A Broken Clock

Two promises. Firstly, that after this I really am off on my holidays. And secondly, this is the last time you’ll see Liz Jones mentioned on my blog. Two posts in two days is more than enough, but I was already half way through writing this when I got Motherventing’s brilliant guest post through. Hers was farking hilarious. Mine is just a bit ranty. Sorry.

Liz Jones Mumsnet Blogfest

Even a broken clock tells the right time twice a day. Even a stab in the dark sometimes finds its target. And even a batty old bint like Liz Jones occasionally writes something that we shouldn’t write off entirely just because it was her wot wrote it.

Attendees of Mumsnet Blogfest (and indeed many non-attending parent bloggers) spent most of Sunday raging about a post that lovely Liz had written in the Mail. Some of them – like Cambridge Mummy and Ageing Matron– wrote extremely good blog posts about it.

But was the post really worthy of our outrage and ire? I’m not convinced.

I mentioned it to DorkyDad on Sunday night, and passed him my computer so that he could read the article. He hooted with laughter, and by the time he’d got to the end, and read out a couple of pertinent sentences, I was almost crying with laughter too. There is nobody who is more supportive of my blog than DorkyDad. No-one more willing to boost my ego by telling me when I’ve written a decent post. But something in that article resonated with him, and on second reading it resonated with me too.

We should always be able to laugh at ourselves, and if we lose our ability to do that it’s a worrying thing. The best thing to do with the Liz Jones article would have been to have a giggle at it, and then instantly forget about it. If we lose our ability to poke fun at ourselves, then we will end up as out-of-touch and conceited as her, spouting lines like “I’m sorry – but I do consider myself an artist.”

But we haven’t done that. We have made a big fuss about it and driven lots of traffic her way. We have taken her seriously, and with that in mind, I think we need to do a little soul-searching to work out why.

Just because we don’t like the way she said it doesn’t mean she wasn’t saying something worth hearing. My instinct is that if you strip the hyperbole out of that article, she is not saying anything we have not said to ourselves on numerous occasions.

We DO need to use our blogs for good. We DO need to sometimes switch off the computer and pay more attention to our families. There ARE some really dull blogs out there which are poorly written and full of crap amateur photography. And on that note, we CAN be hideously bitchy and competitive at times.

(You don’t think so? Then why is there such a drama every month when the Tots scores come out and we discover that we’ve dropped down the league table? Why are there now FIVE different Facebook groups for Parent Bloggers to post in, because we couldn’t all play nicely in just one of them?)

The reason it has gone down so badly is that she is not one of us.

There are many, many wonderful things about the parent blogging community. I am proud to be a part of it, and it brings immense pleasure to my life. But there are some silly bits too, and I’m slightly ashamed that it has taken an article in the Mail to make me reflect on that.

I’m ashamed that we were only prompted to criticise the Mail in any great numbers when the Mail decided to criticise us.

As a friend said on Facebook last night, when I mentioned the number of posts that had been written about the Liz Jones article yesterday, “There are so so many things I wish women would be up in arms about, and what one Daily Mail columnist thinks about cupcakes is not one of those things…

After a couple of days pondering it, I am inclined to agree.

Liz Jones, along with numerous other columnists, has been writing bile in the Mail for years. It is a racist, misogynistic rag, which spreads lies and misinformation about women, asylum seekers, benefit claimants, Muslims and just about every other minority in the country.

At least when they have a pop at us, our blogs provide an easy way to publish our right to reply. What about the people who don’t have that right to reply – the people who have been the target of the Mail’s vitriol for the last few years with no opportunity to respond? Why haven’t we been so outraged about that?

It would be all too easy to shrug off the points made in Liz Jones’ column as the ridiculous ramblings of an outsider, and return to our blogs without thinking about how we can improve them.

But it would be more interesting, I think, to see her post as a challenge. To be more ambitious, more united, and more willing to take advantage of the opportunities our blogs provide.

My only note to Liz Jones is a word of caution. She should be careful what she wishes for. If the blogging community does close its laptops and set aside its knitting to rise up and take on a campaigning role, the paper that employs her may well be our first target.

Photo credit: Anna Brown

35 responses

  1. I was late sending my guest post in but the half started one was about the blogging community and how disappointing it can be at times – I bottled out not wanting to create havoc when maybe unecessary but maybe I should have sent it on after all, maybe I’ll finish it for you to take a look at when you return?
    Have a wonderful holiday and thanks for this take on the LJ saga, a great read and very interesting point of view.

