an open letter to circle of moms: adoptive families are not controversial

Last week, there was a bit of an internet kerfuffle over at a website called Circle of Moms.  In case you aren’t familiar, Circle of Moms is a website that derives most of its traffic and influence by running contests for “Top 25 Blogger” lists.  I’ve been on their lists a few times . . . though after this post I’m guessing I may not be again.  Blogging contests are a common way for start-up sites to garner traffic, and it works a little something like this:  Circle of Moms nominates several blogs (and accepts nominations) for random contests they’ve created, like Top 25 Funny Mom Bloggers or Top 25 SoCal Bloggers.  They alert the people who’ve been nominated, and those bloggers are encouraged to get their readers to vote for them every day until the contest ends, which usually spans for a month or more.  The thing is, most websites running these contests aren’t really reputable sites on their own, but inevitably bloggers are so honored to be nominated that they end up asking for votes, which then drives up traffic on these sites. Don’t get me wrong – at first I was totally taken by this, and asked for votes for myself. But after a while I realized that all this really does is hike up their traffic impressions so that they are making money off of me and a bevy of other bloggers pestering our friends. Ultimately, these contests have no credibility because a) the sites are not reputable sites to begin with, and b) it’s just a competition to see who will shill for more votes.  Some people describe these schemes as mere popularity contests, but I think that’s being generous.  I think they are contests to find out which bloggers are willing to bug their friends daily for votes.  (And again, I’ve done this). I don’t think that every blogging list is a bad thing.  I was quite honored to be named on Babble’s list this year, but that’s because it’s a well-known site and because they choose the list independently instead of through votes.  Voting competitions are not bad, per se . . . but when a website is asking people to vote EVERY DAY, that’s a pretty good indication that it’s more about driving their traffic up and less about curating a credible list of good blogs.  When that site later asks all of their winners to place a badge on their sidebar (which is code for an ad that they don’t pay for) and when they ask the winners to repeatedly answer questions for upcoming features (which is code for content they don’t pay for) then the message becomes pretty clear. This site is all about exploiting bloggers through flattery.

That being said, I do appreciate that Circle of Moms has consistently acknowledged adoptive families in their lists for the past few years.  However, this year there was some internet controversy about the list.  First of all, let me point out that Circle of Mom’s lists have been specifically geared towards “mommy blogs”.  It’s inherent in their title and in the description of each list . . . it’s about honoring moms in the blogging space.  However, several anti-adoption bloggers descended upon the adoption bloggers list this year, nominating themselves and circling the wagons to get their sites into the top 25.  I don’t think this was particularly surprising or shocking to anyone in the adoption community.  In fact, I’ve come to expect it, and it’s usually the same people every time.  My experience has been that any time adoptive parents are being featured on the internet, a certain circle of bloggers show up with guns blazing, wanting to add their voice to the mix and make sure that the “adult adoptee voice” is being heard. I’ve observed that this is typically code for “the anti-adoption voice being heard”.  The truth is that adoptees are very well represented in the blogosphere . . . except not all of them are dedicating their blogs to bioessentialist diatribes, or advocating we shut down adoption, or berating and mocking adoptive parents.  I know plenty of blogger who were adopted, many of whom have been on several Circle of Moms lists. But with this circle of bloggers, apparently that adoptee voice does not count. I think there is a time and a place for adoption critique, but my personal opinion is that this wasn’t the time or place.  This wasn’t a list curating the best sites about adoption reform or adoption ethics or adoption criticism . . . Circle of Moms is a site that highlights parenting blogs.  I was annoyed that anti-adoption bloggers were trying to hijack a competition on a site that is clearly for motherhood/parenting issues . . .  but I wasn’t going to raise a stink about it because, to be honest, I think very few people are checking these lists beyond the bloggers who’ve been nominated.  I was nominated this year but I really wasn’t paying attention until I got a letter stating that the contest had been cancelled early. 

