Momfluenced: Inside the Maddening, Picture-Perfect World of Mommy Influencer Culture (Hardcover)
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How momfluencer culture impacts women psychologically as consumers, as performers of their stories, and as mothers
On Instagram, the private work of mothering is turned into a public performance, generating billions of dollars. The message is simple: we’re all just a couple of clicks away from a better, more beautiful experience of motherhood.
Linen-clad momfluencers hawking essential oils, parenting manuals, baby slings, and sponsored content for Away suitcases make us want to forget that the reality of mothering in America is an isolating, exhausting, almost wholly unsupported endeavor. In a culture which denies mothers basic human rights, it feels good to click “purchase now” on whatever a momfluencer might be selling. It feels good to hope.
Momfluencers are just like us, except they aren’t. They are mothers, yes. They are also marketing strategists, content creators, lighting experts, advertising executives, and artists. They are businesswomen. The most successful momfluencers offer content that differs very little from what we used to find in glossy women’s magazines like Glamour and Real Simple, only they’re churning it out daily and that content is their lives.
We flock to momfluencers to learn about fashion, wellness, parenting, politics, and to find Brooklyn-designed crib sheets printed with radishes. Chances are, if you’re a mother reading this (and maybe even if you’re not!), you are an arm’s length away from something you’ve purchased because a momfluencer made it look good.
Drawing on her own fraught relationship to momfluencer culture, Sara Petersen incorporates pop culture analysis and interviews with prominent momfluencers and experts (psychologists, academics, technologists) to explore the glorification of the ideal mama online with both humor and empathy. At home on a bookshelf with Lyz Lenz’s Belabored and Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror, Momfluenced argues that momfluencers don’t simply sell mothers on the benefits of bamboo diapers, they sell us the dream of motherhood itself, a dream tangled up in whiteness, capitalism, and the heteronormative nuclear family.
Momfluenced considers what it means to define motherhood for ourselves when society is determined to define motherhood for us.
About the Author
Sara Petersen is a writer based in New Hampshire. Her essays about feminism, domesticity, and motherhood have appeared in the New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, Washington Post, InStyle, Glamour, and elsewhere. She also writes a newsletter about the myth of the ideal mother, In Pursuit of Clean Countertops. You can find her at sara-petersen.com, and on Twitter and Instagram (@slouisepetersen).
“A deep dive into the ever growing ‘momfluencer’ culture . . . With an investigative eye and a sense of humor, Petersen sheds needed light on a key part of the social media landscape.”
“Readers who find themselves endlessly scrolling social media with that particular form of envy and aspiration it all seems to inspire will be fascinated by this insider’s look behind the spotless countertops and cherubic children.”
“Petersen deftly dissects the aesthetics of good motherhood, skewers popular momfluencer tropes, and pokes fun at her own tendency to buy both the goods and the fantasy they’re selling.”
“Petersen's investigation isn't only about the allure of momfluencers, but also about what their existence says about the state of motherhood…Petersen's insights offer a thought-provoking analysis of the ways in which social media is shaping our understanding of what it means to be a mom today.”
“Sara Petersen’s nonfiction debut is a fun and informative read for anyone interested in the ways we all sell ourselves to one another.”
“Deeply researched…Petersen, using historical scholarship and feminist theory, writes with a keen awareness of how Instagram’s momfluencer economy perpetuates long-standing biases in American attitudes toward motherhood.”
“Momfluenced provides a compelling, critical interrogation of how motherhood is performed online and asks readers to consider their complicity in how influencer culture unfolds.”
—New Media and Society
“Incisive and engrossing . . . Petersen approaches her material as both an avid consider and a skeptical critic of momfluencer content.”
“Incisive, illuminating, and prescient, Momfluenced thoroughly excavates of one of the internet’s most fascinating and insidious subcultures. If I could heart this book twice, I would.”
—Amanda Montell, author of Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism
“For women disappeared by the Cult of Domesticity, Momfluenced opens up the possibility of self-reclamation with a passionately conceived deep dive into modern motherhood as performance, commodity, and fantasy. An eye-opening must-read.”
—Rachel Yoder, author of Nightbitch
“I started underlining until I realized I was underlining the whole page. An important, freeing read for anyone who has ever gotten trapped in the endless doomscroll toward being a better, more beautiful mother.”
—Kate Baer, author of What Kind of Woman
“Momfluenced provides all the delicious pleasures of envy-snarking on the neutrals of your newsfeed, plus the necessary catharsis of your favorite group text, with the bonus of nutrient-rich research into how race, class, and politics influence our cultural conception of the ideal mother and why mindful consumption might be the first step to change. I’m so glad we have Sara Petersen’s voice to unravel these complexities with humor and pathos.”
—Julia Fine, author of The Upstairs House
“Reading Momfluenced is like having a frank conversation about motherhood, gender, and capitalism with someone much smarter, wittier, and well-read than I am. Sara’s vulnerable, incisive, and funny-as-hell take on momfluencer culture will stay with me for a long time. Fans of Under the Influence will gobble it up.”
—Jo Piazza, creator of the Under the Influence podcast
“Momfluenced takes us on a journey to understand our own history of domesticity and how it affects so much of our culture today. Petersen unpacks influence through a lens of who has power in this country and teaches us how we can change the narrative for the women coming up behind us. A must-read!”
—Eve Rodsky, author of Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live)
“Reading this book feels like having the best, most nourishing conversation about media, race, capitalism, and the collective public scream that is parenting right now with a friend who has done all the reading. Petersen’s deep research, smart analysis, and warmth makes this essential reading for parents who want to know what pulls us toward the endless scrolling that is an inescapable part of our twenty-first-century lives.”
—Krys Malcolm Belc, author of The Natural Mother of the Child