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Zoe Williams - Live webchat, Thursday 14 June, 1-2 pm

(102 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 12-Jun-12 11:42:22

Journalist Zoe Williams is joining us for a webchat at MNHQ on Thursday 14 June at 1pm. Zoe's latest book, What Not to Expect When You're Expecting, is a refreshing antidote to the standard pregnancy and parenting books. It considers issues such as the overbearing public guidelines on what not to eat or drink and weighs up the relative merits of different childcare routines - 'It doesn't make any sodding difference.'

Zoe is best known as a Guardian columnist, where she once wrote: 'They are brilliant on Mumsnet. They know everything. If you wanted to know how soon you could breastfeed after taking an E, someone on Mumsnet could probably tell you.' She also writes for the New Statesman, The Spectator, NOW Magazine, London Cyclist and the London Evening Standard.

She lives in London with her partner and two children.

Join her on Thursday at 1pm or post a question to Zoe ahead of the webchat here.

FunnysInLaJardin Tue 12-Jun-12 13:11:28

Fantastic choice of guest. I love Zoe Williams. No question yet, just a post of approval!

turkeyboots Tue 12-Jun-12 13:23:58

Can't think of a question, but I love Zoe!

Rabbitee Tue 12-Jun-12 13:56:41

according to amazon review, its just her old book with a new cover and a new name.. i checked it out, and it is, the same blurb and everything... thats not very good is it!

FfoFfycsecs Tue 12-Jun-12 16:25:49

Ooooooh yay! No question yet but yay!

pjani Tue 12-Jun-12 17:49:55

Zoe's great!

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Tue 12-Jun-12 18:55:57

oh that's right, she was the first woman ever to be pregnant, even before Myleene Klass... grin

frankie4 Tue 12-Jun-12 19:03:29

Zoe, I don't have any questions about parenting. But I did really like the article you wrote a few months ago about how the State is subsidising companies such as Tesco by letting them get away with paying minimum wage and then the State having to top up the low wages with benefits.

Ok, rant over .... back to parenting....

Rabbitee Tue 12-Jun-12 20:55:50

tesco dont pay minimum wage.

frankie4 Tue 12-Jun-12 21:02:49

Ok but they do pay low wages, like most retailers. I know Arcadia group pay minimum wage. Generally wages are too low which is why the benefits system props them up. But that is another argument for another day and I guess I shouldn't hijack this thread!

Rabbitee Tue 12-Jun-12 21:05:33

no they dont.. and ftr, they actually pay the best of the big retailers.

<un-hijacks>

TwoIfBySea Tue 12-Jun-12 22:21:19

I've seen her on the Sky News paper review a few times and don't really rate her much, sorry, I'll get my coat and leave the love in for the rest of you.

BIWItheBold Tue 12-Jun-12 23:30:36

Oh fuckity buggery bollocks. I think Zoe is absolutely fabulous and would love to be part of the webchat.

Unfortunately I am working Athens this week where the temperature is in the mid 30s and it isn't raining and so I will be a bit busy and not able to take part.

Not that I want to rub your noses in it or anything grin

My question for Zoe - I think, possibly inevitably, that you ended up writing columns about pregnancy/childbirth/babies because of your lifestage. Obviously these will have paid the bills. But do you feel that there is a lot of pressure on women in the media to write such columns? Whilst they are/were hugely entertaining, and well written, I did sometimes feel that you had been sidelined into 'soft/fluffy' instead of more serious journalism - and I notice now that you are writing much more serious stuff. Or was this your choice?

By the way, it's bloody hot here ...

<legs it>

poorbuthappy Wed 13-Jun-12 08:06:04

What? Someone was pregnant before Mylene Klass?? No way...

albertswearengen Wed 13-Jun-12 10:56:48

Hi I read your article about 'The Backlash against breastfeeding' and found it very interesting. I was wondering why, if you think that the studies showing 'breast is best' are methodologically flawed why the government and the health profession are so keen to promote it and to push so much money and resources at the campaign?
I exclusively breastfed for 6 months and at the end of it was exhausted and 3 stone heavier. I did it because I believed some of the hype and felt I had to try and do my best for my ds coming from an asthma prone family. Frankly I would be quite cross if I found out it was a badly researched load of old twaddle. I never swallowed the whole higher IQ bit mind you.
Thanks.

nethunsreject Wed 13-Jun-12 12:41:19

Zoe, you had a go at methodological problems wrt breastfeeding research, yet you are happy to quote the opinions of a woman who works for a formula company wrt how 'good' or otherwise breastfeeding is.

Have you read 'The Politics Of Breastfeeding'?

MooncupGoddess Wed 13-Jun-12 13:45:32

Zoe - think you are doing great work at the moment, your columns in the Saturday Guardian are fab.

Obviously you have been a feminist all along, but can I ask, has having children affected/changed your views on feminism-related issues and if so, how?

