GMB Union, a British trade union, has decided to retract its collaboration with online parenting forum Mumsnet in May 2020 over allegations of bigotry on the forum. The Union stated on their website that they will no longer be holding Q&A sessions about worker’s rights on Mumsnet, following complaints by several activists who claim they fight for diversity.
The workers’ trade union had teamed up with the leading parenting forum Mumsnet Towers “to host a mini-series of online advice clinics” on employments rights. The first session featured three of their experts responding to user questions on “rights at work during coronavirus”.
User James Felton, a verified account on Twitter, lead the attack on Mumsnet, complaining that the parenting forum is “notorious for transphobia”. Felton’s tweet condemned GMB for working with the mum’s platform and for by “turning off the replies” on their post, accusing the GMB of not allowing complaints to be viewed by other users who were against the partnership.
The attack lasted three days, and on May 25 GMB was forced to reply. GMB stated they would immediately pause their work with Mumsnet with the promise to review the partnership while looking for alternatives to “reach working parents whilst continuing to support all our members”.
Women’s rights activists Maya Forstater and Kiri Tunks posted responses condemning GMB’s capitulation to bullies on social media, arguing the accusations against the parenting forum are unfounded. Both feminists have also been attacked on social media for defending sex-based rights and the right to debate on legislation affecting women’s spaces and opportunities, like the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) reform and self-id laws.
Forstater, a researcher on business and international development, worked at the think tank The Center for Global Development (CGD) in London. She lost her job after tweeting about gender identity and the need to save women’s spaces.
Kiri Tunks is a teacher and trade unionist who co-founded A Woman’s Place UK in September 2017 “shortly after the Government pledged to amend the Gender Recognition Act, allowing people to legally change their gender without medical authorisation”, according to the British newspaper the Telegraph in 2018.
Like Forstater and Tunks, many other feminist women are showing their support for Mumsnet. The parenting site is mostly used by mothers, many of whom are working mothers. In recent years, a significant increase in diversity has been seen at the platform with many working-class mothers joining it. According to Tunks, 50 percent of GMB members are women.
This is not the first time Mumsnet has been attacked: accusations such as this have been around more often since the forum welcomed online boards to include discussions about feminism. Their feminist board, created at the request from the users around 2010, has even been called a place where mothers become “radicalized”.
In 2018, Victoria Smith wrote for the New Statesman about the “demonization” of the parenting forum, talking about how it went from gossiping to deep political discussions over the years. In the feminist boards, gender identity and biological sex are both hot topics since activists have been pushing for a reform of the GRA, which first came into law in 2004. Victoria has been banned from Twitter for her views on gender identity.
More recently, margarine maker Flora pulled their adverts from the platform following complaints on Mumsnetters discussing gender identity. Following Flora’s decision to withdrawn their adverts from the forum, women, who are Mumsnet users in the main, boycotted the popular brand.
According to the Independent, “Upfield, which owns the Flora margarine brand, withdrew from an advertising partnership with Mumsnet after Twitter user @mimmymum and campaign group Stop Funding Hate raised concerns over the existence of transphobic content on the site”.
The British publication also reports that Mumsnet has “repeatedly been accused of allowing transphobic content to run unchecked on its site. Of the top 10 threads on the popular ‘Women's Rights’ forum at the time of writing, six are centered on “debate” around trans identities”.
This year, Audible(seller and producer of spoken audio entertainment) also received online complaints by the same online user, @mimmymum, on social media and has withdrawn its adverts from the platform.