon touched on them briefly in her post at Rocks in my Dryer yesterday. I’m not sure my political or religious beliefs are 100% compatible with anyone besides me, but I certainly don’t hold others beliefs against them or assume the only people worthy of my attention are those who agree with me. I would miss out on so many wonderful friends that way.
I forgot to add that I had strongly considered voting Democrat in the last presidential election had the nomination gone to Edwards rather than Kerry, and now I’m not so sure that would have been a good thing.
If I ever break into the double digits on Bloglines, I might consider myself “worthy” of attending BlogHer. But for now I’m happy with an online mommy group reunion that starts tomorrow.
I’m a liberal in my church too. And you don’t see too many southern baptists who aren’t rock-hard conservatives.
I remember your question for Mrs. Edwards and thought it was a good one. I too was curious about the editing process involved in her online posts and her answer really helped me respect her that much more. You’ve stated yourself very well here, I think. It’s not so much about being Democrat or Republican, but about directing the discussion away from partisan politics and more into the diverse topics that make BlogHer so awesome to begin with.
“You cannot talk to a diverse room of women about your plan for universal healthcare and assume we all believe the same things.”
Agreed. Now what do we do about it?
Thank you for asking the question you did. It matters not to me if the speaker had been of the right or left but this sure seems like a political campaign stop not the blogher conference the ticket called it. There had to have been some knowledge that conversations would turn toward the campaign but the focus should have been kept where it was planned especially with the diverse group present. I liked your google analogy – it fits!
Good point Amanda. Do you have any ideas on how we can encourage the blogher organization to protect against a reoccurance, regardless of the subject matter? Keynote speakers or really any speakers at a convention are there to speak about the topic of the convention.
It was brave of you to step up to the mic and speak your mind! Good job!
For me, it’s like someone saying all feminists are man hating, abortion loving lesbians. It’s so totally stupid to assume that. There are varying degrees of everything anymore and just because you label yourself something, doesn’t mean you believe everything across the board. I would LOVE, tho, to hear why many of your commentors call themselves “liberal at church”. What does that mean? It confuses me to read that. No offense here. But what kind of church does one belong to that makes them liberal only at church?
Hello! Thanks for your post. I get so tired of hearing (especially in mainstream media) that we all agree with the left, and anyone who doesn’t is wacko.
I’m a fellow Seattleite, where the left is the norm. And, I suppose that I’m normally a wacko!
Hi. I came here via Shannon’s link over at Rocks in my Dryer.
Fascinating post. Thank you for calling her to the carpet for that…even if it was not directly her fault. Though I might agree with her politics (or not…) I would not want to attend BlogHer to see a stump speech. Period. Thanks for standing up for yourself.
The Daring One says
Angela and Amanda – great question. Lisa Stone did mention during the interview that BlogHer is non-partisan but I think she could have backed that up by directing the conversation more towards non-partisan topics. It’s really hard to have a political speaker in an election year and make the discussion non-partisan. I honestly wouldn’t have wanted to be in Lisa’s shoes.
Does anyone else have suggestions?
Beth – I simply meant that among Mormons, I tend to be more liberal in my views, especially in areas such as environmental issues, funding for the arts, education, etc.
My church is a non-partisan organization and does not take a stand on these issues, but the culture of the members of my church tends to favor the right.
You know how applause broke and everyone stood up at the end of the keynote? That’s how I feel right now after reading this. Standing ovation. For you.
Very well written!
I can say for sure that my entire table of women had their jaw hit the ground when Sarcastic Journalist went to ask her question and started it with, “I’m from Texas…” and Ms. Edwards responded, “I’m sorry!”
WHAT?! Way to dismiss the largest state in the Continental US! (We love Alaska, but love to brag about size here, too! lol) Personally, that offended me.
You are right that there was an assumption that everyone in the room felt the same way about everything. We didn’t even have that at our small table. How could one assume an entire room of people felt one way and one way only?
