Last night, around Australia, there were men and women putting their kids to bed and telling them to be kind. Not to bully. To let others speak, to not tease, exclude or call others names.
They were busy, as always, stroking sweaty heads, kissing little noses, putting down books and tiptoeing out of rooms, job done.
Some of these people – many of them mothers – then went to their phones and their iPads and the family desktops, settled down with a cuppa and tapped out some words of vitriol and hatred for a woman they have never met.
In response to news of this woman’s pregnancy announcement, they typed things like:
“Fertile sow, isn’t she?”
“I hope she dies in childbirth.”
And “God, she’s trash.”
They tagged their friends to come and join in, apparently delighting in a full-throated attack on a mother of four (soon to be five, plus two ‘steps’) whose only apparent crime is speaking her mind and being good at it.
At Mamamia, we publish stories about hundreds of women every month. Some of them attract criticism for what they do or what they say or what they stand for. It’s not a secret that women get a hard time online. That the criticism directed at them is particularly violent and rageful. From Jacqui Lambie to Roxy Jacenko to yes, of course, Mia Freedman, women in the public eye draw judgement by the pageful. Scads of it.
Generally, at Mamamia, we make it our business to rise above. To delete the worst of it – the foul-mouthed, the threatening – and to keep right on telling women’s stories and publishing their voices regardless.
But when it comes to Constance, it’s proving difficult to turn the other cheek.
At this point, full disclosure: Constance Hall doesn’t like it when Mamamia writes about her. Because the comments on our Facebook page that follow are often cruel, and come faster than we can keep up with.
So it is with apologies to Mrs Hall, that this time – days after she announced she is pregnant to her fiance Denim, and the day after she wrote about dealing with hateful comments – we insist on coming to her defence in the face of such relentless, mindless abuse.
Because if you have a problem with Constance Hall, you have a problem with women who are speaking their truth, daring to say out loud what many of us think. It has always been a dangerous occupation. Especially for a woman.
The level of vitriol would be understandable, perhaps, if what Hall was writing about was provocative political material. If she was exposing the corruption of powerful men or promoting hate-speech or bringing down a beloved icon.
But she’s not. Constance Hall just writes about her life, and in doing that, she writes about all of our lives.
The relentless overwhelm of parenting tiny children. The imperfections of a marriage that’s lost its way. The impenetrable politics of the school gate. The angst over those five extra kilos. Cooking another f-ing dinner. The raw force of hasty lust. The giddy pleasure of your children’s very existence. A glug of cold wine. The joy of falling in love again. The beauty of nature. A night out with your girlfriends. The injustice of the schoolyard. The exhaustion of a “job” that never clocks off.
That’s what Constance Hall writes about. Real life, hers and yours. And it made her famous. And it’s made her wealthy. And it’s made her hated.
Why? Is it because the messy edges of other people’s lives make us uncomfortable? Is it because honesty makes us itch?
Arlo, “mum on our excursion we saw a bench that was a memorial and it had butterflies all over it for a girl called Maddy who died who’s favourite thing was butterflies. I started thinking that if you died I’d have to paint a bench with people cuddling on it coz that’s your favourite thing, cuddling.” Fuck I love his kid
Is it because we are suspicious of the kind of confidence that would drive a woman – any woman, really – to back herself. To write a book, to start a business, to never apologise, to want more, to do it her way?
Are we wary of the sheer audacity of a female who’s happy to call out her imperfections? Tummy rolls and tears on the toilet. Dinners on the kitchen counter that don’t tick off five-a-day. The occasional urge to call one of your kids a dickhead as they torture you with ear-splitting screeches/total disregard/endless demands/senseless squabbles.
Is it because her rise, from working-class roots to a woman who lives in beautiful house in Margaret River (“WA’s Byron”, they say), has her own clothing line, a sold-out book and a following so loyal they get “Queen” tattoos at her urging, stirs envy we thought we’d quashed?
These transgressions – honesty, confidence, success, a life lived out loud – have apparently elevated Hall to the canon of women who Can’t Do Anything Right. There are more of them in there than you think.
At their AGM, my aforementioned boss, Mia Freedman would be hugging new arrivals while Carrie Bickmore is handing out beanies and Roxy Jacenko is pouring the champagne.
It’s an imaginary room filled with women who had the balls to say something, to change something, to try something.
Listen: Holly Wainwright is kind of an expert on “mummy bloggers”. She’s written a novel about some imaginary ones. Listen to her talk to Mia Freedman about it, here…
We wonder at them because sometimes their big lives make ours seem small.
But in truth, hitting out at them only makes us weaker, paler, more insecure.
With every post about her bold life, Constance Hall gathers strength. More gorgeous kids who adore her. More “Queens” who see themselves in a story not often told on TV – you don’t need a handsome banker husband, a six-pack, rich parents or glittering job to be A Success. With enough grit, you can will it so.
You might not, like Constance Hall, build an army and a business. But you might dig out your crown and remember to wear it.
And, clearly, nothing pisses people off like a woman who knows her worth.