Ladies, farmers, vintage lovers and chicken dreamers, meet Annie Novak of Eagle Creek Farm, Brooklyn NYC. She is here to rock your boat. She gardens a huge roof top farm, raises chickens, keeps bees, has a funky, fun space below it and wears adorable Oxacan dresses while she works. According to the Selby, that is.
You know, the ones that have the time to cook their children nutritious, organic meals from scratch every day and document it all, even while they home-school, make adorable Waldorf-y toys, dress themselves and the kids in super cute hipster outfits and keep a professionally curated looking house and blog.
The ones who achieve, in life, in this hobby. They have sponsorships and write columns for magazines and create thriving online business and turn their love of sewing/floral arrangement/crafting/baking into a profitable venture and make every day life look like an editorial.
The ones that seem have taken the place that magazines used occupy in women's minds a few scant years ago. They make your home appear messy in the wrong way, your chores tedious and your meals uninspired. They make your outfits look drab and your job unambitious. And the worst part is, they're not movie stars and models, they are real women and girls.
Five years ago, I would not have felt this way. Upon their first appearance, I was delighted with blogs, fashion blogs, lifestyle blogs, whatever we call them now; they were windows into other people's worlds. They seemed radical. It seemed radical to me, that ordinary women were posting images of their own individual styles, sharing their aesthetic, their love of beauty with the world, with other women. Radical.
Fast forward five years and we are in the midst of modcloth sponsorships and fashion week packages for bloggers, with editors and advertisers and companies clamoring for their attention. The scene itself has become part of the establishment. "So?" You may ask. "Are you really that surprised?" Well, yes and no. I'm surprised by how swiftly the idea of sharing the personal and delighting in the everyday was co-opted and how easily the seemingly clear-headed women (for the purposes of this piece) bloggers fell for it.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not begrudging these women, or anyone of their idealized version of reality. I'm not even questioning that reality. We're all grown-ups here. I personally do more than my fair share of picking and choosing of what and how I present myself in my own blog; I edit my photos, I take pictures of cute shit I do, I indulge my love of adorable (lovely ;) frocks, I post about popular culture and flower crowns.
Nor am I putting forward the thesis that these women are mere corporate tools, mere extensions of the fashion/lifestyle establishment.
What saddens me is the lack of discourse, the lack of acknowledgement of the story-telling that goes on. A lot of the women bloggers part of and witnessing this shift to the mainstream, are intelligent, funny, culturally savvy, even feminist, or at least some sort of liberal feminists (Ask me about the difference between liberal and radical feminists. No, really.), aware of all the contradictions and dichotomies of being a woman; so it would stand to reason that there would be a lively conversation about the commercialisation of the style/fashion/vintage/life-style blogging experience.
Instead there is only a deafening silence, underscored by much talk about cute frocks from sponsors.
Now, of course no one is forcing me to read these newly commercialized logs, or twisting my arm to feel inadequate over the disrepair of my house, the tatteredness of my frocks, or the lack of shine in my locks. In fact, by and large, I don't. The blog community I've chosen (or, as the case may be, been blessed enough to stumble upon), though brought together by the love of beautiful things, has expanded and matured to encompass things deeper and more far flung. We may still rejoice over a particularly good thrift find, or seek dressing inspiration, but we also discuss the personal, culture, literature, food, health, spirituality and countless other topic, from the mundane to the mystical. We share like friends and not like authors and audience.
Still, I'm not immune to the quest for perfection that seems to plague blogging these days. Seen from the other side of the screen, even the most seemingly everyday of lives can appear depressingly glamorous and productive. We all like to present our best selves to the world, our most lovely smiles and sweetest outfits.
Whatever our personal stance on presenting ourselves, whether in the "real" world, or online, most of us also engage in the culture of women, be it magazines, blogs, or some other outlet, and so sometimes, putting our best selves forward means perpetuating that which we think of as "perfect".
The projected "perfection" bothers me because it undermines what is empowering and awesome about blogging; folks, in this case mostly women, sharing their lives with one another, free from space and distance, boundaries and borders. Women inspiring women to be their best selves, rejoice in their own ordinary lives, add magic to the every day drudgery, sharing joys and sorrows of virtual ;) unknowns.
At its best a public self is an equal mix of that which is rough and honest and real about us, as well as our aspiration to be that best self and to celebrate that which is truly magical about our lives.
So I say, celebrate Annie Novak, but let's celebrate her in all her incarnations.
Because, ultimately, the two seemingly disparate women in these pictures are just her. The girl in the glossy shots, the pretty dress is still her, still Annie Novak doing her thing. Heck, it's probably even her Oxacan dress and yes, I bet she wishes she could wear it to work, but let me tell you, it really sucks when you get chicken shit all over you Oxacan dress. So let us, please, also remember to celebrate the girl in the goretex get-up. They are, after all, both the real Annie Novak.
What's your thought on projecting "perfection" in blogs?