Last month Offbeat Families stopped publication of new material. I was first introduced to the Offbeat series of websites when doing research for a content analysis for the modern wedding. Overall I wasn’t too impressed. It seemed similar to Rock’n’roll bride: a place to put tattooed freaks who have a different fashion style through repetitions of archaic wedding traditions that are dressed up as to appear alternative. But really, how alternative can a wedding be when it is ultimately still ending in the traditional definition of marriage? Even though it fell short, it was still a step in the right direction (for me) compared to the mainstream websites with their content mills of weight-loss and fashion.
When I became pregnant I started using many different websites to figure out what was happening to my body, what I could expect for the next nine months, and to start determining a parenting “style,” for me and my husband. I still use many of these websites because STRANGE things happen to the pregnant body and I have never had to deal with things like constant lower back cramps, herbs that induce contractions, and nipples getting ready for lactation (which are by definition, gross). Because I am an information-addict I want to know exactly what is happening to me, what will happen to me, and what some people have done to deal with these things in the past. For the most part mainstream pregnancy sites do a great job of covering the medical part of pregnancy. But for anything beyond the medical I find myself turning to Offbeat.
Why? Well, because mainstream media goes back to mainstream values. I find a little mention of weight or fashion in almost every mainstream article. Seriously.
Benefits of breastfeeding?
“You will get your figure back quicker because you will burn more calories.”
What to do when you have the pregnancy blues?
“Go shopping. Go get a pedicure. Spend money and be a mindless consumer.”
What do I need for the first month of baby-life?
“Stuff. Much stuff. All the stuff you can afford, or buy on credit.”
“Eat healthy for your baby, and keep in mind not to overeat, because pregnancy is no excuse to let yourself get fat.”
You get the idea. Mainstream pregnancy media makes me think that all women who are about to be mothers care about is spending money, working full time so that they can spend lots of money, and the tragedy of loosing their girlish figure through pregnancy/how to make it look like they were never pregnant. I rarely (or rather, have never) found an article that embraced the motherly changes of the body as something positive instead of stressful, and I also find very few minimalist articles. Consumerism and image. That’s all pregnancy is about because that’s all life is about. Except for me it is not at all about that. Enter Offbeat Families.
What I like most about Offbeat Families is the variety of content. Yes, it has articles about image, including fashion and weightloss, but they are usually written more honestly, with a fresh perspective- be it body acceptance, or keeping up a punk-image during motherhood. But the content goes way beyond those topics. Breastfeeding articles include mothers who didn’t breastfeed, and mothers who breastfeed well into childhood. Instead of a focus on consumerism and ads there are tons of DIY articles and advice on making due without the commercial influence. There are articles on raising your kid in different religions, split religions, and without a religion at all. There are articles that embrace attachment parenting, and articles against it. There is just so much honest, applicable opinion. I feel at home whenever I read Offbeat Families.
It makes me wonder, really, how many people relate to these mainstream pregnancy sites. Does mainstream media reflect the mainstream life, or is it just another case of the Beaver’s and Kinsey, where no one ACTUALLY follows that model, but we all support it because it is the only socially acceptable model that we have? Is the average pregnant woman really most worried about weight gain, being attractive, remaining fashionable, keeping her job for as long as possible, and buying things? Do parents really WANT to fill their houses with baby swings and monitors and rockers and everything else that we “need” to raise babies? I can’t believe that. I just can’t relate to a world where the primary concern is looking like you are 18 three months after having a baby. Where babies “get in the way” of your social life and work life, and basically your life in general. I don’t get it.
So thankfully there is Offbeat Families, where I can take at least a little hope that there are people like me in the world, or people who are very different from me, but who care about more than their appearance and consumerism. Well, er, there WAS Offbeat families. But as I said, they stopped their new publications last month. Tragic. At least there is plenty of archived content for me to peruse, and there is still Offbeat Home, which has some similar content. But, the more time I spend on the internet the more I find what I once thought of as a great way to share thoughts and ideas has become nothing more than content mills of mainstream ideology and not-so-subtle advertising. I am disheartened.