July 10, 2020

I'm trying to read "Urban Baby fell into a trap all too common of our time"...

... by Helaine Olen (at WaPo). I'd never heard of Urban Baby, but it was "the seminal mothering forum of the aughts" owned by CBS Interactive, which just shut it down and isn't preserving the archive. You get to a dead end if you go to UrbanBaby.com (but there's always the Wayback Machine). I had to look up exactly when it started — "the aughts" being an annoyingly vague factoid. It was 1999. And why did CBS close it? Because it "fell into a trap all too common of our time" — whatever that is? Or was it for some other reason, and Olen just wants to accuse it of falling into some trap she's going to tell us is too common?
Urban Baby, born shortly before the millennium...
Oh, okay, she did more nearly approximate the date. My annoyance was getting out ahead of itself.
... was, in the words of New York magazine, “the collective id” of upper-middle-class professional urban mothers. It was wild, it was raunchy, it was no-holds-barred. People — all anonymous — talked about breastfeeding and strollers, sex and infidelity, money and schools, and crazy encounters with other moms, family members or even strangers.... Urban Baby was part of the first wave of confessional Internet women’s writing about parenting... and the simultaneous ratcheting up of expectations of what makes for good mothering.... This new world of parenting was challenging and liberating, but, most importantly, optimistic. There was the almost-always unspoken assumption that the Internet was going to change the world of mothering for the better.

But that did not happen. For all the delights of the mom blogosphere, its members fell into a trap all too common to our time: We might kvetch about our problems jointly, but we struggle, for the most part, alone.
All right. There's the "trap all too common to our time." Individualism. Failure to do collective action:
[V]ery few connected their struggles to the greater society and economy causing their woes....  [T]he mothering blogosphere and forums lost ground to social media, to Instagram posts by neighbors and celebrity influencers alike about the wonderfulness of their parenting lives....
The "wonderfulness" Instagrammers were not uncovering the woes of motherhood, so they were even worse individualists. They propagandized for their individualized selves and gloried in their superior prestige.
[T]he little organizing done by moms connected via online communities often revolved around such things as convincing stores that banned strollers to change their policies.... [F]or all their complaints, all too many of the people doing the talking on sites like Urban Baby still believe that they can individually surmount the ever-increasing challenges of American life rather than changing the system that underlies them. 
They didn't go big and demand more and take to the streets. Okay, I get that Olen thinks complaining and working through personal problems by writing on line isn't showy and disruptive enough and that what "our time" needs is big collective action. But that doesn't mean that the mothers in these forums were in a trap. That just means they didn't process their problems into the kind of politics that a lot of us think is — to use Olen's awkward phrase — "all too common of our time."

And I still don't know why CBS ended the forum! I don't think it was because the participants fell into the "trap" of talking about life as they experienced it as individuals.

30 comments:

Eleanor said...

Maybe CBS closed it down because they were afraid the Urban Babies were going to grow up and sue them for allowing their privacy to be invaded when their mothers disclosed every detail of their children's lives online.

rhhardin said...

The only working form of collective action is zingers.

tim in vermont said...

Urban Baby was part of the first wave of confessional Internet women’s writing ...

Nothing has lowered my opinion of women in general more than their “confessional writing.” To spin a line from Mary Poppins, “though we adore them individually, we agree that as a group they’re rather stupid.”

Sounds harsh, but that was the quote from the song, about men, and when it’s about men it’s not harsh, right? So fair is fair, or in this case is fair foul? I will have to ask the Weird Sisters on that one.

DavidD said...

I expect that CBS ended the forum because it wasn’t bringing in enough ad revenue to make it profitable.

There’s the “trap all too common of our time.”

It’s not only individualism that has failed Olen but that danged capitalism, as well.

Why can’t we all just be socialists already? C’mon, you guys; can’t you see you’re letting Olen down here?

Mary Beth (the commenter) said...

And why did CBS close it?

Couldn't sell enough ads to support it?

iowan2 said...

Collective wisdom demands adherence to the notion, parenting is the hardest vocation ever.

Pro tip: Parenting is not difficult.

Leave them alone, they'll be fine, or not. But its up to them. Of course the kids will model your values. Not the ones you preach, the ones you practice. The difficult part is changing you. Kids are little sponges and suck up everything the contact.

Parenting has morphed into this generations of "keeping up with the Jones's. Decisions, and actions for public consumption. Not for the health of the family.

rehajm said...

A money loser in an industry bleeding money. Streaming is forcing traditional networks to redefine themselves and little seems to be working. Turns out not enough people want to pay 10 dollars a month for what they used to get for free. Even NBC is considering CNBC programing aimed at 'conservatives'. Quelle horreur!

The Sugar Daddy business model that's working in print media is next for them and many donations to Democrats now flow through ActBlue. ActBlue says they can do whatever the hell they want with the money they collect. Might as well go to a direct support model of their propagandists...

Sydney said...

It probably wasn’t making any money.

traditionalguy said...

Individuals versus the Party. Wasn’t that Lenin’s problem with the Kulaks? The dumb farmers thought it was all about themselves eating and living as if they owned the crops they grew. We know better today. Just gin up a Pandemic Scare and revoke Individual life.

Howard said...

