Let me start this post out with an expression of gratitude. I am so thankful for the richness that blogging has brought into my life. Some of my very dear friends (Holly, Leah, Jella, Ashlee) have come into my life through blogging. I’ve received money through blogging that has gotten me through tough financial spots (I haven’t exactly chosen a career path that affords me a lot of stability or a lot of money, for that matter!). I have enjoyed the immense privilege of having a diverse sounding board with whom to share my journey toward ethical and sustainable living- all of you wonderful readers! I have learned so much from many amazing people who have commented or otherwise connected with me.
I am SO grateful for this blog, for my social media platforms, for having a place to share thoughts and information about the things I’m passionate about.
That being said, I’m frustrated with many aspects of blogging (as you have probably noticed from my tone on Instagram lately), and I wanted to be completely honest and share those with you. I have seriously considered quitting blogging in the past 6 months over the reasons listed below, and have decided not to. I’ll also be sharing how I plan to position my blog moving forward in this post.
Impossible Beauty Standards.
Putting your body out there on a blog/ social media is tough. I may look carefree in those outfit photos you see, but I can tell you that I was probably super stressed out having them taken (is my cellulite showing?). I’m going to be completely honest, here, even though it’s a bit embarrassing. As a teenager and young 20-something, I had ZERO body image issues. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true! I never worried about dieting or exercise, I was just active and happy and unconcerned with whether my body was a “good” body (I also had atrocious fashion sense during this time and wore nearly exclusively handmade or secondhand clothes). Now, as a grown ass woman in my late 20’s, I have finally developed insecurity about my looks. It really sucks! I try not to let the imagery of other women I see online bother me (I know that behind many seemingly perfect photos are careful posing, lash extensions, hair extensions, tanning, contouring, personal trainers, photoshop, etc etc..) but feelings of inadequacy still rise up from time to time. This fairly newfound insecurity is a result of blogging and social media, and feeling as though in order for people to listen to my words or follow me I also need to look a certain way. I’m not crazy to be feeling this way… look up a list or two of “top bloggers” in the categories of fashion/lifestyle/travel and you’ll notice that women with curvy bodies or plain features rarely top them.
Sponsored posts are a big part of blogging, and I have struggled so much over the past few months with my own boundaries and convictions in this area. Bloggers who post about specific brands are providing marketing work/advertising for those brands, and I believe that bloggers should be compensated fairly for their work. Especially if they are providing services for ethical companies that are all about paying fairly. That being said, I’m not particularly comfortable with the money aspect of blogging.
- I worry that it affects my integrity when doing reviews, etc. - like the time i received a lovely $400 ethically made blazer to review. I regretted posting about it afterward because I would never have been able to afford a blazer that expensive on my clothing budget and I feel that that's sort of misrepresenting my lifestyle and fashion habits.
- Even when workers are paid better wages, garment workers still don’t get a ton. I feel guilty about making $100 for taking pictures of myself and writing a blog post (even though that work takes up a significant amount of time) when I know that the woman making the garment I'm wearing might have only gotten a few dollars for her skilled sewing work.
- I want to be able to say whatever I want about companies, honestly, and that's easier when I'm not being compensated.
All of that being said, I can't blog without sponsored posts, or some other form of monetization. I already donate a big chunk of my time to running A Beautiful Refuge for free and volunteering in a few other areas, and I’m running out of time in my work week to do work that I’m actually paid for through my consulting business (I tracked my time on an “average workday”, and I did 2 hours of paid work and 8 hours of unpaid work- yikes!). I simply can’t blog for free and add several more hours of unpaid work to my day.
When ethical companies aren’t ethical.
Being an ethical blogger really messes with one’s idealistic view of ethical companies. I’ve been exposed to a lot of “greenwashing”, “fair trade washing” and dishonesty from brands claiming to be ethical and I find myself struggling to believe the promises of the brands that I've spent years of my life promoting. I’ve visited a fair trade company here in the Philippines that pays their workers the same exact wages that fast fashion garment sweatshops pay here (which is NOT a living wage). I’ve had companies tell me that they “can’t afford to pay for a sponsored post because they’ve already used up their marketing budget for the quarter”, said “no problem” and posted for them for free, and then found out later that they paid other bloggers both before and after they said they couldn’t pay me.
