Better Homes & BloggersAre lifestyle blogs a new way for women to compare themselves and come up short?

Today, Elsie Larson is wearing gold. “I'm kinda obsessed with gold lately,” she writes, “Gold details, jewelry, even metallic fabrics like this gold skirt that [my sister] Emma wore.” Kaylah Doolan has decorated her home for Christmas and shares photos of the end result— reindeer lights and tinsel decorating hallways, a ceramic elf perched on top of a stack of DVDs, Christmas tins by her bright blue typewriter. Abbey Hendrickson has five new things she recently found “in blogland” to share, including knit sea urchins, Free People boots, and quirkily wrapped gifts. Anja Verdugo recently worked on a “soft goth” photo shoot and documented the event with pictures of yellow and pink roses and makeup brushes next to a container of various lip balms.

Such is a day in the world of lifestyle blogging, an increasingly popular genre that women dominate.

Through their blogs, which focus largely on traditionally feminine topics such as fashion, home decor, crafts, food, and family, women like Larson, Doolan, Hendrickson, and Verdugo connect with like-minded individuals, form communities, promote their Etsy shops and, in some cases, receive attention from mainstream media outlets.

For many, blogging is a relatively easy, low-cost way to share personal anecdotes and explore interests in an accessible medium. And, in contrast to mainstream lifestyle media (Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living) that tends to be more intent on raising ad revenue than bolstering women's spirits, lifestyle blogging puts representation into the hands of the homemakers themselves. At the same time, there is something a bit uncanny about the genre. Click through enough of them and you'll start wondering: How is it possible that so many women and their toddlers spent their Saturdays in blanket forts made from vintage quilts found at a swap meet? And does the world really need more Instagram shots of early-morning trips to the flower market? One may get the impression that the Stepford Wives have swapped their pastel sun hats and starched blouses for sewing-machine tattoos and Rachel Comey shoes. The pastels; soft-focus and color-saturated photo filters; optimistic, sunny tone; and tendency to address readers as “sweeties,” “darlings,” and other diminutives characterize many of the most visible lifestyle blogs. Coupled with the focus on domesticity and the home, bloggers start to resemble a contemporary, superwoman version of a stereotypical 1950s housewife. These women don't just maintain squeaky-clean, camera-ready homes and adorable families, they also run independent businesses, wear perfect outfits, rock exquisitely styled hair—and find the time to blog about it.

A brief note on terminology: The category of “lifestyle blogs” can also include service-oriented blogs about four-hour workweeks or productivity sites like Lifehacker, but the ones I discuss here are personal blogs that are just about, well, living life. Many of the most popular blogs and bloggers in the genre not only make a living from their blogs, thanks to advertising revenue, but have also partnered with mainstream media outlets, particularly women's magazines—Hendrickson, for instance, creates craft tutorials for Parents magazine, while lifestyle blogs like Larson's A Beautiful Mess and Dylana Suarez's Color Me Nana are part of Lucky magazine's Lucky Style Collective, a network of bloggers whose association with the Condé Nast property nets them ad revenue, writing and photo opportunities, and more. Martha Stewart regularly invites bloggers to her show for cooking and craft demos; the blog Design*Sponge held its recent series of nationwide book-release parties at the home store West Elm. It's not just that mainstream media has recognized that bringing bloggers with established audiences into its fold is smart business, it's also that there's something ineffably appealing about perfectly puffed pie crusts, pigeon-toed fashion shoots, and sweet, uncomplicated musings on vintage hairclips.

In a 2011 Salon article, writer Emily Matchar confessed to being obsessed with Mormon mom blogs. In a piece titled “Why I Can't Stop Reading Mormon Housewife Blogs,” she wrote of the escapism offered by blogs like Nat the Fat Rat and Rockstar Diaries, saying:

[Their] focus on the positive is especially alluring when your own life seems anything but easy. As my friend says of her fascination with Mormon lifestyle blogs, “I'm just jealous. I want to arrange flowers all day too!” She doesn't, really. She's just tired from long days spent in the lab, from a decade of living in a tiny apartment because she's too poor from student loans to buy a house, from constant negotiations about breadwinning status with her artist husband. It's not that she or I want to quit our jobs to bake brownies or sew kiddie Halloween costumes. It's just that for her, Mormon blogs are an escapist fantasy, a way to imagine a sweeter, simpler life.


Illustrated picture framesAnd while hip young Mormon women do have a disproportionately large presence in the lifestyle blogosphere, a broader interest in and resurgence of domesticity predates lifestyle blogs by many years. At the close of the 1990s, both newspaper articles and alternative media like Bust magazine heralded a “new domesticity,” suggesting that the gains of feminism had freed up the modern women to actually enjoy things like cooking, knitting, and even ironing; a massive 1999 tome called Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House buttressed the idea that domesticity could be approached simultaneously with—and with the same seriousness as—a degree from law school. (Author Cheryl Mendelson, in fact, has both a JD from Harvard Law and a PhD in philosophy.) A few years later, the aftermath of 9/11 found media types again turning to the idea of a new domesticity as a respite from terror threats and economic uncertainty. And most recently, the recession has led to a more widespread embrace of the idea that the home front can be a site of economic, political, and environmental empowerment, with everything from raising bees and brewing beer to homeschooling and hog farming getting front-page ink.

But lifestyle blogs, for Matchar and many others who are entranced by them, tap into a particular aesthetic that has nothing to do with bucking societal expectations or creating necessary alternative employment. In her recently launched blog, New Domesticity, Matchar describes this mood as “very romantic, soft-focused, aesthetically pleasing images of home life, that is very DIY, very home-oriented and nostalgic.”

And perhaps just as important, authentic. Make that “authentic”: Both the appeal and the unease of lifestyle blogs are centered on the fact that, unlike more traditional forms of media like magazines, television, and movies, blogs are supposed to be real. In theory, they exist outside the economic strictures of parent companies and advertising contracts; they are, at the most basic level, online records born from a desire to share with others, rather than satisfy a bottom line. (Indeed, the link between blogging and the journaling that has historically been a feature of Mormon home life goes some way toward explaining the Latter-day Saintliness of so many lifestyle blogs.) As Matchar argues, such blogs allow readers to satisfy “the desire to peer into others' personal lives” in a more casual way than afforded by mainstream media of the past.