SpringHeeledJack Wed 13-Jun-12 17:00:00

no qs at the mo

can I just fawn a bit

<fawns>

Zoe, I find your writing take all the incoherent furious thoughts that buzz through my mind and arranges them into elegant and well argued articles

ta very much

<fawns again>

ps do more on the Twitter, please. Thank you

pps ooh, and more about the DOG. I likes DOGS, I does.

bacon Wed 13-Jun-12 20:06:18

I bottle fed both my boys and would conclude these boys are the healthiest & strongest in their class. Agree far too much pushing with breast is best, what about weaning the best and for mums to feed their children properly. Was fed up with the breast feeding police banging on. Government should be concentrating on mums learning to cook and feeding their off-spring real food.

nethunsreject Wed 13-Jun-12 20:42:26

Actually, I've just noticed that it is one question per poster, so, in preference to my other question I would really like to ask how you square being a feminist with stoking the media invented 'Mommy wars' fire? Personally, I don't think it's entirely helpful to women to be pitted against each other in terms of how they are raising their kids and I do feel that your article in the Guardian Saturday magazine did this.

ecuse Wed 13-Jun-12 21:49:42

Hi Zoe

This is the first live chat I've ever left a question for and I'm starstruck. I have absolutely adored you for years.

Whenever I read my columns I find myself thinking "yes! That's exactly what I wish I had said when I was ranting incoherently at someone the other day!". And then thinking if only there were a way to get everyone else to read your articles they would have to concede the rightness and there'd be world peace and stuff. You are genuinely my favourite political columnist ever.

My question is - is there a writer that makes you think that?

Also I had an epidural on your advice and it was awesome. Thanks for that!

ThisAintKansas Wed 13-Jun-12 22:16:17

Oh, yay! I love Zoe and I am off work tomorrow. Result <Get In!>

Zoe: You are bloody clever and thoroughly sensible and very lovely. You never fail to hit the nail on the head and give it a good battering with the hammer to boot. I love your writing. You know, we could be friends. You could talk and I could just listen and nod and smile like a goon.

(OK, I am not a creepy stalker, promise <strokes Zoe's arm soothingly> grin)

Seriously, though. My questions is: What are you reading at the moment?

For the record, I have just finished 'Half Blood Blues' by Esi Edugyan (beautiful) and am now reading Toni Morrison's 'Home' (great writing, but disappointingly slight for Morrison).

p.s. Are you on goodreads.com? wink

maples Thu 14-Jun-12 00:22:39

Alberts I ebf for 6 months and am lighter now than when I got pg! I don't think there's a general rule that bf makes you put on weight! Quite the reverse surely?

Arana Thu 14-Jun-12 05:10:14

Can I fawn too please smile

Can't join the live chat cos I'm in Oz, and I'll be asleep, but here's my vague rambly thought...

You're a very common sense, logical, reasonable person. I absolutely love that, it's the way I think, and the way I deal with the world (I like to think anyway).
Bearing that in mind, how do you deal with overly emotive issues, both in yourself and others? How do you draw the line about head and heart decisions without overthinking the whole thing? How do you keep your cool with people who refuse to consider logic, reason and facts?

Sorry if it's an odd question!

<prostrates self>
<worships>
<backs out of room while averting eyes>

Sittinginthesun Thu 14-Jun-12 08:12:25

No question, just another fan! smile

Zoe, what's the best book you've ever read as an adult?

FfoFfycsecs Thu 14-Jun-12 10:07:57

Right, I've thought of a question. It's a crap one, sorry.
Are you on mumsnet? And what's your opinion of the website (given as we're a bit of a target in the media recently who think we're all middle class whingers?)

maples Thu 14-Jun-12 10:08:20

Zoe, I haven't read your book but I understand that it says the benefits of bf are overestimated. I stand to be corrected if this is not what you are saying.

As we are a country with very low bf rates, do you worry that this message will further undermine bf here?

I'd like to ask about the 'backlash against breastfeeding' article.

Do you accept that breastmilk is the physiologically normal food for a baby?

It therefore has no 'benefits', overstated or otherwise. Its not an 'orthodoxy' to state that breastfeeding is the biological/physiological norm for a baby, nor is it a matter of opinion. Its just a fact [shrug]

As far as the feminism argument goes, I think it is pretty anti-woman for big business to be allowed to undermine our biological norms, and the future health of ourselves and our babies, in the name of profits. And as for Elisabeth Badinter, she bangs on about how awful it is for the poor father to be 'completely put aside' whilst his partner dedicates herself to breastfeeding - classic 'what about the menz' if ever I heard it hmm My partner, as an adult male, is perfectly able to recognise that the needs of an infant need to come first and that it is not forever.

MrsMicawber Thu 14-Jun-12 11:33:31

Zoe, bearing in mind your article on the jubilee jobseekers, how do you feel about media jobs being contingent on first securing an unpaid internship, and thus blocking out anyone who can't afford to work for nothing?

Even if the paper you worked for supplied you with an unpaid assistant as part of an industry wide status quo, would you consider paying him/her out of your own pocket?

LateDeveloper Thu 14-Jun-12 11:51:02

Hi Zoe

Really enough fawning already. Once you've finished vomming here's a q for you: As a feminist yourself where would you put mumsnet on the conservative/reactionary to radical/progressive scale? Do forums like this advance womenkind or help hold us back?

ThisAintKansas Thu 14-Jun-12 11:58:03

Good question@MrsMicawber. I work with young people and there is o way in unless you can afford to work for free.

manfrom Thu 14-Jun-12 12:13:12

Hi Zoe

You wrote recently about social mobility and said that one of the great problems was a fear of slipping down the class ladder. Is this a personal fear you have as well for your children? You had the benefit of a great education which I'm sure helped you get your job at the Guardian - and presumably you'd want your DCs to have the same opportunities. I'm interested as there's a fairly lively debate on MN about private education.

