A Response.

A Response.

Dear Mark, 

You’ll have to forgive my tardiness with my ‘response’. I’m afraid I spent Sunday, while you were trying to get a reaction from me on Twitter, by my elderly and poorly Grandmother’s side as it was expected to be the last time I will see her. As I got home late, I’m afraid dealing with your passive-aggressive ‘right to reply’ private message on my personal Facebook account wasn’t at the top of my list, as you might imagine. But brace yourself. I’ve had three solid days to think this up, and you are going to need a coffee for it. 

As you know Mark, on Friday we had a post in our Blogger team chat group. It was one of many that day, we’d already had a few discussions and features mooted by our lovely team. Not a post about piles, you might be surprised to know. We don’t get many of them as it turns out. It’s a closed group, not because it’s a ‘safe space’ because that would be ridiculous Mark, we have a main group of 55,800 women and we know more than anyone that online groups are not ‘safe’. It’s only for those writers who contribute to our website. The only purpose of this group is to discuss blog ideas, support our writers with thoughts and opinions and to give them a space to work through an idea before committing it to our site.  That’s it. I’d provide screenshots – but I think you already have those, don’t you?

One of our most brilliant writers – and a very good friend of mine – popped a post in to float a blog idea; she’d read your misfire about hijab-wearing women being models in a shampoo advert. She pondered whether ‘a response’ was a good idea. A number of our contributors replied to say they had seen it, and felt that yes, she could write an eloquent response that addressed why the advert was a great idea. I’d just got home from buying a present for my Grandmother, when I saw the post in the group, referring to you. ‘Good GOD NO!’, I thought to myself. I don’t want our site anywhere near that prick; I’m fully aware of his tweets and his online persona of ‘calling out’ stuff and I don’t want anything to do with him. I think from this fracas, we both know how you would have reacted, don’t we, Mark? 

You see Mark, we don’t ‘court controversy’. The Motherload® was founded because I suffered with horrendous postnatal depression, PTSD, and anxiety. It’s taken me a long time to recover from that, with a lot of therapy which thank god, has worked. We don’t allow judgemental or controversial discussion on The Motherload® because it’s not what we are about, and we don’t expect women, mothers, to have to defend themselves in an online space, mainly because of strangers’ comments. It goes on all over the internet, doesn’t it? But – I’ll let you into a secret here Mark – in part, it’s because I can’t deal with it. Because controversy and that vigorous debate that you maybe enjoy, makes me anxious again. It makes me take beta-blockers and I’ve only got two left in the packet, Mark.

I replied to our writer. “I’m aware of this dickhead and I refuse to give him any air space. It’s all for clicks and traffic. He courts controversy and click bait under the ‘Honest’ guise and I would rather we let him fester in his viper nest with his little fanbase and not engage with misogynist pricks like he.”

Mark, I’m sorry if this hurt your feelings. But you see, it’s as I have found you – or shall we say, for the sake of this letter, your ‘online persona’. Your Twitter feed is regularly full of statements that are pretty gross to me. They are controversial to me. I don’t like your stance on radfems, for example. I think you speak without even thinking things through, frequently. I think you enjoy the thrill of dirty debate. I have also seen you on blogging groups, alongside your favourite platform, Twitter, Mark. Despite your protestations, we’ve conversed online a couple of times or so. I’ve seen you purposefully post into a group to expressly humiliate individuals. I’ve seen you name call and bait, Mark, on many tweets. I’ve seen you make allegations and use terminology that is really not based on evidence. And Mark, I don’t like what I see. I don’t like your online persona. I don’t hate it, but I really don’t like it. You are right however, I don’t know you personally so I only have your online presence to go on. I’m not the only one; there are other people who read your feed from afar and dislike you for it. Some are scared to ‘call you out’ because they think you, and your followers, might target them, as you have us, Mark. That’s why they use Facebook groups to talk about you. But I think you know this; because you have ‘friends’ in those groups who tell you about other people’s comments and feed screenshots back to you. There’s a slight oddity in having so many people feeding shit back to one person, don’t you think? 