    • I would LOVE to see/host that if you finish it. You probably have a fairly unique overview being in touch with so many people through the BritMums Blog. Yes, go for it! Xx

  2. I’m a firm believer in the fact that people should be able to write about what they WANT to write about on their own personal blogs. For some, it will be a record of family life, for others it will be brilliantly inspiring posts about charitable causes and events. I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong – and I think there IS room for all. After all, if you look at a shelf of magazines or newspapers, there are all sorts of different types. For me, that’s what the Liz Jones article was missing. It was an assumption that all parents who blog write about the same things. They don’t. Just as not all newspapers or magazines write about the same things. But I didn’t get angry about it because it’s exactly the kind of article I would expect that paper to publish and in the whole scheme of it I don’t have room in my life for that kind of negativity. So I’m just going to go on and write about the stuff on my own personal blog that I WANT to write about. Some days that’ll be anecdotes about my toddler, some days it’ll be about an incredible cause that’s inspired me and some days it’ll be an opinion piece I’ve yet to pitch as a feature for any of those magazines I just mentioned. The world is wide, creativity is wider, blogging is just another outlet for people to express themselves or the things they’re interested in / care about / love.

    • I agree completely with all of that. It would be very boring if we all blogged the same things in the same way. You’re right that her perspective doesn’t take into account at all the diversity in people’s lives (in the Mail – who’d have thought it?!). If you do an unsatisfying job 9-5 then you might want to come home and indulge in a bit of fluff on your blog. If you’re a SAHM you might want to use your blog as an outlet for writing about all the causes you’re no longer involved with. And there are a whole spectrum of other uses and motivations in between. But I think you’re smart not to get too worked up about what one person thinks xx

  3. You make a very good point. Everyone should have just laughed it off. But most people’s true initial instinct is to get upset and react. While I didn’t blog about it, the first thing I did was tweet a link to her article saying “Mums! Liz Jones thinks maternity leave is a holiday” so I’m as guilty as the next one.

    • Oh I am too! When I saw everyone else getting all wound up it was impossible not to get carried along with that, which is why I posted it on FB. Definitely one of those occasions when it’s good to have non-bloggers giving you a bit of perspective though! Xx

  4. I was far more angry that the article was sexist and the whole burka comment was really off, and yes racist.That was the one line that really angered me – that and the fact that I had never read the daily Mail before so was totally unaware that that sort of drip fed racism was the norm 😦

  5. Five facebook groups? That’s interesting… I’m only aware of three. And that just tells you how pathetic it all is.

    And re LJ – I’ll repeat what I said on Sunday about her article (in one of those FB groups funnily enough), She could have been a lot nastier, and someone who insists that her articles are filtered and this isn’t the full truth then the woman is sad and lonely and bitter.

    I wish people were writing about Caitlin Moran or Miriam González Durántez or any of the other sessions. For those of us that weren’t there, the shine seems to have been taken off the event as the blog posts and twitter streams are full of discussion about LJ. It’s exactly what she wanted.

  6. I wondered when I read the Liz Jones article whether it was a send up. You make a good point with your usual fluency, but you surprise me. I’ve yet to discover the bitchiness and competitiveness of the parent blogging world. I’ve found it refreshingly encouraging and supportive. I agree with Molly. Blogs should be what we want them to be and not what we feel they ought to be and if that means writing about cupcakes, why not!

    • That’s because we all love you, Anna. How could anyway be mean to a vicar’s wife?

      I guess it comes back to some of the points I made in my post the other week about staying true to your values, and making sure your blog reflects that. If that’s cupcakes and knitting more power to you (I genuinely wish I was able to do both of those things!) but I don’t think it does any harm to step back occasionally and reflect on whether your blog is still satisfying you and achieving what you want it to.


  7. I’m a mum. I blog. I’m not part of any blogging group. I won’t read the Mail. So, all I know about the LJ saga is what you’ve told me the past 2 days. I knew the mumsnet thing was happening, but not that LJ was going to be there. Are mumsnet happy with the response?
    My blog is about me, (what was that about attention seeking?) and what ever interests me. LJ doesn’t feature in my world, but it’s good to see that she can provoke thinking as well as controversy!

    • I had a quick glance at the Mumsnet Forums, and it looked like one of the Mods was saying that they’d invited her as an attempt to get her a bit more onside but that obviously hadn’t worked. She didn’t get paid though, apparently.

