I’ve noted before that tragedy tends to build mommyblog traffic. Initially, this was something that just emerged as pattern: it was obviously not something that anyone could or would plan for themselves. Now there are many top mommybloggers whose followings were established (at least in part) in the aftermath of some kind of personal tragedy.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, it’s just something that happens. If you want to get kind of spiritual about it, it might be seen as a way of righting the universe, because it allows these bloggers some means of healing through a connection with others who are in similar situations.
But what is troubling to me is a more recent phenomenon wherein victimhood is being manufactured specifically for the purpose of generating more blogging attention. Here’s how it works: something happens, usually a small thing on the grand scale of suffering. Then the blogger calls attention to the “misfortune” by writing a blog post about it or tweeting about it (or both). The blogger’s friends and colleagues then retweet or repost about the injustices suffered by the blogger. With each additional post or tweet (or Facebook update, or what have you), the original story becomes more and more muddled, and before you know it there are people choosing sides and declaring team affiliations, petitioning for justice for some kind of perceived slight the specifics of which nobody can remember anymore.
I’m not sure this approach to generating attention would be acceptable in any context, but the circumstances in which it tends to occur make it particularly galling. Often it happens because some blog reader has left a comment on a blog that is not supportive. In some cases the comment might actually be rude or insulting — though this is never necessary! it needs only to be slightly unsupportive to work as a possible means of generating support. Other times, it might be a perceived slight somehow relating to parenting choices that occurs in public — somebody has looked sideways at a breastfeeding mother, or somebody was left out of a playdate because she didn’t have the right kind of lululemon yoga pants — and this is turned into an event worthy of weeks of mobs and torches.
If you choose to participate in this kind of crap, you are encouraging people to act like defenseless children. You are saying that women are not capable of fighting their own battles, that we need to be rescued from the most mundane of everyday conflicts. You are encouraging people to appropriate the misfortunes of others for their own gain, and worst of all, you are trivializing the experiences of those among us who really do need support. Playing the victim is despicable — but assisting people to do so is even worse.