Is Mumsnet sexist?

(131 Posts)

I was thinking of dad-specific threads (see other thread). I cant really think of any. But I have heard the odd complaint that male posters are treated with less respect than female ones. I've only experienced this once, but it would be interesting to know whether this is a common occurrence.

As a predominantly female user base, I would expect some gender bias towards women and so therefore against men. But to what extent does it occur?

As I said I've only ever experienced it once, so IME Mumsnet isnt Sexist.

I know, it sounds goady. But I would like to hear some opinion. I'm not sure either way.

PLEASE NOTE - I KNOW THE VAST MAJORITY OF WOMEN ON MUMSNET ARE LOVELY AND NOT SEXIST - THE TITLE WAS TO ATTRACT READERS/POSTERS

JoinTheDots Fri 29-Nov-13 16:07:58

Mumsnet isn't, the occasional poster or bits of the occasional thread, is.

I have witnessed it twice. Both similar when on a thread, the OP was given advice (LTB), which was subsequently changed when the poster found out OP was in fact a man (suggested that it might be at least in part his fault, and that he should take some responsibility for his partners behaviours).

I also see a bit of "aren't men silly! Bless 'em, they can never find their socks" and whatnot, which I think if men were posting (lets say "aren't women silly! They can't park for toffee") would get one hell of a response.

But on balance. No.

I think thats what I was driving at really...

I know individual posters probably arent sexist, but as a group?

If there was a thread about a wife who didint do the ironing and a thread about a husband who didnt do the ironing. I think the consensus would be that the woman didnt have to do the ironing and the man is a lazy entitled bastard.

I understand that there is a little more complexity regarding patriarchal conditioning and so forth, but nevertheless is this not still sexism?

Golddigger Fri 29-Nov-13 16:19:20

I started thinking this today too after commenting on the other thread.
The topics list is very womanly imo.
Not sure if they were the original topics and who made them up.

There is even gransnet. Dont think that there is granddadsnet?
Though I presume that mumsnet own gransnet?

[and mumsnet headquarters, if you ever read this, I like the granset topics list. Much more up to date than the topics list on mumsnet].

LifeIsBetterInFlipFlops Fri 29-Nov-13 16:23:29

MN does make me chuckle...women posting about how they hate pink for girls and blue for boys, and how they dislike being addressed as Mrs Husband's Name...

If they were that indignant, wouldn't they object to MN being called MN and not ParentsNet?

BertieBowtiesAreCool Fri 29-Nov-13 16:49:17

No, I don't think so. I don't think that a thread like the one you suggest would have such a black and white response, either. It would depend on lots of factors:

- Whose clothes need ironing?
- What other stuff is getting done by who?
- Who has an easier time ironing? E.g. is she being expected to get ironing done in a particular time frame when she has curious and attention-grabbing 1yo twins around? Or does one partner have a disability which makes ironing difficult?

If the husband was doing everything and the wife was like "Bitch didn't iron my work shirt!" then, obviously, he shouldn't have to do it. It depends on the situation.

However I do think you're right in that it would go that way, but not because mumsnet is inherently sexist, in fact it's more the opposite - that society is so very often still sexist and so in most cases the wife will be doing much more for her husband than he does for her, especially in terms of household stuff, and jobs which revolve around children tend to fall to mothers rather than fathers too (there was a recent thread about being exasperated because your DH/DP had dressed a child in outgrown clothes, and although it wasn't the intention of the thread it brought up a very common theme that mothers tend to be the ones who notice their DCs have outgrown their clothes and replace them...)

So... the point of that was that the situation is more likely to be balanced in favour of the man doing less ironing in the first place. So to have a thread saying "I think I should do less ironing" is going to come across differently based on whether it is a man or a woman.

I also think that mumsnet is very good at weeding out sexism which we tend to gloss over as a society, so a comment which might sound like the relationship is equal on the face of it might be picked up to say, hey, wait a minute. (For example, the very common "He helps loads around the house" vs "He does his fair share" - help implies that it's really her responsibility, "helps loads" could quite feasibly refer to an 80:20 ratio of housework!)

In short, I don't think mumsnet is sexist (of course individual posters may be) but society is sexist and mumsnet is pretty good at countering that. IMO, not in an anti-men way at all, although some people seem to take away that impression.

TiggyD Sat 30-Nov-13 08:34:25

A bit, but less than real life, possibly due to the numbers, and maybe because people look at what is said rather than other things. For example, I'm often in a staff room when a woman starts doing the "My man is crap so why are men all such bastards" bit. It doesn't get challenged in the staff room like it does on Mumsnet, maybe because you don't feel you can challenge a real life human face to face in the same way as an anonymous poster, or maybe because there is still sympathy with her over her experiences.

TiggyD Sat 30-Nov-13 08:37:47

Oh, by numbers I was going to say that in a staff room of 5 people maybe there won't be somebody who's brave enough to stand up to a sexist remark. On here the threads are read by thousands so there's more chance of there being somebody who wants to tackle the situation.

LuisGarcia Sat 30-Nov-13 08:53:30

I understand that there is a little more complexity regarding patriarchal conditioning and so forth, but nevertheless is this not still sexism?