Where do I stand on all of it? I am in the nunya camp. Nunya business. If you know me, you know. If you don’t, you don’t.
But DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS!
Hear Hear! Great post Kathryn, and as I said before you have definitely earned the title of DARING young mom! I am not conservative, but I was highly annoyed by the direction of that closing session. I didn’t pay money to go to BlogHer to hear a campaign speech, whether i agree with the giver or not. Period. I was there to talk about blogging! Thanks for saying something on behalf of those of us who were too chicken.
I applaud your admission of shaking while calling out Mrs. Edwards and asking your question!
That’s awesome that you stood up and said something. I would have sat there seething and then blogged about it in my safe little blog world. I think that what you did is inspiring.
Good for you. I know I would have been scared to death to stand against the tide. I wish your question would have been included, I would have liked to see it.
Very good post! I can’t breath for all the crappy labels put on me. I am just me- no labels needed!
You know, I just saw her at the pool with her kids a few weeks ago. I work in Chapel Hill, NC. I’m from Boston living in the South. At church very liberal, in Chapel Hill liberal still, in Boston… conservative. Go figure. FYI… I have it on good authority from one of my co-workers who works in the Chapel Hill schools that their kids will be pulled out of public school if Edwards gets elected.
You brave, daring mom!
This is such a well-thought out, well-written post. Very interesting!
SingForHim@Real Life says
Kel said: “I get so tired of hearing (especially in mainstream media) that we all agree with the left, and anyone who doesn’t is wacko.
I must be certifiably insane, because I am very conservative. However, I like a robust debate.
It seems the BlogHer conference isn’t the time for that, though. Isn’t it supposed to be about blogging? Many of you have said you have more respect for Mrs. Edwards, but from what I’ve heard about her behavior, I have less. I have yet to hear one positive comment about the keynote address, and I think her condescending attitude was downright rude.
You are so much more brave than I. I would have walked out with smoke coming out of my ears.
PS Do you guys really believe no one looks at her blog before posting? I have a hard time with this one.
if you haven’t already, you might want to check out our clan at The Soccer Mom Vote. 18 women, diverse voices, and a growing community.
In fact, we’re always looking for more contributors, if that’s of any interest!
That’s an interesting comment about Linda’s death. I was around during that time, but not close with the family. I remember she chose alternative healthcare at one point, but I don’t know when or why. Somehow I got the impression that she had turned her back on traditional medicine. Sad either way.
What a brave thing to do! I’m so impressed!
It sounds like Elizabeth Edwards was certainly not at fault, but the Blogher conference should have thought this through a little better. Surely there were other choices for keynote speaker that could have kept politics out of it.
Shannon was right… definitely a post to read!
Such a wonderful post! Very well put, showing all sides. I agree that people have the idea we all believe the same, when that is far from the truth, and women especially are represented that way.
oh amanda says
Great post. I thought it was weird when I heard there would be a political speaker at Blogher. Seems either self-serving (of someone) or totally off base.
The media seems full of “I’m sure we all agree!”. Thanks for pointing it out so clearly!
celeste w, studio 501c says
Thanks for this thoughtful post. I have enjoyed your blog since seeing you at Blogher.
I think the Texas remark was off and unnecessary, but otherwise, I thought she was thoughtful and impressive. (Per Singforhim’s statement, there actually are many Bloghers who posted positive comments about her as I’ve found through a Google search and as you will see on the Blogher blog.)
I honestly don’t remember her saying, “I’m sure we all agree…” but that IS a common expression for someone trying to persuade you of something, e.g., for someone on the campaign trail. That said, I thought overall that she was very authentic and down to earth, and that she was, indeed, simply answering questions from the audience, who tended to ask political questions. I don’t think the session was dismissive of the conservative voice as much as there lacking it, except for yours.
