Social media is nothing new to President Barack Obama. He is, after all, the first president to cling to his BlackBerry and the first to have a Facebook profile.
In an election year when women’s issues are front and center, and in a cultural context where social media and online engagement grows by the day, it makes sense that Obama recently took time out of his schedule to address BlogHer ’12, the world’s largest conference for women who blog. The way he did so also makes sense — via a live Internet feed.
BlogHer, which was created in 2005 and is nonpartisan, looks to create opportunities for women who blog to gain exposure, education, community and economic empowerment. So why did the president select the audience of BlogHer ’12? He acknowledged that the political conversation about women is at the forefront of this cycle and that it has been “oversimplified.”
In their introduction to Obama’s opening address, BlogHer’s co-founders, Elisa Camahort Page and Lisa Stone, emphasized the multifaceted topics BlogHer bloggers address every day. “In this election year, our community has delivered a very clear message to all candidates for office — please, come talk with us about the real policies that affect our everyday lives,” Stone said.
Obama’s message was direct. “Anyone who spends time at your conference will realize that women are not a monolithic bloc, not an interest group,” he said. “You make up more than half of our country and nearly half of our workforce, not to mention nearly 80% of my household if you count my mother-in-law.”
It was also personal. “Like every father, I think about my two daughters, and I worry about what they’ll run into online.” He thanked the BlogHer community of “thousands of women who are writing about subjects from health to family, food, politics, careers — it means a lot to me and means a lot to Michelle.”
And intelligent, politically focused discourse at the conference did not end with the president’s address. BlogHer ’12 had a track dedicated to the political sphere, including panels on Forming and Using Online Orgs to Make Change, Latinas in Elected Office and Using Online Tools to Get Women into Office. It included speakers from different political perspectives and parties: The Obama campaign’s national director of Operation Vote, Buffy Wicks, and the Romney campaign’s director of women’s outreach, Courtney Johnson, were featured panelists.
As bloggers and social media members continue to engage with topics meaningful to them — any of which can be tied into the political sphere — it’s clear that these discussions are being noted at even the very top of the U.S. political pyramid.