FunnysInLaJardin Thu 14-Jun-12 12:46:37

I'd also like to say thank for providing a common sense approach to pregnancy child birth and child rearing. It's not often that someone in the public eye dares to be so forthright. It really helped me when I was pregnant with DS2 and validated a lot of my choices.

Do you find you get criticised for being so sensible?

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 14-Jun-12 13:01:18

Zoe's just rushed in and we'll be off in a sec...

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:02:01

Hello everyone
Sorry I'm late, thanks for all your questions, I am going to answer them in a random order as quickly as I can

mollythetortoise Thu 14-Jun-12 13:03:05

hello Zoe, I like your children's name although I hadn't heard of your sons name before. Where did you get them from - literature/ family members/baby names on mumsnet?

loveroflife Thu 14-Jun-12 13:03:31

Hi Zoe,

I'd like to know what subjects you love writing about the most? What really is a joy to write about and what is not. Are you fully responsible for deciding what your weekly subject matter is your column or do you act on a editors instructions?

Thanks - keep writing and I'll keep reading

loveroflife

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:04:14

Rabbitee

according to amazon review, its just her old book with a new cover and a new name.. i checked it out, and it is, the same blurb and everything... thats not very good is it!

No, this is totally true: it's the same book, in a paperback edition. This is made doubly complicated by the fact that the first edition was also a paperback, and then complicated again by the change of name. It totally sucks. The first person to review it on Amazon said "i liked it the first time, now I just feel sorry for her."
I am going to make it my mission of 2012 to make sure nobody buys it by accident.

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:04:48

AitchTwoOhOneTwo

oh that's right, she was the first woman ever to be pregnant, even before Myleene Klass... grin

And I'm the first woman to be able to play the piano while pregnant.
oh no, wait...

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:05:56

frankie4

Zoe, I don't have any questions about parenting. But I did really like the article you wrote a few months ago about how the State is subsidising companies such as Tesco by letting them get away with paying minimum wage and then the State having to top up the low wages with benefits.

Ok, rant over .... back to parenting....

Funnily enough I was arguing about this last night with roger alton on Sky Papers. They don't seem to get it at all that wages out to be set at an amount you can live on. This seems to be a totally alien concept... which is bizarre, it's like having to go back to the beginning and argue about slavery all over again. sorry rant over. for now

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:09:56

BIWItheBold

Oh fuckity buggery bollocks. I think Zoe is absolutely fabulous and would love to be part of the webchat.

Unfortunately I am working Athens this week where the temperature is in the mid 30s and it isn't raining and so I will be a bit busy and not able to take part.

Not that I want to rub your noses in it or anything grin

My question for Zoe - I think, possibly inevitably, that you ended up writing columns about pregnancy/childbirth/babies because of your lifestage. Obviously these will have paid the bills. But do you feel that there is a lot of pressure on women in the media to write such columns? Whilst they are/were hugely entertaining, and well written, I did sometimes feel that you had been sidelined into 'soft/fluffy' instead of more serious journalism - and I notice now that you are writing much more serious stuff. Or was this your choice?

By the way, it's bloody hot here ...

<legs it>

Sheesh Athens must be interesting...
Erm... I had always written a lot about myself, even pre-pregnancy, as a kind of slag about town (I'm not using the word slag perjoratively. I was very proud of this). So I didn't feel that I was poisoning my brand, particularly. It was pretty fluffy before.
But actually you're right, writing about parenting is a very particular pigeonhole for women, and when I got back to work, partly because I never put a pin in the calendar and said "right, I'm back at work", I found that for ages, years, I never got asked to do anything that wasn't baby related. And that is totally decimating to a career, because you don't stay a "young mum" forever. I ended up having a stupid tantrum and refusing to write anything at all personal, which carried its own penalties....

mollythetortoise Thu 14-Jun-12 13:11:42

p.s enjoyed your article on trolling yesterday (or maybe day before). I didn't realise trolling came from the fishing technique rather than the ones under the bridge.

I agreed with your point that the name Troll given to the people who do this sort of thing, glamorises them somewhat and makes them sound menancing and interesting whereas we should just call them "rude people" as that is exactly what they are and just makes them sound a bit silly

I wonder if the fact that everyone has an onscreen name rather than their own name is what makes it easier to be rude and hurtful to people.
Even my daughter (8) has various screen personas (club penguin, moshi monsters, superclubs etc) so it is obviously the way everyone interacts on the internet now. Not sure what can be done about that though.

vezzie Thu 14-Jun-12 13:15:06

Hi Zoe,
Just saw your piece in yesterday's Guardian about trolls. I think you noted that when people do get legally santioned for online abuse, it's usually racist, and nasty sexist abuse is generally ignored or tolerated. Assuming I have sort of paraphrased you alright (do say if not), why do you think this is, and what do you think, if anything, could be done about it? In general do you think legal sanctions are the right way to not-tolerate online abuse?