Apparently, what happened was this: Circle of Moms’s contest last year was for adoptive moms who blog.  This was heavily criticized by some bloggers for not being “more inclusive” of adult adoptee blogs.  Circle of Moms didn’t like the criticism, so they opened it up, and then several blogs that are overtly critical of adoptive parents were nominated.  Consequently, some of the adoptive moms who were nominated complained because their blog was listed next to a blog who referred to them as kidnappers or baby-stealers.  Rather than editing the contest requirements or taking the time to review each blog, Circle of Moms deleted the competition entirely, with the following message:
After serious consideration, we have decided to cancel our Adoption Blogs by Moms – 2012 contest. Our Top 25 program is meant to celebrate, connect, and support mom bloggers. Following some feedback from participants in our 2011 contest, we decided to make this year's Top 25 more inclusive. In doing so, we unknowingly stepped into a very sensitive issue and debate, and we apologize to all the moms who have been offended, no matter what your position on adoption is.
Here’s what I have to say about that:
Dear Circle of Moms,
I’m disappointed that you chose to abruptly end the contest for adoptive moms.  While I’m not a fan of your brand of blog lists, I’ve always appreciated your nod to adoptive parents, and I’ve enjoyed discovering new blogs from other adoptive moms on your lists. 

I can see where you weren’t prepared for the backlash you received from some anti-adoption bloggers, and it probably feels like a big controversy.  The thing is, it’s not.  Adoptive parenting is not controversial.  There are aspects of adoption that are, to be sure, and there are many blogs that address those, but you weren’t holding a contest for best blogs exploring adoption ethics.  You are a mommy blogging site. Believe me, I’ve been the subject of it many times.

If you didn’t want to include blogs that disparage adoption parents, then you should have removed them. If you felt uncomfortable hosting nominees that refer to adoptive parents as child stealers, “adoptorapters”, kidnappers, or desperate and coercive kid hoarders, then you should have deleted them. Or, if you wanted to host a competition that was for all members of the triad, you should have done that. Instead, you pulled the entire contest. What was your fear? That some anti-adoption bloggers would write nasty things about Circle of Moms? Well, welcome to the internet. There are no shortage of people who will criticize what you are doing for various reasons. If your goal is to drive traffic to your site, you should be prepared for haters. Not to mention, those blogs wrote nasty things about you anyway . . . and now you’ve effectively pissed off adoptive parents as well.

Despite what our opponents may be saying, adoptive families can still use some encouragement from time to time. We still feel marginalized. We still have to endure Pinterest memes with “You’re Adopted!” jokes, stupid questions about how our non-biological siblings get along, tweets from religious groups heralding biological parenting as superior, and other assorted reactions ranging from mockery to curiosity to skepticism in regards to being “real” families. Not to mention, we have to endure the blogs in question reading our work, parsing our words, accusing us of stealing our children and holding contests of their own in which they mockingly choose the worst blogs by adoptive parents. 

Regardless of my feelings about blog contests, I appreciated that adoptive moms were getting a nod from you. Now, you’ve made us feel like our families are too controversial to be acknowledged.  You’ve implied that adoptive parenting is a “sensitive topic”.  It’s shaming to feel like we can’t be honored as adoptive parents because it’s too controversial.

I don’t believe that the adopted moms who were offended responded because they are overly sensitive, or because adoption is a uniquely controversial parenting issue. When you run a contest for the top vegan moms, would you be surprised if the nominees were offended if you also included blogs by people who were raised vegan and now blog about how much they hate veganism?  If you ran a contest for lesbian moms, would that be a space where you host nominated blogs who criticize and mock gay people?  If you ran a contest for homeschooling moms, would you open it up to people who were homeschooled and resent it, and would the homeschooling moms involved be thrilled with that choice?  In your contest for the best faith-based mom blogs, will you also allow for blogs by people who write about how misguided religious parents are?  And if those blogs showed up, would you shut down the competition completely?

I’m frustrated that you did not have the integrity to take the heat and continue the contest. I believe you’ve sent a discouraging message to adoptive families.  We are not controversial.  Our families are not a “sensitive topic”.

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