Community: Mumsnet talks to What I See

Community: Mumsnet talks to What I See

We’re very excited. Community month may nearly be over – but we’re going out on a high.

Mumsnet is the UK’s biggest network for parents. The website welcomes 4.8 million monthly unique visitors and gets 60 million monthly page views – as well as organising impressive campaigns to help make a difference to issues affecting parents, from miscarriage to maternity discrimination. They even got behind the Page 3 campaign. So we were pretty pleased when they agreed to participate in our exploration of what community means to women today.

We asked Rowan Davies, Mumsnet Co-head of Community and Campaigns Manager (what a title), to share her thoughts on the Mumsnet community with us: how it brings busy mums together in a modern world, its strengths, values and principles.

When people talk about woman-dominated spaces (online or in RL), it can be difficult to envisage what they mean, or what would be different about such a space. So, as someone who works for Mumsnet – the UK’s biggest website for parents – I can tell you that I’m writing this on my PC in my office at home, having just welcomed my children home from school and sorted out an argument they had had on the way home. I had just arrived home myself, having spent most of the day in Westminster helping to coordinate a webchat we’d organised with three prominent woman politicians on Westminster’s sexist political culture. I’d normally go into the office once or twice a week, but this week it will be less than that because my sons’ sports day at school is on Thursday and they don’t want me to miss it.

From a personal point of view, this is what it means to work in a woman-friendly business: a fascinating, rewarding job, tackling some issues that I am deeply interested in, while working largely from home – and never having to apologise for having young kids who need my attention. It’s been a revelation, particularly for a single parent whose job pre-kids had been, frankly, a little dull.

More importantly, from our users’ point of view, Mumsnet provides a very rare thing: a fully woman-friendly online space. Not just (as with Pinterest or Twitter or Facebook) a site with lots of women members; but a site where women can really fully express themselves, free from the guardedness or self-censorship or (frankly) fear that can come from participating in many online conversations, where misogyny, abuse or a simple hostility to women's mode of expression and engagement can come from seemingly out of nowhere. (Posts on Mumsnet are not pre-approved, and our Talk policy is actually fairly liberal – we allow swearing for instance – but we are robust about enforcing basic standards of civility and respect towards our users.)

Our long-standing principles of allowing our users to set the tone, and seeing Mumsnet as a site where parents can support and advise each other while keeping each other entertained, have allowed our users to make of the site what they will – and boy, have they done just that. Where else can you click from conversations about ‘Precious First Born’ madness to a dissection of the UK’s high-profile ‘hacking trial’ to a discussion of whether faith is a belief or an opinion? (All ‘live’ conversations as I write this piece.)

Before I worked for Mumsnet I was a highly-addicted user, and if they ever prise this job from my hands you can bet I’ll be right back on the boards – laughing, arguing and over-sharing in the best female online space there is.

As for your question, what do I see when I look in the mirror?

Imperfections. Haven’t yet managed to rid myself of unrealistic expectations where appearance is concerned!

Thanks so much to Mumsnet and to Rowan for participating. A big fat thumbs up from us – we’re on board with anyone who allows women a voice... arguing, laughing and over-sharing included.


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