I was very pleased when I realised someone had articulated carefully the misgivings some of us have had about Leo Traynor’s now quite well known account of meeting a ‘troll’ who he says abused and harassed him online and IRL. The post is by @ResistRadio and I copy it here verbatim:
Internet trolls are the latest obsession of the British media – and a Dublin-based blogger has provided them with the ultimate account of vile online abuse.
In an article originally published on his personal website and which has gone viral after being republished by The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Irish Independent and others, Leo Traynor describes in detail a shocking hate campaign waged against him and his family over the course of three years.
Mr Traynor is an enthusiastic user of Twitter, describing himself as a “Writer, crossword compiler, political consultant & facilitator. Ex media monkey & press officer. Spiritual tourist. Unapologetic curmudgeon”, and his story is disturbing in the extreme. I encourage you to read his original article – but here’s the abridged version.
In July 2009 Traynor began receiving abusive direct messages to his Twitter inbox. The first called him a ”Dirty fucking Jewish scumbag”, and a string of abusive messages from new accounts followed – two or three times a week, and sometimes even two or three times a day. His Facebook account was hacked, his blog was spammed, and he received a torrent of highly disturbing emails. They contained images of corpses, concentration camps and dismembered bodies. Traynor’s wife joined Twitter, unaware of the abuse suffered by her husband. She inadvertently revealed that she was married to Leo. She too received a torrent of abusive direct messages.
Then things turned particularly nasty and threatening. Traynor received a package at his home address. It was a Tupperware lunchbox, filled with ashes – and a note which read ”Say hello to your relatives from Auschwitz”. He reported the awful delivery to the authorities. Two days later, however, things got even worse. He opened the front door to find a bunch of dead flowers – with his wife’s Twitter username attached.
Later that same day Traynor received a horrendous death threat via a direct message on Twitter: ”You’ll get home some day & ur bitches throat will be cut & ur son will be gone.” Traynor, devastated by the abuse and terrified for his family’s safety, reported the threats to the authorities. They were sympathetic, but said there was nothing they could do. Another threatening tweet arrived, reading ”I hope you die screaming but not until you see me piss on ur wife.”
Traynor decided to take matters into his own hands. With the help of an “IT genius” friend, he baited the troll until his IP address could be identified. The IP address led, shockingly, to the house of a friend – and the troll was revealed as the friend’s teenage son. The story ends with Leo and his friend agreeing to meet, the son in tow but unaware he’s about to be confronted over his vile abuse; in a dramatic final scene Leo presents the damning evidence, delivers a stern warning to the youth but generously pledges that he will not press charges, and then shakes the hand of the stalker who’s been abusing and threatening him and his family for three years.
It’s a highly disturbing but ultimately redemptive tale, and if true Mr Traynor fully deserves the online outpouring of sympathy and respect he’s received.
There are, however, several highly questionable aspects to the story.
The Twitter abuse
“My account was followed by a fairly innocuous looking one which I followed back and within 10 minutes I had received a direct message (DM) calling me a “Dirty fucking Jewish scumbag”. I blocked the account and reported it as spam. The following week it happened again in an identical manner. A new follower, I followed back, received a string of abusive DMs, blocked and reported for spam. Two or three times a week. Sometimes two or three times a day. An almost daily cycle of blocking and reporting and intense verbal abuse.”
You can only send direct messages on Twitter to people who are following your account, as explained in the Twitter Help Center:
“You can only send a direct message to a user who is following you; you can only receive direct messages from users you follow.”
To receive direct messages, Traynor would therefore have had to be following his abuser’s accounts; as he makes a point of mentioning he was doing. It’s definitely not unusual for people, perhaps out of politeness, to follow accounts that follow their own. The big question though is why, after the initial abuse, did Traynor continue to follow accounts newly following his own – thus allowing direct messages to be sent to his account?
Continuing to follow unidentified new followers after only the first couple had sent hateful messages is perhaps understandable. But why continue to follow accounts – up to two or three times a week and even two or three times a day - when doing so would simply enable the sending of more vile messages? And why did he continue doing so not only on his main Twitter account, but also via a second that was being similarly targeted – ‘@LeosClue’?
Why, when she joined Twitter, did Leo not take the obvious precaution of warning his wife to keep their connection secret? It was especially unfortunate that Mrs Traynor revealed their relationship on Twitter in the most overt way possible, by declaring herself ”The long suffering wife of @LeoTraynor” in a status update.
