BlogHer Give-Aways and Take-Away Messages

Here we are at BlogHer ’06, surrounded by beautiful, passionate women. What could be better?

We got here too late for the morning sessions, but we seriously enjoyed the lunch keynote by the women who founded Flickr and BlogHer. The rest of the sessions look exciting enough that we are trying to decide how to split them up so we miss as little as possible.

We giggled a little about the Weight Watchers session scheduled for tomorrow, and decided we had better things to do than go cause trouble there. But during the lunch keynote, we opened our really fine conference bags packed with a wide variety of gifts, and found ….

–a box of Sweet Simplicity sweetener, “all natural, zero calorie” and “the perfectly delicious way to have it all” (it turns out that “all natural” means that it’s erithrytol (which doesn’t sound natural) and zero calorie means that it includes fructose, which should not be zero calorie), but that’s another story.

–an ad for conference sponsor Contrex, giving away bottled water at the conference (and selling it elsewhere) using the slogan “Shape Yourself Naturally.”

–a t-shirt for “SexySmart,” with a picture of a model-thin woman, labeled size medium, and a perfect fit for Laurie, who really would wear a small if they marketed “small” t-shirts

Apparently another of the seven or eight sponsored booths also is offering some kind of body sculpting.

So what’s the message here?

That BlogHer, consciously or otherwise, supports a one-sided weight-loss and negative body image message. We would feel really differently about this if any of the conference panels, sponsors, or freebies had a size acceptance message to create choice for attendees. From the point of view of an attendee, when you see a sponsor, the sponsor’s message becomes part of the conference message.

That you, BlogHer attendee, are an empowered woman blogger, with the internet at your fingertips, and you had better be using that power to go right on hating your body the way you always have?

That women are a captive audience for weight-loss products and body-hating messages?

We know a lot of women who structure their lives to avoid diet and weight-loss messages (and believe us, they’re happier for it). If we were among them, we’d have walked out by now, and forfeited both our significant entry fees and all the neat experiences, new information, and new connections we have coming over the next day and a half. We won’t do that–instead, we will (starting with this blog entry) be trying to provide the message from the other side as loudly and as frequently as we can.

More important, how many women have already, or are going to, open their conference bags and feel bad about themselves?

We believe as profoundly as anyone here that the Web and blogging are about empowerment, finding your voice, getting your message out, making connections, and feeling good about yourself. We know that the organizers of BlogHer feel the same way. We’d like to think that next year this particular mixed message won’t pervade this superb conference.

body image
women bloggers
Body Impolitic

13 thoughts on “BlogHer Give-Aways and Take-Away Messages

  1. Wow, I wish I had known about this conference in time to make plans to attend, but the first I heard of it was when Cynthia and Bill mentioned it in their LJs this morning. Sigh. Apparently I’m not reading the right blogs. Or something.

    I do hope you’ll speak up about the whole hating your body thing there. And report back on what their reactions are. It would be very interesting to know just what they thought they were doing.


  2. The sh*t disturber part of me wishes you two would mess with the WW presentation, but I’m sure you will find a more positive use of your time.

  3. After breakfast, I reached for an icy cold bottle of water out in the foyer. Before my hand reached the bottle, a woman was at my side eager to inform me that I could lose up to eight pounds a year if I drink a liter of this magic water everyday. “All the models in France drink this water.”
    I thought I had wandered out of BlogHer. So shocked to hear something like that here.
    Glad to see your post!

  4. @ Betsy: and the thing is, that water tasted terrible. Someone at lunch described it as tasting like it had an aspirin dissolved in it.

    Hope they pay those French models a decent endorsement fee to drink that stuff.

  5. Well, if it had an aspirin dissolved in it, then it could cause you to lose up to 8 pounds a year by hemmorhaging from a bleeding ulcer.

  6. Wow, that goodie bag sounds vile. Good thing I’m not there.

    And WTF about a WW event? The hell? Only if audience members are allowed to pelt them with Twinkies and ask hard questions about WW funding “obesity research.”

  7. i had big fun with you 2 today– thank you for adopting me in the crowd of heteronormativity!


    more to come after some sleep…



  8. Thank you both for being a body-positive presence at the conference. As you describe so clearly here, it was sorely needed. We may not have had body-positive sponsors, but I do remember seeing this awesome vendor table with two bold, different-than-the-rest-of-us-looking women selling beautiful books of fat nudes and causing intellectual trouble.

    I think that f*cking mattered.

  9. I heard the water being called “ass water” by at least twenty people. It was awful. I’m sure contrex will be sorry they gave it away.

    The goodie bag was pretty worthless- except for the zip drive and the cork screw.

    The janes- we called them “the math is hard Barbie” after they said how scary home improvement was about 20 times.

  10. @ Lisa V: thumb drives are always an appropriate swag item. I want to find a vendor who’ll sell those in bulk with a logo screened on. That would be so cool for next year’s WisCon.

  11. Thank you for this post. I went to BlogHer having no idea what to expect. Perhaps because my “straight and married” friend base has expanded (greatly) because of my new foray into blogging, I knew that these might be the bulk of people at the conference. It’s rare that the gift bags serve my interests anyway but I was surprised to see them so geared to specific sorts of female born people.

    I specifically had my printer print a number of T shirts in the 1XL to 6XL range for the big girls.

    I think that what was most interesting was it appeared that few of the women had ever attended an event with so many other women, (unlike those of us who seek it out), and so the absence of “the male gaze” that defines how women should dress, eat, and behave was something new and peculiar for many of them.

    And when I saw that WW was there I was deeply confused. I’m hoping that next year the food itself will mimic the region and the season. Some of the food bloggers have already begun to discuss this…

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