Is Mumsnet a tad Man Hatey?

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The suggestion that Mumsnet encourages gender hatred would be funny if it were not so offensive – and plain silly. We do not tolerate any other kind of hatred (save maybe hatred of Fruitshoots). Justine Roberts CEO Mumsnet

Is Mumsnet a tad man hatey?

Fathers for Justice certainly seem to think so and, based on my recent experience in their chatrooms, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree.

That said, after a Schofield Scooby style cursory glance at the internet, it appears that they already have something of a legendary reputation and seemingly any hateyness spewing out of their boards isn’t remotely gender exclusive.

Journalist Cristina Odoneactress Amanda Holdenfeminist writer Naomi Wolf, and, most famously, child care guru Gina Ford are some of the more high profile women who have very publicly got in the neck from what broadcaster Janet Street Porter calls the Boden Mafia.

My criticism of Mumsnet is that it represents a very narrow group of women. The daily discussions are usually pretty childish, and there’s a fair amount of bullying. There seems to be a received way of thinking, and woe betide anyone who disagrees. Janet Street Porter

In fairness to Mumsnet Ltd, they claim to have over a million visitors to the site every month and, given their reported demographic (95% female / 70 % graduates), it’s not unreasonable to expect that their users roughly represent a population as diverse as the average girls grammar school playground. So perhaps it’s just a case of a few bullying bad apples?

Even so, it seems that the bullies have long since taken charge of the playground even if the Headmistress would prefer not to notice.

Immature and rude women just live off the souls of other women who perhaps aren’t as strong as them. I have worked on online message boards where teens acted the same way as some of the women on MumsNet act, yet these teens and young adults didn’t get off lightly as we would warn and ban any sort of trolling, flaming and bullying and if it got really serious we had a setup for banning people. Petite Mum

Mumsnet have regularly played down their (ahem) problematic reputation and even play on it by jokingly self identifying as a nest of vipers.

They have an exceptionally light touch approach to moderation and their CEO has regularly observed that they prefer to treat everyone on their network for parents like the adults they all claim to be.

Mothers often have a lot going on in their lives and they don’t always realise how their words may come across. We don’t want to sound like schoolteachers looking over our spectacles. If someone has made personal attacks, we may contact them off board and it’s amazing how often they’ll say, “I’m so sorry – yesterday was just one of those days”. Justine Roberts CEO Mumsnet

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The parenting site has been one of the Internet’s extraordinary success story and yet despite it’s massive audience, in an interview Financial Times Justine has candidly admitted that it had “a rubbish business model” and only began to turn a modest profit recently, after a decade of long hours spent working out of her bedroom.

Remarkably, in the same interview she claimed to have “hired the cheapest au pairs imaginable” to watch over her children while she was building her parenting empire.

After my experience of her Company’s service I’m beginning to wonder if she didn’t keep the au pairs on to manage mumsnet mild mannered approach to moderation and even if you won’t read about it on their official wikipedia page, you don’t have to look too far behind the curtain to find their critics.

They ridiculed my spelling, questioned my intelligence, were condescending, openly laughed at me and for the most part were not helpful or supportive which I was hoping for. The bottom line is I came away feeling embarrassed, belittled, ashamed and guilty and I’m pretty thick skinned. Sadly the first word that sprung to mind was bullies…Mediocre Mum Blogger

EYEhave to admit to being generally shocked (and sickened) by some of the childish, chauvinistic and churlish behaviour I witnessed on the board last week.  What makes it all the more sinister is that I was attempting to participate in a discussion about the dubious message presented in a television advert aimed at children.

I’m all in favour of open robust debate and I can accept that if you’re entering a chat room full of anonymous users then you can expect to bump into the occasional troll, bully or idiot.  Even so I don’t expect the moderators to side with and empower the bullies (apart from when EYEis attempting to comment on a Guardian article obviously).

I have just had my first experience of Mumsnet. They bullied me so much after my first thread I left. They messaged me to call me names, started another thread just so they could slate me and double dare each other to post nasty comments on the thread I started. I called them for the bullies they are and they spent more time calling me names swearing at me and telling me to leave. It was a horrible and distressing experience. They are vile and they can never justify their actions. Nicky

Seemingly I unwittingly stumbled onto a discussion in the notorious ‘AIBU’ section which according to Alicia Duffy Blogger & Mumsnet User is ‘a hotbed of disagreements and strong debate where Feminist Activism can be pretty militant‘.

But even if there is a site wide policy of very light moderation, I’m completely unconvinced by Mumsnet HQ’s claims that they are politically neutral.  I also entirely agree with the many mothers who think that Mumsnet prefer to brush any notion of bullying under the carpet.

It’s honestly the worst, most manipulative, most bullying site I’ve ever encountered. I’d say most people feel the same about it. Somebody one said most big-name advertisers won’t touch that site, and some planned ads were pulled after a particularly vile thread.

The moderators/owners have to know what’s going on. They’ve lost money over it. They must have lost thousands of members to other sites. So why DO they allow it? Beth

Nick Cohen at the Spectator called them racketeers after his experience of them trying to co-ordinate a webchat with him on the cheap.  EYEguess that says something about something and it would be interesting to know how many of their 80+ staff are involved in moderation because all this bluster about treating people like adults just sounds like an excuse for not having to show a proper duty of care to the little people.

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