(sorry about incoherence, v. spur of the moment as saw your piece out of the corner of my eye this morning and then saw you on mn just now on my lunch break!)

moonbells Thu 14-Jun-12 13:15:14

Hi Zoë
Hope the family's doing well - I used to really look forward to your anti-natal column, as my bump was only a couple of weeks behind your first... my Mum used to cut them out the paper and send them to me, not realising I could get them online! grin

How do you find juggling the childcare now you have two? And are you feeling just a little bit daunted by T going to school in Sept?

(Can't think of anything more intelligent to ask today, sorry!)

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:16:00

albertswearengen

Hi I read your article about 'The Backlash against breastfeeding' and found it very interesting. I was wondering why, if you think that the studies showing 'breast is best' are methodologically flawed why the government and the health profession are so keen to promote it and to push so much money and resources at the campaign?
I exclusively breastfed for 6 months and at the end of it was exhausted and 3 stone heavier. I did it because I believed some of the hype and felt I had to try and do my best for my ds coming from an asthma prone family. Frankly I would be quite cross if I found out it was a badly researched load of old twaddle. I never swallowed the whole higher IQ bit mind you.
Thanks.

Interesting question, I've thought about this a lot and don't have an answer (you don't often get a chance to say that, because you're usually in a fight with someone who thinks formula is the syrup of the anti-christ).
I basically think a) there's a lot of lobbying goes on about this - I counted fifty separate breastfeeding charities (well, I counted them because they all complained about me en masse), but no lobbying at all from the what-if-it's-not-all-that? side. Formula companies have signed this tacit code that they all accept that breast is best, partly as a kind of penance for the outrageous developing world stuff. So you have gov departments which don't necessarily have a view one way or the other, under a lot of pressure from organisations with a v strong view in one direction, and no voice from the other side.
b) there is so much of this early years intervention stuff, and a constant struggle to find that silver bullet that makes children from some families do better from the word go than children from other families. So they're constantly trying to fix on a point of difference - these people breastfeed, or they read to their children, or they eat more quinoa - and then work back from there as to why it might make such a big developmental difference. In these conditions, everybody is poised to overstate.

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:16:30

nethunsreject

Zoe, you had a go at methodological problems wrt breastfeeding research, yet you are happy to quote the opinions of a woman who works for a formula company wrt how 'good' or otherwise breastfeeding is.

Have you read 'The Politics Of Breastfeeding'?

Which one works for a formula company?

mydoorisalwaysopen Thu 14-Jun-12 13:16:36

Hello Zoe
I'm sorry I'm not a guardian reader so don't know your work or you book. How do you find bringing up kids in London? Did you grow up in London yourself.

bagelmonkey Thu 14-Jun-12 13:19:04

Hi Zoe
Just wondering how much you research things before doing them in your own life? I find that, when it comes to having children, I'm just making it all up as I go along & doing my research after the event when I'm trying to trouble shoot.

LadySybildeChocolate Thu 14-Jun-12 13:19:44

Hi smile I'm just wondering how your writing started off? I'd love to write some articles/column, but no idea where to start. I think I can string a sentence together, so I have a little hope. Any tips (please)?

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:19:44

MooncupGoddess

Zoe - think you are doing great work at the moment, your columns in the Saturday Guardian are fab.

Obviously you have been a feminist all along, but can I ask, has having children affected/changed your views on feminism-related issues and if so, how?

Thanks. And yes! Great question...
here's how my views have changed or just solidified maybe:
- I was always pro-choice, but I didn't realise until I had children that your reproductive rights changed, determined, trumped all your other rights. That there's no point having rights to equal pay, or equal divorce or whatever, unless you first have control over when and whether you have children.
So I guess you could say it's made me more pro-abortion. In a roundabout sort of way
- I always thought the chores gap was just stupid whining, and women who made a fuss about it should either strap on a pair at home, or just have lower standards. What I didn't realise is that anyone can have low standards until they have children, and then life does become much more domestic, and you do have to have the conversation in public about how that labour is divided, because if you just keep it private, men do sod all.
- there's more.
- I'll come back to this

LeB0F Thu 14-Jun-12 13:20:39

Ooh hello Zoe- I too have loved you for years. In the absence of a sensible question, may I just ask which Malory Towers character you would be? Thankyou.

"you don't often get a chance to say that, because you're usually in a fight with someone who thinks formula is the syrup of the anti-christ"

Really? I mean, genuinely interested here, really ??

I run a BF support group so I guess that makes me pretty pro-BF, and mix with lots of very pro-BF people generally, and I have actually never met anyone who thinks or says that. IMO its a bit of a straw man, to accuse those with an interest in BF support of thinking that formula is poison/devil syrup/insert derogatory term here, because that simply isn't what the massive majority of us think.

You must meet some right rude twats smile

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:22:42

nethunsreject

Actually, I've just noticed that it is one question per poster, so, in preference to my other question I would really like to ask how you square being a feminist with stoking the media invented 'Mommy wars' fire? Personally, I don't think it's entirely helpful to women to be pitted against each other in terms of how they are raising their kids and I do feel that your article in the Guardian Saturday magazine did this.

The article about breastfeeding? Oh I really disagree - my whole point is that women should just stop having a go at one another about their infant feeding choices. It's the fact that breastfeeding is regarded as uncritically superior that sets women against one another.

FunnysInLaJardin Thu 14-Jun-12 13:25:20

following on from my previous question, I think I have my answer!