Why did Mrs Traynor follow accounts that followed her own – unusual behaviour for someone new to Twitter – and continue following them, even after receiving seriously abusive direct messages in which she was called ”a whore”? That Mrs Traynor continued to reciprocally follow new accounts is apparent because after blocking an initially abusive account, she received a ”torrent of abuse via DM” - which could only have come from a second account that she’d followed.
Traynor claims that he eventually made his Twitter account private, before finally closing it. His account has been reopened – hence the announcement in the intro to his article – and you can see it here. He must have reopened his Twitter account extraordinarily soon after closing it because of the abusive messages – Twitter’s Help Center explainshow ”Accounts are permanently deleted 30 days from the date they were deactivated. After 30 days, deactivated accounts cannot be reactivated.”
It’s odd that after what Traynor had been through, he decided to return to Twitter so quickly – within 30 days. He must have decided to reopen his account and return to Twitter in much less than 30 days, actually – 30 days minus however long it took to identify and arrange the meeting with the teenager, and write his article (he’d closed his account with the arrival of the “die screaming” message, remember – prior to his friend positively IDing the troll, and obviously prior to the showdown with him).
Traynor also appears to have radically changed the way in which he uses Twitter, since his return. He currently follows less than 200 people, whilst he has well over 3000 followers. If he was still following every account that followed his own – as he did during the period of abuse, thus enabling the sending of innumerable hateful direct messages from multiple troll accounts – he would now be following a similar number of people to those following him. Over 3000.
It seems odd that Traynor would change his Twitter behaviour in such a fundamental way after the cause of his online persecution, the teenage stalker, had been exposed and prevented from carrying out any further abuse.
The reports to the authorities
Traynor claims that he made two reports to “the authorities”, who he does not name, but who were presumably the police. He made the first report after the disturbing receipt of a box of ashes and an abusive note.
This shocking delivery revealed that the troll knew the Traynors’ home address.
He made the second report after finding a bunch of dead flowers outside his door, and receiving an explicit death threat via a Twitter direct message – from an account he must have been following, remember – that very same day.
“You’ll get home some day & ur bitches throat will be cut & ur son will be gone.”
In response to the second report, the police were apparently ”polite and sympathetic”, but ”there didn’t seem much that could be done”.
If this is true, then serious questions need to be asked about the conduct of the police in Ireland. What was happening to Traynor went far, far beyond trolling. The abuse had not only taken place over an extended period of time, causing significant distress, but it had also escalated into direct and credible death threats, as well as threats to kidnap a child.
The abuser knew where Traynor lived, placing him and his family in real physical danger. It even appears that the stalker personally visited the Traynors’ house.
Whilst Traynor says he found the Tupperware box in the post, meaning it could have been mailed to his home, we have to assume that the stalker delivered the flowers himself. Being asked to deliver a bunch of dead flowers would probably raise eyebrows at the post office or courier service. Traynor was in his house when the flowers were left outside it, because he describes opening his front door to discover them. This suggests they were not delivered by courier or some other professional service, because if they had been, and Traynor had simply missed their knock, wouldn’t they have left the flowers with a neighbour, rather than lying outside his door?
A stalker prepared to personally deliver such distressing material to their victim’s home address is obviously disturbed, and a clear and present danger to those they are threatening.
The abuse was also specifically racist in nature. The stalker attacked Mr Traynor for being Jewish.
Are we really to believe that the police politely dismissed the pleas of a clearly distressed man, who’d suffered racial hatred and explicit death threats, issued by an apparently sociopathic stalker who’d visited his home and threatened his wife and child?
The authorities supposedly contacted by Mr Traynor clearly need to explain why his reports were not investigated, and clarification is needed as to whether things will be handled differently in future, should they receive similar complaints. If Traynor’s account is true, then anyone living in Ireland should be very concerned about how their complaints might be treated by the police, should they be unfortunate enough to be harrassed by a stalker.
The IP address
Mr Traynor explains that he decided to take matters into his own hands, and that:
“In July I was approached by a friend who’s basically an IT genius, and he offered some help. He said that he could trace the hackers and trolls for me using perfectly legal technology, which would lead to their IP addresses.”
