Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Writing Program


Carol S. Lipson


blogs, mothering, rhetoric

Subject Categories



This dissertation examines the phenomenon of mom blogs to determine their handling of conventional motherhood and the rhetorical nature of their discourse. Unlike other prior studies of blogs and specifically of mom blogs, the dissertation examines both the blog entries themselves and the many comments such entries generate from readers.

In addition, it seeks to determine the values and rhetorical practices of any community that might be established through such blog commenting. To accomplish these aims, the dissertation focuses on the entries and comments from three particular blogs chosen to represent the network of mom bloggers.

The commonplaces or ideals of the conventional motherhood narrative are first established as they have been identified in existing scholarship on mothering. This provides a framework against which the rhetoric of the mom blogs can be compared to determine the picture of motherhood identity presented by these mom blogs in relation to the societal norms of motherhood. Research on the diary style blog is surveyed as well to establish the mom blogs' potential to support particular emotional interaction between the writer and readers, and the ways such interaction can serve the production of community.

Additionally, this chapter considers some established defining characteristics of online communities. Moreover, the diary style blog and online community share similar rhetorical features.

A grounded theory analysis of a year's worth of entries the mom blogs reveals they present/perform motherhood identities via an ethos of inexperience or lack of knowledge. They struggle with the judgment of others based on cultural expectations for body image and performance of motherhood, and they themselves struggle with their own tendencies to judge other mothers similarly. The content analysis of the comments from the same three blogs indicates that readers most often respond with affirmation of the writer, either through the sharing of similar experiences, through the extension of the original entry topic, or through the mirroring of the blogger's rhetoric. The analysis concludes that the mom bloggers and their audiences do react against cultural expectations that they are unable to fulfill, but that they do not overtly resist or interrogate those expectations. In fact, the communities that emerge among the writers and readers seem to serve a support group function. The comments offer affirmation for the bloggers, but there is no indication that their interactions with one another, alone, will prompt significant cultural change. However, the simple scale of participation presented in this dissertation--the three bloggers combined with the large number of commenters' contributions--indicates that ideal motherhood is not operative for a significant number of mothers.


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