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:26:00

ecuse

Hi Zoe

This is the first live chat I've ever left a question for and I'm starstruck. I have absolutely adored you for years.

Whenever I read my columns I find myself thinking "yes! That's exactly what I wish I had said when I was ranting incoherently at someone the other day!". And then thinking if only there were a way to get everyone else to read your articles they would have to concede the rightness and there'd be world peace and stuff. You are genuinely my favourite political columnist ever.

My question is - is there a writer that makes you think that?

Also I had an epidural on your advice and it was awesome. Thanks for that!

Oh you are lovely. You are my favourite commenter ever.
Erm... I really like Mehdi Hassan. I really like Paul Krugman. I like Helen Lewis on the Statesman. Obv I think Polly Toynbee is great. I love John Harris. Have you read Richard Murphy's blog? He's a tax accountant. Is hilarious. it makes no sense, a hilarious tax accountant. It's true though that I don't read as many columnists as I would if I were on holiday, because it gives you the yips, if you agree with them, you think everything's already been said, if you disagree with them, you think you're fighting a losing battle.... That makes me sound pathetic!

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:28:34

ThisAintKansas

Oh, yay! I love Zoe and I am off work tomorrow. Result <Get In!>

Zoe: You are bloody clever and thoroughly sensible and very lovely. You never fail to hit the nail on the head and give it a good battering with the hammer to boot. I love your writing. You know, we could be friends. You could talk and I could just listen and nod and smile like a goon.

(OK, I am not a creepy stalker, promise <strokes Zoe's arm soothingly> grin)

Seriously, though. My questions is: What are you reading at the moment?

For the record, I have just finished 'Half Blood Blues' by Esi Edugyan (beautiful) and am now reading Toni Morrison's 'Home' (great writing, but disappointingly slight for Morrison).

p.s. Are you on goodreads.com? wink

Thanks so much. I am going to read Half Blood Blues next on this very recommendation. I'm actually reading The Sisters Brothers, I found it in Hay, by that British Columbian author whose name is probably Patrick. And I'm reading Finance and the Good Society which makes me want to boil my head. Sisters Brothers is really good, until you lose it down the back of the toilet for two days, and then you start figuring out what will probably happen, and then you lose interest. So don't do that..

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:30:14

AgentProvocateur

Zoe, what's the best book you've ever read as an adult?

I read Waiting for the Barbarians when I was 33, and I couldn't believe I was only then reading the best book I'd ever read. I thought I knew it all...

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:31:21

maples

Alberts I ebf for 6 months and am lighter now than when I got pg! I don't think there's a general rule that bf makes you put on weight! Quite the reverse surely?

Well, that's the thing - it works differently for different people. There isn't a rule. Apart from a study in Honduras.

ThisAintKansas Thu 14-Jun-12 13:31:23

I'm with Zoe on the bf thing.

<Oh, and its great when your kids are great, big, long-legged brats and the whole tiresome and false 'BF v FF' thing is just a distant memory, or at least the two camps are overshadowed entirely by two new camps: The 'Only alfalfa is good enough for my little Johnny' camp versus 'An orange club, panda pop and a packet of frazzles never did me any harm' camp'>

<sigh>

raaraathenoisyleo Thu 14-Jun-12 13:33:21

Another long time fan here,
could you talk a bit about how your feminism informs your parenting... Not really a question I know!

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:33:31

FfoFfycsecs

Right, I've thought of a question. It's a crap one, sorry.
Are you on mumsnet? And what's your opinion of the website (given as we're a bit of a target in the media recently who think we're all middle class whingers?)

Well, look, my view is totally skewed by the fact that I'm on the Guardian Comment is Free site a lot, because they make me, and the people on that are so rude (not always... just when they disagree) that you have to put on some kind of psychological chain mail before you go in. So whenever I get into a conversation on Mumsnet, I'm amazed at how civilised it is, so that I sometimes think people are being sarcastic when really they're just being human beings.

MooncupGoddess Thu 14-Jun-12 13:34:01

Thanks Zoe, that is really interesting. I do remember you writing a good column on abortion in the Evening Standard about ten years ago <shows age>.

And I have just ordered Waiting for the Barbarians!

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:36:52

maples

Zoe, I haven't read your book but I understand that it says the benefits of bf are overestimated. I stand to be corrected if this is not what you are saying.

As we are a country with very low bf rates, do you worry that this message will further undermine bf here?

Oh yes, that is what I'm saying. The point is, I'm not here to send a "message" to mums, or to increase the rates of anything. I'm a journalist: so if gov departments or third sector agencies are regularly giving out information that's misleading, or plain wrong, then I'd see that as my main task, to point that out.
But it doesn't mean I'd ever not tell people to breastfeed. Because I genuinely think it's the best thing ever. I was reading Wolf Hall when my second one was tiny, and I experienced the whole thing as hallucinogenic bliss. Then I started reading the sequel, which is fine, but it made me realise how much greyer the world is when you're not breastfeeding. So I'd be the first to tell someone that it's a good idea.

ThisAintKansas Thu 14-Jun-12 13:37:01

The Sisters Brothers is next on y reading list, now, thanks grin

As an aside: How the hell do people lose weight while breastfeeding? I was totally mis sold on that front. I thought I was going to be skin and bone from having the very life sucked out of me and all the raging hormones and 'insert sciencey bit' stuff going on. Instead, I was stuck on the settee watching way too much 'Escape to the Country' and inhaling bourbons. I have never been fatter.

