Mumsnet

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Mumsnet is a British website for women with children. It is centered around discussion forums which allow debate on subjects related to parenting and families as well as other topics.[1] It has occasionally been accused of wielding surprising political influence. More recently, it has become notorious for transphobia as well as a variety of other delusional ideas, from vaccine woo to dinosaur denial.

The site has become a (widely ridiculed) part of British culture, with its own strange language such as DH (dear/darling husband), DD (dear/darling daughter), BC (before children), and LMP (last menstrual period).[2]

There are also offshoots of the site, e.g. "Gransnet" (for women over 50).[3]

History[edit]

Mumsnet was founded in 2000 by Justine Roberts, with help from Carrie Longton and Steven Cassidy. Roberts is the wife of Ian Katz, formerly deputy editor of The Guardian and now editor of the BBC's prestige news program Newsnight. Roberts was awarded a CBE in 2017 for services to the economy (not to women per se).[4][5][6]

Political influence[edit]

For a while around 2010 politicians devoted a lot of time to wooing Mumsnet and its supposedly vast audience of mums (mothers are much more authentic than women who don't have children, who always seem a bit suspicious[7]). This was particularly the case among the British Labour Party, with Gordon Brown and Ed Milliband attending its 10th anniversary party in 2010, and Gordon's wife Sarah being interviewed.[4][8] Tory leader David Cameron also made multiple appearances.[9] The Guardian provided assiduous coverage of the site's every celebrity visitor, possibly because its then deputy editor Ian Katz was married to Justine Roberts. Since Katz left, it has become less prominent in the Guardian's news coverage.

Transphobia[edit]

In 2018, Mumsnet was heavily criticised for the transphobic comments of some of its posters and the moderators' refusal to remove them. Activists threatened a boycott.[10] That August, a planned live discussion with child protection charity NSPCC was cancelled because "nearly every single question posed to the NSPCC concerned trans children identifying as female. In them, the adults misgender trans kids, as well as conflate trans girls with rapists."[11] A Twitter feed MumsnetTransphobia (@MumsnetT) once catalogued abuses, but has not been updated since May 2018.[12]

Mumsnet has been accused of radicalising a generation of TERFs thanks to its numerous threads on how "trans women aren't actually women, and instead violent men intent on gaining access to women’s bathrooms, prisons, and domestic violence shelters to harm them, and the idea that gender self-identification is ripe for abuse by cis men who claim to be trans.".[13] Edie Miller said, "Mumsnet is to British transphobia more like what 4Chan is to American fascism".[13]

Mumsnetters have even attacked RationalWiki for our absence of transphobia. User lydiamajora posted: "The 'sceptic' movement as a whole is sceptical about health and religious woo, but not at all sceptical about gender woo. Check out RationalWiki wrt radfems and transgenderism, and prepare to rage."[14]

On the 8th of April 2019, Stephanie Hayden obtained a court order compelling Mumsnet to release the details of one of their users over transphobia, leading to a sudden rush of TERFs, scared about the implications of being publicly outed as transphobes, hurrying over to Kiwi Farms.[15]

Vaccines[edit]

As you'd expect from a site so concerned with parenting, it contains a lot of debate about vaccines and the anti-vaccination movement. Most comments are sensible and you may even see evidence being cited.[16][17] But there are some people spreading anti-vaccine nonsense.[18]

Other woo[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Woo
It occasionally contains posts on other woo/skepticism-related topics, such as homeopathy:
Just found my labour preparation bottle of caulophyllum 200c Homeopathic remedy open on the floor with several of the little tablets lying next to it. Saw him chewing/sucking a few mins earlier but assumed it was the remains of our sushi. Am not panicking but wondering if anyone can advise if we should expect a level of disturbance/ill effects esp as 200c is such a high dose.[19][20]
Someone called Kristen Auclair claims to have been banned from Mumsnet for dinosaur denialism.[21] Is Poe's Law in effect in the following post?
I’m really concerned about dinosaurs, and I think something needs to be done. The science behind them is pretty flimsy, and I for one do not want my children being taught lies. Did you know that nobody had even heard of dinosaurs before the 1800s, when they were invented by curio-hungry Victorians?

