An apology to the Mummy Feminists

Prospect Magazine

An apology to the Mummy Feminists

Everyone’s a feminist these days, or so it seems if you dip a manicured toe into the blogosphere. The latest wave of women’s liberation is spreading thick and fast, with everyone from Lads Mags haters to stay-at-home Mumsnetters crashing the party. It is the latter group who are currently the topic of debate, with a recent survey revealing the rise of “mummy feminism”. This quiet, social media-driven revolution is empowering mothers to reclaim the right to call themselves feminists (with a small “f”).
The research conducted by the mighty Mumsnet, explored the attitudes of its members towards the F word. It transpired that roughly twice as many (59%) identify themselves as feminist as those who do not (28%). More intriguingly, the 2,034 respondents are more likely to declare themselves feminists after joining the site, with only 47% doing so before. Far from being the retrogressive hub for baking-obsessed smug mummies that I, as a childfree 34-year-old career gal, imagined it to be, Mumsnet is apparently a driving force in Fourth Wave Feminism. The survey revealed that being part of the Mumsnet community (4m users and counting), makes women more aware of feminist perspectives, alters opinions on issues such as what constitutes rape, and introduces them to the power of the online campaign. Mothers have finally found a way to engage with feminism.
Maybe this shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. As a media savvy, professional woman, I thought I was at the fore of the new feminist revolution. But, it turns out I was wrong – the mummy brigade have a key role to play. For the past year, I have mistakenly assumed that my newly sprogged-up friends were more interested in discussing breast pumps and poos, than gender politics. I have swerved baby-centric social events, convinced I have little to contribute and keen to avoid awkward questions about when I’ll be joining their ranks. Reading a report in The Guardian on the Mumsnet survey, it started to dawn on me that I may have done my friends a disservice.
Further proof of the growing prevalence of “mummy feminism” came with the launch last week of Selfish Mother, a glossy new webzine edited by journalist and mum-of-two Molly Gunn. Best described as Mumsnet’s stylish little sister, it’s aimed at Generation Y mothers who worked and were fully independent in their 20s. “Motherhood is undergoing a much-needed makeover,” says Molly. “The mothers I know all have something to say on the big issues. It’s not like you have babies and then lose brain cells, also having kids makes you feel passionate about causes and campaigns.” Selfish Mother’s take on the feminist debate is that women who have children shouldn’t be afraid to think of themselves as women first and mothers second.
The response to this very modern take on motherhood and feminism has been mixed. While there has been the standard Twitter vitriol, with reported comments such as “God help feminism if it’s being represented by bloody Mumsnet”, a lot of the debate has centred around a quote in The Guardian from journalist Ticky Hedley Dent, who stated in a Twitter debate: “I think #Mumsnet is key to understanding feminism. Feminism hardly comes into play until you have kids. Then you get it.” While, this is obviously an extreme view, and I loathe the idea that somehow I don’t “get feminism”, it has opened my eyes to the political power of communities such as Mumsnet, and forced me to confront my preconceptions about the impact children have on your intellectual life. Now, I’m on a mission to spend more time with friends and have signed up to attend a kiddie-filled Sunday lunch session. I will be going armed with knowledge of everything from the latest mummy campaigns, to childcare cuts and even the most popular breast pumps.
  1. September 12, 2013

    Charlotte Randall

    Who needs to worry about ‘sexist male pigs’ when there’s women like you around?

    The ‘apology’ is just a front for some pretty nasty opinions about women who are mothers.

    If you’d talked like this when the first wave of feminism hit, you would have been booed off the stage. And rightly so. The idea that women who have children lose their intellect and/or serious interests is about equal to the standard male opinion of fifty years ago.

  2. September 13, 2013


    Disagree Charlotte. Anybody who has been at a party with a bunch of 30 year olds could be forgiven for thinking that all our brains have been poured out and replaced with baby porridge. This article acknowledges that superficial appearance and looks beyond it.

  3. September 15, 2013

    Lucy Benedict

    ‘Mothers have finally found a way to engage with feminism.’

    Pretty damned offensive to all the mothers who managed to engage with feminism before Mumsnet came along. I was a feminist before I was a mother and am a more committed one since I had children of my own because I want them to live in a better world than the one I grew up in. Hardly a rarity.

    I have to agree with Charlotte – this is an ‘apology’ that gives you the chance to hurl a few more insulting phrases at Mumsnetters.

    And the phrase ‘Mummy feminists’ is hideous.

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