Traynor baited the troll to post more abuse, allowing his friend to identify the abuser’s IP address.
“It transpired that the abuse had emanated from three separate IP addresses in different corners of Ireland. Two of them were public wifi locations but the third … The third location was the interesting one. The third location was a friend’s house.”
To those with limited knowledge of IT, the idea of establishing someone’s home address from their IP address sounds plausible.
It is, however, impossible. Legally impossible anyway, without the internet service provider’s assistance – for which you would need a court order. A court order would compel the ISP to release personal details of the customer suspected of a crime.
An address could in theory be leaked by a corrupt employee at the ISP, and the information could feasibly be stolen by a hacker – but such methods would certainly not be legal.
At best, an IP address will give you a rough idea of the area in which the internet user that you’re trying to track is located. You can generally ascertain their town or city, though even this is not guaranteed to be accurate.
Many people have pointed out that it is impossible to determine someone’s home address from their IP address, without a court order and the assistance of the ISP. In response Traynor has added a footnote to his original article, as well as making a public tweet, directing people to this blog post which is entitled ‘Tracking a troll’. Traynor states that the method used by his friend to track the abusive troll was “almost identical” to the one described in this post.
Unfortunately for Mr Traynor the blog post does not, as he seems to think, prove that you can establish someone’s home address from their IP address. The article only serves to confirm what has already been described – that the best you can hope for if you have someone’s IP address, is the internet user’s rough location.
Please follow the advice given in ‘Tracking a troll’, and try the method for yourself. I did – and apparently I live in a field next to a motorway, miles away from my house. How did Traynor’s friend manage to pinpoint the culprit’s house? We do not know exactly, and he appears very reluctant to enlighten us. We shouldn’t expect an explanation from his IT genius pal any time soon either, because he apparently does not want to be identified.
(After publication of this article, the author of ‘Tracking a troll’ added this note to his blog:
NOTE: this does not work in all cases but even a general location is a piece in the puzzle when tracking a troll.
The late addition of this note to ‘Tracking a troll’ only confirms what has just been explained in this article – that an IP address does not enable you to identify an individual’s home address. An author whose article was specifically referenced by Traynor as ’proof’ of his home address claim, has had to admit that the method given in his article does not actually allow you to identify someone’s home address. Whilst the author continues to suggest that it is indeed possible to find a home address from an IP address, he declines to tell us exactly how - because, even though the method is legal, it apparently has to remain secret!)
Perhaps Traynor only tracked the IP address to the troll’s town or village, and has embellished the story for dramatic effect. Why then does he continue to insist that he used the IP address to determine a home address?
If tracing a home address from an IP address is legally impossible, how could he possibly be so sure that the abuse came from a computer at his friend’s house? The stalker could have been absolutely anyone in the town or village. And even in the impossible event that he’d established a home address from an IP address, how could Traynor be so sure that the abuse was perpetrated by his friend’s teenage son? The friend himself could have been responsible, or a friend of his friend, or a friend of his friend’s son, etc. If the family were using an unsecured wireless connection, a complete stranger could have sent abuse via their address.
Wouldn’t a tech-savvy teenager capable of hacking into a Facebook account, and making online death threats, be very careful to hide their tracks by disguising their location through the use of a proxy server anyway?
The article’s dramatic denouement is also very odd. It seems improbable that the teenager’s father, when approached by Traynor with serious allegations about his son, would not first check the story out before agreeing to a covert meeting and the unceremonious presentation of highly disturbing and previously unseen material. Surely he would have first questioned his son, or visited Traynor and reviewed the evidence, before agreeing to the unverified and incredibly serious allegations being summarily presented in front of his family?
Why was the father ”not surprised” to hear about his son’s behaviour – and why during the phone call is it implied that the son’s constant internet usage is the reason the father accepts his son could be guilty? Many teenagers spend inordinate amounts of time on the internet, but it’s a poor reason to suspect someone of being a sociopathic stalker. If there were other more compelling reasons for the father believing Traynor’s allegations, why did he not express them during the call? We can assume he didn’t mention any because if he had, Traynor would likely have included the reasons in his written account of the conversation, instead of the detail about the son’s excessive internet usage.
