We asked real brides what they’d do differently on their big day if they could…
Yesterday, headlines trumpeted that “vicious cyber bullying by mothers towards other mothers has prompted the managers of one of the largest Facebook communities for parents to tell the mama trolls to shut up or get off.”
Hugely popular kids’ style website, Babyology told its followers: ”We have made the decision to remove at our discretion any negative or abusive comments made on our Facebook page… It’s hard enough being a mum without strangers literally berating you for how (or how not) you keep your baby warm, or your decision not to breast feed past four months.” Amen, sister.
Some readers will know that, some time before setting up HerCanberra, I spent a year or so as moderator on the now-bloody-huge website MamaMia. It’s a massively popular site and I’m so proud of what Mia and the team have grown it into.
So, why did I jump from a position that could have seen me part of what is arguably the most popular women’s website in the country today? Quite frankly, I was worn out. It seemed that Every.Single.Day. I was refereeing fights between mature women who suddenly, shielded by anonymity, became vicious attack dogs.
Issues to do with motherhood were the worst offenders: the old ‘working mum’ chestnut; breastfeeding vs bottles, natural birth vs c-section, kids’ parties, even whether there should be access to “Parents with Prams” car parking. All of them were, to not sugarcoat it, shitfights. Whenever I saw one of these topics on the editorial schedule, I knew to cancel any other plans I had that day, because I would be in front of the computer, desperately trying to smooth things over.
I was personally attacked a number of times. Called selfish when I dared admit I went back to work part-time after the birth of my first child…not so much for financial reasons, but for my own sense of identity and self-worth. I was told to harden up when, in an attempt to overturn the myth that c-sections were an easy way out, I spoke about post-operative pain. But, I got off easy compared to some women. Some were on the receiving end of such vitriolic remarks that they left and never came back to the site.
So much judgement, so little time. But why? Why do we feel the need to defend our own choices by attacking others?
I have friends who work full time. I have friends who are full time stay-at-home-mums. I have friends whose kids attend child care. I have friends who’ve breastfed; others who’ve bottle fed all three children. I have friends who’ve had natural, drug free childbirths. I have friends who had labours armed with all the drugs they could get their hands on. I believe they’ve made those decisions because they’re right for them and their family. And who are we to put the boot in by telling them they’re wrong? And how is it our business anyway?
Is it that we are so desperate to convince ourselves that we have made the correct choices in our own lives, that anyone who makes a contrary decision can’t possibly be right? It is our duty to tell them all the ways in which they’re wrong? Will we only feel good about ourselves when we’ve berated others into submission?
The Babyology team wrote: ”Unless you would make a comment face-to-face, then this negativity does not have a place in our online space.” And there it is. It’s as if a computer screen strips us of our manners and, sometimes, our humanity. It’s so easy to write a snarky remark without thinking of the harm it could cause. It takes a strong person to dismiss a cutting criticism as ‘just someone on the web’. Because, unfortunately, our feelings don’t come with an ‘off’ switch.
So why? Why does it happen? And why is this bullying rife amongst a community of mothers? Shouldn’t this be a time in our lives when we are teaching our children compassion and leading by example? Shouldn’t we be teaching them that old adage ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?’
One of the things I’m most proud of about HerCanberra is that we’re pretty much completely trollfree. People who read and comment on the site and our social media channels are respectful. While they may disagree, they always do so politely, and argue the point, not the person. So, thank you, to our community of readers. Thank you for taking up arms for the ‘Resistance’ against bad online behaviour. I salute you.