January 26, 2012

Slate's Jessica Grose is surprised the internet wasn't cruel after "Queen of the Mommy Bloggers" Dooce announced her separation from her husband.

Grose says "the tone of the response has been extraordinary in its relative kindness."
We think of Internet commentary—especially toward women who write about their personal lives—as full of vindictive bile. Certainly, Armstrong is not immune from such cruelty, and some bloggers are taking her to task for making her every move so public. However, most of the response to Armstrong’s split has been concerned and sweet.
Do we really expect the internet to be such an asshole?

It's just plain upsetting to see this idealized married couple break up... which Grose eventually gets around to:
Many of her readers want and appreciate what she appeared to have—a thriving home business with a “[l]over, business partner, best friend,” which is how Armstrong described Jon three years ago. Her marriage seemed aspirational, yet attainable—particularly because their lives weren’t entirely perfect, given Armstrong’s depression and anxiety, and her husband’s own mental health issues.

It’s precisely because of this notional attainability that Armstrong’s separation is so jarring for her readers. Fans of Seal and Heidi Klum might be sad about their split, but I doubt many of them could imagine themselves in the shoes of an uber-wealthy Teutonic supermodel. But plenty of Armstrong’s readers would love a companionate marriage that meshed work and life seamlessly, and her separation may dash those dreams.

55 comments:

Paco Wové said...

My spouse and I have been married for almost 23 years now. I guess we're too boring to be "aspirational", though. And we are pretty dull.

traditionalguy said...

Motto for the 21st century digital warriors:

Success is a many splendored thing.
Love is only a second hand emotion.

Patrick said...

"Do we really expect the internet to be such an asshole?"

I guess we do. Anonymity really seems to bring out if not the worst, then certainly something much less than the best. I think even the comment section here shows that. How much of what gets written would be said face to face, or even without anonymity? It is easy to throw stones, when there are likely going to be no repercussions.

Awhile ago you referred in one post to a comment on Youtube which encapsulates anonymous internet commentary very well. It was something about how comments under some beautiful sign showed that nothing, no matter how beautiful was enough to preclude nasty comments. I guess that applies over all spectra. I dialed up a youtube video of Bach's Chaconne, and even there people fight about who plays it better. For crying out loud, can you really have that strong of an opinion about Perlman vs. Heifetz vs. Milstein?

I guess you can.

Mommy blogging? God, I can only imagine what goes on there.

Lyssa said...

Is "the internet" ruder towards women who post about their personal life then men? I would find that surprising, although I actually can't really think of any men who post extensively about their personal lives in blogs.

I do think that some cruelty is warranted towards parents who split up a family, though, towards one or both of them depending on th circumstances.

Bob Ellison said...

Is she the one who said she loves her husband more than she loves her kids? or did she post a picture of herself breast-feeding a child on a train? or was her husband the one who left his kid in the car while he got the mail?

I can't keep up.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Who is this person and why should I care?

Rose said...

We live in strange times.

Bob_R said...

Yes. Experience has taught me to expect the internet to be an asshole. Yes. Yes.

Patrick said...

"Do we really expect the internet to be such an asshole?"

Yes, I think we do. Primarily because anonymity allows people to say things without really thinking about them, it allows people to make outrageous comments they would not otherwise make.

Sometime ago, you posted some comment from Metafilter about how nothing is so beautiful that it cannot bring about nasty comments on the internet. It had a link to some beautiful work of music on youtube, which had some argument going back and forth in the comments. I went to youtube to listen to a version of Bach's Chaconne, widely regarded as one of the greatest pieces in history. The commenters get into an argument about which version is best, you're an idiot if you think this version is even good, let alone best. I would guess that were these folks at the intermission of a performance of this piece, the discussion would be more civil.

Tertium Quid said...

Anonymous commenting has made the internet a cyber-Vegas. People say and do things on the internet they would not say or do in New Orleans during a three-day drunk. I am civil because my family taught me to be, but there is for many no self-interest in being civil on the internet. It's open season on every species.

EDH said...

Hoosier Daddy said...
Who is this person and why should I care?

Yea, Althouse, why can't you just post something that will get the guy wearing the hat bickering with the guy wearing the mask.

For chrissakes!

Internet assholes, yea right.

Marshal said...

Grose - "We think of Internet commentary—especially toward women who write about their personal lives—as full of vindictive bile."