Aside from the educational aspect, dinosaurs are a very bad example for children. At my children's school, several children were left in tears after one of their classmates (who had evidently been exposed to dinosaurs), became bestially-minded and ran around the classroom roaring and pretending to be a dinosaur. Then he bit three children on the face. One poor girl has been left with a severely dented nose and the whole class was left traumatised by this horrible display.

Nothing about dinosaurs is suitable for children, from their total lack of family values through to their non-existence from any serious scientific point of view.[22]

Security breaches[edit]

Mumsnet has seen various security breaches over the years.

It was hacked in 2015 by David Buchanan, a bored 18 year old student from Surrey, England. Users' information was published online, leading to hoax calls to police, threats, and a bomb scare at Mumsnet HQ.[23][24]

A group called DadSec, comprising men angry at the site's anti-male attitude, claimed to have hacked and DDOSed Mumsnet in 2015, sending armed police to Justine Roberts' home (SWATting).[25]

In 2019, a software update exposed users' personal data[26]

Am I Being Unreasonable?[edit]

One of the site's most hilarious sections is the "Am I Being Unreasonable?" subforum where women post ridiculous things they've thought or done and expect validation but receive abuse. It is ridiculed by the Twitter account Mumsnet Madness.[27]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts: ‘We could do with all the parties being a bit more feminist’, The Guardian, 4 Oct 2014
  2. Acronyms, Mumsnet, accessed 29 March 2019
  3. https://www.gransnet.com
  4. 4.0 4.1 See the Wikipedia article on Mumsnet.
  5. See the Wikipedia article on Justine Roberts.
  6. See the Wikipedia article on Ian Katz.
  7. Andrea Leadsom apologises to Theresa May over motherhood remark, BBC, 11 July 2016
  8. Sarah Brown on Mumsnet: no rough ride over the ironing, The Guardian, 12 Feb 2010
  9. David Cameron takes the biscuit with third session on mumsnet, The Guardian, 19 Nov 2009
  10. Mumsnet moderators are struggling to find the line between free speech and transphobia, Amelia Tait, Wired, 19 Nov 2018
  11. NSPCC cancel Mumsnet child abuse live chat after flood of transphobia, Gay Star News, 31 Aug 2018
  12. Mumsnet Transphobia, Twitter
  13. 13.0 13.1 Why is British media so transphobic?, Edie Miller, The Outline, 5 Nov 2018
  14. Why aren't "Skeptics" sceptical about the ability to "change sex", Mumsnet, 31 Aug 2018
  15. Stephanie Hayden, Twitter
  16. To vaccinate or not to vaccinate, Mumsnet forums, 20 Nov 2011
  17. "How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed", Mumsnet, 6 Jan 2011
  18. Decided against vaccinations for dd...... thoughts please, Mumsnet 7 Jan 2009
  19. Any homeopaths here? DS may have swallowed Caulophyllum 200c accidentally..., justlookatthatbooty, Mumsnet, 22 Jul 2009
  20. Homeopathy 101: Overdoses and Avogadro, Merseyside Skeptics blog, 5 Aug 2009
  21. Ra-Men special — Dinosaur deniers — with Kristen Auclair, RationalSkepticism.org forums, 20 Feb 2015
  22. Poes, Trolls, and Dinosaur Deniers, Skeptic.com, 25 Feb 2015
  23. Mumsnet hack by Haslemere teen led to leak of 2,000 accounts and bomb hoax, Surrey Live, 12 July 2016
  24. Mumsnet cyber-hacker ordered to do 200 hours' unpaid work, BBC, 2 Aug 2016
  25. Mumsnet hacker says motivation behind attack was 'anti-father' attitude of its members, The Mirror, 27 Aug 2015
  26. Mumsnet data leak: Moaning parents could see other users' privates after cloud migration, The Register, 7 Feb 2019
  27. Mumsnet Madness, @mumsnet_madness, Twitter