This tension between authenticity and aspiration may be at the heart of why lifestyle blogs don't just inspire readers, they also tend to bum them out. Matchar, for instance, says she has talked to many women who, upon becoming immersed in the world of lifestyle blogging, have had negative reactions. “[Reading these blogs] creates a constant comparison…it's easy to get caught up in 'their life is so much better than mine,'” she says. Lifestyle blogs, which in the words of Clever Nettle's Verdugo, “show perfect homes and perfect lives where everything is lovely and perfect (and expensive!),” can result in something as simple as a post on a delicious meal setting off the most grounded follower. As one reader, Claudette, recounts: “I see her fucking noodle soup. And I feel like I should do that. And I don't feel good. I feel like I should be perfect.” Claudette, who follows many style blogs, particularly those that reflect her own modernist sensibility and obsession with fashion and design, isn't unhappy with her own life. But, she says, “I look around my house and I like the things I own…but it can never be good enough.”

Verdugo acknowledges that much of the negative feedback she has seen on blogs stems “from the perception that bloggers are constantly [portraying] their lives [as] unrealistically perfect. There will always be a disconnect between real life and what people think your life is like.” Caitlin Emeritz, who runs the blog Metrode, points out that bloggers are not purposely trying to make their readers feel bad about their lives: “I mean for my blog and store to be inclusive, and hopefully inspiring, rather than a standard against which to judge other women or men.”

It is also worthwhile to point out what kind of lifestyle is being promoted and who the face of it is. Perhaps it's not surprising that the most popular lifestyle blogs, the ones with the largest readerships and tendency to be featured in other media, are usually authored by Caucasian, middle-class, straight women. Claudette, who is black, remarked that the lifestyle blogs she reads are like an extension of mainstream society's preference for “happy white women,” and could not think of any lifestyle blogs by black or Latina women, though obviously they exist. Another reader echoed this sentiment, stating that while she felt there was an Asian-American presence, especially among blogs focusing on fashion and style, she recognized a strong whiteness to the world of lifestyle blogging. The lack of class and racial diversity is telling, as is the fact that lifestyle bloggers of color with robust readerships—among them Savvy Brown, Afro Boudoir, and La Dulce Vida—aren't the ones who tend to define the genre, and thus don't have the links, the love, and the lucrative partnerships of their whiter peers. Some of the bloggers in the Lucky Style Collective, for instance, are women of color, but it's tempting to view their blogs' disinterest in foregrounding racial identity as the very thing that makes them easily assimilated into lifestyle-blog culture.

Despite the democratic potential of the blog format—the fact that nearly everyone can find an audience for everything from discussions of gratitude to tutorials on how to craft up some glittered flats—it seems important to question why the blogs that have come to define “lifestyle blogging” are emblematic of deeply normative, well, lifestyles, even when they don't necessarily set out to be. Context matters: The bright tone of blogs may tacitly discourage questions about what or who isn't represented in all those cheery Instagrams. The copious images of female-focused domesticity can't help but underscore that, while we're all free to choose our choices, a clear and privileged path to happiness and achievement runs through the kitchen, the garden, and the nursery. One can see these frustrations played out in such places as the “My Balance” section of the wildly popular blog A Cup of Jo, in which different lifestyle bloggers discuss the challenges of balancing blog work with their home lives, revealing stiflingly similar results. Sure, shuffling children to and from preschool, planning a blog post, setting up lights for photos, and painting furniture for a diy tutorial may be hectic, but it probably sounds like a vacation to many readers. And whenever a commenter pops in to request that the site perhaps investigate the balance of a mother in a two-income household—or, hell, a single mother, even—a polite but deafening silence inevitably results.

Two illustrated candles with the text, "Kombucha candles"The fact is, while lifestyle bloggers share some intimate details with their readers—wedding photos, discussions about how many children to have, feelings of insecurity—such blogs are carefully curated for a variety of reasons. Ashley Rose Helvey's blog, for instance, is primarily visual, and thus: “From looking at [it] you'd never know that I watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and love Waka Flocka Flame. My sense of humor isn't apparent, but that's okay because it's not what I'm inspired to share.” Purple-haired, tattooed Doolan, of The Dainty Squid, also allows that her blog is bit a toned-down, saying, “my blog portrays a small chunk of my life and who I am, and I must admit it's a pg version of me. You won't find any inappropriate jokes or curse words like you would in 'real life.'” Doolan adds that she deliberately avoids topics such as religion and politics because “it is important to know when topics or opinions are relevant to my blog and business.”

It's not surprising that as a blog becomes more popular, its authenticity becomes more circumscribed. And for bloggers with an eye on leveraging their work into bigger, more mainstream venues, the balance of professionalism with authenticity means less critical discussion, fewer acknowledgments of bad days or insecurities, and less humor. And because the lifestyle blogs that receive the most attention (and opportunities for more revenue) reflect the most limiting vision of traditional femininity (conventionally attractive, straight, happy white women with beautiful homes, playful children, and quirky recipes), it isn't surprising that this formula tends to be the most emulated one within the world of lifestyle blogging. As blogger Susie Hatmaker points out, “As soon as there are a few 'blogging celebrities,' of course many more are going to try to emulate that idea of success. It has created a new, pretty strange way to be successful.”

For some, bucking this trend is key to their feelings of personal, if not financial, success. Verdugo, for instance, recalls that “once I realized that I would never make a ton of money selling advertisements on my site, I felt much calmer and in control. I don't have to please any companies or review products…I can just be me.”

What may be most frustrating about the rise of a particular stripe of lifestyle blog is that so few of them elicit the challenge to societal expectations of femininity one would reasonably expect in a medium so dominated by women. Forms of media that have glorified and promoted the home front as an exclusively female domain, after all, have never been in short supply, from sitcoms to shelter magazines to store catalogs. So while lifestyle bloggers can rightly claim that their “choice” (that is, their privilege) to not work outside the home, their choice to be primary parents to their children, and their excitement about rewallpapering their downstairs bathroom is just that—an individual choice. But an accumulation of such choices promotes a homogenous narrative indistinguishable from those that have come before. And no amount of glitter can freshen that up. 

This article was published in Frontier Issue #54 | Spring 2012
by Holly Hilgenberg
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67 Comments Have Been Posted

La Dulce Vida

---I looooved this post.

Pleased to see" La Dulce Vida" on this Adriana is one of my all. time. fave. bloggers.



I'm so happy to see the diversity of blogs mentioned. They've been around for quite some time. It's great to see some kind of acknowledgement. These are the ones on my weekly to read list.

Latinas and people of color not only blog about the home but other lifestyle topics like art, work, education, culture and inspiration. Thanks to blogging that platform continues to grow.

Yes, yes and yes. This is a

Yes, yes and yes. This is a great article! My thoughts exactly. I read a lot of blogs in general, and I keep a style blog myself. Reading lifestyle blogs, I always asked myself when do they find the time to do all this? Even more so when they have children! Of course, I did also wonder about the amount of young Mormon women in the blogosphere. I was asking myself if I just have a preference for Mormon blogs or if there are indeed so many ;-) Your explanation looks valid to me :-) (I live in Germany, so I don't know much about Mormons except the prejudices). I guess what we envy while reading those blogs is definitely within ourselves: The things we want to achieve ourselves irk us the most. I don't mind any blogger baking the best cookies or having the most romantic mantel decoration (I don't bake, I think mantel decorations are stale and I don't like romantic decorating). I do get a little green when they seem to have endless adventures about which they don't forget to instagram, and have a seemingly effortless style. I know that the style is probably not effortless at all, and when I have adventures I prefer to have them and not photograph them (except the adventure includes testing the new camera!). Besides, nearly no one knows about my blog because I feel so darn shallow having a style blog. So I don't have a lot of help from someone taking my pictures. Which is a little impractical from time to time, but I wouldn't feel good about dragging my boyfriend into this on top of his 60-80-hour work week. It feels good to be self-sufficient! I have to confess though, I have unfollowed a blog or two in the past because I was just so fed up from the sugar dripping off the site or from seeing little Miss Perfect being smug about herself. I don't think it was envy though, I just know I can't do what they do. That is okay because I know what I do is better *for me*. I'm a psychologist and work in research trying to earn my PhD, I'm *thisclose* to finishing the medical textbook I got a book deal for and I have a second internet project that will hopefully bring home some money. Blogging is really just for fun, and I know I won't be a good housekeeper or decorator or child enertainer ever (ugh. Children ^^). Still, I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had started my blog when I was still a student. I had sooo much time. Maybe that is what I sometimes DO envy.

You go girl. I get ya. and

You go girl. I get ya. and just to say, I'm impressed with ya :) lets see your blog!


Now yours is a blog i DO want to read. Please publish the URL. I'm so over the sugar and as a psychologist I too worry. So many say they blog to express their individualism but where is it? They all end up copying the 'successful' bloggers. Where are the un-typical blogs - those that talk about how not being a parent is pretty damn awesome, how spending your days helping people come to terms with some pretty heavy stuff in their lives can be more rewarding than making bunting. Dont get me wrong - I knit and I love it. But where is the spice in all these blogs?

"Happy White Women"

I came over from Adriana's blog La Dulce Vida ~ The Sweet Life. I was curious about an entity called "Bitch Magazine". I found a site that was interesting, thought provoking and humorous. I was intrigued, besides, I wanted to read the reference to my new friend's blog. True to my ilk, I decided to join the dialog.

I was a homemaker in the 50s, 60s and 70s and a career woman in the 70s, 80s and 90's. I can tell you that there were "Happy White Women" and unhappy white women in each of those chosen responsibilities and in each of those decades. Self confidence, self assurance is an internal issue and, in my humble opinion, not to be relinquished to the whims of the media flavor of the month or anyone attempting to interpret said media.

I remember TV commercials, the up and coming media of the 50s, with homemakers, in high heels, waxing their floors until one could use them for applying makeup. All the TV sitcom moms wore high heels, Sunday attire and pristine aprons. They all ate in the dining room and had perfect manners. In the days before clothes dryers, women felt inferior if the neighbor got her, bright white, diapers on the line before she had finished waxing the floor and taking off her high heels. We NEVER wore our heels to hang out the laundry, we might damage those lucite stilettos. Of course Hef 's magazine placed that requirement on the woman of the day/night.

Before retiring as an upper management banker, I listened to the working woman's woes. She was trying to balance the career, children and spouse. She felt she should be at home with her children. She was attempting to be all things to all people except herself. With the advent of the mobile phone (in the auto only), the bag phone, cell phone, etc. we even lost the ability to be alone. All the while , the career women were afflicted with insecurities just as the housewives. Same thing only different.

Having traveled extensively before and after retiring I have seen and experienced many different cultures and their people. I often found myself wanting to become one of the natives and stay. Blogging, for me, opened up even more new and different worlds for me.

Since I started blogging, a little over a year ago, I have met the most unique group(s) of people. I found them to be sincere, generous, caring and fun. I have become blogger friends with native bloggers in Pakistan, Singapore, Great Britain, France, Germany, Ecuador and from sea to shining sea of the USA. We all share our lives as women.We are sharing our customs, religious customs, everyday activities, weddings, births and sometimes sorrows.

I must say, when I met Adriana I did not know I had met a woman of color. I met an intelligent, friendly lady with the most gorgeous black hair that I have ever seen. Adriana certainly didn't shy away from this old lady who is as white as a sheet and speaks with a southern drawl. BTW, she doesn't look old enough to have a 20yr old son. I sincerely hope I have met a new friend.

Blogging is new media convenience. Take what you like and leave what you don't like. Develop a powerful sense of self and don't believe blogging or bloggers can define your strengths or weaknesses. It/they cannot. Only you can do that and don't allow the assignment of that definition..

Great response, Ginger! I

Great response, Ginger!
I would like to echo your sentiment that true self-confidence should not be defined by whatever form of media. If a woman feels inferior because of what she sees featured in a blog or two, then the blogs really aren't to blame, but that perhaps she needs to figure out why she's feeling that way and work on that issue.

I agree. I follow a few

I agree. I follow a few lifestyle blogs and I think it's definitely a new way to compare ourselves and come up short. I'm getting tired of the fake perfection they portray and I've quit reading some because of it. I'm considering quitting them altogether, in fact. These lifestyle bloggers are also really good at photography and do an excellent job at making something ordinary into a magical image that makes you think they must live in a storybook, picture-perfect world. Sometimes they inspire me, but more often than not I end up feeling inadequate.

