Yesterday I spent the day at Mumsnet Blogfest. I expect today there will loads of posts from various bloggers about the panels, and the cakes, and meeting lots of other bloggers, and I’m sure I’ll get some mileage out of it for a while. But today my overwhelming feeling is that of defensiveness about this blogging life I lead.

Liz Jones, journalist of the Daily Mail, and long time Mumsnet and mum hater was on the panel talking about public vs private lives. Jones has infamously spilled her guts on everything, including her marriage breakup and keeping a condom full of sperm which she planned to inseminate herself with.

Geraldine Bedell, who chaired the panel, asked Miss Jones if she ever regretted anything she had written “Yeah, all of it” she said, without a trace of humour. She described having a nervous breakdown every time she presses send on one of her articles, and how there have been times when she has engineers situations or made decisions that have resulted in chaos because she knew she would get good copy out of it. A journalist owes it to the public to put it all out there, she argued.

Predictably, Liz Jones has today written an article criticising Mumsnet bloggers for writing about parenthood and cakes, and how we are wasting our freedom of speech on topics such as knitting and chocolate. What is more, people on my beloved Mumsnet itself are also deriding bloggers and agreeing with Jones, conveniently ignoring that blogging, like Mumsnet, is just another forum for expression and socialising, built primarily around our role as mothers.

The Internet has been a democratising force for women. Before it became mainstream, the main female voices to be heard were the select few in politics and the media, and even then those voices were chosen and carefully controlled by the patriarchal constructs of government and mass media. Now anyone, even a mum feeling stuck at home with kids, can put their message out there for all to see, and can find other like minded people, regardless of geography. This is both a good and bad thing as it has been a democratising force for all, meaning that even those with views outside the social norms, views that the majority find repugnant, can find a space online to reinforce those views and create their own social norms.

Freedom of speech means we can talk about what the hell we like. Liz Jones doesn’t get to choose what we write about, and quite frankly I’d rather read about someone having their eyeball pulled out with a pencil than any of her self obsessed drivel about her horses and how everyone hates her. Liz derided Mumsnet bloggers for not doing more. Clearly she missed out on the bit about doing research at journalism school, as she didn’t have to look too far on Mumsnet to find the We Believe You campaign, the Better Miscarriage Care Campaign, or Mumsnet Woolly Hugs. All these campaigns have been massively supported by Mumsnet Bloggers.

The term ‘mummybloggers’ is a phrase used by the mainstream media to deride women having their say. Yes, some people blog about their children and family life, in doing so they share experiences with other women, and provide relief to people stuck in the often lonely world of parenting, where you are afraid to speak the truth about how you feel about this often sacred role. But for a many of us, being a mum is incidental to what we write about, but inevitably spills onto the page, so huge a part of our lives is being a parent.

It’s easy to attack Liz Jones for taking her stance on Mumsnet and mums when she is child free herself. Comments on the article accuse her of being jealous and not understanding because she doesn’t have kids. These may seem like low blows, but she is the one who brings that chip on her shoulder to the table. She is the one who talks about the ‘queasy feeling in her empty womb’, she is the one who came to Mumsnet Blogfest and then proceeded to criticise us all of the triviality of what we do. She is the one with a powerful platform, a voice with which she could do so much, yet she chooses to use it look down on people who are different from her, and to bleat on about her own self inflicted misery. If she thinks bloggers aren’t using their voices for good then she is not looking very far, and probably needs to concentrate on her own back yard first.

I think we as bloggers can learn a very powerful lesson from Liz Jones. No, not that we should be blogging about more than good housekeeping, nor that we should keep quiet about the realities of motherhood. I think we should look to Liz as a sign of what we can become if we share too much of our lives on our blogs. Liz Jones has alienated her neighbours, and systematically written nearly every person out of her life, driven them away by her insistence on sharing every detail and every thought she has. She appeared yesterday to be a sad shell of a woman, by her own admission a nastier, unemotional person, who relishes the disasters in her life as opportunities for good copy. We should consider that when we blog about our children and our husbands, and ourselves. While it is good to share, it’s also good to edit, so you don’t end up writing your friends and family out of your life.

32 thoughts on “Live to blog, blog to live

  1. “She appeared yesterday to be a sad shell of a woman…”

    Yes! She was truly terrifying, wasn’t she? An empty husk, I though. Quite extraordinary that she has a national platform and following when what she writes is simply childish bile (and much of it – such as the ‘mingling’ she supposedly did with the bloggers – fantasy).

    1. That’s the bit that hit me too – only a sad shell would get their kicks by slagging off other women. I wasn’t at Blogfest but I’m a Mumsnet blogger, so I feel entitled to be offended too!

  2. Excellent, beautifully-written post. Blogging has saved my sanity. I just happen to be a mother too. I don’t care if mumsnetters write about knitting or cooking, I just care that everyone has a voice, no one is isolated and we build an inclusive community where everyone is welcome. X

  3. As a fellow mum, I love reading about the experiences of other mums, knowing I am not alone in sleepless nights, or food issues, or tantrums. I love the ‘trivial things’ that as you say we don’t always have a voice for amongst those around us for fear of moaning or competing. I do enjoy deep and meaningfuls, sometimes, but not as much as I thought I would. So for all the ‘mummybloggers’ do not ever change what you do, that is your right, and people are interested.

