Oct 19, 2016

Boundaries and Consent.




The irony of the timing of today's post is not lost on me.  After a rash of 'mummy blogger' type posts, I bring you a few of my thoughts and reactions to this opinion piece from the New York Times written by another self labelled 'mummy blogger' on why she's decided to stop writing about her children.  To briefly summarise, Elizabeth Bastos began blogging about motherhood and her children when they were very young.  The blog was her outlet to cope with the fatigue, frustration, anger and postnatal depression.  The turning point for Bastos was when her father rang her after reading a post about his grandchild's early steps through puberty.  Her father was calling as an advocate for his grandson's privacy during such in intensely private and confronting time.

This paragraph stood out to me because of its insightful honesty:

I was always the narrator, the main character, even if I was also the storm-tossed heroine, the hot mess in mom jeans who couldn’t get the overalls on her 2-year-old. Or figure out fourth-grade fractions homework. I was working out my issues. My kids were always satellites to the big round-faced moon of me.


I haven't read Bastos' blog and today's post is not meant to be a judgement of her or her writing.  I'm not sure if she might not have already taken it down given the concerns she raised in her New York Times but I am reflecting on what I've written, what I intend to write in the future and also what I have read on other blogs.




Personal blogs are, by definition, about the person who writes them.  Told from their point of view, with all people and situations discussed edited to create the image the blogger wishes to project to their readership.  Bloggers make a choice about whether or not they wish to write anonymously or not, their subjects aka the 'satellite children' do not.


I have no delusions about my blog being anything more than a kind of vanity project where I write about fragments of my life for posterity and also for entertainment value.  Being a mother is a huge part of my life and identity.  At times it feels like its my entire life and identity.  Through the more challenging moments, I've often sought reassurance, hope and laughter from other parents who've shared their experiences through their blogs.  The writing that's helped me most, while quite specific and frank, often managed to do so without the author naming and shaming their children.  No photos or videos, no real names.


This anonymity made me feel okay with reading about someone who didn't consent to have their life story shared in that manner.  But am I correct in feeling this way?  People who feature in the news, on television segments and in other media as well as in academic publications do need to give their consent for their involvement to be featured in the final product.  Unless, of course, you're a celebrity in which case pieces of pure speculation can be published about you once they've been proof read by a magazine's legal team.  And then there are authors of fiction who base their work loosely on their own lives or those of people they know.


What's the deal with blogging?  Where do we draw the line?  Where should the line be drawn?


I wish to continue writing this blog for as long as I can but I also have a responsibility to the people I write about in it.  I have tried my best to respect their privacy for those who do not or cannot consent to having an online and social media presence.  For those that are active online, I have tried to maintain consistency on this blog my writing about them using their screen names or handles.  But I haven't often asked for consent explicitly because I've assumed it was implicit by virtue of their being in my blogging and social media circles.  


Outside of the consent issue, I've strived to write about others as I hope others would write about me.  So, to reference the article again, writing about someone else's early puberty is something I would not do.





What are your thoughts on the issue of consent as it applies to blogging?  Is it okay to write about anyone so long as you keep it nice and keep it anonymous?



14 comments:

  1. Such a thought provoking article and post.
    I like posting as a sort of diary myself and I enjoy reading other's experiences which help me feel less alone in motherhood. don't however feel comfortable sharing specific negatives involving my children in a public space, the tantrums yes but not the private stuff. I'm the same with photos of the boys on fb too though and try to keep it to the 'highlight reel'.
    Thanks for sharing this, a reminder moving forward about the boys' right to privacy.
    R xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your support and comments, Renee. I like your approach on what you share about the boys via the blog and the distinction between it and other media like FB.

      SSG xxx

      Delete
  2. Loved this post so much I emailed you!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I just wrote a huge comment and my computer ate it :(

    But basically I was sayign I think this topic is goign to come up more now as the kids of bloggers reach the legal age for being independent and can question what is shared. There's that kid in Europe suing their parents over facebook posts so it's not just a blogging issue, something around the internet as a whole I think.

    I do try err on the side of caution and only share identifiable faces and names when I have full permission to do so. Motherhood, like you said, is such a huge part of our lives it would be difficult to separate it entirely though. I guess it comes down to most of parenting - we each make the right decisions for us at that point in time and we have to trust that it's good enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Arrgh. That sucks about the first reply being eaten up.

      That case in Europe was a sobering event for me.

      SSG xxx

      Delete
  4. I started blogging more than a decade ago when few people were and there were no social guidelines for employers and made it a rule to a) never name real people either friends, family or people or who I work with b) never name my employee c)be private about my own name. My kids were 7 and 10 and were totally disinterested in my blogging. They are now 20 and 23 and I still don't name them and they've never read my blog (too boring) I would just ask myself "is this going to embarrass my kid - ever? if yes, then don't write it. The only difference now is I am less paranoid about someone finding out my real name:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi amanda

      Thanks for your perspective on how blogging has changed over time and how you've managed to enforce rules about privacy in your blogging life.

      SSG xxx

      Delete
  5. I think these discussions are so important. On the one hand we teach kids they have a right for their bodies to be private and respected (in order to strive to keep them safe) yet other aspects of kids privacy are not maintained. It present quite the contradiction. I like the line you draw in the way you speak about your life and the things you keep private. I think it very much respects the people close to you but still feels authentic. It will be interesting to see how this issue plays out in years to come.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Emma
      Thanks for your feedback. Your point about what we teach kids about privacy is interesting and true. I think a lot of the oversharing ironically comes from the parents who should be protecting their children. It's a sad reality that innocent images shared online can make their way into the wrong hands. I think some of us get a bit complacent and think FB especially is one big friendly and safe place. It is to a degree but it also isn't.

      SSG xxx

      Delete
  6. I draw the line at a child's name or image being Google-able. I just don't think that's fair. Writing pseudonymous as a "writer" is acceptable, but writing just for the sake of venting without any, say "artistic merit" is not acceptable. As far as blogs go that is.
    And i remember reading Faux Fuchsia's blog and thinking "wow, i really like the way she's handling the motherhood/her child aspect in her blog." I thought it was respectful and tasteful especially at an age where a child cannot give consent.

    I think Instagram however is a bit different. I am very open on Instagram because, even though it is not private, it is mostly just shared between friends and family. My Little One is at an age where she usually vets the photos i post of her and will tell me if she doesnt want something posted. And the photos are generally quite benign because at the back of my mind i'm thinking what sort of person could get a hold of them and look at them? So i dont post bathing suit photos, etc.

    I feel bad for the kids who basically grew up on their parents blogs and are becoming teenagers now. It's ALL out there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like your point about the purpose of venting on blogs and how writers choose to use their material.

      SSG xxx

      Delete
  7. This is such an interesting issue to me. At the moment I don't have kids, just a husband, so he's able to consent to being on the blog. I don't mention anything about him or any details of his life unless he's ok with it, and I never use our real last names anywhere on the internet in connection with the blog. In fact I don't use his full first name at all. Ditto for friends, family, anyone else who appears on my blog (that's why there's hardly ever anyone else on there!). It's just too much to risk with professional reputation, etc. However, if I ever have children, I'm going to struggle to know whether and how to write about them. I know my family like reading my blog and seeing our holiday snaps etc, especially those who are far away, so I have no idea how I'd balance that with maintaining my children's privacy which is really the most important thing. I think you do a great job of that, by the way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your perspective, Rachel as a blogger who is currently not a parent. You will find the right thing to do when the time comes!

      SSG xxx

      Delete

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. I'm having trouble importing comments from Blogger right now so using Disqus or sending a tweet would be your best bet. X

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails