These past two days (Friday and Saturday) were like harem heaven, with 750 smart, powerful, blogging women converging at a WWII barracks-style hotel in San Jose for what seemed like the next iteration of the suffragette movement more than a century ago. Instead of voting, we are commanding the right to speak and be heard, and even be paid to do so if we want. Everyone at BlogHer, the second conference for women (and a few men) who blog, felt like my sister (I have three younger sisters and in fact, I gave up the chance to attend my only niece's wedding this weekend in order to convene with my fellow bloggettes). Instead of shaking hands, we usually hugged. Long lost blogger -- I have found you!
Dave Winer, the father of blogging, was there, and many women knew him but had never met him. He was quiet, so quiet, like a proud father watching his children and grandchildren enjoying the tools he helped create and popularize. Most of the men there were quiet as well, and it was such an inversion of the world we women live in, I felt as if I were in a Fellini dream.
I met women who are creative, entrepreneurial and curious, like Isabel Kallman, who started the AlphaMom cable television channel; Sheryle Bolton, founder of Quixit, which develops short games to sharpen the mind; Caroline Little, a lawyer who became CEO and Publisher of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive; and Tracy Sheridan, CEO of a podcasting site that lets listeners interact with speakers in real time. A former client of mine, Abby Sher, who just started a blog at www.aredlineconnectsus.com to talk about her painting a red line down the sidewalks of Santa Monica everyday to call awareness to violence in the world, flew in for a couple of hours, as did Arianna Huffington, whose recounting of her first "blog" -- a letter she wrote and was published by the London Times in response to the sudden death of her longtime lover -- moved the audience to applause.
Today I went to see two documentaries about Hasidic women as part of the SF Jewish Film Festival. Most of the women had from 4 to 16 children, each about a year apart. They all wore wigs so no one except their husbands would see their hair. They do not touch other men, not even to shake hands, and their husbands are not supposed to touch other women. However, the husbands are allowed to sleep with single women -- a strange exception it seemed to me. The women seemed fulfilled by being breeders, except for one mother, who said she felt she could not have more than four children because she wouldn't be able to pay attention to each child. These women are not allowed to watch television or use the Internet. I felt as if I had just stepped back into the Middle Ages.
Afterwards, I had an argument with a friend who thinks we should respect the Hasidic tradition. I cannot respect a tradition that imprisons women -- and men -- before they even have a chance to think on their own. I cannot respect a tradition that forbids its progeny from using the tools humankind has invented, including the computer and the Internet. I cannot respect a tradition that is bound by inclusion and fear of extinction. We will all become extinct. Our ideas will not.