    Glad she made the effort eh 😉 Great post Dilly.

  4. Very well put! I think that Liz purposefully draws venom towards her as it confirms her belief that the world is filled with nasty people and so she seems stuck in a viscious cycle of bitterness. I really do feel sad for her and the role she has chosen for herself as apparent social commentator whereas in fact she documents a life of destroying social contact. One could read her column as one long cry for psychological help but i doubt that she would be volunteering for painful therapy. Making a career out of one’s own unhappiness is acting out on a national platform and certainly pays the bills.

  5. Great post, I completely agree, her article seems to come from a place of insecurity and sadness. I choose not to put too much info on my blog about my family as, whilst my partner supports my blogging, he does not want pictures of our children on my blog and I have to respect that. It’s sad that she completely misses the point that the blogging community is very much about sharing on many platforms, whether it be a recipe, an event, an idea or just a good old rant. Blogging has liberated many, both men and women, young and old from a variety of cultures and society’s. Many people have benefitted from blogging on both a superficial level to a movung and life changing way. Whilst I agree with freedom of speech I don’t have to agree with the opinion that is presented to me, whether it be in a newspaper column or blog.

  6. I agree with you. Planet Liz must be a sad, lonely, bitter and angry place.It’s like she is following a script and railing against everything just for the sake of kicking up a fuss. Ironically enough, most of the members of of Mumsnet will have already seen this kind of behaviour before;in their own children!
    Perhaps she needs some on 121 time and a hug, rather than time out?

      1. Maybe, if she every shows up at a mumsnet thing again, we should all surround her and have a mass hug.
        ‘It’s not you we don’t like Liz, it’s your behaviour…’

  7. If it helps, I support women in the blogosphere even though I don’t have any children either. Hey, I was just at a recipe blog that had a trenchant analysis of misogyny in a James Bond film. There’s gold in them thar blogs.

    Speaking entirely for myself, it does get wearying sometimes when all people can talk about is their children. But my preferred solution is to click on something else, not hang around being nasty to people for blogging about what interests them.

    1. It can boring, that’s why rarely blog about parenting myself, I don’t really want to read about other people’s kids so assume other people don’t want to read about mine. But clearly some people do as parent blogs are huge!

      Parents can be very self involved, parenting is a bit like that which I’m sure is v boring for non parents. But the early years are all consuming. It wears off eventually (I hope!).

  8. Excellent post dillytante. You are sooo right that the internet has given a voice to women. That in itself is a scary thing for some people.

    And some of the stuff classed as “trivial” isn’t is it? Sleepless nights, breastfeeding, weaning, tantrums, housekeeping – all things that send women to the edge. Marriages break up over it. Pretty important, unless of course you don’t like women.

    And as for knitting, baking etc. So what if women blog about this stuff. There would not be this vitriol if it were cars or sport or mountaineering or whatever male fantasy it might be. Women’s hobbies are always considered trivial.

  9. Well said! Not just the observations about Liz Jones’ article, but about the responses on the main Mumsnet site.

    I can’t see why writing about cakes and knitting (if you choose to and/or if this is part of your life) is any different to Liz Jones writing about her hobbies?

    Not just that, if she took the time, she would see that there are blogs for all tastes on here. I’ve recently enjoyed some great posts on feminism, as well as ones about surviving the childhood years. All of them were clever, witty and thought provoking.

    Like this post.

  10. Good post. I was there too yesterday. It was a wonderful day and the food was amazing. Sitting in the third row, a few meters from Liz Jones was for me an extremely un nerving experience, and very uncomfortable. I watched her for the 10 minutes that she was on stage before it all started and she very clearly needs some sort of help. She was like a terrified child, talking to herself, with dead eyes, she looked to be extremely anguished and desperate. I felt truly concerned for her welfare. She is a car crash waiting to happen and somehow or other I think she needs rescuing from herself. It’s self induced but it’s tragic never the less.

  11. The triviality of what you do? This woman is the High Priestess of triviality, the Queen of shallow. A void in female form. I sort of feel sorry for her. She has no inner life; only Prada bowling bags and debts.

  12. Very interesting stuff! I too was outraged by what L J wrote but having written for the Mail myself recently I can understand the pressure she obviously feels to be controversial and write colourful copy. And it is just that, a load of old copy. I liked what Caitlin Moran said at Blogfest (yes, I was there too!) about not writing negative things – she totally rocked. I too wrote about the day and was thrilled when the dishy and talented Tim Dowling not only replied to my tweet about him but them re-tweeted my blog. Happy blogging everyone and try to keep positive. L J is to be pitied really, who want to be her? E xxx

  13. Fantastic post; I confess I didn’t know who she was and having read her ‘copy’ she merely confirms my distaste over anything the Daily Mail proffers as news.

    Whatever you blog about is liberating to you. Be it knitting, cancer, children, politics or cupcakes. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Suggest this is applied to said columnist.

    Thanks so much for linking up and glad to meet you in the lift!

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