I was pondering Internet communities and how certain portions can get really toxic and weird and was thinking about mothering dot com. This thread talks about the straight line that led a depressing number of people from "natural parenting" to QAnon.
When I was a new mom, in 2000, there was a store in St. Paul that sold breastfeeding supplies that I went to, and they also sold Mothering magazine, and I wound up subscribing briefly and finding my way to the discussion boards.
I was a regular poster there for a while. I don't actually remember how long -- after a few months I discovered another community that was a better fit, then moved on from there to a break-away community. (This was a super common experience for an online mom at the time.)
Anyway, Mothering magazine was this problematic mix of lovely articles about gentle parenting and outdoor play and pseudoscientific garbage.

The bulletin boards had some similar issues, although in 2000, it didn't feel particularly doctrinaire to me.
The event that pushed me out was sort of hilariously dramatic: it was the Night that Peggy O'Mara Discovered The Boards. Peggy O'Mara was the editor of the magazine; she'd presumably authorized the creation of the bulletin board community but had not previously visited.
Friends, do you know what she found that horrified her to her very bones?

MOTHERS talking about SEX.


(There had been a "how can I give a better blow job?" thread earlier that week, I think that one really upset her.)
She fired a bunch of the mods and banned a bunch of people. There was vehement pushback and she relented but a bunch of my favorite people had already left for good and the community saw a pretty dramatic shift after that.
Anyway. When I try to explain how that community changed over time, there's really nothing that illustrates it better than the attitude towards unassisted homebirth.
When I first started posting there, there was a subforum for midwife-assisted homebirth. There were people elsewhere on the Internet advocating for unassisted homebirth, but this was not a mainstream-for-MDC sort of thing.
To some extent this was viewed as a Peggy O'Mara thing: she liked midwives, u/a birth dispensed with midwives, that was bad for midwives, end of discussion.
(I should clarify: by "unassisted childbirth" I mean PLANNED unassisted childbirth, not the kind where you give birth in your kitchen because things moved a lot faster than you were expecting.)
(Also, I'm going to drop a trigger warning before I go any further into this history. TW: infant death.)
Over time, more and more women on the forum started trying to give birth unassisted, and they pushed for a specialized subforum for unassisted homebirths. Eventually they got one, and set rules saying that you could not criticize anyone else's decisions.
There was a complex set of rules about the advice you could give. If someone 9 months pregnant started having blinding headaches, it was not forbidden to say, "this is a pre-eclampsia symptom," but I can't remember whether "GO TO THE ER RIGHT NOW" crossed the line.
Fundamentally, if someone was having horrifying symptoms but insisted that their gut told them the hospital was the wrong place for them, you couldn't contradict that.
At some point, someone actually went through and listed all the deaths and serious birth injuries and the number was shocking. I think this person had been screen-shotting, because there was a whole lot of deletion of threads when the outcomes were bad.

I have friends who were on MDC this whole time, hanging out in the homeschooling forum, mostly.

The thing with a really large online community -- you can totally do that, and just ... not ever look at the troubling parts. That's totally an option.
And I don't blame the individual users for saying "those areas are not for me, it's just going to upset me to look, I'm not having those conversations."

But I absolutely hold the administrators responsible.
One more random, but tangentially-related, story about MDC's community.

In the early 2000s there were SO MANY PARENTING BOARDS and lots of them were wide open, you could just go lurk. And FAR AND AWAY the creepiest one I found was the Natural-Living Nazi Moms.
(I deeply regret my lack of screen shots.)

The discussions were basically identical to what you'd got over on MDC but with open racism and antisemitism. "Let's talk about growing a big organic garden and canning! because that way we won't have to pay the Jew tax!"
There were threads looking for good children's picture books but with WHITE children ONLY. I mean, you get the idea, probably.

All of these women also posted at MDC. They had a thread lamenting how oppressed they were, not being able to talk openly about their racism there.
And they were correct that they could not: MDC was totally fine hosting discussions about treating serious illnesses in children with garlic because antibiotics are "unnatural," and totally fine with unassisted homebirth, but Nazism was not up for debate.

I have been thinking a LOT about message boards, and who's responsible for what, and what it means when you just ignore large segments of your online community. About how communities themselves have Overton Windows, and how those windows get moved.

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Naomi Kritzer

Naomi Kritzer Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @NaomiKritzer

19 Jan
So since we're talking about music and Joe Biden can I tell you how much the Hamilton song "Wait for It" makes me think about Joe and also about Joe Biden vs. Aaron Burr.

"Death doesn't discriminate / between the sinners and the saints / it takes, and it takes, and it takes."

Weeks after Joe Biden was elected to his first term in the Senate, his wife and daughter died in a car accident.
Of his surviving sons, one went on to die of cancer.

The other, Hunter, has struggled with addiction. To try to hurt Biden during the campaign, someone released texts sent between Joe and Hunter while Hunter was in treatment.
Read 11 tweets
18 Jan
I was pondering the fact that on Tuesday we're going to see 8 gazillion Les Miserable "One Day More" gifs and found this delightful flashmob performance from 2014.

I hope flashmob musical performances make a roaring comeback in 2022.

There are lots and lots and lots of Les Miz gifs for your use on Tuesday but there's also this one with Minions:
And if you want a slightly less ominous/more optimistic song from a musical, there's always:

Read 4 tweets
18 Jan
FYI, the sites are in San Diego, Boise, San Antonio, and Houston.
Oh hey!

There are actually a number of additional sites, they just make it very difficult to find them. Check out this page for the state you're in to see if it's recruiting:

And since the Minnesota one says they ARE recruiting, I googled the research institute mentioned:

Read 6 tweets
17 Jan
I had a few more things to say about the whole "aspiring writers who cut their teeth on fanfic" thing. (I'm not QT'ing the original tweet because at this point that would REALLY feel like punching down.) I want to talk about the writing I did as a kid & teen.
One of the things that got cancelled due to COVID last year was Minicon, and one of the things I was REALLY looking forward to at Minicon was a planned event where a bunch of us were going to pull out our oldest juvenalia for a reading.
The oldest juvenalia I have is from 4th grade, when I had a weekly assignment that was "write 1 page of whatever." The story I spent most of the year working on is about a girl who goes to summer camp and meets a talking horse.
Read 24 tweets
16 Jan
Having tracked down the Edgy Fanfic Take, what Sarah said is what I want to say.

You can write just because you want to write.
There are fanfic writers who want to become published writers of original fiction and are using fanfic to work on stuff in a way that feels fun.

There are also people who write fanfic because they want to write fanfic, and that's also fine.
And I hope the people who find joy, comfort, community, affirmation, pleasure, or distraction from their troubles in either reading or writing fanfic don't even read that person's bad take.
Read 4 tweets
16 Jan
I served food in my high school cafeteria, shelved books in my high school library, and scooped frozen custard for minimum wage. The library job was pretty great. Working at the custard stand sucked rocks through a bendy straw.
When I was a teenager, the minimum wage was $3.35/hour, which over the course of my high school years ranged in current value from $7.85 to $6.48.
I also babysat for $2/hour, which was less than I should have been charging. One parent paid me $1.75 and did not correct this problem when I finally got the nerve up to tell her my rate was $2. I said OK and was passive-aggressively busy every time she called after that.
Read 11 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!