Prof Althouse - "Do we really expect the internet to be such an asshole?"

Most don't expect it generally, although there are always a few assholes. Grosse expected it because she made the likely irreversible error of believing what she learned in Womyn's Studies.

lemondog said...

re: Hoosier Daddy, ditto.

MTN said...

So Dooce gets the house, kids, dogs, and career and hubby is out looking for a place to live in a hopefully non-skeezy neighborhood, oh, and a new job. And it's just what he wants don't you know, he'll even tell you so.

When things get ugly, and they will, I hope Dooce will give the slightest consideration to what's been done to this man's life.

BarryD said...

Hey Jessica Grose, screw you! You're ugly and your mother dresses you funny!

(Is that what she expects?)

Jeff with one 'f' said...

The "vindictive bile" towards women who write about their personal lives is usually a result of:

A: People that find their personal life choices werong or even vile. (see the recent kerfluffle around a mommy-blogger who tried to justify being open about favoring one child over the other)

B: The sense that the blogger is smugly rubbing the reader's face in the details of her perfect life while also seeming to take it for granted and complaining about petty rich-person problems. (Gwyneth Paltrow is the ultimate example).

That these women expect to have their faults celebrated or sympathized with and NOT criticized is, I think, of function of their own narcissism and the "everything a woman does is empowering and special" culture of the last 20 years or so. They live and blog in a bubble of privilege and are shocked when that bubble is burst by contact with the real world.

Henry said...

@EDH -- Zing! You got me laughing there.

Are bloggers that blog about their personal lives -- rather than politics or religion -- that much a magnet for bile? My recollection, over the years of occasional reading of more personal blogs, is that they all tend to develop a core of loyal followers. The confessional style attracts people who care.

Even here, when Althouse blogs on music or bicycling, the most furious commenters can occasionally let go of their alienation.

Dan in Philly said...

*sigh* I have never known a good divorce. I read dooce once or twice, I don't know if they have kids but I certanily hope not. Being the child of divorce let me tell you I would rather my parents had fought and/or cheated on each other than gotten divorced while I was still a child.

edutcher said...

She's another Lefty blogger who expects Conservatives to act the way Lefties usually do.

FedkaTheConvict said...

>>My spouse and I have been married for almost 23 years now. I guess we're too boring to be "aspirational", though. And we are pretty dull.<<

But do you blog about almost every aspect of your personal life?

David said...

"We think of Internet commentary—especially toward women who write about their personal lives—as full of vindictive bile."

Thank God men are largely spared from this ugly activity. They are treated more gently, as befits their tender sensibilities.

FedkaTheConvict said...

First it was Katie Allison Granju Perfect mother? I was living a lie': The 'mummy blogger' with a terrible secretand now Heather "Dooce" Armstrong.

These mommy bloggers seem to be train wrecks; I'd say more but I'd probably be called cruel.

sydney said...

I wonder what part, if any, blogging played in the breakup.

BarryD said...

"*sigh* I have never known a good divorce"

True. However, one might occasionally meet a fun divorcee. Depends.

William said...

Another case of aspiration pneumonia. I think the vile comments are a feature and not a bug of the internet. Darkness visible. The evil thoughts that pass through the minds of the smiling faces are at last revealed. I think Emerson said that it would be a boon if we could see ourselves as others see us. That's just the kind of dumb thing an asshole like Emerson would say. He always thought the was so fucking perfect.

ricpic said...

Why should the breakup of one couple's "companionate" marriage "dash the dreams" for same by someone else? Such fragility!

ricpic said...

Finally! William calls Emerson an asshole. That he was. But a very refined asshole.

BarryD said...

@ricpic, very good point.

With all the divorces, bizarre relationships, domestic violence, emotional abuse, etc., going on -- yes, even with the gay community doing their best to make my marriage totally meaningless or whatever the religious right claims -- somehow, it seems that whatever is going on in my marriage, good and bad, challenges and joys, has nothing to do with anyone but my wife and me, our choices, our issues, our love.

the wolf said...

dooce was actually the first blog I ever read. I enjoyed the story about her original software development job and her firing (which launched her blogging success), but most everything subsequent to that has been patently dull.

Patrick said...

I don't know for sure, but I would think that people read those "mommy blogs" for the same reason that they watch (or used to watch) soap operas. Drama disconnected from the viewer's own.

