Hang on! This is going to be a very long and wordy blog post because I saw and heard so many incredible things that I felt like I needed time to process everything and then finally commemorate it all in writing.
BlogHer conferences have always been an overdose of estrogen because of the sheer number of women aggregating in one place and BlogHer16 was no different! It’s quite plausible that those of us who are still on our monthly cycle just synced up during that week!
I had always heard that BlogHer conferences were great for networking, hooking up with brands, or just serving as this rad party place to just chill (yes, I know; all my ’90s lingo is coming out here!); but I never thought that I would be overwhelmed by all the classy women I would get to see and listen to. BlogHer16 was inspirational and worth every cent I spent to be there!
I’m going to go chronologically, so there are no favorites here! It was all so great!
I attended the ‘Keeping friends in a political season’ discussion, which was very lively, humorous, and intelligent. Some nuggets of wisdom that I documented were:
A great resource I learnt about is HeartMob, a website you can sign up to receive support for online harassment. You’ll get resources, supportive messages, including people standing up for you against your online bully, and help to report the abuse! I just signed up to be a Heartmobber!
Friday lunch Q&A with Sheryl Crowe
Is it okay to admit that I’ve never listened to any of her songs?!
But, she came and talked about her breast cancer story and who she became a strong advocate for women’s health and eating seasonal and natural, unprocessed food, which resonated with quite a few of us. Plus, this:
Friday lunch Keynote with Kim Kardashian
Yes, you may be wondering what she was doing there! But, read some of her responses:
Kim Kardashian, when asked how she felt when people underestimated her, “Doesn’t bother me. When someone underestimates me, I love to get to know them and have one conversation. For anyone to assume it’s not a full time job to sit and create things and come up with every single blog post (3 per day) or work on apps or build your own business? I respect blogging so much. Modeling isn’t just sitting pretty; it’s a full time job. I don’t mind getting underestimated, but I feel for other people who are because I understand how it can bother them. They don’t get the respect they deserve.
Another is this! (can you tell that I’m really intrigued by her?!):
“I feel so confident all the time, and that helps me. When I post something, even nude selfies, I don’t post to get a reaction. I post because I like the photo. I’m not looking at what the comments/reactions are. If you do something because you genuinely like it, you shouldn’t look for that reaction to validate you.”
Heart and Soul Session – Feminism across generations
Angelique Roche of the Ms. Foundation rocked the talk, trying to clear up the misconception that feminism automatically means bra-burning or man-hating! She further said that it was okay for people not to identify themselves as feminists as long as they were part of the conversation.
Kelley Skoloda of Global Brand Marketing practice went on to say that research called Breadwinner Phenomenon showed that “5 in 10 woman are either on par or the bread winner in their families. We also found that women experienced more stress, and more importantly, that women have to nourish themselves. When women start to make more money, they lose track of having good health. So the role model for the next generation isn’t great. We’re not taking care of ourselves.” The movement can’t continue going on if everyone is burnt out.
The Voices of the Year Award
What can I say – it was stirring to listen to so many powerful voices! I was privileged enough to be there to represent 1000 Voices of Compassion whose founder, Yvonne Spence won the Impact Category VOTY for her piece.
This is a great post for a summary of the VOTY, if you want a short and sweet version. I was overwhelmed to see Lizzi Velaquez, once dubbed ‘the world’s ugliest woman’ and urged over social media to ‘do everyone a favor and kill yourself’; who instead decided to take on her tormentors and now is an iconic figure, motivational speaker, and fighter against bullying. She was unable to make it to the conference as she had flu but she did join us on a Google hangout!
I didn’t realize that we would be in the company of April Reign who created the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to protest against the absence of minorities in the Oscar nominations, or Katherine Stone whose post protesting against another woman’s misinformed assertions about postpartum depression! I think I spent most of my time just propping my jaw up to prevent it from getting unhinged!
Open Mic Session
This is a gathering that happens after the VOTYs and is a chance for non-VOTY bloggers to read their work to a receptive audience. It’s hosted by the very talented and super-sweet Ann Imig, who is the founder of Listen To Your Mother. Ann and I met online when I first attempted blogging in 2008. I closed my blog after a year but she STILL REMEMBERED ME!! So incredible and overwhelming!
I summoned up the courage to speak in front of the audience and presented them my #1000Speak piece on Compassison for Immigrants. I also heard some lovely pieces, such as from Motherhood and More, Suebob’s Red Stapler, and Ask Dr. Ho!
Saturday lunch keynote with Lucy McBath
Lucy McBath is the mother of Jordon, a gun violence victim. She truly spoke with such calmness and grace of her movement and about life after her son’s death. It was impossible not to get choked up when hearing her words, “You don’t stop being a mom when your child dies; you don’t stop being a parent. I had to live out the things I taught him to be”. She urged all of us to blog about ‘gun violence prevention’ and not to use the phrase, ‘gun control’, which immediately evokes a negative reaction.
What can we do? I already have signed up at Everytown for Gun Safety and Mothers Demand Action for Gun Safety in America. The latter was created by Lucy McBath and eleven other moms of gun violence victims. Lucy told us about how she and the other moms met Hilary Clinton and how Clinton promised to help, but also said to them, “If you come together, what power you would have!” Thus, the whole movement was born! The organization has had several state-level successes, such as getting laws passed in Oregon and Washington for background checks for all gun sales, preventing guns on campuses in Georgia and Florida, and preventing the expansion of the Florida Stand Your Ground law.
Another group to join and be active on is One Pulse for America, founded by George Takei. I have joined all three and I hope to write posts about this topic soon!
Saturday Lunch Keynote with Mayim Bialik
You know; the Big Bang Theory’s Amy!
Frankly, I should mention that I have seen a few episodes of the show and I didn’t like it, from an ex-scientist’s standpoint, because it reiterated stereotypes of a scientist as socially awkward, incapable of interacting with the opposite sex, with weird dress sense and someone who can be arrogant.
Mayim is a neuroscientist and she does STEM advocacy. I was heartened to hear her say that she didn’t want to make science sexy; she wanted to make science for everyone”. It was funny that she auditioned for the Big Bang Theory because she was out of health insurance! She’s also the only scientist on the team and therefore the only one who really understands what everyone’s lines mean!
I was also heartened when she mentioned that though she herself was the crunchy, granola-type mom, she didn’t need or expect everyone to feel the same way. As a mom, to her, raising kids was an opportunity to teach them to be sensitive about race, class, gender, and sexuality, and to raise them to be feminists.
So, these are the sessions that I personally attended. I’m really happy that I went. I did also connect with bloggers whom I’ve only met online, including Hasty Words, Ra Avis, Gunmetal Geisha, Salma, Srividhya, Preethi, and Tahira. Even though I was tongue-tied a lot of the times, I never experienced any cold-shouldering or anything less than warm smiles and friendly nods!
Thank you to Melisa Wells, Rita Arens, Jennifer Evers and all the other people in the BlogHer organizing committee!
And, a shout-out to these lovely ASL interpreters, even though I’m fortunate enough not to need their services, I appreciate the thoughtfulness!
Some of the photos were from the BlogHer Flickr page. Others are taken by yours truly.