Bit like the 'It just falls off once you're running around after your toddler' bollocks. My oldest was a Usain Bolt in the making at 10 mths and I was still a fat bloater.

Going back to work. That does it.

LeB0F Thu 14-Jun-12 13:38:32

I've just ordered WFTB too. I'll let you know how it compares to Blyton.

loveroflife Thu 14-Jun-12 13:40:40

no to back to work because the state of believing that elasticated waistband on leggings are fine forever as you slob around will be smashed to pieces...

moving onto proper waistbands with zips and buttons is just too traumatic...

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:42:11

Queen0fFlamingEverything

I'd like to ask about the 'backlash against breastfeeding' article.

Do you accept that breastmilk is the physiologically normal food for a baby?

It therefore has no 'benefits', overstated or otherwise. Its not an 'orthodoxy' to state that breastfeeding is the biological/physiological norm for a baby, nor is it a matter of opinion. Its just a fact [shrug]

As far as the feminism argument goes, I think it is pretty anti-woman for big business to be allowed to undermine our biological norms, and the future health of ourselves and our babies, in the name of profits. And as for Elisabeth Badinter, she bangs on about how awful it is for the poor father to be 'completely put aside' whilst his partner dedicates herself to breastfeeding - classic 'what about the menz' if ever I heard it hmm My partner, as an adult male, is perfectly able to recognise that the needs of an infant need to come first and that it is not forever.

Well, I'm not really defending Badinter. I think she's a bit of a nutter, for reasons completely unrelated to breastfeeding. I was citing her as an example of a particular kind of thinking, that isn't often expressed.
Generally, though: sure, breastmilk is physiologically normal. I'm not saying they shouldn't drink it. I don't understand what you mean by "it's just a fact". That it's physiologically normal is a fact?
By these terms, it is more normal to eat nuts and seeds than it is to eat cheese. You know, as humans, we adapt the world as we find it so that it suits us better. I was simply asking, are the claims made for breastfeeding verifiable? And the answer is, no. But if your only claim is that it's a "norm", then sure. Nobody said breastfeeding was abnormal, least of all me.

Greedygirl Thu 14-Jun-12 13:42:21

Hi Zoe. I really enjoy your writing. Re the breastfeeding backlash article - if I had read that when I was breastfeeding I would have been angryhmmsad but my breastfeeding days ended a couple of years ago now, I found myself thinking "yep, she has a point" (sorry I didn't think anything more intellectual and insightful!), and that is the point surely - if you are in the trenches, so to speak, and dealing with cracked nipples, weird underwear and a baby who wants to feed every 2 hours then you want to hear that it is best. If you are ff your baby you want to hear that it doesn't matter. Anyway, thanks for the article, it made me think.

loveroflife Thu 14-Jun-12 13:42:31

p.s really hope my question gets answered - child is not getting fed until it is <nothing like priorities.....>

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:44:09

MrsMicawber

Zoe, bearing in mind your article on the jubilee jobseekers, how do you feel about media jobs being contingent on first securing an unpaid internship, and thus blocking out anyone who can't afford to work for nothing?

Even if the paper you worked for supplied you with an unpaid assistant as part of an industry wide status quo, would you consider paying him/her out of your own pocket?

Funnily enough, I am paying my work experience out of my own pocket right this instant. Even though she has buggered off to do something else because she thought it would be boring to watch me do a webchat
I think it's terrible, to be honest. Terrible in the media, in politics, in the third sector, I think it creates social apartheid and seals off these "desirable" careers for the people who can afford to get into them.

Greedygirl Thu 14-Jun-12 13:44:51

P.S. totally agree about the breastfeeding hormones! Lovely!

ThisAintKansas Thu 14-Jun-12 13:44:57

loveorlife, it was hard making the move from Asda pull-on dresses and leggings (Topshop extra long - the holy grail of black legging), but it had to be done some time. Wor saved my fashion sense. I had started getting excited about Next FGS.

ThisAintKansas Thu 14-Jun-12 13:45:05

work

cerealqueen Thu 14-Jun-12 13:47:50

Hi Zoe
What aspect of Motherhood have you found most challenging?

For me, coming to it a bit later, it is the lack of me time, being able to do whatever I wanted whenever and (while I have two young ones at home) the ability to leave the house on a whim, not like its a military operation. smile

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:48:47

LateDeveloper

Hi Zoe

Really enough fawning already. Once you've finished vomming here's a q for you: As a feminist yourself where would you put mumsnet on the conservative/reactionary to radical/progressive scale? Do forums like this advance womenkind or help hold us back?

You know what I find interesting, is the number of people who use "mumsnet" as an insult: who call you a "middle class mum" as an insult. Who find something inherently ridiculous and/ or irrelevant about a group of women who are mothers, who may or may not be predominantly middle-class, discussing things. It's absolutely absurd.
Women don't all agree - some women will be conservative and reactionary, some will be radical, and there is more of a chance of their encountering one another on Mumsnet than there is on, say, the Spectator website. So some threads I'll find very progressive and others I won't. But there's this background hum that grouping together in the first place leaves you vulnerable to people writing you off as a bunch of chattering women... which is just bollocks.