You are your own best cheerleader

Carolyn, Don't let the medium do that to you. Celebrate the things in your life that give you pleasure. Be your own cheerleader. Lord knows, we all have to cheer ourselves on, often. Surf around and find a few blogs that speak to you. There are some really good ones out there. I have dropped some but found others with great humanity.
Try visiting La Dulce Vida. The link is in the original article. She keeps it real.
Good luck! Don't let anyone or anything make you feel inadequate.

"And whenever a commenter

"And whenever a commenter pops in to request that the site perhaps investigate the balance of a mother in a two-income household—or, hell, a single mother, even—a polite but deafening silence inevitably results."

Have to call BS on this one a bit. The blog is the second income for a lot of these women. Joanna Goddard (of a Cup of Jo) makes her living from her blog, as do many of the the others mentioned. In fact, I'd speculate that some of the bigger blogs bring in more than the husband's salaries.

I want to remain anonymous for my blog's sake, but after you add up the amount of the time conceptualizing, writing, photographing and promoting a post, it's just as much work as a full-time job (which I also have). I admittedly don't like many of the Mormon blogs, but don't think that *all* of us lifestyle bloggers just bake cookies and make candles all day. As I said, I work 40-60 hours per week at an intense job and still manage to maintain my blog.

And there's nothing wrong with blogs being aspirational for 99 percent of readers. There are plenty of blogs and websites where readers can read about marriage problems, fertility issues, weight/self-image issues and all of those other things that unfortunately plague women today. Some women want an escape from that. These blogs offer that. Magazines exist for the same reason, so who cares if women want to read them?

You missed the entire point

You missed the entire point of this article. I disagree with you, there IS something wrong with these blogs, LOT of things, racism, classism to start off, then there is always sexism.

I don't believe that ALL

I don't believe that ALL bloggers have endless time to make candles and bake, but I do to a degree share the author's frustration that many of the most visible lifestyle blogs present themselves as if they do. I don't want blogs to be an escape - if I wanted to see someone live a life that I will never, ever live, I would watch the Kardashians. I want blogs to show me things that I could and might want to do with my own life. I suppose that is aspirational in a way; but the life I actually want isn't modeled in most of the blogs that come up first in conversation or search results.

I wish you had included your blog link; from your comment it sounds like your life situation is one I can relate to more than a lot of the most visible lifestyle blogs. I would love to find more blogs where people incorporate aesthetic into both living and documenting lives with the constraints of jobs, having to pursue more than one direction at once... lives with a little more dirt on them.
(I include my link here because I always do when commenting; I don't pretend to be the lifestyle blog that captures what I think is truly beautiful about life.. but I wish I was.)

People Need to Relax

Oh relax. Blogs are for entertainment. Much like watching the show Glee or any other form of entertainment. I don't have a complex that I can't sing as good as Rachel Berry. But I enjoy watching because it inspires me. Blogs are just another form of inspiration and entertainment. Take it at face value and stop over analyzing. Just enjoy. Let the blogs that you like inspire you to implement better things in your life. You don't have to be just like the bloggers you follow but you can sit down and unwind from your day and enjoy what they have to say. Of course they aren't showing every aspect of their lives. Of course they are showing the perfect things. Real Simple isn't shooting ugly recipe shoots. Their job is to inspire. If you don't want that go read the news - that will surely make you feel like shit. And while you're at it grow some confidence! Be happy with you and the things you have to offer. So you aren't Elsie Larson and you might work at Dunkin' Donuts for a living - that doesn't mean you can't read Elsie's blog at the end of the day as a little escape. That doesn't mean you can't find a cool DIY on her blog to do in your free time.

Take the blog Bonzai Aphrodite. That woman is terrific. She was doing all sorts of badass stuff on her blog. It inspired me to eat healthier, to take health into consideration. I didn't have a complex because I couldn't be just like her. She can fit growing her own food, making it from scratch, being a mom, etc. into her schedule - the more power to her. I am happy that she can rock that. Yeah, there is stuff she didn't blog about - of course. So what? The stuff she did blog about inspired me. Made me better. That that lady reached people. She shared things that inspired people to be better. If she gave any of her readers a complex then those readers need to examine what they can change in their lives to make themselves happier.

Comparing yourself to anything is always a time waster. I suppose I could compare myself to my best friend too. She's beautiful, a stay at home mom, bakes wonderfully, decorates her home to the nines. I don't compare myself to her because I am not her. And I don't stop interacting with her because of the good things she has going on. But I do focus on the things that I can rock and do well becuase I have confidence.

There are people who are blind with no legs in this world. People starving, dying, being abused, suffering. And you want me to get all up in arms about how people compare themselves to bloggers becuase they have an internal complex. Really? Come on. Kind of trite. You aren't breaking any ground with this article you're just trying to be profound.

Blogging is supposed to be a temporary escape from reality. Like Ally McBeal, Bon Iver and Glee. Like television, reading a story, music. Relax people, stop overthinking entertaiment and just live and ENJOY for goodness sake. If you don't like blogs don't read them and move on. And yeah I am anonymous because you need to hear my points without putting a face to my name. You need to move on and stop trying to drag down the fun things in life.



If you are so inclined, you can always find *something* to make you feel bad about yourself. Blaming this narrow subset of bloggers is just lazy. The amazing thing about the internet is if something is bumming you out, you can always change the channel. Over and over again.

I love sewing and flowers and am a raging feminist, and I don't give a sh*t about how "perfect" the other blogs I read look. What does that have to do with my life? I like seeing women making cool, pretty things, cause that floats my boat. If it doesn't float yours, you have about a billion other options out there.

This sort of negative "cookie-shaming" does very little to help us as ladies.

screaming defensiveness, much?

i probably shouldn't even bother replying to this because a) you refer to all the readers and commentors here as "ladies" and b) that argument that if you don't like it, just change the channel is pretty much the essence of <i>boring liberal feminism lite.</i>

the tagline for Bitch media is a "feminist response to pop culture." that means not simply changing the channel, but taking the time to dig deeper, to ask questions, and to articulate those frustrations you have. i'm surprised that someone who identifies as a "raging feminist" is suggesting someone who raises questions like the ones posited here (i.e. how race and class fit in to who gets attention as a blogger or not, how reproducing new norms is disappointing and very unfeminist actually, etc.) is just "lazy."

if you're going to bother to take the 5 minutes to leave a comment like that on a blog/magazine whose EXPLICIT GOAL it is to respond to major trends/conversations in all sorts of mediums - whether it be on television screens or computer screens, i suppose perhaps you should take your own advice: if it doesn't float your boat, you have a billion other <strike>uncritical circle-jerks</strike> options out there.

haha, holy shit. I sure got

haha, holy shit. I sure got schooled.

It's nice to see that we can all take the time enlighten each other, even those of us who are merely boring liberal feminist lite. Thanks for setting me right, and for going about it in such a level-headed and constructive way. You are an inspiration to feminism.


Brilliant reply. Thank you for asking questions and not settling. Women deserve much more than these blogs and I'm actually really sad to see them popping up everywhere. I've watched a friend become entrenched in her own lifestyle blog over the years and it's sad that a woman with so much potential and intelligence is so involved in this "performance". I'm a little fascinated by the whole thing (in the way that People magazine or Real Simple can be sickeningly magnetizing) but I still want substance, as a reader and as a woman. They just don't have any. It's all fluffy, feathery and shallow.


Get outside and exercise. Smell the great outdoors. Focus on your own work. Do something that makes a difference and stop worrying about other people. They can worry, or not worry about themselves.
There is so much negativity in this world, and by not changing the channel, you're breeding more hate.

and one more quick thing.

and one more quick thing. why is it okay for you to make fun of the sucessful bloggers with your drawing. aren't you afraid you might give the people who do live their lives growing chicken eggs and using kombucha candles a complex? It is completely fine to call out people here on your site for doing work they love but it is so bad of them to 'give women something impossible to live up to?' Your article just perpetuates negativity.

and to emily matchar: sorry that 'sewing kiddie halloween costumes and baking brownies' is so simple to you. perhaps we could all take a moment to judge you for a bit. I'm sure we would all find you to be a bit too pretentious for your britches. please just relax.

ANOTHER article on homemaker/mom blogs??

seriously, folks, it seems like EVERY issue of this magazine has a lengthy article on women lifestyle/home/mom blogs. (not even counting the ones on political or work blogs.)

each and every one of these has the same structure:
1. there are a lot of (L/H/M) blogs written by women
2. wow, the women who are making money from this are mostly white, middle class, straight, and able bodied
3. and hey, the blog content seems to be kind of antifeminist; it makes other women feel bad because they don't measure up to being (mainstream).
4. we like women blogging. we don't like oppressive mainstream women hogging up all the space, or the way the medium forces women to conform.
5. so, it would be great if (L/H/M) blogs were a better tool of feminism and more anti-oppression in general. we would love to see a more feminist, less oppressive world, so let's read some less oppressive blogs.

this is getting tedious! do we need the same article over and over again? this basically boils down "capitalism is oppressive and hurts women, and guess what, pop culture is usually suffused with capitalism" which is TOTALLY TRUE, but how does that help us build a new world, other than the wishful thinking of #5?

Thank You

This was a well written article that made me think about why I read certain lifestyle blogs and what it says about us as women writers and readers. I don't think the author was trying to be negative at all. She was trying to be THOUGHT-PROVOKING, which is what I look for in good reading, and she definitely succeeded. Thank you for this.

Great read

What a great read. Amazing analysis of a phenomenon that has been on my mind/bothering me. Nice to see it put to words. This is why I love Bitch. <3

Response from Joanna from Cup of Jo

Thanks so much for this article. I found it a compelling read.

The assumption that all bloggers are equal is surprisingly naive, however. Some may be privileged women who dabble in blogging as a hobby (which, of course, is fine), but many of us worked incredibly hard for years and years forging mainstream careers as well as juggling part-time jobs to earn our credentials and pay off student debt. We began by blogging on the side in the few hours available after our other jobs or on weekends, simply for the love of writing or the love for whatever it is we blog about. In the early days, it was an experiment. When our blogs became successful and acquired a readership, bloggers like me juggled our regular full-time office jobs with the increasing demands of blogging, and eventually we were able to turn blogging into our full-time career. We were modern women establishing an entrepreneurial niche.

Responsible journalists need to go beyond allegations and base their opinions on fact. If the writer had contacted me or other full-time professional lifestyle bloggers (my email is on my blog's homepage), she would have discovered that many of us work 50-60 hour weeks to produce our blogs, run the businesses behind them, and connect sincerely with our readership. Some of us address "imperfect" issues--for example, I recently wrote about my experience with postpartum depression, which was a difficult post to write. I know that for me, maintaining Cup of Jo is a full-time, demanding career. And my family is definitely a two-income family, and we count on both my husband's and my incomes.

So much goes on behind the scenes of a big blog (as with any big job) that people on the outside might never realize. People might be surprised to know that the *vast* majority of a full-time blogger's time is spent on the business side of things, behind a computer and/or on conference calls. For me, only about 25% of my time is spent on the editorial of the blog--which is the part, of course, that I really love and am passionate about. A lot of it--negotiations, contracts, lawyers, negative comments, feeling isolated when working alone--can be stressful and unpleasant, but is of course part of the job. Like other working moms, I miss spending time with my son during my full-time work days, but the career I have created allows me financial and creative independence, and, to me, that's worth it.

This article calls bloggers like me "privileged," and seems to assume we're secretly supported by our husbands. I'm surprised that a feminist magazine would belittle successful working women without doing research to discover any truths. Instead that these assumptions were just presented as fact. I know the writer must have had good intentions, but it's irresponsible and unprofessional reporting. It's frustrating to be called "privileged," when we are actually working incredibly hard to build successful blogs and businesses, support our families and children, and have financial independence. What could be more feminist than that?

I hope this helps with the overall understanding.
Thank you so much for reading, Joanna

Joanna, Your blog may be


Your blog may be exceptional in that you built it from the ground up while holding down other jobs but for every authentic, grounded blog like yours, there are dozens of copycat "lifestyle" blogs that have lost touch with reality. I think this article definitely touched on a nerve--the frustration that many women feel when they're made to feel inadequate. You took such a lashing recently with your "My Balance" series that I noticed you're now going to do another similar series featuring "real world" examples of more diverse working women. That's all we're saying--lifestyle bloggers should remember that not all readers are privileged, Park Slope stay-at-home moms. Keep it real!