Apart from raising questions about the truth and accuracy of Leo Traynor’s story, wider issues are highlighted by the reception of his article. Having reviewed The Guardian’s comment thread, it seems that at least 90% of respondents simply accept Traynor’s extraordinary story at face value. The few who have questioned suspicious elements have been criticised for doing so – as I’ll no doubt be, for writing this article. It’s worrying that highly emotive personal narratives, dealing with controversial issues such as anti-Semitism, seem by many to be unquestionable, and somehow above criticism or scepticism.
The mainstream media have also been exposed. The Guardian and other newspapers have apparently republished Traynor’s article without seeing any kind of evidence corroborating his claims. This is perhaps unsurprising. It is, after all, a powerful story that was guaranteed to attract internet traffic. especially as outrageous tales of horrible internet trolls are the media’s and reading public’s latest obsession.
Disgracefully, moderators at The Guardian website even deleted comments that questioned Traynor’s article. They were, apparently, against “community standards”. I read the comments before their deletion, and they were entirely non-abusive in nature. So much for the liberal Guardian’s dedication to free speech and journalistic inquiry.
Please feel free to leave a response to this article, in the comment section below.
Choc chip cookie?
Please expose Traynor’s dubious article, which has gone viral, by sharing this one on Facebook and Twitter! Many thanks.
In a post entitled evocatively Little Lolita, legal blogger Amanda Bancroft ( @_Millymoo ) has presented a very ‘Guardianesque’ line on the Megan Stammers ‘abduction’ case. She writes:
‘The press coverage and social media commentary has been, to some degree, stomach churning. One tweet, summarising a seemingly popular opinion, said:
‘Megan Stammers should write a book: ‘My Teenage Years’. Or, ‘How I Cost My Maths Teacher His Job’.
This level of victim blaming – whatever has happened here, on the mere facts that this child was found in a foreign country with a teacher having been taken there without her parent’s consent, suggests she is a victim of a crime – is not, sadly, unusual in crimes relating to women and girls. It is even more so when scenarios would appear to involve sex, as this one, prima facie, does.
This is rape culture. Rape culture is a ‘concept used to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone sexual violence.
Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, and trivializing rape’ (Wikipedia).’
I agree that the tweet she quotes and others like it, is a horrible way to talk about a teenage girl. I also agree with Bancroft as she says later in her piece, that the teacher in this scenario had a ‘duty of care’ to all his students, that does not include whisking any of them off on a ‘romantic’ tryst to France! I even have issues with university lecturers copping off with adult students. But then I am a bit of a secret ‘prude’.
However the argumentation the blogger uses, and the concepts she backs up her points with, I find tired, misandrous and suited to the Guardian’s Women’s section, not a supposedly ‘evidence based’ legal blog.
Readers of Graunwatch will know I have huge problems with the idea of ‘rape culture’. In an article published at The Good Men Project and elsewhere I argue that ‘rape culture’ is a feminist myth, used to bash men, and to reinforce the cliche that ‘all men are potential rapists’ and all women are potential victims.
On twitter today, I added a further comment on the subject, that was greeted by Bancroft with a ‘yawn’ and minutes later, a block!
But I think it is lazy blogging to just go to wikipedia for a ‘definition’ of a term that is highly contested. Remember, anyone can contribute to wikipedia and say anything they like! And arguing with wiki geeks is even more soul destroying that arguing with feminists!
But apart from the unfair conflating of ‘rape’ and ‘rape culture’ with this rather poignant tale of a fifteen year old girl who ran off with her maths teacher, I think we could use the event to engage in a much more subtle and complex debate.
I recently reviewed an edition of the Gender and Educaiton journal which does just that. In their discussions of the ‘sexualisation’ debates in our culture, including the 2011 Bailey Report, the journal authors also invoke the image of Lolita. But rather than only presenting teen girls as ‘victims’ of predatory men, they counteract that position by identifying a ‘sexual knowingness’ that many girls and young women possess. And by exploring the contexts in which girls explore and experiment with their sexuality. The journal edition also asks the question relevant to this case: where are young people’s voices in these ‘debates’?
The problem with the law is it is black and white, when reality is often fifty shades of grey. If Megan’s maths teacher has committed a crime, and remember, that has not yet been decided by those who have the power to do so, then it still may not be helpful to call her a ‘victim’.
Victims don’t get to choose their own destinies, and it seems very limiting to label someone with their whole adult life ahead of them in that way.
