Australian author, Constance Hall, had a rough weekend. So did writer and blogger, Lisa Shearon.
The two of them ended up in a Facebook brawl, and the entire incident has revealed an ugly side to mummy blogging.
It shows that disagreement and criticism are part and parcel of sharing your opinion and writing online.
And it shows public figures with big and loyal followings need to be aware of their responsibilities and be sure that they don’t, inadvertently or otherwise, incite an online lynch mob to take down another woman, particularly when so much of your manifesto calls for women to unite with one another.
Here’s what happened.
On Saturday, Shearon published a post to her blog The Notorious Mum, titled “I may be many things, but a queen I am not.”
In her post she writes, “Constance Hall and her many queens offer a fucking lifeline. They are a good thing. They are an important thing. But they are not my thing. Because I am not a queen. And I have reservations about the whole queen thing, truth be told.”
Shearon goes on to outline why Constance Hall and her significant following make her nervous; the hero worship element so prevalent amongst her dedicated followers, the theme of motherhood as oppression that runs through much of Hall’s writing, Hall’s body positivity which Shearon counters by encouraging women to not be ashamed to aspire to being “fit and healthy”, Hall’s relaxed approach to child-rearing, and the lack of grammar in Hall’s writing.
In response, Hall posted on her own Facebook page saying that Shearon’s post and some of the comments on Shearon’s page had caused her to have a major panic attack. This post, which you can read below, was later deleted.
Despite initially saying she wouldn't name Shearon, Hall later did.
What followed for Shearon was sustained attacks from Hall's followers; bullying and trolling. You can read Shearon's full version of events here.
Shearon who has been blogging for a year and half now, told Mamamia that she has never experienced anything like it. In a post today, Shearon writes, "They came in their hundreds, abusing and insulting and hell-bent on destroying."
Many people will disagree with what Shearon wrote in her initial blog post, but she has written a reasonable and thoughtful critique of a public figure. And like it or not, Hall is definitely a public figure.
Writing on the Internet is not easy as many people know, especially so when you're a woman, when you want to be honest about life and about motherhood, and when you've built a huge following as quickly as Hall.
In Shearon's blog post, she writes about how important it is to have women like Hall who have created a tribe for other women to join. Hall presents life honestly, as it really is, for many thousands and thousands of women around the country.
Dear friends without children. There is something I need to say to you..... ???? Thanks. ???? Thanks for giving a fuck about my kids. You come to my kids parties, not because your kids have dragged you there but because you actually want to come. You laugh at stories about the kids with such authenticity, not just because you can relate but because you are actually interested. You come to kid friendly restaurants and eat curly fucking chips while my arsehole children play on your phone and knock your drink over, when you could be at some opening of some cool place with the millions of cool people who invite you out. ???? You come to my house with interesting stories and give me a fresh inspiration when you speak about your upcoming opportunities. And you offer me advise that always seems to put a fresh spin on things. ???? Some of you chose not to have kids, I admire that so much. Some of you desperately wanted them and instead of being jealous or bitter towards me for having so many you relish in mine and love them with your whole soul. ???? I never remember a time before I had kids that I was that gracious and cool enough to sacrifice a Saturday night at the pub so that I could sit on the kitchen floor playing twister with a friends kid. ???? So thanks for being true Queens ????????
Hall is a feminist, she's a progressive and she supports some very good causes, not least of which is Rafiki Mwema, a safe house for young girls in Kenya. She calls out racism when she sees it, and she asks women to support and empower one another. She uses her profile for good.
But there's another side to sharing your opinion, and there's another side to having a following like Hall does.
When you share your opinion, you invite your readers to enter into a conversation with you. Part of that conversation will be disagreement and criticism, strident criticism even.
When you put your opinion out there, you need to be ready for that.
Shearon told Mamamia, "As I said in my post, I’ve put myself out there, so I should expect a certain amount of constructive criticism. So should she [Hall]."
You shouldn't be subjected to bullying, trolling or threats, but you should be prepared for the fact that you may be publicly criticised. Again, Shearon told Mamamia, "That’s why we write - to engage others. Disagreement is a part of that. Personal attacks aren’t."
When you have a following as big and as dedicated as Hall's, it means you have a responsibility.
A following like Hall's gives you a lot of power. Hall herself receives a LOT of unfair and hurtful online abuse. Both of these women connect with their audiences using words and experiences. The ugly side? It's the abusers.
What you say, what you share, who you praise and who shame can make or break someone. And in the case of Lisa Shearon, it can result in a day's worth of harassment and bullying.
Mamamia asked Constance Hall for comment for this piece, but she has not yet responded.
WATCH: Mia Freedman discusses how she deals with hate online.