Freeman Hunt said...

But plenty of Armstrong’s readers would love a companionate marriage that meshed work and life seamlessly, and her separation may dash those dreams.

It may dash their dreams? That's a bit over the top, I think.

Most marriages do not break up. Your dreams need not be dashed if one marriage does.

Also, I've only read Dooce a couple times, but I fail to see how this is any more surprising than it would be to hear the same of any average couple.

BarryD said...

"I don't know for sure, but I would think that people read those "mommy blogs" for the same reason that they watch (or used to watch) soap operas."

Undiagnosed clinical depression?

With soaps, that's kind of a chicken-or-egg question, I guess, though.

Carol_Herman said...

Gee. I thuoght a "douch" (dooch ... Or Dooce), was a vaginal cleansing agent.

As to happy marriages, they come in all sizes. What's nice to see is that Newt Gingrich actually has one!

And, there's always that opportunity after your first divorce. Or your second.

Since I don't read Slate, I guess there are expectations, here, from the left that weren't met?

Andrea said...

Dooce -- that's the lady who moved to Utah for her kids and then complained about how straightlaced all the Mormons were? Whatever.

Re: "Fans of Seal and Heidi Klum" -- wtf do these pop celebrities have to do with some other couple they don't even know? I know who Seal is -- liked a couple of his songs -- but I have no idea who or what a "Heidi Klum" is.

Re: Dan in Philly who wished his parents had stayed together even fighting or cheating instead of divorcing. You may think that, but you don't know. My parents stayed together even though they would hit the sauce every night and then fight like cats and dogs, and I would beg them to get divorced. They tried separating but had waited too long and couldn't stand being apart. So they got back together and everything was hunky-dory for a while until they started fighting again. Anyway, I think I turned out fine. It's the kids of those sudden, we've-talked-and-we're-getting-divorced, out-of-the-blue divorces that hurt kids most, I think. Here's my advice: if you're planning on splitting and have kids, don't hide all your disgust for each other from your children. Fight until divorce is practically the kid's idea. It will make the kid feel more in control of his life instead of governed by forces that are capricious and change direction at a whim.

BarryD said...

"My parents stayed together even though they would hit the sauce every night and then fight like cats and dogs, and I would beg them to get divorced."

Good times!

Great post, though, Andrea. Seriously.

I hadn't thought about that, but you know, we try to shield children from things like death and divorce, but it just confuses them and makes them feel helpless and afraid. Don't just tell them one day that the marriage is dead. Let them really see the rotting corpse, until they beg for the stench to go away.

It's got to be better than just one day having Mommy and Daddy tell a kid, "The family is no more" when the kid thinks everything is fine.

Julie C said...

Let's just hope that when Dooce decides to bring a new guy into the house, she keeps her moans muffled. Her children might call the cops otherwise.

BarryD said...

"Let's just hope that when Dooce decides to bring a new guy into the house"

What are you, a homophobe? How dare you assume! :-P

EMD said...

Emerson is my favorite asshole. Oscar Wilde is a close second, because he knew he was an asshole. I think I have Bobby Knight in third.

bornagainpenguin said...

This is less about the disposition or politeness of the Internet than it is about the perception of marriage 2.0...

No one expects a marriage to last any more so it is no longer shocking when one doesn't. What IS shocking is how many optimists still get married, the men certain that he has found the one in a thousand who will remain faithful to him and not simply use him like a walking ATM. Inevitably they're shocked when they get financially raped in court and the loving mother violates all sorts of visitation rights with impunity.

More and more men are waking up and refusing to play the game. Why bother swearing an oath before God and man in a time where there is not enough fear of God for them to make their forever really mean forever? These "mommy bloggers" seem like not much more than failed propaganda to me. An attempt at 'NAWALT' aka Not All Women Are Like That---and maybe they're not, but at these prices who can take the chance?

Julie C said...

I used to read her blog. I remember being a bit put off by her willingness to share certain details of her life, or more accurately, her husband's life and her child's. She talked about stuff that most people wouldn't mention in person. I'm not talking about the stuff that gets you labeled "brave". I mean the little stuff - farting, horniness, nose-picking etc.

Do you ever read James Lileks? He mentions his child but has really pulled back now that she is getting a bit older. And his mentions of his wife are very arm's length. I enjoy his writing more because he is not inviting you into his bathroom or bedroom.

