MNHQ: Mumsnet and transphobia - our thoughts

(170 Posts)
SarahMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 03-Jul-14 10:23:08

Hey everyone,

Thanks to all for your posts on this issue - we appreciate them, and have read through them all in order to take everyone’s views into account. We’ve had a lengthy discussion - several, in fact - at MNHQ on how to move forward re transphobia on Mumsnet, and this is where we’ve landed.

Firstly: we need to hold up our hands. Mumsnet is a general interest site; we moderate across a wide host of issues on a daily basis, and can’t claim to be experts in any one field. As a result, our policy in terms of Talk Guidelines and what we deem deletable has always been inclusive rather than exclusive: we find it more sustainable to operate under broad principles of mutual respect and courtesy, rather than specifying what users can and can’t say on any given topic.

Having thought about it, therefore, we’ve decided we want to apply those same broad principles when it comes to transphobia, rather than coming up with a “Mumsnet” definition of what transphobia is, or with a list of specific deletable transgressions. We realise that several of you have asked for just such a list, on the very reasonable grounds that transgenderism is, for some, an area about which they know little, and it would therefore be helpful to have a clear set of “you can say this/you can’t say that” guidelines. Our reasons for not wanting to go down that route are as follows:

1) we don’t do this for any other type of deletable offence - racism, sexism, homophobia, disabilism or ageism

2) we’re poorly placed to do it. We can’t claim to be experts in transgenderism; therefore, for us to come up with a definition of what we believe it to be would, we feel, be presumptuous

3) part of the reason we haven’t done so for any other “ism” is because it’s impossible to make such a list definitive. For every ruling we make (“it’s transphobic to say X”) 3/10/a thousand more questions will arise (“what about if you say Y?”)

4) such a list wouldn’t take any account of context. As I said above, many of the people who suggested a definition/list would be useful did so because of the lack of knowledge and clarity around the issue. Having given this some thought, and in particular, having read the recent thread on the subject in Chat, it seems to us that folk might very reasonably ask questions around transgenderism that are purely in the spirit of enquiry and in no way intended to give offence but which might, under specific guidelines on wording, be construed as transphobic. We’ve no wish at all to stifle discussion of an issue that is, rightly, gaining visibility - in fact, we think it’d be counterproductive.

Currently, we don’t specifically mention transphobia in the list of offences we delete for in the Talk Guidelines. We’ll amend that now, so it’s spelled out to anyone using the website that transphobia is not welcome on Mumsnet. We’ll also change the Lesbian and Gay Parents topic to LGBT Parents, as suggested, to make it consistent with our LGBT Children topic.

Ultimately, we think one of the real strengths of MN is that it allows users to have robust disagreements about difficult topics, but without hate speech, and without comments that are just plain mean or personally directed at other posters. If there are any posts that you think we need to look at please flag them up by hitting the 'Report' button and we'll always take a look.

Apols for the essay. Hope all of this makes sense, and you can follow our reasoning on it. Please let us know what you think and as ever, thanks for the input. flowers

MNHQ

IceBeing Thu 03-Jul-14 13:46:49

Ican good grief you really hold a good grudge...

In any topic of debate some people will have more personal experience to bring to the discussion than others. As long as people aren't telling others to shut up because they know better then there can be no problem whatsoever with relating their personal experiences!

Upandatem Thu 03-Jul-14 13:47:16

This is a good outcome I think, thanks.

ICanHearYou Thu 03-Jul-14 13:51:23

I absolutely am not saying anything to 'hold a grudge' I think when it comes to personal attacks that it is important for it to be both ways. I did not mention Kim nor did I intend to implicate her.

I think that it is something MNHQ should considered, perhaps I should have vocalised that on a different thread.

gertiegusset Thu 03-Jul-14 13:53:07

TBH ICan, it does rather look that way to me too.

ICanHearYou Thu 03-Jul-14 13:56:49

Then I really apologise it is not my intention to single anyone out.

My point still stands though.

GoshAnneGorilla Thu 03-Jul-14 14:13:39

Some issues are more personal to some people then others. You can't ask MN to legislate against that.

If you are going to talk about a particular issue, people connected to that issue may well want to contribute and should feel able to do so.

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 03-Jul-14 14:24:34

I agree, GothAnne. I think if I was the only person actually from a group that was being talked about I would find myself inexorably drawn to post even if it always went round in circles, ended in tears, others felt I was derailing a theoretical discussion, etc. It's just part of being human.

Yes, I feel that way too.

Just for the point, when ICan wrote that I thought it was about the woman who was a nanny supporting her two nieces and who posted her address. That thread went very odd in the end.

On transphobia, thanks MN. I was worried that someone like me; interested; with no real knowledge; feminist; might stumble into issues. Making it broad and fluid actually helps.

ICanHearYou Thu 03-Jul-14 14:31:10

Well I think that there is a huge difference between talking about a topic personal to you and making a topic personal to you.

