‘That’ Mail Online article got me thinking last night. I don’t especially want to inflame the ire of Shona Sibary, but I do object to sweeping stereotypes. So what I do want to do is point out that it seems to me that in writing the piece how she did she lost any chance of being taken seriously. Because instead of writing eloquently about her personal experience, she demonised through cliché an entire community.
The vitriol with which she listed her one-size-fits-all views of Mumsnetters was surprising in more than one way, but one of the biggest surprises was that it actually got published under the guise of ‘journalism’. Lumping together an entire online community as poisonous Boden-clad bullies, a ‘Muswell Hill super-mob’ showed a simplicity of thought which I would have thought was beneath any serious writer. But least forgivable was the offensive assumption that those of us who choose to use Mumsnet for whatever purpose it fits in our lives are all somehow subjugated and stifled by their apparently unwanted children, who have according to Ms Sibary removed their sense of identify and sense of worth and ability only to achieve ‘short-term gratification’.
The suggestion that in having babies fulfillment goes out of the window and petty-minded vileness takes its place cannot be justified. It condemns an entire community to the status of imbeciles, not adults making a serious choice to bring children into the world and you know what, embracing it for the life-changing experience it is, good and yes, indeed, who would dispute it, bad. Accusing a complete online community of being on Prozac is not only critically offensive to those mothers – and fathers and non-parents and indeed anyone in any demographic – who have issues in their lives that had led them to need medication or other forms of psychological support – but for me is like taking a flame thrower to a single bluebottle. In these sweeping statements I lost any residual sympathy I may have had for Ms Sibary’s experiences. Because in writing this way she doesn’t stand up to her ‘bullies’ (her word); instead she mirrors the very rhetoric she is complaining about.
It has to be said here that my experiences of Mumsnet – which I am privileged to say include a visit to Downing Street in support of the Railway Children charity – have been of a group of articulate, intelligent and passionate women who act to do something about situations – in this case, runaway children – which they find unacceptable from any angle.
Just like Ms Sibary’s article, this is my opinion. Criticise or agree, that’s the individual reader’s call. But don’t stereotype me because of what I write, and the forum on which I choose to write it.