Icepick said...

Do we really expect the internet to be such an asshole?

Don't athropomorhize the communication medium! (Asinumorphize?!)

Blue@9 said...

One lesson I've learned is that you never never know for certain what's going on between a couple. They may appear storybook-perfect in public and yet have a rotten relationship at home. The notion of someone else's relationship being "aspirational" is nonsensical. Unless you're actually in the relationship, you're only seeing what they want you to see. May as well read a novel.

Lyssa said...

Re: Andrea and Dan in Philly - I come from the other side of experience. My parents did fight a lot (no sauce hitting or other real problems, though, just yelling). When I was in my pre-teen years, I really hoped they would divorce, but after a while, I started looking at how my friends with divorced parents had to deal with it, and I realized that I really didn't want that.

My parents are still together, and seem better now (they got really involved in church, which I think changed things), but I still can look at my (30-something) peers who came from divorced homes and see scars that I don't see with myself and my sibs. I'm really grateful that my parents didn't put us through a divorce.

(Andrea raised a good point about control, though - I'd never thought of it that way. I still think that you have a responsibility to be nice to the person who you procreate with, barring some horrible situations.)

DADvocate said...

Had I known who these people are, how they were admired and respected, that they were breadking up, I surely written some bile somewhere. Too late now.

Maybe next time.

Jay said...

But plenty of Armstrong’s readers would love a companionate marriage that meshed work and life seamlessly,

How silly & juvenile.

Reading this stuff makes me wonder about the mental state of modern women.

John said...

Nelson Mandela spent twenty seven years in a South African prison, got beaten and tortured every day for twenty seven years, and did it with no f*cking problem. Made to do hard labor in hundred degrees South African heat for twenty seven years and did it with no problem. He got outta jail after twenty seven years of torture, spent 6 months with his wife and say I can't take this sh*t no more! - Chris Rock

Freeman Hunt said...

My parents divorced. All I'll say on that is this:

Do not get divorced.

(Obviously that is not directed at people in outrageous situations, such as those married to addicts, abusive people, or similar.)

Icepick said...

I'd caveat that further, Freeman. If you don't have children and things aren't working out, divorce is a fine option. If you've got children, that changes things.

paul a'barge said...

Who?

Who cares?

Patrick said...

My parents told us they were getting a divorce, but never did. they really didn't reconcile either, they just couldn't afford to run two households.

Now, all of these years later, they remain together, and perhaps more often than not, enjoy each others company.

I will say that I remember like yesterday the evening they told us they were splitting up. I was shattered for months, it was terrible. Upon reflection, I truly wish that I had handled it better. I was 12, and I made a terrible situation worse for them. I regret that to this day, and it is all part of how terrible this was for everyone. That is one of those moments I'd really like back.

John said...

This woman managed to make a fortune blogging and is now dumping her husband to pursue better options. Never get yourself in a situation where your wife makes more money than you do. Most women will eventually look for greener pastures when you do.

John said...

Patrick,

You were 12. You had no responsibility to make things easier for your parents. They were the ones screwing up the household no you. You have nothing to feel guilty about.

paul a'barge said...

Good grief.

The marriage was a "decade long". Folks, that's 10 years. At best. I guess over in Feminazi Slate Land, that's a long time, huh?

Please.

I urge you to follow the link and look at the picture of this so-called "Mommy Blogger". Tell me she wasn't stale, well past her sell-by date 10 years ago.

I'm guessing her eggs were the consistency of dehydrated walnuts.

Really. Will these sel-absorbed Slate harpies ever get a life (worth talking about).

Renee said...

Mommy blogs are the new soap operas, and have been for some time.

Andrea said...

Lyssa and others: actually, what I really wanted was for my parents to pull themselves together. The drinking I think was a big part of the problem, but I don't think they were alcoholics, just people who had problems who tried to drink them away.

Still, I'm not sure I want to flog my "scars" like it's so fashionable to do. I don't know if it was the way I was raised (and I was raised right, my parents other problems notwithstanding), but I don't believe in this entitlement to a perfect life that so permeates American culture and if you ask me is the main source of most of our problems. Let's face it, life isn't fair, and everyone gets a raw deal at some time or other, yes even in our tender years. You've just got to suck it up and move on.