I should have known better. I recently shared what I thought was an entirely positive image in support of full term breastfeeding that was created by Health Canada.
But by posting a simple infographic created by our very own government that supported full-term nursing, I broke the cardinal rule of a social media Facebook group: never post anything that is even remotely related to (a) vaccination, or (b) breastfeeding.
Words like “creepy”, “gross” and “extreme” left me blindsided and dumbfounded as to why an image of a practice recommended by the World Health Organization, would cause such a visceral reaction for some. You would think I had posted a picture of my husband’s bowel movements.
So I took it down after 13 minutes. 13 minutes was all it took for the discussion to go from supportive to mudslinging. And since then I have thought long and hard about why language that may seem petty and harmless continues to bother me so much.
Words like these are not trying to share information, inform, support, educate or assist. They do little to validate the role of mothers and only reinforce the stereotype that women are petty, shallow and dramatic. They hurt. They shame. They belittle. They are the seeds of bullying, the words that start to be used so casually at the playground and then grow into intolerance.
There was a subsequent discussion around the necessity of “mommy wars” as a means by which women gain valuable information on various parenting practices, and that perhaps some parents may make more informed decisions by being exposed to these debates.
I call bullshit. (can I say that in print?)
It all comes down to intent. The intent of the majority of these ill-intentioned comments is rarely to provide a fact-based alternative or to share information that others may find of use. And as a parent, I rarely hit up the social media circuit when looking for an unbiased analysis of various parenting practices.
Are these forums a great tool for sharing stories, anecdotes and supporting one another through challenges? Yes. Are they my go-to source of unbiased information? I think not.
I am not advocating for unconditional support for all mothering decisions while we sing kumbaya around a campfire. That is hardly a constructive, realistic or honest way to live. But perhaps a little more compassion is warranted. By being a little more intentional with selecting our words, especially those that are made behind a computer screen that are easily misinterpreted, perhaps our comments can both support and inform.
Lani is the creator of http://squamishbaby.com a community resource website and blog about parenting. She can also be found on Twitter @SquamishBaby.