  8. Well I’m only a member of 2 parent blogging groups as far as I know, at least I only partake in two of them. Didn’t realise there were 5! Nicely worded post, just like all the others have been and I commend you on your different take to “The Liz Jones Show”.

    But my bluntness raises its ugly head again when we’re now on our fourth day of reading about the woman who attended an event only to irritate parent bloggers and make everyone think about how utterly vile she is. I doubt she’s read any of the posts written about her yet the Daily Mail will be once again presenting her with a big fat cheque and congratulating her on the success at causing such an uproar. I too, am all for freedom of speech and people writing what they want on their own blog – I HATE blogging police, they piss me off almost as much as irritating journalists. But I also feel a little sorry for the other speakers at the event because I imagine they’re now wishing they hadn’t bothered going. After all, once the almightly Ms Jones turned up, they would have known their presence was a waste of time.

    CJ x

    • I bet the long term thing that attendees take away from the event is some of the good blogging and writing advice that was dispensed by other speakers – this is just a short term little tizzy in the pool. Ta for your comment which is as thoughtful and honest as ever xx

  9. Your post just goes to show that sometimes the kneejerk reaction is not always the right one. Giving something time to settle in your brain and to think about it from all angles is always good.
    And of course being able to laugh at ourselves is also worthwhile.
    I was ready to have a rant about LJ a couple of days ago – from the point of view of someone who was a journalist encouraged to write bile and total crap by an editor with an agenda, before becoming a SAHM and blogger.
    But there have been so many posts about her, I decided not to add to the publicity. Or give her material with which to write another article claiming mummy bloggers were all angry, ranting knitters with no sense of humour!
    I say just feel sorry for her. She has no freedom in her writing, no accuracy, no humour. She has to follow an agenda.
    And it must niggle that we have that freedom, and a life (of chaos, cupcakes and kids) that she can only dream of.

  10. Water off a ducks back…Storm in a teacup…Wouldn’t give her the time of day even if it was with a broken clock…. Too much time and feeling has been spent on this already in my opinion (though I do agree with most of your post!)

    • I know, I know, you’re totally right. Sorry for dragging this into a third day! I would have stuck it up earlier but I loved Motherventing’s piece so much I wanted to post hers first. xx

    • I’ve been pondering this all morning. I wonder if it was easier to not be offended if you weren’t at the event? Does it feel more like she’s being personally judgemental of you if you were actually there?

      • I think so. As i’ve written in my post I think she had written most of it before she has got there, because there’s simply so much of it that isn’t true – silly stuff that she wouldn’t have written otherwise. That’s what’s so offensive. Not to mention her totally made up ‘conversations!’ It’s all so unnecessary. Slag us off if you please – but be factual.

  11. Hello! I was at the blogging conference, and on the whole it was very good – the cupcakes were yummy ;o). I have to admit to feeling riled when I first read the LJ article in the Fail, especially as she had misspelled the name of a blog of a blogging friend of mine, who as it turns out, she hadn’t even spoken to anyway. But on reflection I can see the whole thing reeked of a set up – why would Mumsnet invite her, when they would have known her point of view on mums etc, it generated great publicity for both them and LJ in the end of the day – look at all the Blogposts that have been written! From what I saw of LJ on the day, she’s clearly not a very well woman with little sense of personal boundary. Anyway, all that aside, that was a brilliantly written post as ever, as Anna says, fluent writing (and that’s an art) and I wish that I could borrow some of your intelligence and eloquence. I admire your strength of opinion. You’re made of tough stuff Dorky M. X.

    • And there was cheese! It did sound bloody brilliant from what I was following on Twitter – an amazing line up of speakers, and very professional. I do tend to agree with you that she probably has some fairly serious mental health issues. If she didn’t write for the Mail, she’s the kind of person they’d hate. Thanks for your kind words. Isn’t it nice that we can maintain a level of health discourse and debate even when we’re all coming from such different perspectives! Hope you got a lot of good advice and inspiration out of the event xxx

  12. Love this post. I was at mumsnetblogfest, felt sorry for the sorry figure of LJ when she appeared, and quite upset by her article. Your suggestion to look in and see it as a challenge is a great one that can be used for most situations. Thanks for writing.

    • An excellent article, very well articulated. I havent read the original piece yet but as usual expect to take it as i would with any other piece of daily mail ‘journalism’.

  13. Pingback: Goodbye 2012 | dorkymum

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