Well, as we both know, you were shopping for a present for your daughter Evelyn, Mark, (I hope she liked it) and your phone went ‘ping’. Or did it buzz? I can’t remember. Anyway, it was our mutual friend (or at least, at the time) – let’s call her ‘Cookie’ – messaging you to ask you about the tweet. She sent you a screenshot of our blogger’s post; she says to show you what she was talking about. I realised pretty quickly it was ‘Cookie’, Mark. It was a bit gutting if I’m really honest. We had hosted one of her articles and I was so proud she’d given it to us to publish. It was a brave piece about her experience of hostessing at events, like The President’s Club. Less said about that, the better eh, Mark? Well we believed it was an important article and experience to share with women. ‘Cookie’ and I had been talking about some other bits and bobs that we could work on together and they sounded great. I liked her. I thought she was funny and passionate. By the way – there was no abuse. We had a civilised, albeit disappointing chat about it. We didn’t name her on the bloggers group, even after she was removed. At the same time, we removed a few bloggers who hadn’t written for us in a while. Clear the decks, you know Mark. I have the screenshots, of course. For the record, she apologised. Profusely. 

You might think it’s ridiculous Mark, but people do feel passionate about their network, especially as friendships develop and layers are unpicked. It’s not easy writing something that is very candid when your subject matter is PND, or miscarriage, or stillbirth. Many of our members do that though; they unpack the layers to share heart-rending experiences so that other women don’t feel so alone. That’s why our writers, that you mercilessly mocked in your blog, think that this ‘silly’ little Facebook group is more than just that; they feel protective over it and are shocked – yes, shocked – that someone in their group, that they will have shared such intimate details with, could ‘betray’ them by sharing their posts and comments. Not everyone lives in a drama-fuelled world and it’s a normal, valid, human response to feel betrayed when someone betrays you. Funny that, Mark. 

In fact you know that from the way your own – I take back ‘fanbase’, or ‘minions’; you and they are right, it’s definitely not that – followers, have rallied to support you this weekend that when your network kicks in, it’s a wonderful thing. Our writers show each other immense support for their ideas and writing. They don’t gossip, or bitch, as you know, having had an insight into that group. That’s not the purpose of any of The Motherload® groups; and it’s not my style either so please don’t take their silence on this subject as corroboration of your statements. They have respected our request to not publicly comment unless it comes from us directly. Despite what you have written about me this weekend Mark, I’m not unkind – our group(s) are not unkind. I’m a bloody decent person. Just because you say something over, and over again, it doesn’t make it true. I don’t deserve this vitriol for saying I think you are a dickhead. Or that indeed, I think you do get off on the thrill of drama on social media. I can almost feel your excitement and delight bursting out of your Twitter feed with every response that feeds into your rhetoric. 

I think it’s important to reflect that behind your online persona, you must be a decent person too. After all, as you said Mark, you donated £100 and helped to fundraise for a lady’s wheelchair and that’s a good thing, isn’t it? I’m glad you pointed that out on your blog. Over here, I try and do good things too. I don’t like to do the grandstanding thing but as we are sharing, I’ve helped many women escape from abusive homes by creating a network whereby they can safely find help, and I’ve ensured that when one of our members was suicidal, we worked with the police to make sure she was found, and safe. We’ve also, along with our brilliant bloggers, made a space on the internet where thousands – and I’m not exaggerating Mark, you should see our approvals queue – of women can find support when they are suffering from anxiety, postnatal depression and other maternal mental health illnesses. Sometimes that’s when I open my eyes at 7am, or it might be late at night at 11pm, or 1am, or 5am; importantly it’s whenever they have needed support. I’ve stayed up talking to women until the early hours on Messenger so that the darkness doesn’t consume them and in the morning, they can find the help they need.  I know you were concerned in your blog that you could have been someone who was vulnerable but that would never be the case, Mark, because I reacted to just you, not another person. It was personal. Well, personal to your online persona, anyway. 