You did not look AT ALL like you were shaking, madam. You rock 🙂
Wow, I can identify with so many of your statements. I guess the beauty of the internet is that we can at least find and hear about like-minded people to make us feel less alone when we don’t necessarily fit into our communities. The dark side is that it makes it that much easier for us to judge one another and less likely to employ that lost art of political skills, moderation and compromise.
I find the assumption that “only” liberals embrace the latest techy stuff (like the many bloggy opportunities and development that I’ve seen in my short time on the blogosphere) incredibly limiting…for liberals who underestimate their “opponents” and for conservatives who would look at technology developements suspiciously as a result.
And, your statement that even when a group says “all” views are honored, it’s still hard to stand up when you are in minority right on the money. If “all” views” are honored, then “all” folks should feel comfortable stepping up. When “all” don’t feel equal, you will not get equal participation.
The beginning of your post amused me, because it was so much like a conversation with one of my best friends- she’s Mormon and deals with the same thing you said- her non-Mormon friends think she’s incredibly conservative and well-behaved, and her Mormon friends look at her like she’s a wild liberal. That’s gotta be a hard thing to go through.
Good post. And good for you for speaking up.
sheen of Diaper Harlem says
I think what you think and say is very well rounded and it’s nice to have someone to relate to as I am usually the oddball out. I wish there were more people like you who were tolerant and yet don’t lose their values while being tolerant. Very well written!
Elizabeth Edwards gave a political speech promoting her husband? The has nothing to do with blogging. As well as half the other posts I’ve read about Blog Her. Was the BlogHer conference anything but a business conference and a political campaign? Did you learn anything about blogging? Or just how to get a book deal?
I wasn’t there, but I agree that sweeping statements are rarely wise in a large group of women – EVEN WHEN the women “supposedly” have the same beliefs. From local organizations to my church body, we don’t all agree … so I would never expect a group as large as BlogHer to have the same political bends.
I sk*rted this. 🙂
Pam in Utah says
Conservative? Liberal? I personally think you are “Just Right”. Nice comments. Love your blog. As usual. 🙂
I, myself, have written about this exact same topic many moons ago.
Of course, I think you’re a genius and you should keep up the great work (in name of diversity). I’m not sure why all these chicks have their panties in a bunch. I say, be loud, be proud.
I have no idea why the mommy blogosphere is over-run by liberals. Most of these moms stay home, a luxury afforded to them by our capitalistic soceity. They want redistribution of wealth, until they find out that means cutting out luxuries like Gymboree classes for little Johnny and Sue. (Humph!)
Anyway, this is your blog, not mine, just wanted to stop in a say, “Love it!”
Wonderful post, I echo many of your sentiments.
I actual would like to go to a blogher mainly because hoping for wide verity of women and with all this wonderful diversity in blog world I become a better person it so many ways.
In my blog I read quite a few different types of blogs not all is in the same pea pod.
Deena @ Wholly Devoted says
I’ve actually thought that I wouldn’t at all fit in with any of the BlogHer events since I am a non-alcoholic imbibing Republican.
Good for you! Brainy and BOLD! I applaud you.
I have the same kind of feeling. Where I live and work, I’m liberal. Among my academic and artist friends, I’m conservative. It’s fun.
I’ve noticed that at my MFA residencies we will sometimes hear someone say “I think we can all agree…” or something to that effect when I know it isn’t true. Usually, though, it isn’t so overt. It’s more that the speaker will say something that seems programmed to get an affirmative respons–a sort of collective “Mmmm, yes”–from an audience that’s assumed to be liberal in certain ways. Even if I agree, I know someone else might not–there are other conservative people among us poets. It’s important to be mindful of these things when speaking to any audience, I think.
This raging, unapologetic liberal is really really pleased to read this post. I must admit that when I heard your question I assumed it was coming from an annoyed conservative (sorry – I don’t know you very well! although I hear you’re lovely, so pleased to meetcha.) but I am really impressed with the way you’ve articulated this here. It’s thoughtful and absolutely fair.
