The right to a voice

I’m writing this in response to something awful that happened to a writer who I’ve come to really enjoy reading, who has announced today that she’s saying goodbye to her blog. What happened was that she wrote a piece about how she intends to bring her son up as a feminist. Good for her. Good for him.

But some people really, really objected to this.
They called her terrible things.
They were rude and ignorant, and they were abusive.
They accused her of child abuse, which leads me to think they have never thought for a second what ‘abuse’ actually means.

I still don’t understand why people fear the word feminism. It’s not a cult, a fascist regime or a rabid desire to overthrow all men. It’s just the belief that women should be treated equally. And that means many things, including changing the way that gender role models are presented in the media. Which means that you make decisions about what you think is suitable for your children to watch, wear, and do. So that girls don’t grow up thinking they are supposed to turn into princesses with waist length hair and be rescued, and boys don’t think that girls need or want to be rescued all of the time. It means not letting boys grow up thinking they need huge muscles and a season ticket to Arsenal to be a boy. Feminism means many things that many people have written about eloquently and well (Hadley Freeman’s How to be Awesome should be required reading in schools, I think.)

It made me so sad, and so angry, that this has happened. For people who just like to shout down anything that isn’t exactly what they believe, for people who just shout without thinking, to silence a voice that is kind and funny, and endlessly reassuring. It’s sad, sure, but not unusual, I know. Trolling, anonymous or otherwise, is a huge issue at the moment.

My blog (which I’ve sadly neglected somewhat of late) very quickly became my voice. When you are a mum, at home with small children, which I was for a very long time, it’s easy to feel that no one is listening to you. Because usually, no one is. Small children are adept at selective deafness, and if you try to tell them that they need to do anything they might object to – washing their hands, putting the Lego away, getting dressed in something that is not a Buzz Lightyear costume – they tend to pretend they heard nothing. (Or throw themselves to the floor and scream. It depends on the child, very much.)
I still frequently shout, at home, ‘WHY DOES NO ONE EVER LISTEN TO ME?!’

No response, obviously.

But sometimes you will write something, and someone hears. And it means something, and that is very, very powerful. Mummy bloggers are often dismissed as being a bit silly. But these women, with their opinions, their writing and their thinking out loud are creating a community, and a place to be heard. A place for women who are spending years of their lives bringing up children, struggling with the monotony, the sleep deprivation, the boredom and the nagging feeling that you should always be doing something else, and the trying to do the right thing. It’s a role that has always been overlooked or diminished, and yet it is so important.

The blogging community has become a place for women who want to talk about their everyday lives with other people who listen, and who understand. Whether you work and have babies, or stay at home all day with them, the issues are often the same. It’s sad, it’s clever and it’s often laugh out loud funny. It’s supportive. Sometimes it’s airing a frustration about CBeebies, (Postman Pat, special delivery service. Sometimes you really have to ask other parents ‘am I seeing the same thing as you? Is he really that SHIT at his job?!’) Sometimes it’s about friendship, and strength.
Sometimes it’s writing about how you feel, post-birth, about your body. Sometimes it’s about the fact that you want to stop worrying about developmental milestones but you can’t. bloody. stop it. (My advice? Have a third child. Seriously. I’m not even sure I know where Matilda’s red book is any more.)

And sometimes, it is about raising your child in the way you believe is right.

If you want to read something wonderful about the community that social media and blogging creates, read this.

Good luck K. I know you haven’t stopped writing for ever, but I hope you’ll be blogging again soon.

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