The "little more complexity" is why the answer is no.

rpitchfo Sat 30-Nov-13 09:03:43

I'm a man and find mumsnet to be sexist. Most of it is low level stuff you would expect from a predominately single gender forum and some slightly more obvious stuff. I've lost count of the number of LTB remarks to women who are giving extremely vague 2 paragraph, one sided accounts of their "useless" husbands. Hopefully this doesn't descend into whose got it worse thread because as a whole society is extremely sexist against women. Also the irony is that as a female poster you are not in a position to accurately reflect whether mumsnet is sexist in the same way I often struggle to see some of the more subtle sexism against women on a day to day basis.

Pan Sat 30-Nov-13 18:54:42

Sexist scmxist. Really.

thanks for your mostly well though out comments and observations. As with most things of this nature, it seems as though opinion is pretty much divided.

I think there is probably an undercurrent of low level sexism here - not enough to warrant me flouncing off - but certainly, as Bertie suggested there are legion of posters willing to call sexism when they see it.

Bowlersarm Mon 02-Dec-13 11:12:09

I find it can be sexist around certain topics. The glaring occasions are about sex, relationships and drinking alcohol. I'm female (although confused a few people with my username when I first joined and posters assumed I was a man).

A woman posting about enjoying using porn is treated very gently; a woman posting about her husband using it will often be told its not acceptable, particularly if she objects to it herself.

Any male posting about his troubled relationship quite often can get short thrift as well especially if it has anything to do with sex, housework, in laws.

And getting drunk. Those threads only go one way if the male partner gets pissed and throws up, pees somewhere inappropriate, comes in late, stays out all night, wakes the household when he comes in. Even if it happens once in a blue moon.

ThurlHoHoHo Mon 02-Dec-13 11:25:09

I don't know whether I would go so far as saying MN is fully 'sexist', but I agree with Bowlers, I was going to make very much the same points. Personally I feel that there is an undercurrent on a lot of boards that all men are selfish, arrogant, ignorant, and probably cheating bastards and they're bloody lucky we haven't chucked the lot of them out of the house yet. It's never really said but the sense of "well, he's a man, he's going to be utterly useless" is frequently there and in a way that is potentially sexist, yes.

Responses can be very different to men and women, particularly where sex is concerned. Frequently a woman who hasn't had sex for months is told she isn't being unreasonable to want to confront her husband about the issue, nor is she being unreasonable to want sex. A man who hasn't had sex for months is often told to put up with it and that he is an awful person for "expecting" sex from his wife. It's as if a lot of posters believe men and women are wired completely differently in terms of sex, intimacy, an emotional connection. Men can just "go and have a wank" (though obviously if he watches porn with it then he's probably just one step away from cheating on you...) I have never seen this recommended to a woman.

However I do agree with previous posters that any implied or subconscious sexism on Mumsnet, a forum which is aimed at women, has to be noted against the overwhelming sexism many women suffer in their real life, and so in the wider scheme of things... even if MN is occasionally sexist, that's nothing compared to the overwhelming need women have for a forum like this.

BertieBowtiesAreCool Mon 02-Dec-13 12:33:03

Hmm, but I think that all of those inequalities are there for a reason, it's not as simple as different standards.

The posts about sex I think are related to general sexism in society and having to counter that. I do think sometimes men get short shrift because they've perhaps phrased something in a way that a woman wouldn't put it and so it gets less sympathy, but generally, even clumsy phrasing aside there's often a huge difference between the way that male posters and female posters express the problem - you can SEE the undercurrent of expectation/entitlement in a lot of men's posts on this topic. Not all, definitely, but I would argue that it's a good majority - it's certainly a majority of the posts I've seen.

Plus, men tend to post about this after a much shorter timeframe than women, and typically in the period after childbirth and/or when they have small children which (usually - again, societal) their female partner is looking after more of the time. With female posters, it's usually after years of no sex and there is no obvious temporary cause like the exhaustion (and often depression) caused by having young children, and, specifically, the transition to motherhood as opposed to parenthood. (Several in-depth threads about this in the past). So again, it's not a comparable situation. Plus you get the factor that since it's a female dominated site there are more likely to be women who have been the victim of sex-pest type behaviour and they may feel very angry about this and "call it when they see it" so it's more likely that a man will receive a harsh response than a woman. And of course, related to this, you get a degree of projection, but generally I think the response is measured.

Posts from a woman saying that she has a low/no sex drive but her male partner wants sex more tend to get a more sympathetic response because they are the one posting - there is no point saying "Well, you should have more sex" because, firstly, that's not going to solve the actual problem, but also, you can't talk directly to the man in that situation so the only solution is to get her to look at and perhaps challenge his behaviour/assumptions as well as investigating if there is a problem on her end.

You could probably go through and do the same for the others but I have to go and pick up DS now so I won't. But I don't think it's quite as clear-cut as "people see the problem differently based on the sex of the OP" but "people make different assumptions (which are quite reasonable assumptions) based on the sex of the OP" - and of course the more reasonable posters ask or wait for this information to be provided rather than assuming.

snowshepherd Mon 02-Dec-13 17:30:52

I think it is sexist to an extent but, of course, that is so predictable.