I think it's something we need to be mindful of and if MNHQ are against personal attacks then there need to be understand that making topics personal is also not allowed.

gertiegusset Thu 03-Jul-14 14:39:01

The thing is ICan, Kim's the only person on these particular threads that I've seen you say that to (correct me if I'm wrong) and what you're saying now and saying your point still stands does rather detract from your earlier apology.

I don't see the slightest issue with people making topics personal if they are personal. If someone started a thread that affected my life I'm sure I'd take it personally.

What I have a problem with, and I've said it before, is when having a personal debate leads to insults of the 'you feminists ...' variety which, while not aimed at any one individual, are patently designed to hurt and upset specific, targeted people on a thread.

This is not specific to FWR, mind - I think it's exactly the same when someone starts a debate about formula feeding and then pretends the statement 'well, mothers who use formula know they are being selfish' is somehow not a personal attack to the three people who've just posted to say they do that.

HQ is getting better at deleting things as 'not in the spirit of MN' but it isn't quite perfect.

IceBeing Thu 03-Jul-14 14:48:23

I agree with gosh too. There are lots of topics across MN that only a few people can relate real life experience of. I think it would be crazy in the extreme to ask those people not to contribute to the debate.

ICanHearYou Thu 03-Jul-14 14:55:31

I am not suggesting for a minute that people don't contribute to a debate.

I have quite strong views on things that are very personal to me but it is important to approach them as general issues otherwise conversation just gets lost.

Again, I am not talking about Kim, or suggesting that Kim doesn't contribute to matters that are close to her heart, I am simply saying that if there is strict guidelines about having personal conversations or judgements about social factors then that needs to come from both sides.

The reason I said it on this topic is because it is mentioned in the OP, not because it is based around Transphobia and therefore directed at anyone.

I just think it is important to state that if personal attacks are heavily moderated (and rightly so) then it is important to also note when posters are continually turning a debate around to be personal therefore enticing personal attacks.

CoteDAzur Thu 03-Jul-14 15:00:39

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

kim147 Thu 03-Jul-14 15:00:41

icanhearyou

Every time there is a trans thread, I can guarantee that someone will say I am making it about me. Last night - I just posted an opinion. Not anything personal. Just some of my experiences of trans women I knew. Entirely relevant to the debate. I got jumped on - as usual - saying I was making it about me. It happens every single time.

As someone said, it's hard being the only person with actual lived experience of what is being talked about as a trans person. But I don't want to post anymore because the same thing always happens.

You say you weren't posting about me. Fine. It just happens to be on the debate about trans guidelines and if you look at the threads, you can see how many times I was attacked for saying I was making it about me when I was just voicing an opinion and some experience.

People can make up their own minds what you meant.

if there is strict guidelines about having personal conversations or judgements about social factors then that needs to come from both sides.

agree with this.

kim147 Thu 03-Jul-14 15:03:58

Don't worry cote

Like I said, I won't be bothering to post again.

CoteDAzur Thu 03-Jul-14 15:06:31

Suit yourself.

It would be great if you were offering your insight on trans issues, but most of the time it's just a flood of questions at everyone and then refusal to answer anything yourself anyway.

ICanHearYou Thu 03-Jul-14 15:15:23

The thing is, in a debate there is little room for 'personal' it has to be general otherwise it becomes something other than a debate.

That is why when you write academic essays you do not use 'I', because the personal is irrelevant.

If we are saying that personal attacks are not valid and do not add to a discussion (and I absolutely agree with this) then we also have to agree to the opposite.

The only thing I have said to kim about making things personal was in reference to a number of posters who were beginning to approach the subject matter as if it were a personal issue of Kims, I said that I thought we should keep it general otherwise it would be unacceptable debate. I stand by that.

Just to make things irrelevantly personal, I do use 'I' in academic essays, and it is perfectly appropriate in plenty of academic subjects.

I do disagree that personal perspectives aren't useful. They're just useful in a specific way. They can't be a blunt instrument for shutting down discussion - or they shouldn't be.

There was a brilliant thread ages ago called 'small sexual assaults' that was completely full of personal stories of how people have experienced these things they had no way to process.

I honestly don't think the 'personal' side of it is the issue. Plenty of people manage to post really personal points while not creating the imbalance I think we are all aware of.

Lovecat Thu 03-Jul-14 15:21:09

Thank you MNHQ thanks

FloraFox Thu 03-Jul-14 15:22:35

I think this is a very sensible approach. Cheers MNHQ and thanks for keeping MN as a place for women to discuss issues that affect women. There's an element of irony in the fact that it is because it is a general interest site and not a feminist site that women are able to freely discuss things that affect women but these are the days we live in.

thanks

gertiegusset Thu 03-Jul-14 15:23:09

I'm no academic and have followed the threads with much interest, most of us aren't academics and for us the personal is very relevant.

That's ironic, though, cos I am a (baby) academic and I definitely think the personal is relevant!

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