Joanna-No doubt you work

Joanna-No doubt you work hard. The point of this article is the effect that lifestyle blogs have on average women. Have you ever mentioned anything on your blog that makes you seem less than perfect? BTW, you don't 'just wake up and feel better' when you are depressed. The Brooklyn house hunting and staring contests, and links to several hundred dollar jeans don't fit the demographic of the Everyday Woman. I don't think anyone owed you an Email before writing this. Your blog is part of this issue. Own it. You are extremely privileged.

This doesn't line up.

Joanna, it's pretty rich to hear you talk about responsibility when your readers have been troubled by your recycled content in recent weeks and when you also talk about how important your relationship with those readers is. Yet you refuse to respond to that stuff and to questions about how you make your money from those readers and are defending yourself here instead?


I actually googled something along the lines of "jealousy women bloggers" today to see if anyone else felt this way. I was happy to read this post, and the comments section with people's thoughts on the matter (bloggers and readers alike). I do appreciate that a lot goes into writing a blog ( I have a blog for my business, and it takes a lot of work/marketing/etc. on top of my actual business), and not all blogs are alike (many are very well written, provide excellent information, are personal, and "real"). However, many bloggers ARE supported by their husbands and do blogging for fun on the side (which is fine), and those are more the one's I think this article is referring to. These bloggers never come out and say "my husband works as an investment banker making XXX-whatever figures a year, and that is how I afforded these brand names shoes, this new cuisineart machine, and the ability to sit around in said shoes making fancy food to blog about in said cruisineart blahblah with my perfectly dressed baby sitting sweetly beside me in my newly renovated kitchen".

These women love that they have comments, followers, and people commenting on their perfectly applied lipstick. They are no longer just "documenting their lives for friends and family"...they are showing off. Or, often times the blog may be HOW they afford the cutesy-funky-trendy-hip clothes and accessories they "aren't plugging", while their husband worries about boring things like bills and the mortgage on their fancy, perfectly decorated house (while us readers encourage this stuff and advertisers continue to cater to their silly-ness and childish writing (example: "lovelies"...ugh). Yes, it's hard for some of us to read, but at the same time it's massively appealing to think about. You mean I shouldn't have gone to college and actually used my degree, struggled living in a small apartment, and bought clothing on sale at Ross so I could pay off my student loans? I could've just married THAT guy (who is always dressed in a bow tie and doesn't seem to care that everything he does with his wife is blog-fodder, being documented by a $1200 camera in restaurants, like that's normal on "date night")?! These women talk about being frustrated by a bad day to humanize themselves occasionally, but it's not real life being portrayed. I like fashion, I like decorated homes, and I appreciate the beautiful images they post, but it's all a very modern-day stepford-wives way to live and it can suck in educated women and make them feel inferior.

It can't be THAT much of a positive contribution to society if it makes women feel they are lacking because they aren't wearing some brand, or because they can't all spend their days thrifting and being hip. I personally LOVE the drawing at the top of this post. It's hilarious and it's true. It has become a contest. Who has the nerdier glasses? Who has the OLDEST cardigan? Who also buys brand name stuff and talks about what a great deal it was? It's so confusing. Comparing ourselves is totally a waste of time but it can be a natural response. I love the idea of making dishes and cooking and cleaning seem "fun", but these women are so FAKE and they live their lives FOR THE CAMERA and to show off on their blogs.

There's something really concerning about that. It's NOT like watching Glee. I don't feel shitty after I watch Glee because I don't expect myself to dance around singing with teens who are actually 20-year-old actors in a high school. Sadly, even Glee is a more substantial form of entertainment that discusses real issues while also being fun to watch. These blogs: "Hi, I'm so and so and this is my hubs, and my baby... I love sewing, thrifting, and reading comments from the zillion followers I have telling me how great I am. Sometimes, my advertisers give me free clothes so I can show you pictures of myself in them, as I eat tons of donuts and cookies and never get fat or work out. I like yoga. Being a mormon is excellent. Yay! Have a good day, lovelies." Thanks for letting me rant.

Boo, I am with you.

Boo, I am with you.


this comment is 100% my feelings on this. THANK YOU

Also can I raise how patronizing some of these blogs are? Did I really just read a 'how to personalize a mug' on 'A Beautiful Mess' which just told me to write on it with a sharpie pen? Are you fucking kidding me?

Fantasy world

"I could've just married THAT guy (who is always dressed in a bow tie and doesn't seem to care that everything he does with his wife is blog-fodder, being documented by a $1200 camera in restaurants, like that's normal on "date night")?! These women talk about being frustrated by a bad day to humanize themselves occasionally, but it's not real life being portrayed. I like fashion, I like decorated homes, and I appreciate the beautiful images they post, but it's all a very modern-day stepford-wives way to live and it can suck in educated women and make them feel inferior."

I wonder the Same don't their husbands get tired of the wife always having a camera in their face on vacation and at home? When I'm on vacation, I couldn't deal with constantly thinking about how I'm going to use this for a blog post. It's a picture perfect fantasy world that only exists in the blogosphere. It's quite sickening, but for some reason I keep reading and feeling like my life is shit!!

I'm a straight, white female

I'm a straight, white female and my favorite blog is by a latina, and another of my favorites is by a gay male, I guess the industry is dominated by white women, but it's not like there is no options out there... I think if a blog is making you feel bad about yourself, you have bigger issues, and mainstream media must be affecting you a lot more than a blog you can choose to log on to. I feel inspired when I read blogs.

Holy crap, so much negativity

Holy crap, so much negativity in these comments.

Why are we so used to comparing ourselves to other women we do it unconciously? Is this really constructive?

We can't deny that these women are very creative and they happen to be creative at sewing, baking, dressing. "Showing off" is maybe just trying to post their creative work. Aesthetically pleasing images for the readers who have similar taste. Of course it'd be cool to have women doing crazier stuff, but this is what they came across and what gets their creative juices flowing.
If someone made an art blog would it be wrong for them not to show sketches or messed up paintings? Their job is to inspire.