Still, I believe (as I said elsewhere) that her statement meant that we as women, with few exceptions, agree on certain basic tenets – that our children should be healthy, smart, well fed, and loved. That our water sources shouldn’t be filled with mercury. That sick people deserve to be treated. What we disagree on is how to achieve these things.
It never even crossed my mind that she was talking about polarizing political issues.
I just read your blog for the first time tonight and I am so happy to have found it. As a conservative who is often mistaken for a liberal, I wonder sometimes as I blog and read blogs does anyone else think the way I think. Are only liberals tech-savvy?
The answer is obviously no, but with limited time in my day read blogs it is good to find one that aligns more w/ my thinking.
Oh boy, oh boy, do I get the liberal at church, conservative elsewhere life.
Isn’t it fun to be independently minded?
Steff (http://okierivermama.livejournal.com/) says
“I have no idea why the mommy blogosphere is over-run by liberals. Most of these moms stay home, a luxury afforded to them by our capitalistic soceity. They want redistribution of wealth, until they find out that means cutting out luxuries like Gymboree classes for little Johnny and Sue. (Humph!)”
Some of us “liberals” stay at home because we couldnt begin to afford for me to work and give my boys the care I think they deserve. We give up a lot of luxuries and sometimes necessities because we just cant afford it period. I drive a 7 year old blazer and my hubbys truck is 20+ and runs on a sometimes basis. But we are blessed that he makes enough to cover our mortgage and the blazer will be paid off in 2 months and we fight paycheck to paycheck, but I hear often from others how spoiled I must be to stay at home….yeah I am spoiled enough I am praying with our tax return and the 99 honda my grandma is giving me we might be able to afford a newer car next spring.
I say I am liberal because in the heartland here I am usually classified that way, I would like to see us offer better healthcare to everyone who deserves it and personally I would like to see our government treat motherhood like some of the European countries where moms are paid a stipend to stay home with their toddlers usually thru age 4. Even if its only 100$ a month, some months that is the difference for us being able to afford the increase in gas prices over the last couple of years.
I do however totally agree that at a conference such as I am assuming blog her is, politics should have been out of place.
The Daring One says
You think children should be healthy and well fed!? Not with my tax money you di-int! HALIBURTON RULES!
Seriously though. I do think any sane intelligent person would want those things. I appreciate you suggesting that she may have been speaking about basics. Because of the partisan politics that had been discussed up to that point and the fact that it was prefaced with discussion about how Mrs Edwards and Senator Clinton believe most of the same things, I had my partisan hat on and didn’t give her the benefit of the doubt.
Inferring that Elizabeth Edwards was making a politically-laden statement with her “pretty much believe the same things” remark is more reasonable than assuming assuming she wasn’t. If I were addressing a conference of, say, citrus-farmers, and I said “I bet most of you here would like some support when times got tough and to get high prices for your crops”, I suppose you _could_ assume I was making a bland, pointless statement. But if I was the representative of a politician known for advocating federal citrus price hikes and increased farm bailout packages, it would be disingenous to suggest that I wasn’t implying something more specific. Grice’s Conversational Maxims and all.
Clicked over from Jenny, and I’m glad I did. After reading your post, I have much more respect for what you were asking. I have to admit, within the session, I didn’t hear it this way.
By starting the question with the comment about dismissing Conservatives and being sure to tell her you weren’t going to vote for her husband, it gave it an accusatory slant – like when you put someone on the defensive. When throughout the keynote, she was only answering the questions she was asked, as you pointed out in your post.
I felt like the tone and wording of the question you asked (How many people review your post before submission) sounded like you were trying to catch her in something. Like you thought you were about to expose a secret that she really isn’t her own person. I totally missed that you were trying to bring the conversation back to technology and blogging. It’s possible that your opening statement swayed my judgment on that though, which brings me to my original point.