ThisAintKansas Thu 14-Jun-12 13:50:40

Tell your work experience bod to get the kettle on!

As my boss used to say to me during my first work experience stint in the media: 'There are 100 people standing behind you that will do it if you don't want to fucking well do it'. Legendary guy grin hmm

Probably 500 people in this climate...

Sunnywithachanceofshowers Thu 14-Jun-12 13:50:44

The irony is that many of us aren't mums! Hello Zoe

loveroflife Thu 14-Jun-12 13:50:50

Oh Christ - please don't ThisAin'tKansas...

My friend said to me the other day (who I hadn't seen for ages) after looking at me sadly thinking 'Jeeeez you've not lost a pound since he was born and he's now about to start nursery' "Oh I like your dress over your leggings".

I just couldn't bring myself to say - "What this old dress, it's only my fecking stretched and out of shape maternity TOP!!!" rewashed and not going anywhere>

P.S Going to Next would mean actually shopping for clothes rather than bunging some shapeless tents into the trolley with the rest of the weekly shop - again far too traumatic...

nethunsreject Thu 14-Jun-12 13:53:27

Thanks for answering.

Badinter works for a formula company.

I still don't see how you are doing anything other than fueling the old 'mommy wars' debate though, sorry, though I accept that is the opposite of what you meant to do.

Also, I don't think infant nutrition can be compared to choosing nuts over cheese. It's a pretty big public health issue dressed up as a lifestyle choice, because that's easier than actually dealing with supporting parents.

I have to say that I read your article as pretty undermining, especially to people who are stuggling with breastfeeding.

Fwiw, I have one of each (ie one bf, one ff). I have no problems with the informed use and choice of formula - it can be the right choice. However I do have an issue with the appalling lack of support for breastfeeding women in society and in the media.

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:54:14

manfrom

Hi Zoe

You wrote recently about social mobility and said that one of the great problems was a fear of slipping down the class ladder. Is this a personal fear you have as well for your children? You had the benefit of a great education which I'm sure helped you get your job at the Guardian - and presumably you'd want your DCs to have the same opportunities. I'm interested as there's a fairly lively debate on MN about private education.

Oh crikey. Yes. I can see that private education is a huge fissure at the moment. It's not something I'd ever choose, but that's as much to do with how I hated it myself as it is to do with a political stance on how divisive it is.
I was talking to this amazing social geographer who said that at times of great inequality, the people who suffered most anxiety, paradoxically, were the ones at the bottom of the top bracket - because the consequences of slippage were not as they were in the Seventies (when there was a 6:1 wage ratio between the top and the bottom), but rather, a life of radically different (by which I mean fewer) opportunities. Dorling found this a plausible explanation for the fact that mental illness is much higher in unequal societies, across the board, not just at the bottom. So I guess if you were to ask me my worries for my children, living in a very unequal society, it's that the anxiety gets to them. I don't think private schooling is a very good answer, even, in fact especially, for the people who can afford to go to private school.

ThisAintKansas Thu 14-Jun-12 13:54:26

Yep. Lots of snidey 'a bunch of stay at home yummies' comments when you mention MN. Depressing.

nethunsreject Thu 14-Jun-12 13:54:32

QUeenOfFlamingEverything made a far more eloquent job of saying what I wanted to say last night.

loveroflife Thu 14-Jun-12 13:58:53

"However I do have an issue with the appalling lack of support for breastfeeding women in society and in the media."

I don't think that's fair nethunsreject.

I don't remember any bottle feeding support groups, BF is encouraged at pre natal groups, health visitors push for it, in hospital straight after biirth, there's plenty of areas/rooms for mothers in shops, restuarants, posters for breast feeding in doctors, childrens centres etc...

If anything I found bottle feeding was never encouraged..(rightly or wrongly)

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 13:58:59

nethunsreject

Thanks for answering.

Badinter works for a formula company.

I still don't see how you are doing anything other than fueling the old 'mommy wars' debate though, sorry, though I accept that is the opposite of what you meant to do.

Also, I don't think infant nutrition can be compared to choosing nuts over cheese. It's a pretty big public health issue dressed up as a lifestyle choice, because that's easier than actually dealing with supporting parents.

I have to say that I read your article as pretty undermining, especially to people who are stuggling with breastfeeding.

Fwiw, I have one of each (ie one bf, one ff). I have no problems with the informed use and choice of formula - it can be the right choice. However I do have an issue with the appalling lack of support for breastfeeding women in society and in the media.

Mmm. I did quote from Badinter's book, that's true. I think if I'd known she worked for a formula company, I still wouldn't have mentioned it, because the inference would be that she was being paid to have those views. She's a philosopher and a feminist. I don't think there's any doubt that her views were authentic.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether you think breastfeeding is more or less important than nuts and cheese. You do what's right for you, if you ask me what I think, I'll tell you I think breastfeeding is great. The problems start when people try to dictate to one another, either culturally or in public health messages. Sure, give out a public health message that's correct, but it has to be correct. I don't think anything is improved by overstatement.
I wasn't trying to undermine anybody.
I've got Widders dictating her answers behind me! It's a bit surreal.

