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Why the motherhood challenge is just another attempt to create a rift between women

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Ask A Feminist is Stylist.co.uk's regular column tackling issues on feminism, sexism and womanhood in a real-life, 21st Century context. This week Anna Whitehouse, the founder of parenthood blog Mother Pukka, considers the fallout from the Facebook 'motherhood challenge' - and why it is that the world seems determined to cast a division between mums. 

‘Naff’, ‘cringe’, ‘patronising’, ‘uniting’, ‘beautiful’, ‘positive’. These are a few contrasting words pinging about the internet about the ‘motherhood challenge’ – a Facebook push that asks mothers to share five photos that define motherhood to them and then ‘tag another 10 awesome mothers’ to do the same.

Yesterday a guy from BBC Radio rang me up and asked if I’d debate this thing on air. 

He wanted to pit myself and another mother against each other to debate the ‘naffness’ versus ‘ wonderfulness’ of this Facebook campaign. While the debate went on for all of 40 seconds, the overarching point is that once again the media world seems set on dividing us. On dividing the motherhood. 

No judgement: Anna Whitehouse and her daughter Mae

No judgement: Anna Whitehouse and her daughter Mae (credit: Emily Gray Photography)

The whole furore around the motherhood challenge has engendered the golden opportunity for A Tale Of Two Sides - involving women, the most enticing characters for the job.

Regardless of how we actually exist in everyday life, in this given narrative, mothers are divided neatly down the middle.

We either wear Stan Smiths and boyfriend jeans and rock the world with our ‘I’ve not changed’ ways and Mac Lady Danger lipstick, throwing the ‘naff’ card at folks who, for whatever reason want to post five pics of their spawn.

Or we’re swathed in Cath Kidston and spouting terms like AIU (Am I Being Unreasonable) or NYANBU (No You Are Not Being Unreasonable) on Mumsnet.

Parent Fail

Mums: united through the good and the bad

The truth, of course, is a lot more nuanced and boringly supportive than that. 

On my parenthood blog Mother Pukka, I've lost count of the general feelings of empathy that abound - from mothers supporting each other in start-ups to flurries of emoticons if someone is drowning in nappies/ Weetabix, it’s a world where everyone is welcome. 

Whether breast or bottle, stay-at-home or office, the one common denominator across parenthood is laughter. It’s not always about what we get right, it’s sometimes the things that don’t always go to plan that unites us. Together with Right To Play International, we launched the ‘parent fail’ campaign that encourages people to share the good, bad, ugly and plain funny moments of parenting. It’s a chance to break down the perfect barriers Instagram sometimes puts up and show that we’re in this together.

But affiliation and empathy don't play to a headline in a world that seeks to divide, not unite women.

Social media - and the compulsive stirrer that is the internet - doesn’t want us all to hold hands and realise there’s room at the inn for all kinds of mums. Room for lipsticks and dipsticks; room for faf, naf and everything inbetween. 

Fearne Cotton

Fearne Cotton talking about her #ParentFail on Mother Pukka

In my opinion, tagging 10 mates who are ‘awesome mothers is a bit naff but so is most of Facebook - so nothing revolutionary. I’m also not sure anyone feels a deep sense of loss if they’re not tagged as an ‘awesome mother’. We’ve all hoofed-out kids one way or another – we can take it.

The really grating thing here is the imposed narrative of division.

We're at each others necks! Once again! If it's not playground politics, it's Facebook spats. 

In reality, we're women who are working on life and supporting each other through it. And there’s nothing naff about that.

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