The Guardian (and its outpost twitter) has been getting its knickers in a twist about Grant Shapps, the Tory MP and his self-serving online behaviour. Apparently he has edited his own wikipedia page, making himself look more impressive in the process, using an unacknowledged assumed name.
This goes against wikipedia policy, and the Guardian’s sensitive moral sensibilities. Wiki says if you use an assumed name to edit your own pages you should identify yourself and be transparent about it.
I am not convinced by the Guardian’s stance on this issue for a few reasons. Firstly, I know for a fact that lots of people create and edit their own wikipedia pages without telling anyone who they are. Whilst it can be somewhat tiresome reading so-called ‘encyclopedias’ that read more like facebook profiles or linked in self – promotional blurbs, I think this is only natural. In metrosexual culture, the Big I AM is what internet communication is often about. And if wikipedia is run by the people, for the people, it is going to reflect how the people are.
Secondly, the Guardian has a habit of criticising ‘shallowness’ in others but not acknowledging it in itself. I found it particularly funny that Suzanne Moore recently added ‘narcissistic’ to her list of faults of her feminist nemesis Naomi Wolf. Moore then went on to twitter to receive gushy adulation from her twenty one thousand twitter followers. If anyone criticises her work it’s easy, she can just block them.
This brings me onto the third and final reason why I don’t buy the Guardian’s ‘concern’ about Shapps.
In a piece in the Telegraph Willard Foxton made a careful critique of the Guardian’s new ‘star signing’ Glenn Greenwald. A pundit from the USA, he has been greeted with a mixture of fanboy worship ( for his sharp criticisms of American foreign policy and relatedly his defence of Assange) and horror. The horror seems to have come largely from his Graun colleagues, many of whom lie firmly in the Anti-Assange camp.
‘If even the most basic fact-checking of Greenwald’s article had gone on, someone would have said “hang on Glenn, isn’t this nonsense?” Further, Greenwald has been accused of sock-puppetry in the past, which makes it all the more worrying that – apparently uniquely at The Guardian – he claims he has been given moderating powers over the comments on his pieces.
Greenwald’s blog shares the space and the masthead of the Guardian. To the untrained eye, it is indistinguishable from real, hard, fact-based journalism. Greenwald is entitled to his view that CNNi (but not CNN) is censoring the news to appease Middle Eastern regimes, but it doesn’t stack up at all – and by giving Glenn the authority of the masthead, the branded blog, I feel the Guardian is undermining the excellent hard journalism it produces.
The Guardian has already sacked one of the two high-profile Americansit hired recently; maybe it’s time for Glenn to “draft a piece for Malaysia Matters”, as they say at King’s Place?’
So if the Guardian are so keen to stamp out sock puppetry and unchecked self-promotion maybe they should not be giving Greenwald such free reign.
I am a little worried that giving Greenwald moderating powers over his articles may be an ‘experiment’ on the part of the Graun, and if it ‘works’ they might roll it out to other columnists. I know Julie Bindel would be rubbing her hands with glee if she could control the ‘misogynists’ below the line. And in fact, under Suzanne Moore’s piece about Naomi Wolf’s by now very well-examined Vagina, the moderators were incredibly gung ho with the delete button. Maybe that is a taste of things to, er, come…
Much has changed since the wannabe prime minister David Cameron pledged to give a third of his first government’s jobs to women, thereby ending what he called the “scandalous under-representation” in parliament. Not least the fact that, once in Downing Street, he promptly appointed just five women to his 23-strong cabinet. There may be a female home secretary in Theresa May, but at 22%, the UK ranks 57th in terms of female parliamentary representation, according to the Centre for Women and Democracy.
Not for the first time, Martinson focuses on the number of women in the cabinet, as though this correlates to the level of feminism within the coalition. She goes on to point out how Cameron tried to deal with his ‘women problem’ by ‘the appointment of an unelected woman to give the feminine perspective to Number 10.’ It’s unclear whether Martinson’s reference to the ‘feminine perspective’ is a slip of the keyboard, or a reference to some special insight that only women have by virtue of being female – like ‘female intuition’, only in a shade of Tory blue.