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 14:00:05

ThisAintKansas

The Sisters Brothers is next on y reading list, now, thanks grin

As an aside: How the hell do people lose weight while breastfeeding? I was totally mis sold on that front. I thought I was going to be skin and bone from having the very life sucked out of me and all the raging hormones and 'insert sciencey bit' stuff going on. Instead, I was stuck on the settee watching way too much 'Escape to the Country' and inhaling bourbons. I have never been fatter.

Bit like the 'It just falls off once you're running around after your toddler' bollocks. My oldest was a Usain Bolt in the making at 10 mths and I was still a fat bloater.

Going back to work. That does it.

me too. never been fatter, never been hungrier.

Bitzer Thu 14-Jun-12 14:02:04

Zoe – FWIW I loved, loved your backlash against breastfeeding piece. I'm absolutely pro BF but felt everything you said badly needed saying.

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 14:02:18

cerealqueen

Hi Zoe
What aspect of Motherhood have you found most challenging?

For me, coming to it a bit later, it is the lack of me time, being able to do whatever I wanted whenever and (while I have two young ones at home) the ability to leave the house on a whim, not like its a military operation. smile

Yes. Same. But I also have a huge problem with getting mine to do what I say. It's like I'm a cartoon that they watch when I'm being amusing, and just wander off when I get tiresome.

loveroflife Thu 14-Jun-12 14:03:40

oh no my question wasn't answered <off to feed child now then>

LucyBTA Thu 14-Jun-12 14:04:03

Absolutely, Zoe, it is your job as a journalist to question the advice that's out there, however annoying that might be to groups with entrenched views when what you're saying doesn't fit with their view. If people feel undermined by that, then that is their problem and not yours. I personally find it rather empowering when I investigate an issue and find that it's more complicated than it first appears.

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 14:04:19

mydoorisalwaysopen

Hello Zoe
I'm sorry I'm not a guardian reader so don't know your work or you book. How do you find bringing up kids in London? Did you grow up in London yourself.

I grew up in London so it seems normal to me. But then they're not teenagers yet. Ask me again when they start smoking at the age of 8

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 14:05:09

ThisAintKansas

Yep. Lots of snidey 'a bunch of stay at home yummies' comments when you mention MN. Depressing.

So true! I think really what they want to say is "bloody women" but they know they're not allowed

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 14:05:46

Bitzer

Zoe ? FWIW I loved, loved your backlash against breastfeeding piece. I'm absolutely pro BF but felt everything you said badly needed saying.

Thank you. Are you named after Bitzer Maloney from the Hairy McClary books?

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 14:08:16

loveroflife

Hi Zoe,

I'd like to know what subjects you love writing about the most? What really is a joy to write about and what is not. Are you fully responsible for deciding what your weekly subject matter is your column or do you act on a editors instructions?

Thanks - keep writing and I'll keep reading

loveroflife

That's funny. I was just about to answer the question about tops over leggings (i had this minging dress from Topshop that smelt like a rag).
At the moment, I do pretty well what I want, except on Saturdays, when I have to go round the country finding something currentaffairsy to ask people questions about...
Feed your child!
x

ZoeWilliams Thu 14-Jun-12 14:09:31

Thanks for all these really interesting questions. It's genuinely like a cocktail party, isn't it, Mumsnet? I love it. Going into Comment is Free on the Guardian is like walking into a boozer full of football hooligans.

nethunsreject Thu 14-Jun-12 14:10:08

loveroflife, 'pushing' isn't the same as supporting. UK has high initiation rates for bfing, but they reduce rapidly.

I agree with Zoe wrt public health messages actually. My issue is that they are merely stated, then not backed up with support. I disagree wrt evidence in this case (science grad emoticon wink), but actually, on the whole I agree with the general ethos of what ZW is getting at.

I also agree that people shouldn't be dictating to others, but this happens in a more insidious fashion from big business and undermines women in particular (imo) when it comes to infant feeding choices, childbirth, etc.

Bitzer Thu 14-Jun-12 14:11:34

Yup. That's me :-)

raaraathenoisyleo Thu 14-Jun-12 14:14:48

Zoe, you're right about the mumsnet cocktail party, I tend to see the rest of the internet as a succession of old school pubs now, full of middle aged men and teenage boys.

Bitzer Thu 14-Jun-12 14:19:37

quick question if there's still time. Since you mention CiF, how do offensive responses to your articles affect you? I'm regularly horrified by how vicious people can be - does it ever get you down?

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 14-Jun-12 14:25:24

Sorry, Zoe's had to finish up (only scheduled to last till 2pm). Thanks for all your questions - and thanks to Zoe for all her answers.

SweetTheSting Thu 14-Jun-12 14:34:04

Good webchat, thanks!

iexist Thu 12-Jul-12 20:40:04

Hi Zoe,
- Always find your articles v funny and well observed - I remember you from G&L (year below I think)- you were funny then too.
Have had 4 babies since - started early (ish) but wish there had been more commentators with irreverant voice and comic take when I was deep in the quagmire of milk and shit that is new motherhood.
I am now a newbie blogger with an eye on the school gate - hoping to raise some smiles in the, rather too earnest, world of Mummystuff. (just got blog of week from Mumsnet - Whooo Hooo, Get Me!)
Check me out if you have a second - http://chroniclesofdomesticdisaster.wordpress.com/

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