Of course women shouldn't read only lifestyle blogs, because each blog has a different set of things to offer. In this post you're criticising crafts-aesthetics-fashion-focused blogs for providing just that, pretty photos of clothing, decor, food. Again and again we've all agreed feminism isn't about banishing these things, but about there being more options which are really ok to choose. I personally find some of these activites to be pretty cool and I like to look at inspiring works. I don't go to crafts blogs to read political stuff the same way I don't come to bitch magazine for inspiring pictures.

rookiemag, for example, offers a bit of both in a more teenage oriented manner. however they draw inspiration from these blogs when posting diy tutorials, fashion posts, etc. and, in other types of posts which involve critical thinking and political themes, like body image, violence towards girls, they offer links to bitch magazine and similar websites.

Saying they're detrimental because they portray a perfect life which we can't achieve is like saying it's terrible to read feminist blogs because we can't ever be the perfect feminist, we'll inevitably succumb to social pressure sometimes, so why even bother.

We know better than not be critical with what we see and read. Of course we can't cook, sew, decorate and keep our hair intact like they can, 'cause that's what they do for a living. But we can of course make ourselves an awesome meal or knit a scarf once in a while.

Why are we so used to

<i>Why are we so used to comparing ourselves to other women we do it unconciously? Is this really constructive?</i>

Uh, do you think it has something to do with the messages from the dominant culture? Maybe just a little?


hi there,

I just read this article, and I feel somewhat disappointed & surprised. I was originally contacted, as a blog writer, to contribute to an article about the challenges women face in creating and maintaining a blog, and in many cases, an attendant business.

This piece vocalizes a number of viewpoints that undoubtedly many people- many women- share. Perhaps it affords a feeling of comfort for those who feel discouraged & belittled when they read lifestyle blogs. But more than that, it seems to kindle and encourage a reaction of self doubt, negativity and anger in the face of the success of other women. This doesn't feel feminist to me.

For many women, a blog is an income in and of itself, or a necessary component to the success of another business. As Joanna Goddard pointed out in her comment, creating a livelihood out of one's own ideas and hard work is fully feminist. Why tear that down?

For my part, the more instructive feedback would be less of what we don't like, and more of what we do. In what ways could exciting / inspiring material be presented without creating an intimidating environment?



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A great and also much inspiring blog to all the women out there.

Aren't we missing the point here?

I'm reading through some of the comments here, honestly a bit saddened. While it's not perfect (what article is though?), and while I understand where some of these women and bloggers are coming from in their criticism, I also personally think some of the comments here missed the point. To me, this article was not an all-out attack on all lifestyle blogs, or popular bloggers. Rather, it was a way of starting a discussion about the lack of diversity in the blogs that are popular. This is not being 'negative' or seeking to 'attack' female bloggers who run these blogs, but a responsible interrogation of what is popular, why it's popular, and what this says about gender and femininity in our culture. To dismiss the main point of this article in its discussion of how blogging culture may reflect the gender norms and stereotyping in the wider media by calling it 'negative' seems overly naive.

Bloggers don't create their blogs in a cultural or social vacuum, and while we should definitely congratulate and support women who make successful salaries or businesses out of their blogs, we should also not sugar-coat things and balance this sense of achievement for women with a realistic examination of how race, gender, sexual and economic/family status affect what kind of blogs get picked up by the media and promoted on a mass scale. Of course there are other blogs we can turn to if we are unsatisfied by the 'popular' ones, but that doesn't mean we can't examine the popular ones too and see how they fit into the ideologies in our society and culture. To me, that's the ethos behind Bitch magazine: exploring popular culture from a decidedly politicised feminist perspective. If people find that 'negative', I'm thoroughly depressed by how far feminism still has to go.

I do want to point out though that as much as I agree with the statement that the blogs that tend to get imitated and promoted on a mass level are those that “reflect the most limiting vision of traditional femininity”, the other side of me finds it hard to critique any female blogger who works hard to create a blog that may support herself and her family, even if I may not agree with her politics. The beauty of feminism however is that it seeks to ask questions which have complex answers, and we are allowed to have complex and contradictory responses to such a debate.

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This has been bothering me

This has been bothering me for some time. I started out reading lifestyle blogs to check out cool recipes, book recommendations and inspiring art. Lately I've become frustrated with how perfect they portray their lives. The medium seems to have morphed into a way to flaunt a unattainable, rarified lifestyle and I'm guessing the readers that enjoy this are also in the same tax-bracket. I also agree that many of these bloggers are supported by their husbands, who are actually minding the store/paying the bills behind the scenes. I'm noticing that less and less of the "content" is something the average working woman can relate to. Case in point: Camille Styles' blog regularly features "My Essentials," a post that describes all the obscenely expensive things she can't live without. This week's post features her gloating in her newly-designed, ultra-luxurious baby nursery that likely cost what many women earn in a year. WTF? Does this woman realize we're in a friggin recession and that many women get by on the equivalent of her monthly shoe allowance??

I'm not jealous of these women's success and I certainly don't want their blogs to become downer reads--I've got CNN to make me feel like shit--however, I wish they would temper the soft-focus, Instamatic photo montages of their latest vacation with a dose of reality that more of us can relate to.

They should be encouraged.

Lifestyle blogs have brought changes to many women's life indeed. Many women have taken it as profession too apart from just for time pass or derived by passion. I have seen many lifestyle blogs with Alexa rank less than .1 million! Such huge visitors prove that these aren't just fancy but contain good sort of information. So, the controversies are worthless I think. We should encourage them.

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Yes, I'm jealous!

I was so happy to discover this article. I've been reading "lifestyle" blogs since 2008 and at first I felt inspired, but then when reality sets in that I cannot obtain the lifestyle depicted on these blogs, discontent started to set in. I often wonder how they do it. How do you afford to live in the most expensive cities in the country (e.g. LA, NYC) and still go on vacation 10 times a year, redecorate your apartment, etc. I live in the Midwest and am lucky if I take one vacation a year! So it's a little depressing to log on and see Ms. Perfection has just jetted off to Paris -- again. I had to cut down on how much I read these blogs. I'm down to reading one regularly becasue honestly, it's like a train wreck -- I just can't look away! But that's because I do enjoy reading the blog...I just have to know my treshold for when it's making me feel like my life is shit.

Thanks for exploring this topic. I knew that others had to be feeling the's just a topic that doesn't get explored on all of these blogs that are dripping with sugar (as one previous commentor described).


