I know I’ve talked about queer mom-fluencer culture before, and it’s something a lot of people have expressed interest in talking about on a deeper level. I’ve found it’s something that takes up more space in my mind than I’d like to admit.
I’ve previously written about why I have literally no interest in becoming a queer mom-fluencer. It’s too much work, and I have no interest in doing that much heavy-lifting for free. I also don’t want to open my family up for the hate and vitriol that is known to follow queer people around on social media. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like to follow other people who have made the decision to make this a part of their lives, mainly because I like to see what kind of information they’re putting out there about two mom families. It’s interesting to see the spectrum of what these mom-fluencers decide to put out into the world. Each one maintains their accounts in the name of visibility and education, and that’s great, but I feel like social media isn’t really a place to have the nuanced conversations that are necessary when you’re educating the masses on something they don’t know much about.
One of my biggest issues with mom-fluencer culture in general is that there is a lack of ability to create meaningful conversations around the issues that plague motherhood. When you only have 4,000 characters, how much can you really say? And in a world where people are swiping through and not necessarily even reading your content, how can you use that space to get into the nuts and bolts of an issue? So we get these pithy posts that accompany a picture of a dirty house or a woman with purple circles under her eyes that say something like “I yelled at my kids today…a lot.wp_postsThen you get a mini diatribe that essentially ends with a “you got this mamawp_postsand a high five. Never mind the fact that there are a million reasons why you may have yelled at your kids today. A post like that is never going to dig into the systemic or socioeconomic reasons mothers feel extreme stress or pressure. That’s not what Instagram is for. But I think many of us are looking to engage in something that does go a little further under the surface.
Queer mom-fluencers have it doubly hard when it comes to creating meaningful conversations. Not only do they have to try and navigate around the intricacies of motherhood, but then they have to add on the level of explaining queer identity. The odds are stacked against them from the beginning, and I get that. But therein lies the problem. You cannot meaningfully educate when you don’t have the space (or desire) to dig into the nuance of the subject you’re trying to educate people about. Being an educator, especially when it comes to doing it via social media, means you have a certain amount of responsibility to your audience. It’s one of the biggest reasons I don’t use my social media to educate or build a platform — I cannot have the kind of deeper meaningful conversations there I can have here with you all. I can write a 1,200 word essay about this subject, and then you all will get in the comments and we can share our ideas and engage on the subject in a way you can’t when you have character limits.
If this is the life you’re going to choose, then you have to be ready to really dig into what you’re “teachingwp_postspeople.
One of the queer mom-fluencers I follow recently posted something that gave me pause because of the lack of nuance to the conversation. I think she’s really great, and I respect her and her platform a lot, so please don’t take this as me ripping her down or anything. I just feel like it’s important to provide a specific example here.
Her kiddo is around the same age as mine, which is why I was intrigued to see how she was presenting the back-to-school conversations she has to have with her kid before a new school year. She shared that bullies were a topic of conversation, and of course they are. In the video she made, she role-played with her kiddo “bullywp_postsquestions versus “genuinewp_postsquestions kids may ask about having two moms.
I was immediately struck by the use of the word “bullywp_postsin this situation. A bully is someone who is constantly and consistently tormenting someone, not a kid who asks a question in a tone that could be considered combative or rude. One “bullywp_postsquestion was something like, “You have two moms? Weird.wp_postsThat’s not bullying! It’s simply asking a question in a tone that isn’t particularly kind. There is no way to know if that kid has any sort of malicious intent. Another example is “You don’t have a dad? Everyone has a dad!wp_postsAgain, not bullying! It’s true that a lot of kids with two moms don’t have a dad. But what about a kid like mine? He has a dad that is still present in his life, even though he is primarily being raised by two moms. Now that there are women who are coming out later in life, I would suspect there will be a lot of kids like him who may have a dad that’s still around.
Look, I wish we lived in a world where everyone asked questions about our personal lives in a respectful way, but that’s not how the world works. This is even more true for kids. They have to be taught how to appropriately ask questions and what kind of questions might make someone uncomfortable. It shouldn’t be the job of kids of queer parents to have to educate their peers, but there’s a chance that will happen. And honestly, it’s okay. Sometimes things make more of an impact when they come from a peer. Kids see the world largely in black-and-white terms. What they know is true and right, and things that deviate from that are to be approached with a heavy dose of skepticism. Instead of teaching your kid there are certain words that trigger a negative response, teach them to recognize a pattern in behavior that constitutes bullying and when they need to get an adult involved.
Yes, there are going to be kids who find it weird that your kid has two moms. Kids don’t know what they haven’t seen before. You can provide them with examples, but sometimes they need something in front of them to fully understand. For example, I told some of the littles I volunteered with that I had a wife, but they were still shocked when they saw us together. ”THAT’S YOUR WIFE?!” they asked. I reminded them that we had this discussion previously, but they had never met her before.
In the caption of the Instagram post, the mom-fluencer in question did try to be more direct with the notions of bullying, but then you have to make the assumption that people are going to read it. And we all know that doesn’t always happen. They’re seeing the video, and they’re going to make their inferences from what they just watched. Therefore, they will take the way she’s framed these conversations to heart differently.
Seeing a quick snapshot or a 30 second video doesn’t allow a random person to get the full breadth of the queer experience. But they may think that now they can fashion themselves an expert on all things queer mom because they follow a couple of accounts on Instagram. In reality, they know the way those couple of people think and feel. There is no way social media can paint a full picture of what all of us face as queer moms, and it’s hard when only a small number of people get to share their stories.
What do you all think about queer mom-fluencer culture? What does it get right or wrong about our experiences?
Queer Mom Chronicles is a column where I examine all of the many facets of queer parenthood through my tired mom eyes.