I agree with you. The pass the mic strategy didn’t work well at all. If they wanted people to ask questions, they should have had them submitted beforehand, and chosen intelligent questions from a broad range of attendees. That way, there could have been equal representation of all the unique people we had in the room, and the session could have stayed more on track without turning into a just a campaign stop without discussion of blogging and technology.
I am really curious to know why your question doesn’t appear at the end of the video on Blogher.
Really enjoyed this post. I myself live in an extremely conservative state and city, and I am often perturbed by the assumption that people in my area have regarding my religious and political beliefs. I, most days in dealing with other adults in my area, am most often odd person out. And I feel obligated to keep my mouth shut as to not offend people or to avoid getting attacked. It is absolutely exhausting!
I found it very interesting when reading this entry to find that the exhaustion over and irritation concerning these assumptions go both ways. Because I live where I live, I sometimes forget that not everywhere I am the minority.
For me this is a great lesson. I hope that all, whether conservative, liberal or somewhere in the middle, enjoyed getting the lesson as much as I have.
The Elizabeth Edwards interview wasn’t the first time I feared for Kathryn’s life at the conference. I like having a friend that isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right, no matter who may try to steal her under we@r that night!
Well, I was psyched you stood up because I’d read a post of yours (about looking good at Target) and nearly died laughing, but then I lost the link to your blog. I could remember it was something about a trapeze, but for the life of me I couldn’t find it. When you stood up, I said (rather loudly I’m embarresed to say),” THAT’S Her! and quickly typed the URL in my browser and book marked it.
I am a devoted democrat, and have given some thought to voting for Senator Edwards, BUT I was pleased you asked your question. The path of the discussion made me uncomfortable in what I new to be a diverse group. Unlike Canape, I did not take your statement before the question as an attempt to slight Mrs. Edwards. I thought you were trying to bring the conversation back to a more appropriate focus.
As for the woman from Texas, my recollection was that the questioner said she was a DEMOCRAT from Texas and that is when Mrs. Edwards said “I’m sorry”.
I lead a group at the unConference on Sunday about future BlogHer events and Jory Des Jardins was anxious to hear feedback. Several of us (from diverse perspectives) commented on the campaign feel of the Elizabeth Edwards keynote, although we acknowledged that she did just answer the questions asked.
Keep posting my daring friend. You make me laugh and think and I sincerely appreciate people who can do booth.
Reesie, just for clarification, I was at the table with the woman who said she was from Texas and after reading this I went to her to ask her words to be sure I was correct in what she said. She specifically did NOT say she was a Democrat. She just said she from Texas which was then followed by Elizabeth Edward’s “I’m sorry!”
Just to clarify.
I am fairly new to your blog and liberal or conservative, I find you truly real and very funny!! :0] Though I don’t know much about BlogHer, I am glad that you stood up and voiced your opinion. I also am glad that you blogged so fairly about your experience. Keep bloggin’ and I’ll be back to ‘visit’ with you again. :0]
sarcastic journalist says
I can agree with Jenn. I did not ever identify myself as “democrat.” I make sure never to identify myself politically in situations such as that one.
At church, when I go, I’m a liberal. At Blogher, I was a Canadian thinking I would learn about blogging in the midst of a political campaign. Thank goodness for your question or I would have gotten nothing from the session except for the shock of everyone leaping to their feet and applauding as though some star (I’m not good with pop culture, you pick one) had entered the room. I’ll vote Green again – environmental but fiscal conservative – in the next election but be back here much sooner than that.
Thanks for the question and the post.
Why can’t we all just get along? While I love the premise of all this, I just want to meet one friend.
As a conservative lesbian (I know, go figure), I find myself in similar situations, though on a much smaller scale. Great job of articulating your position. This is an important conversation. Thank you.
Interesting thoughts….I wasn’t there, but have enjoyed reading about it.
I was wondering what her speech would be like…coming from someone who has no “leanings” to the right, but sits there rather firmly. : )