I can see right through you, Althouse.
There was no former Marine defensive back Black man to catch the falling urban baby.

Circle gets the square.

tim maguire said...

My wife has been a dedicated Urban Baby user for almost 13 years (since she was pregnant with our daughter, who turned 12 yesterday). You probably haven't heard abotu it because it's primarily an NYC phenomenon (the infidelity in the article refers mostly to the Wall Street wives who married for money, had children and are losing their looks, and now their rich husbands are cheating on them with younger prettier women). She's going through withdrawal now.

I don't know about the all too common trap, but Urban Baby is no longer supported because it couldn't be monetized. There was no advertising on the site and its success was dependent on the anonymous nature of it. But that meant it couldn't be policed properly to satisfy advertisers.

Howard said...

The dingo ate my urban baby

Mid-Life Lawyer said...

If you don't get together and tear down some statues, it's on you.

Francisco D said...

Ayn Rand warned us, but most didn't listen and pay attention.

Howard said...

Zingers are individuals piercing the collective bubble. Immediate deflation is not always the goal as the descending high pitched whinge of a pin prick is deliciously entertaining

D 2 said...

I wonder if there is any connection between people who espouse for “Big collective action” or who think “burn it all down and start from Year Zero” and who like to belittle the small efforts at change (evidently individual-sized in their nature) if they have ever had background in childhood being part of a sports team say, soccer or football with multiple players who must do various things

My bias is saying no. The Go Big thinkers may have missed the life lesson in little league sports. A team is made up of individuals who must work together, and if we lose ..... it’s not waved or explained away by it being a systemic flaw in the game. It’s a product of specific, discrete mistakes made by an individual at points in time that we want to correct before next game. Each of those mistakes or inefficiencies is a “small change” which, if we address it, may make us the better team next time.

You don’t tell the team, let’s burn the arena to the ground, it’s not fair. What I heard in sports was the coach stress everyone needs to up their game - each individual - and that means you still recognize where each person is responsible to be their best.

Amy Welborn said...

I noticed similar in a recent New Yorker article on mutual aid societies cropping up in the age of pandemic. I thought, "Oh, this is nice. What a good thing! And what a good thing for the New Yorker to notice!" But then the theme of the article became just that - these locally inspired, ad hoc mutual aid societies rising to the occasion, helping the homebound get groceries, medical care and so on, are problematic (of course) because they might just distract from the need for systemic change, blah, blah, blah.

Todd said...

You WILL be assimilated! The collective demands it!

Funny, if it were a "conservative" collective pushing for this social "togetherness" we would be back in the "radical 60s" where you were pushed to "do your own thing" and to "Turn on, tune in, drop out" but NOW since the left is in charge and "the man", everyone is assured that it "takes a village" and we all need to conform and get in line.

Oh well, look at the new boss, same as the old boss.

Todd said...

rehajm said...

Even NBC is considering CNBC programing aimed at 'conservatives'. Quelle horreur!

7/10/20, 6:00 AM


Now isn't that PRECIOUS! CNBC couldn't do programming aimed at conservatives if they devoted the entire company to the endeavor! They don't even know what that word means. All they have is their caricature of what "conservatives" think, feel, and want. Their programming would consist of hunting shows, gun news, religious stores ALL with a strong dose of "arn't they so backward and cute with their anti-science and old-timie beliefs". It would be like me being put in charge of producing programming for the French and I don't know anything about the French other than they like their food and wine.

gilbar said...

"trap all too common to our time." .... insufficient readership, and poor sales

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

Leftism is too complicated. That’s why the crazy marxists have migrated from street corners to professorships, where complicated conspiracy heist grow into entire Critical Studies departments. Only a highly “educated” lesson can believe this bullshit. Normal people have common sense, an attribute our miseducation system beats out of students in their youth with Common Core and other mind-numbing torture.

MadisonMan said...

I read urban baby and thought of the rescued-from-burning-building kid of yesterday. It was very puzzling to try to figure where this post was going from that viewpoint.

Nichevo said...


Howard said...
Zingers are individuals piercing the collective bubble. Immediate deflation is not always the goal as the descending high pitched whinge of a pin prick is deliciously entertaining

7/10/20, 7:27 AM


Yes, and this is called sadism. As opposed to schadenfreude, which is what surviving observers here will have when you and your wackily raised offspring get cannibalized.

Laslo Spatula said...

Unborn Baby fell into a trap all too common of our time.

I am Laslo.

tommyesq said...

[V]ery few connected their struggles to the greater society and economy causing their woes....

In other words, the mothers weren't bitching about the right stuff...

MayBee said...

"Urban Baby fell..."
I read this and thought, where is Phillip Blanks?

Sam L. said...

I calls it the "WaPoo" because it WaPoops sooooo MUCH>

Bunkypotatohead said...

Around here "urban" is a euphemism for black.
Maybe that's why it was a failure.

Njall said...

I’ve been seeing some articles lately which maintain that white women, as a group, are all f-ed up. The examples are the birdwatcher harasser, the Atlanta Wendy’s firebomber, and many many more.

The question posed is, WTF is wrong with white women?

Doug said...

I'm willing to believe the protesters, most of them, were not "trying to be violent," but then windows got broken and chaos happened.

For a law professor, you're pretty much of an idiot.