In order to come up with some advice for Cameron on what to do about women, and how he should go about his reshuffle, the article then goes on to present the views of what can only be described as a round-up of the usual feminist suspects, including Graunwatch/QRG fave Julie Bindel, professional ‘mumsy cupcake feminist’ Natasha Walter and Ceri Goddard of the Fawcett Society, who came up with this gem:
“The reshuffle is a golden opportunity for the prime minister to boost the presence and influence of women in British politics. Ninety years after women first got the vote, the nation is run by a cabinet made up of more millionaires than women. Women are bearing the brunt of austerity measures in terms of cuts to benefits and services. If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. Other countries fare much better, even when it comes to cabinet-level posts – indeed, Sweden, Switzerland and France all have equal numbers of men and women in their cabinets. Why can’t we?”
Goddard’s not the only offender amongst the writers, but ‘more women equals more feminism’ is such a frequently-used argument perhaps it ought to form the official Team Woman motto. What’s also interesting is a clear contradiction between the way Bindel and Susie Orbach come out on opposite sides regarding (now-former) Women and Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone. Each sees in her only what they want to see: someone who spoke out on body image issues (Orbach) versus someone who won’t give the commercial sex industry a kicking because she’s part of a non-existent ‘party line’ in favour of decriminalisation (Bindel).
In fact, it is a hallmark of all the contributors that they merely restate their familiar positions on women, the ‘disproportionate’ cuts, the idea that violence against women is the priority, and that if only there were more women around the cabinet table, all their wishes would come true – though it must really gall Julie Bindel that she even contemplates the idea of relying on a male Minister for Women to deliver on the issues she wants.
So what happened in the actual reshuffle? Needless to say, Cameron didn’t listen to a word from any of the women in the article. Pretty much from the off, Martinson was already counting heads and grumping via Twitter:
hmm, 2 women seem to be 1st casualties already. Not sure Cameron listening to what #women want from the reshuffle yet (link)
Indeed. RT@jameschappers Big women problem shaping up for PM as Spelman, Warsi, Gillan out. Can’t end day with fewer women than before (link)
Martinson’s focus on the overall numbers of women not only overlooked the significant issue of the sacking of Ken Clarke as Justice minister, and the lack of ethnic diversity in the cabinet, but misses two crucial points. First, Cameron only needed to increase the overall number of female ministers (rather than just cabinet ministers) by just one to get a cheap ‘more women’ headline. Second, and more importantly, the number of women doesn’t tell us a single thing about policy. That sound you hear is Margaret Thatcher cackling insanely as she watches another bunch of naive feminists make the same mistake they did when she became Prime Minister over thirty years ago.
And it got worse for Team Woman soon after that. First Justine Greening got shunted from Transport to International Development to make way for an expanded Heathrow airport, then Maria Miller was appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport as well as Minister for Women and Equalities, leading to this Twitter exchange:
Martinson: Apart from trying to stop [British Preganancy Advisory Service] what interest has Maria Miller shown in women and equalities exactly?
Eleanor Mills: @janemartinson Cameron reckons maria miller is a woman (rare breed in cabinet now) so she is qualified for wimmins issues #reshufffle #sigh
Martinson: It would be funny wdn’t it. If it weren’t so v annoying…
It’s hard not to laugh at the fact that having waved the flag for Team Woman so much, Martinson now finds Cameron following though on the very logic she has so often used, only to appoint an anti-abortion MP to a brief which may include women’s reproductive rights. It’s Sarah Palin Reloaded. No wonder Martinson ends up whingeing about ‘More women than before? but not the 1/3 he promised’ like a kid complaining about getting only two ponies instead of five, and then discovering they’re both three-legged nags rather than thoroughbreds. By paying more attention to numbers rather than to ideology, Martinson’s been blindsided to the fact that even if Cameron had appointed women to half his cabinet, they’d still all be Tories in favour of cuts.
Once the major part of the reshuffle was over, Martinson posted her analysis of the outcome, where she had the sheer brass neck to write the following:
Policy is always going to be more important than personnel, but to end the day with fewer women than the handful he started out with seems a tad careless.
If policy were really that important, Martinson wouldn’t be quite so obsessed with counting heads at every opportunity as a subsitute for debating what the Tories actually do and say. She wouldn’t have been such a cheerleader for the ‘media savvy’ Louise Mensch. She might finally realise that female Tory MPs like Elizabeth Truss are perefectly capable of being as brutally right-wing as their male counterparts. In short, she’d have a much better analysis of ‘Tory feminism’ as well as sexism within the Coalition.