Let me be clear – the very last thing that I am is a bully. I’ve never bullied anyone. I tell you what, even when a member is removed from the group and is absolutely batshit crazy, calling me all sorts of names, I hold my tongue and I don’t lash back. The only thing that has happened here is that I’ve shared an opinion that someone I dislike is a dickhead. To friends. I do admit to doing a lot of eye-rolling though. I think I got it off my mum. 

We do agree on something though, Mark. This situation is like the playground. I remember when Sarah Smith trapped me and my friend Laura in the playground cubby-hole and thumped us on the arm because we had said that she’d been mean. We were discussing whether we should tell the teacher, Mark, when it was overheard by one of the year eights and they told Sarah Smith. I remember her coming across the playground, face like thunder and knowing she was coming for us and nearly pissing my pants on the tarmac in front of her because I hate that hyperventilating thing that happens when you know people are coming for you. Like you said in your blog, Mark. I remember that her spit sprayed on my face as she screamed at us to ‘NEVER SAY MY FUCKING NAME EVER AGAIN’. It was exactly like that Mark. Exactly like you said – in the playground.

(Important point for your followers: that’s the only time I have ever spoken about bullying, FYI.) 

Crucially, you were never intended to see that comment, Mark. Bullying is an action that needs intent – it’s designed to humiliate someone, to belittle them, to call them out, to expose them. To make them vulnerable. None of that happened with my comment above. Or in my subsequent message to the team about the screenshots being passed out of the group. It’s not in my nature to be such a dick. I consider my words carefully – I’m well versed in writing the odd post or two and you are right Mark, I do sometimes adopt a maternal tone. I like that you picked that up. And it’s not bullying if someone shares an opinion of you in a closed Facebook Group. Twitter isn’t my thing. I don’t spend any time on it and it would never be my place to go. It’s your thing, you like the public aspect of it. But preferring one platform over another doesn’t mean that if you do you are a bully. It really IS just your thing.

But Mark, what you have done over the last 91 hours – yes, I’m counting – is all of that. Along with your gang you have shamed us unnecessarily. You have publicly made statements accusing me personally of bullying you. You have made intimations and you have passed screenshots between you and your network. It’s clear that many of those following you are only going on your responses, accusations and lies, and you have encouraged those around you to be absolutely disparaging about me and The Motherload®. You have done your absolute best to destroy us as much as you can, and amongst your Twitter microcosm, you’ve done an excellent job. Your followers have called us hypocrites which isn’t fair or true. They’ve called us cunts, they’ve called us vile bitches. You have thoroughly enjoyed and not corrected the assumption that we are sitting in a Facebook group, in a huddle, bitching and gossiping about you like a ‘coven’. Come on Mark, that’s not true. It’s expressly, absolutely NOT TRUE. Aside from the fact we have better things to do, my youngest daughter has just got into Sylvanian Families and it’s my job to stack the shelves in the grocery shop and I tell you Mark, those fiddly bloody ‘tin cans’ are a nightmare to balance on a plastic shelf when you have a sweaty finger. It doesn’t leave much of my day for messing around on Facebook. But let’s be clear – there’s been no public slanging match as you suggested. It’s just mainly been you typing furiously on Twitter for nearly five days. We have not engaged until this point because your attack was so aggressive and also because we always prefer a dignified silence than to engage with Twitter trolling. But it’s gone too far. It’s libel (not slander). It’s got to stop. 

So Mark, here we are. I hope this letter satisfies your need for a response from me, because I didn’t appreciate you sliding into my inbox. And I hope it makes you consider your own behaviour online and whether the need to be a ‘controversial’ character on Twitter – for whatever reason, I bet I was definitely right about the clicks, eh? – is sufficiently excusable for your campaign of harassment toward us this weekend. I hope that we agree that now we have both had our say, that’s enough. 

We wish you all the best. 

Kate Dyson
The Motherload®
(AKA the Biggest Parenting Group Online, thanks for the accolade!)

P.s Does your employer know how much time you spend on Twitter? 

Kate Dyson

Kate is the Founder of The Motherload, the 'owner' of one husband, two daughters, two cats and one rabbit. She loves wine, loathes exercise and fervently believes in the power of women supporting women. Find me on instagram: @themotherloadhq

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