Who wants to win an award, anyway? (Me!)

BritMums Live dads' awards finalists

The subject of blogging awards has been on my mind recently.

A couple of weeks ago I was a finalist in the Readers’ Choice category at BritMums’ Brilliance in Blogging (BiB) Awards. I didn’t win – Claire from Life, Love and Dirty Dishes did – and I don’t begrudge her that for one second, as she’s both a friend and a terrific writer.

Now I make no bones about the fact that, ego aside, I’m not interested in stats and rankings. I withdrew from the Tots100 charts last year. I do very little paid activity. I choose not to do many of the things bloggers do to drive views and engagement.

I do, however, care about awards.

Why?

These days more and more people are starting blogs and vlogs with a focus on establishing themselves as an ‘influencer’ (I hate that term) and generating income. That’s fine – but it’s not me.

I guess I’m not so much a ‘blogger’ as a writer who happens to have a blog. I write not for material rewards but because I love to write. To paraphrase Descartes: scribo ergo sum, I write therefore I am. (And yes, I’m a bit pretentious too.)

What drives me is producing content I’m proud of. If people read it, great. But I don’t write to chase page views. I’d rather be respected than popular. (Weirdo.)

The upshot is that to win an award means something to me that eleventy billion page views never will. So, yes, I’d love to win an award.

What about the dads?

In a roundabout way, that brings me to an interesting post written by Nige at DIY Daddy in which he questions whether it is possible for dad bloggers to win an award in a niche – parent blogging – which is overwhelmingly female.

Firstly, let’s put this into context. According to Tots100, just 8% of their parent blogging membership is male. When it came to the BiBs there were five male finalists out of 96 (5%), with one out of 13 awards (8%) going to a male winner. (Okay, one category went to a mixed team, but I’m not counting that.) In 2016 there were no male award winners; in 2015 one (Julian from Northern Dad, who’s sitting next to me in the photo).

Is the relative lack of male finalists and winners a problem? And is it indicative of a degree of tokenism – let the dads have a few finalists and an award to keep them quiet?

One of the suggestions Nige makes is to have a separate award for dad bloggers. That argument has its merits – indeed I floated the same idea after BML in 2015 – but personally it’s not something I think would work, even if it would increase my chances of winning an award.

When I raised the suggestion two years ago, opinion was divided but it wasn’t just mums who were against it – a number of dads were too. And I have to agree with them. I want to win an award because I’m the best blogger in a given category, not just the best dad.

(I should point out at this stage that I have previously been a winner in the Love All Dads Awards, which were open only to dad bloggers. And while I do value the awards I won, they don’t mean as much as winning a more ‘open’ award category would do.)

Also, there are other subjects such as technology or motoring which are male-dominated. There’s no separate category for women in these.
The other thing I would worry about is that creating an award for dad bloggers might mean a dad would never win in any other category again – the ‘ghettoisation’ effect. I don’t want that.

Also, is one male winner out of 13 out of the ordinary? Not really – 8% is spot on in terms of the proportion of men who blog in the parenting niche. Five finalists out of 96 is a little below expectations but not hugely so. Were those five males ‘token’, included as wild-cards by the judging panel to provide some semblance of balance? Honestly, I don’t know. But what I do know is that I’m a good writer, I engage actively across social media and I’ve put my fair share back in too, having been a speaker at two of the last three BlogOn conferences. I’d like to think I earned my spot on the final list on merit.

Now here’s the thing. There are some excellent dad bloggers out there – check out Dad Blog UK, The Dadventurer and Man vs Pink to name but three – but there are also many average ones, just as there are many average mum bloggers. I don’t think the proportion of excellent bloggers is any different for dads than it is for mums, so simple maths dictates that dads are always going to be in a small minority when it comes to winning awards. And the harsh reality is some mums will never vote for a dad blogger, not because they have anything against us but because they have less in common with us and so are less likely to read and therefore vote for our blogs. That’s not discrimination, just natural human affinity.

Is there anything that could be done to level the playing field? Yes, of course. The BiBs winners are decided by a combination of public vote and a judging panel – but as far as I am aware there are no men on that jury. Now let me be clear about this: I am 100% opposed to having a male quota for finalists and winners. But I do think that male representation among the judges would be a good starting point.

Other than that, the onus is on us dads to just be better. Are dads being short-changed or victims of tokenism? Who knows? But I don’t think that’s the case. If we want to win more awards, first we have to deserve them. We have to prove ourselves, just as women have been doing for the past several decades.

I’d better get cracking, then.

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