Daddyofone Mon 02-Dec-13 20:26:46

I don't think "Mumsnet" the website itself is sexist. It's pretty female focused in the whole of course, but generally the articles and forum topics are child focused and if not they don't generally discriminate against men / dads.

But I do think there's an under current of low level sexism on the forum (ageism also ).

But that's posters not the website / mnhq encouraging it. And on an open forum you'll always get a variety of attitudes. And on the anonymous web ( barring the NSA and GCHQ ) people tend to be a bit more less careful in voicing opinions.

In a wider sense ( and I guess reflected here ) though I do think there's an amount of suspicion and discrimination against hands on dads in the wider world entering into female dominated domains. Pun intentional !

Pan Mon 02-Dec-13 21:23:52

I'd move away from 'sexist' to say 'discriminatory'. Yes it looks odd at times when women say 'have more involvement' re child care but then respond poorly when men do that - and a bit of that, I think, is to do with being seen as encroaching.
MN is what it is, so you will get all sorts of oddball perspectives. Overall though I'd still say women on MN and in RL judge other women much more harshly than they do men in general. The Rel. and FWR are places where men should tread with bravery or caution as there would seem to be highly stylised expectation.
OTOH I quite like the way MN men interact with each other.

LuisGarcia Tue 03-Dec-13 03:28:18

Yes it looks odd at times when women say 'have more involvement' re child care but then respond poorly when men do that - and a bit of that, I think, is to do with being seen as encroaching.

I miss a lot of threads, but I don't ever remember anyone saying have more involvement and then responding poorly when men do. Most people here want more male involvement in childcare, and some respond poorly when they do. I've never spotted any overlap though. I may be wrong, like I say, I don't exactly read every thread.

Mumsnet as an entity, a structure, is certainly not sexist ime. As a broad spectrum of mostly female voices it is very occasionally anti man, but I think we've earned that tbh. It is mostly welcoming and one of the best sites I've found for ferreting out discrimination in any form.

If they were that indignant, wouldn't they object to MN being called MN and not ParentsNet? You can see the same tagline as I can, right?

MiniMonty Tue 03-Dec-13 04:40:15

It's a gang of girls banging on to each other...
Ever heard this happen for real in a pub / bar / office (anywhere)?
Of course it's sexist.
Do you expect anything else ?
Do you care?

BertieBowtiesAreCool Tue 03-Dec-13 09:07:56

Bollocks Pan. Any decent man should have the same level of involvement, work hours permitting, as his female partner (assuming she is his co-parent.) Please, menfolk! Encroach gladly! I don't know any women who don't like this unless a, their "partner" is an abusive and generally terrible father, or b, they are a bit sexist themselves and think that men can't do it as well as they can. (I think this is probably also the reason behind discrimination against men going into female-dominated domains - it comes from a sexist attitude in general, not from men OR women per se - the idea that men aren't wired to want to care for children so if he says he wants to care for children what does he REALLY mean?)

The mumsnet/parentnet debate has been done to death BTW. It comes down to "Parentsnet sounds stupid". Hence I didn't reply to this point above but since it's been brought up again.

Pan Tue 03-Dec-13 09:33:39

Well that's not very nice Bertie! We're generally a bit more polite than that in DN.

Oh there's been lots of threads where mums have posted about how 'useless' their OHs are re child care and when some dissection happens it appears it's simply a matter of choice of technique/approach/attitude which hasn't chimed exactly with the mum's. This is esp questionable over circs when it's a first born and both parents are making it up as they go along to a large degree. So sometimes it's 'do encroach but only in my style, as I'm the expert though never having done this before'.

Luis that second last para reads a bit dubiously i.e. 'we've earned the right to be discriminatory but it doesn't happen here'. A bit hmm? And of course as someone said up thread it's not so easy for a female poster to discount the incidence of male discrimination much the same way as I wouldn't be the final arbiter of whether sexism toward a woman is taking place as I'm not the recipient.

LuisGarcia Tue 03-Dec-13 09:36:26

Luis that second last para reads a bit dubiously i.e. 'we've earned the right to be discriminatory but it doesn't happen here'. A bit hmm? And of course as someone said up thread it's not so easy for a female poster to discount the incidence of male discrimination much the same way as I wouldn't be the final arbiter of whether sexism toward a woman is taking place as I'm not the recipient.

I'm a man. Does that change the way it reads?

Pan Tue 03-Dec-13 09:46:12

ah, it does clear up the 'we've earned that' and it gives it a totally different take, so thanks Luis. I'd still agree with much of the 'undercurrent' of discrimination not matter what the reasoning, and of course in a predominantly female chamber that's what is likely to happen.

Pan - I'm not trying to be a goady fucker, (MN parlance certainly not DN etiquette so apologies), but what do you see as the difference between sexism and discrimination?

Also Minimonty, do I care? not really but thought it would be an interesting topic for discussion, which happily it has so far turned oiut to be.

Unfortuanetly I think the only way to test some of the theories explonred so far, would be to do a couple of AIBUs for "research purposes", but I'm not brave / clever / stupid enough for that!

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