I once blogged about Mumsnet. It was a mixed blog - I mentioned some good but focussed on the bad. I would link to it, but I removed it as it gained too much attention from people who just like to bash the site. As both the Daily Mail and the Telegraph have had a go at bashing the site this week, as well as it being covered on programmes in daytime TV and radio, I have decided to blog about it again.
Mumsnet is a very easy target for lazy journalists. A sitting duck. Particularly for those areas of the press that like to pit women against women. Like the Daily Mail. You can pretty much think of something to write about, and trawl the site to find something that backs up your view. You want to write about negative opinions about Amanda Holden returning to work soon after a traumatic birth. You can find stuff about that, repeat the most negative comments to Amanda Holden and then report her reaction. You can ignore the fact that the vilest comments and articles about her return to work were published on your newspaper's online site when the event actually happened, oh, a good year before this week.
The right wing press in particular hate Mumsnet. I believe that it is because, quite simply, it is a group of women with strong opinions that actually manage to get listened to. The power of social networking has taken the traditional press by surprise, and, let's face it, no-one could have expected 10 years ago that senior politicians and a whole array of stars from authors to actors to cooks would go and talk to people on a site for mums. And that people would then talk about it. But they do.
Recently a lot of people on Mumsnet have been quite outspoken about certain choices made by the press. Linking the manslaughter of 6 children to being on benefits was one thing. And when a Daily Mail journalist went on the site to ask specifically for negative stories about the NHS to fit in with her newspaper's NHS bashing agenda she was, quite thoroughly, flamed.
So because there seems to be so little positive stuff about the site around at the moment, here are my reasons for being a Mumsnetter, out and proud:
1. The fact we can be outspoken and give opinions that people may not like. It's called being treated like a grown up.
2. The fact that when we give opinions people don't like those people can answer back, swearily if they like.
3. The light moderation on the forums makes for freedom of expression. Yes, it can be sweary, but that can be a relief. Yes, there is some flaming which goes on. And like in all parts of life there are some judgemental, even nasty people on there.
4. But there are also heaps of really nice, supportive people on there. Thousands of them. People who drop everything and proffer a virtual hand when someone needs support. People who offer real life support, when there is no-one in real life who can do so. I have read threads where people have actually gone to a complete stranger's house to help her out. Do you read about that in the press? When my daughter was in hospital with pneumonia and I was home alone, ill, with an ill baby, feeling extremely isolated, it is women on Mumsnet who chatted to me, day and night, keeping me sane, reassuring me that things would get better.
5. Light relief. Inane banter. Shared memories of old TV shows, or food, or books. It's all up there. And if it isn't, you can start a thread about it.
6. Specific problem about your dog, or horse, or goldfish, or baby, or teenager? Someone else will have gone through it, be going through it, or be able to point you in the direction of a solution.
7. The Campaign for Better Miscarriage Care. Or the We Believe You campaign. Topics which affect far too many women. Mumsnet have, via their site and their bloggers, brought attention to these and other issues. And have provided a safe place for people to talk about their experiences.
But do you read anything about the good side of the site in the press? No. It is far easier, and goadier, to take some negative aspects and turn them into a story. Yes, people get flamed. Yes, unfortunately there is a minority of posters who seem to enjoy hiding behind their screens and making spiteful comments. And no, if you don't enjoy really honest feedback on what you say, if you want to be told that you are right all the time, then Mumsnet possibly isn't the site for you.
But most of us are pretty nice. You might be surprised if you pop in for a chat. It's a group of mainly intelligent, sometimes angry, often funny women, and men. Most of us have children, plenty of us don't.
But the press don't want you to know that. They like the plain old wimmen are mean to other wimmen line. Which is getting, quite frankly, pretty boring.