But never mind all that: Team Woman at the Guardian may have taken a pasting over the reshuffle, but the real question is whether they learn to change tactics or persist with same failed approach. I suspect Martinson may yet keep choosing the latter.
The unstoppable prymface now runs a successful weekly twitter forum, using the hashtag #youngmumschat . This week she is ‘turning the tables’ so from 8.30pm tomorrow evening the young mums who normally chat to each other and ask each other questions about being young parents and the prejudices they face, will be asking non young mums questions! I think it is a great idea, especially because when it comes to stereotypes of ‘teen parents’ and ‘young mums’ it tends to be people not in that situation who form the opinions and prejudices. So this chat provides a valuable opportunity for people with different experiences and expectations to talk to each other.
This is prymface’s blogpost about the event:
So, for the last 9 weeks, we have been hosting #youngmumschat on Twitter. Each week we get between 14 and 27 tweeters joining in from 8.30pm till, usually, way past 11pm! We have a handful of regulars and then a few newbies each week. New connections and support networks are made and each week it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling!
Something I hadn’t anticipated, though, was the comments from people afterwards who aren’t young mums and never were, but they picked up on the chat and they message me to tell me what they think of it! So far 100% of comments are positive, which makes me think maybe #youngmumschat is also, is some small way, helping to change the stereotype or negative perception of young mothers….OR maybe the negativity is just how we EXPECT others to see us, and actually they thought we were a pretty ok bunch all along!
Its true that I read articles like this and look down at the comments and I want to cuddle up all the young mums in the world and never let them out my sight because I never want them to hear someone calling them a “slut”, “slag” or “stupid” just because they are a young mum. BUT something came up in this weeks chat that got me thinking about this more….. One young mum emailed me a few months ago saying she was finding it hard to mix with other mums, who were all older than her. My first reaction was “well if they don’t like you, stuff them – It’s their loss!”, but I managed to tone my advice down a bit while another young mum rightly pointed out that its important to make an effort to get know people….. Then this week that same young mum told me that her partner took her son to a kid’s birthday party …. All the other mums told him how amazing she was, what a good job she was doing and how much they admired her for bringing up her son on her own!! In an instant, that problem was sorted, and her son is now the most popular kid in school! Sometimes we are so quick to go into defensive mode we don’t actually stop to consider that people might NOT always think we’re sluts slags or stupid!! And that look people give us might not be pity or judgment but actually be admiration!!
During #youngmumschat we’ve asked a number of questions about how young mums are treated differently and responses include:
“People assume I don’t know as much as I do-They try and tell me how to parent my daughter”
“I don’t feel I’m taken seriously”
“People see a young mum and imagine ONE scenario without even knowing the first thing about you”
“People assume I’m single, struggling and pitiful”
“Slut-shaming gets tedious”
“The ‘young mum’ title stays with us forever because there is always someone passing judgement on our decisions or past decisions”
“I was contacted by a TV company but they didn’t use me because I didn’t represent the ‘typical teenage mum’”
“Everywhere needs a better understanding of young mums. Less stereotyping and less judgments of young people.”
“I’d have liked to have been able to walk down the street and not hear people talking about us!”
” A university said because of my son they didn’t think I could offer any commitment to the course”
“My baby ended up being rushed to hospital due to a GP electing to patronise me rather than listen”
“I learned that there were shockingly unprofessional and judgmental people in maternity and social services”
So, next week I wanna turn the tables with #youngmumschat - I want young mums (and of course former young mums!) to ask questions to others and I want non-young mums to answer!
SO…..Young Mums, what have YOU always wanted to ASK OTHERS. Tweet or email me your questions….
Those who aren’t/weren’t young mums, this is YOUR chance to be heard!! PLEASE GET YOURSELF ON TWITTER FROM 8.30pm Wednesday 5th September.…. (You don’t really have to stay till gone 11pm!)
And we will be gentle with you – I promise!!
3) The ‘diversity’ of body types on display at the Olympics
‘In mainstream images of physical perfection, you would never see a woman with big shoulders; you would only see a man who had waxed his chest in a special interest publication; you would never see a woman with quads that meant anything; you would rarely see a guy as wiry as Bradley Wiggins.’