Frisky Rant: The Mommy Wars Go Digital
Mommy bloggers are crazy. No, not because they blog about every mind-numbingly boring burp and giggle — because they do it despite the fact that their readers are just vicious to them. For example, The New York Daily News tells us about mommy blogger Shellie Ross, who lived every mother’s worst nightmare when she found her 2-year-old drowned in a pool. Less than an hour after she found the child’s body, she tweeted (“micro-blogged”) her Twitter followers to ask for their prayers — what kind of compassionate response did she get? People blamed her for her son’s death and someone even accused her usage of Twitter as the reason for his drowning.
It’s no secret that telling mothers they’re crappy parents is an American pastime. But the Daily News asks an interesting question: Is this “you’re a terrible mom!” judgment and hatred-spewing actually cyberbullying? And I say yes, yes, yes. First of all, let me get a few things out of the way about the Daily News’ framing of the mommy blogger cyberbullying story as “grown-up mean girls.” The term “mean girls” (based on a book about teenage girls’ psychology, Queen Bees & Wannabes, by Rosalind Wiseman, but also the movie starring Lindsay Lohan) is now applied to every situation of girl-on-girl bullying — what we used to call “catfighting.” It’s “mean girls” this and “mean girls” that, but what about when boys and men do it? Then it’s just straight-up bullying? Where’s the media flurry about “mean boys“?
Secondly, the “grown-up mean girls” thing is a total assumption. How does anyone know the bullies? It’s reasonable to assume many — or even a majority — of a mommy bloggers’ readership would be other women. But who knows? Because it’s also the internet. The nasty commenters are anonymous — the “cyberbullies” could quite possibly be some slob who lives in his mom’s basement and hates on women bloggers all day. Yet the Daily News is just another media outlet perpetuating the storyline that it’s a big catfight among women.
All that said, though, the Daily News does shed light on an important subject: the way the anonymity of the internet lets the “you’re a terrible mom!” judgment and hatred-spewing run wild to the point where it becomes cyberbullying. If another parent — hell, another person — walked up to a mother in a preschool parking lot and accused her of letting her son die, we’d think he or she was just a tactless, rude, aggressive crazy person. But, for some reason, this shizz is par for the course online! And I fear that the anonymity on the internet will just enable the judgment of mothers to bloom like a warm path of mold.
As someone who blogs under her own name all the time about very personal topics, I feel for mommy bloggers who are criticized. l really do. And I don’t have a smidge of respect for people who use their anonymity online to bully other people — whether it’s about motherhood or racial issues or sex or feminism or whatever. It’s just depressing to me that rather than a great platform for respectful dialogue and debate, this, instead, is what the internet becomes.