When the “Competition” isn’t ethical
“Competition” is in quotes because I don’t consider other bloggers my competition (there’s enough space for ALL of our unique voices!), but I wasn’t sure how else to say it. I thought long and hard about including this next paragraph. I strongly dislike seeing women put other women down, and I am well aware that these words could be construed as me putting down my blogging counterparts or positioning my own blog as somehow superior (that woman never discloses her sponsored posts, but I DO, therefore I’m a more ethical blogger). However, I believe that this needs to be addressed. Just like even “ethical” brands are sometimes greenwashing you or hiding unethical practices behind shiny, feel-good marketing, Some “ethical” blogs can employ similar practices. Even bloggers that are branded as ethical may be buying followers or using bots (to auto-like your posts and the posts of their “competitors” to boost their numbers). Even bloggers who are branded as ethical may be doing sponsored work for brands and not letting you know that they were paid to post (when I was first starting out with my blog, I definitely didn’t disclose some of my early sponsored posts!), or, they might be disclosing with nothing but a tiny #ad or #spon hashtag buried in instagram comments. I have seen more and more of this, lately, and it is discouraging. I’m worried that the rise of “ethical” blogging that looks more like conventional blogging will shut out bloggers who are still doing things the hard way.
Are you still with me? Thank you. I appreciate being allowed to not be “sunshiny” and to talk candidly in this space.
So, why have I decided to keep blogging, even though I am feeling less than positive about it? I have 5 reasons.
- I love the community I’ve found here.
- I believe my voice is unique and important.
- I believe you deserve honest “reporting” and research on ethical brands, ethical travel, minimalist living.
- I want to show that blogging CAN be ethical and transparent.
- I really believe in ethical manufacturing and want to promote the many, many HONEST, transparent, wonderful brands out there.
For me, more and more, my blog is becoming focused on T R A N S PA R E N C Y.
Here’s how I’m committing to that, moving forward, and how I’m planning on staying accountable to all of you.
Careful and Transparent Sponsored Posts.
- I will still be sharing a few sponsored posts on my blog and Instagram every month.
- I will continue to be SUPER picky about the brands I cover on Life+Style+Justice. I get dozens of pitches from brands every few weeks, and I turn down about 80% of them (and subsequently turn down about $1500-$2000 a month as a result). If it’s something I wouldn’t actually wear (even if it’s from a great company), I’ll turn it down. If there’s something fishy about their ethics, I’ll turn them down.
- Not only will I be prefacing sponsored posts (both on the blog and Instagram) with a sponsorship disclosure- not a hashtag, an actual sentence that lets you know whether I just received product for free, whether I was paid, etc.
- At the end of each month, I’ll be publicly acknowledging the amount I made from sponsored posts.
- I will continue to post about brands for free when I really love them (or when they truly don’t have budget to pay for a sponsored post). I don’t think it’s ethical to only post about brands that can afford to pay me, and I think you’d miss out on a lot of great, new, small up-and-coming brands!
- I commit to sharing important things more fully, even when they’re not instagrammable.
- I commit to continue sharing outfit photos of clothing on my real body, not touched up, not super posed, not fake.
- I commit to telling you about products or DIYs that don’t turn out so great after I review them, as well as raving about the stuff I truly love.
More of What Really Matters.
- I don’t just want to be a fashion and lifestyle blog. I want to write more about social justice. I’ll be sharing my thoughts about volunteering, racism, and whatever I’m thinking about on a given week.
- I also hope to start sending out bi-monthly emails to whoever would like them containing more deep thoughts and links to interesting articles/initiatives etc.
I’ll end this post before it goes too far over 1700 words… Thank you for letting me be honest. Thank you for reading my blog. Please help me to continue sharing in an authentic way, and let me know your thoughts about the content that I s