PS. there are a couple of

PS. there are a couple of bloggers in this genre who do write about the hard parts of life and open themselves up to being more vulnerable (read: real) with their readers. Kate Miss of For Me, For You at; and the English Muse (though I haven't read this one in quite a while, the author use to post very thoughtful posts) at

Irony (real irony)

I just wrote a great wall-o-text rant triggered by this article. While doing "research" for said rant, I found Holly's blogs, which I loved. The irony is that she blogs at all, let alone about thrifting (and she just joined Instagram!) This means that she can't really want all white female hipsterish bloggers to be quiet and stop writing, or to write only about serious social issues, which was the basic impression I got from this article (and which inspired my rant). What I'm trying to say is, Holly I think you're awesome even though I ranted about this article.

I think anyone who reads the

I think anyone who reads the lifestyle and mommy bloggers that have been discussed above knows that they purposely write primarily about the positives in lives. I think there are two reasons behind that. First, they want to be entertaining, and secondly, talking about the private parts of their lives that they struggle with opens them to much criticism.

One of my favorite blogs is Sweet Fine Day, written by a self employed Park Slope Brooklyn mother of two young girls. Her husband is also self employed, and with that comes certain financial struggles and logistical problems. Her photographs are beautiful and her blog is well written, honest, and thought provoking. She does not sugar coat anything. And guess what? She gets criticized for complaining, when really all she's doing is writing about what real life is like for most of us.

Women should not compare themselves or their lives to what these bloggers present to us. It's a small and inaccurate peek into their lives. Cup Of Jo never mentions that her husband has been married before. She doesn't really complain that her apartment is the size of a shoe box, or that she lives on a very loud, busy street. She waxes poetic that the sounds of the city lull her to sleep. Trust me, I lived in that neighborhood just a few years ago, and believe me, the noise was not like a nighttime lullaby. They can't afford preschool for their son. They only renovations they have done to their apartment are partly sponsored. Her life is so far from perfect. And it took her quite some time to owe up to depression, and then she says...wham...she woke up one day and IT WAS GONE! Ugh. She is one of the worse.

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i am pretty much the antithesis of all of this and just decided to start a lifestyle blog. i found this to be very inspirational...i think

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Lifestyle Blogs

I actually stumbled upon this article while doing research to start my own lifestyle blog, ironic? While I agree that the majority of the lifestyle blogs written show happy, sunny, sugary, honey-dripped lives, I read a great deal of them for information and inspiration.

That being said, I am a 40- year old white woman, have no children, very little family, no longer have a husband and live on disability income due to having the disease, Lupus. I am far from the typical Superwoman, Mom, Stepford Wife, business owner, do it all in high heels and a smile on my face-woman. I have two degrees, one in Computer Science and one in Interior Design which means absolutely nothing, because I had to give up my career in 2000 due to something totally beyond my control.

My lifestyle blog will be targeted toward people like me. Those who live on a fixed or very small income, maybe single, maybe not, those who were not born with, nor married into a "silver spoon in your mouth" type of family. Those who ENJOY cooking a good meal, planting a simple garden or having a beautiful home but do not have a never ending supply of money; or support from a husband or "wonderful" family. This is about as Real Life as it gets. Of course I hope to gain some extra income from my blog, eventually. I could certainly use it, as could just about anyone else in this economy. The main goal for me is to find my voice in the crowd, a place to express my interests and share my passions. It is NOT a goal for me to have others compare their life to mine. I am a strong, independent woman, who has paid her dues to the business world, been derailed, and want to find a creative outlet.

The bottom line for me is that I read the blogs because I enjoy reading them. Period. I read them to gain information, find a good recipe, an interesting DIY project or decorating tip. Nothing more, nothing less.

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some good points, but...

I disagree with the conclusion of this article. As a woman in my early thirties, I was raised in the feminist spirit of "career first". My mother was horrified when I got engaged (and married) before graduating from college. There was an expectation that women of my generation cash in on all the efforts of the previous to gain workplace equality (or at least access). So while it may seem that these homemakers are simply doing what women have always done, it probably doesn't feel that way to them. Maybe that's why they feel the need to make a career out of it through their blog, ad revenue, etc. The societal pressure goes the other way these days. If you decide to stay home with your kids, you better be happy and wildly successful at it, or you are wasting all those rights our mothers and grandmothers fought for. I think all of us end up feeling guilty for not being able to do it all--career, homemaker, mother-of-the-year. Perhaps our daughters will really be free to choose what they want to do with their lives, without the guilt of not being able to do it all.

I remember having all these

I remember having all these same questions when I started scrap booking when my kids were little -- wondering why all the scrap booking magazines always showed shiny, happy people in big houses going on vacation. You see, I had these autistic kids with sensory issues that wouldn't do stuff like wear Halloween costumes -- because the fabric was scratchy, etc. I remember feeling very excluded and as if I was being told on some level that scrap booking wasn't for people like me because my kids weren't photogenic and dressed properly and I was fat, etc. That's when I started noticing that there were also no people of color, lesbians, etc. in those scrap book magazines. (ANd none of us fatties.)

The thing is, both those magazines and these blogs are often described as being "aspirational." You're SUPPOSED to look at these things and want them and want to be like these women and to have what they have. That's why advertisers support things like scrap booking magazines and home magazines and these blogs.

I actually went though a strange period when the kids were little when I started anti-scrap booking. I would buy those weird 1950's "Dick and Jane" readers and then rip them up and add pictures that my kids had taken of someone crying or having an argument and layer them over the pictures of the housewives in their heels. It just felt more authentic to me. I suppose that dooce is a bit like an anti-lifestyle blog in the sense that she blogs about her post-partum depression and her divorce, etc. Clearly her view resonates with a lot of people, because she has a ton of followers and a very active set of community forums for her followers to chat with one another.

I work full time and I think reading all those mommy blogs when I was home with kids helped to make me feel like I was insane. Everybody else was so happy making cookies all day -- even Hillary -- what was wrong with me? But the reason there's no counterweight to these blogs is because the women who might write one are too busy actually being airline pilots and doctors and college professors to have time to write one. They have full lives not just online aspirational scrapbooks

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What makes you think so. The

What makes you think so. The magazine was designed for men, not women, that's how you got it wrong, I am sorry.

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