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Fathers 4 Justice and their recent attacks on Mumsnet

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JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Sat 17-Mar-12 09:28:27

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 yesterday'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 Mothers' 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.

1. On March 3rd 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.

2. 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.

3. 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. 60 were posts were made by regular Mumsnet members, ten or so by new joiners 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.

4. On March 7th and March 8th 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'.

5. On March 11th 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'.

6. 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.

7. 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 - we have a Dadsnet forum for Dads to talk directly with other men should they wish. We estimate that around 5-10% of our 2 million odd monthly users are men.

Of course you can always find plenty of Mumsnetters whinging about their male partners' shortcomings - more than there are whinging about their female partners' 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.

8. 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'.

9. We believe that the issue of father's access to 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 constitute plain and simple bullying and intimidation and only harm its cause.

10. Reading this, 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.

Many thanks.

grumpypants Sat 17-Mar-12 09:34:21

Hi justine - glad to see a formal response as I was very shocked by the advert and considered cancelling my daily purchase of I. I may still contact them to express surprise. Very unfair tactic from f4j - I did wonder what comments re; women their own site might carry and you have answered that. No need to play into their hands with comments really is there - I hope we all refuse to give them the quotes they are after. Bit surprised snr ngos were intimidated!

fivegomadindorset Sat 17-Mar-12 09:36:32

Well written for someone with a negative IQ wink

PamFerriswheel Sat 17-Mar-12 09:38:53

Sorry, Justine, that you have to contend with this nonsense when you are busy promoting so many valuable campaigns to improve the lives of men, women and children.

heliumballoon Sat 17-Mar-12 09:40:00

Hear hear Justine

Tooblunt2012 Sat 17-Mar-12 09:40:54

Thanks for that Justine. I find it both ridiculous & scary, given the scale of the bullying & the general disrespect they have shown for women.

Keep up the good work Mumsnet.

Tooblunt2012 Sat 17-Mar-12 09:42:56

To clarify, when I say scary, I mean with reference to the fact that presumably intelligent men could hold such views & think it's right to bully & intimidate - not that I am scared iyswim!

iCANdothisiCAN Sat 17-Mar-12 09:44:38

Thank you for taking the time to post all that information justine. I for one was unaware of a lot of those details.

The way you have reacted and the fact you can state all of these facts in such a balanced way is exactly why I continue to be a member of MN.

Long may it reign!

(said fact too many times there but you know what I mean)

BoysAreLikeDogs Sat 17-Mar-12 09:46:08

Thank you Justine

BIWI Sat 17-Mar-12 09:49:58

I've always thought you were an evil woman, Justine wink

I wonder who is funding them? How can they afford to advertise the way they are doing? And what have M&S said about all of this?

<rushes off to spend money in M&S this weekend>

LadyFingers Sat 17-Mar-12 09:50:43

Thanks Justine.

AllQuietOnThePippisFront Sat 17-Mar-12 09:54:07

Thank you Justine.

sairygamp Sat 17-Mar-12 10:12:22

I can't believe we hate fruitshoots. sad

CappyHunt Sat 17-Mar-12 10:14:31

Thank you Justine.

Amazing what a negative IQ equips one with these days. wink

smartiesrule Sat 17-Mar-12 10:22:41

Thanks Justine. A dignified response.
Long-live Mumsnet.

MrsChemist Sat 17-Mar-12 10:23:55

Thank you Justine.

BelladonnaValentina Sat 17-Mar-12 10:29:10

The thing that FFJ seem to be ignoring is that this is, by and large, a SUPPORT site where people will come and detail horrific abuses that they have suffered, either to get support with dealing with it or to offer support to women who have been in similar situations as a means of encouraging them to flee the offending relationship.

Given this, you ARE going to read a LOT of things about the evil men do. As Justine says, there are only 5-10% of members who are male so it's going to look pretty unbiased for a man's point of view. Especially men like the members of FFJ who are more guilty of gender bias than even the most ardent femenist on Mumsnet.

It seems to me that FFJ are looking at abuse stories on Mumsnet and are horribly twisting them to make it seem like gender bias. This is an underhanded tactic and serves nothing but thier thinly-vieled goal to have the site discontinued so that woman cannot speak about abuses by men as these stories hurt thier cause.

As for the mumsnet feminists? i'm not a feminist. In fact, feminism annoys me because I loathe being dictated to on what makes a woman by woman just as much as men. That said, Feminism is a legitimate political movement and I completely support a Feminists right to support her cause as long as it's done without blinkered propaganda. That's just as bad a what FFJ are doing now.

FFJ are completely embarrasing thier cause and thier actions here in not wanting women to highlight abuse is indicotive to me of the kind of man that I wouldn't want near my own children so I can understand where the Mothers of FFJ members are coming from if they're denying access to these warped, twisted men.

vvverbatim Sat 17-Mar-12 10:33:54

I came here to find out what all the fuss is about? I follow the F4J campaign via FB, I agree wholeheartedly with some of the points they make and equally I disagree with some too. I can't help thinking that they've made a mistake targeting M&S, it's more likely to alienate F4J than further the cause.

violetwellies Sat 17-Mar-12 10:35:42

Thankyou Justine, I think I might order from M&S this weekend as well.

BelladonnaValentina Sat 17-Mar-12 10:36:36

Great idea Violet me too smile

Bucharest Sat 17-Mar-12 10:38:57

Yeah, I'm sure M and S are going to be terrified.

I can see the head honchos even now planning a new range of grown up size Batman suits to placate them.

BelladonnaValentina Sat 17-Mar-12 10:41:07

Bucharest <applause>

Have a wine

Greythorne Sat 17-Mar-12 10:46:26

I really do think ignoring them is the best policy.

I know it is hard when they post so provocatively.

But let's not give them oxygen.

sunshineoutdoors Sat 17-Mar-12 10:50:17

Thank you Justine. Mumsnet is a great source of support and I have not witnessed anything that f4j are talking about. Just posting now to add my voice to all others who feel it's important to stand up to them in a sensible way. thanks Stay strong, it must be shitty having to deal with them.

JasperJohns Sat 17-Mar-12 10:54:17

I think they have done themselves no favours with this ludicrous campaign.

<off to M&S>

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