Mumsnet statement about Fathers 4 Justice
Written by Justine Roberts, CEO of Mumsnet, on Saturday 17 March
Some of you may have noticed that a group called Fathers 4 Justice has been saying some pretty unpleasant things about us over the last couple of weeks. In an 'advert' which appeared first on Facebook and then in Friday March 16th's edition of the I, the group claims Mumsnet "promotes gender hatred", and labels "men and boys as rapists, paedophiles and wife beaters". It calls on advertisers to suspend advertising on Mumsnet.
Most people, I'm quite sure, will see the adverts and the 'campaign' behind them for precisely what they are: a naked attempt to court publicity by a group of people who, for whatever reason, appear to have tired of climbing cranes in superhero outfits. (And, just coincidentally, in the run-up to Mother's Day). In fact, it feels a bit like having a particularly irritating toddler repeatedly prodding you with a stick to get some attention.
By and large, it seemed most sensible to ignore them, not least because we've had our hands quite full with stuff that actually matters, like Mumsnet's We Believe You campaign to dispel rape myths.
But since Fathers 4 Justice appear to have attracted some grown-ups' attention, we thought we should tell you a bit about the background to this attack, the truth behind their allegations, and how they are trying to bully us and other organisations.
Here are 10 things you should know...
- On 3 March, a Mumsnet user started a conversation about a poster campaign being touted on Mumsnet's Facebook wall by Fathers 4 Justice, and the fact that Fathers 4 Justice was bombarding a number of sites with this troubling image.
- A conversation then ensued on Mumsnet about Fathers 4 Justice and their tactics, which some members of Fathers 4 Justice joined. Some Mumsnetters said some pretty harsh things.
- We deleted a number of posts that broke our forum guidelines regarding personal attacks. In total, we deleted 70 posts from the thread, which went on over the next few days and reached 1000 posts in total. Sixty of the deleted posts were posts were made by regular Mumsnet members; ten or so were made by new joiners we believed to be from Fathers 4 Justice. Our community managers reminded users to follow forum guidelines on nine separate occasions, and at least one prolific Mumsnetter left the site in protest at our deletion policy.
- On 7 March and 8 March, MNHQ received a series of emails from the Campaign Director of Fathers 4 Justice containing threats of legal action and a threat to contact our advertisers. At the same time, comments on the Fathers 4 Justice Facebook page describing Mumsnetters as "barking mad harridans", "weird sex obsessed paranoid perverts" and "child-abusing contact blockers" were left unmoderated. As were comments that described me variously as a "dried up old hag", "an evil woman" and having an "IQ that would return a negative score".
- On 11 March, Fathers 4 Justice posted another attack ad this time accusing M&S of "sponsoring hateful, bigoted and prejudiced comments about men and boys on Mumsnet" and demanding that M&S withdraw all advertising on Mumsnet or face a boycott. It accused the company of "serving up gender hatred for Mother's Day".
- Other organisations have experienced similar bullying tactics. In recent weeks, Fathers 4 Justice have targeted the lone parents' support charity, Gingerbread, jamming up its telephone helplines. Senior NGO staff have told us they felt too intimidated to speak out against them.
- The suggestion that Mumsnet encourages gender hatred would be funny if it were not so offensive - and plain silly. The central aim of Mumsnet is to make parents' (mothers' and fathers') lives easier. There are many and varied opinions on the site and no one Mumsnet party line prevails, save for the view that we respect diverse opinion. We do not pre-moderate or vet comments made to our discussion boards, of which there are around 30 000 every day.
- Men are and always have been extremely welcome on Mumsnet - and we have a Dadsnet forum for Dads to talk directly with other men, should they wish. We estimate that around 5 to 10% of our 2 million odd monthly users are men. Of course you can always find plenty of Mumsnetters whinging about their male partner's shortcomings - more than there are whinging about their female partner's shortcomings - but generalisations are swiftly pounced on and we do not tolerate gender hatred, or any other kind of hatred for that matter (save maybe hatred of Fruitshoots). We encourage people to be civil and supportive and, in the main, most people are.
- Fathers 4 Justice campaigns for fathers to have access to their children following separation or divorce. Its founder, Matt O'Connor, says parents have "fewer rights than a terrorist". The organisation was temporarily disbanded in 2006 after it emerged that some of its members had plotted to kidnap Tony Blair's son Leo. Fathers 4 Justice boasts that it is "the most controversial and high profile pressure group of modern times" but it has struggled to win public attention since abandoning its eye-catching tactic of scaling tall structures in superhero costumes. In recent weeks, it has targeted Cafcass, the body responsible for protecting the rights of children in court proceedings, Gingerbread, the charity for single parents (which it claimed supported "the abuse of children"), and Mumsnet. It has also, somewhat mysteriously, branded London 2012 "the fatherless games".
- We believe that the issue of a father's access to his children is important and needs to be discussed. We understand that many Fathers 4 Justice campaigners are driven by intense personal anger over what they feel is injustice they have suffered in their own cases. But the recent actions the group have taken against Mumsnet and others constitutes plain and simple bullying and intimidation, and only harms its cause.
- Reading this as a Mumsnetter, you may well already be spitting tacks by now. Please do remember that's precisely what Fathers 4 Justice want. If you post on the subject, please keep it civil. We won't be bullied, but we don't want to be dragged into the mire either.
Last updated: over 1 year ago