Gina Ford stops talk about her in mothering forums

August 8, 2006

Well now isn’t this story by The Telegraph in the UK interesting?

It says: “Gina Ford, the baby expert whose advice is either loved or loathed by parents, has demanded the closure of a popular internet site for mothers after it published what she claims to be defamatory comments about her.”

It seems that people on Mumsnet talked about her suggested parenting methods and some disagreed with her advice. Gina didn’t like it has now ordered the entire forum to be closed. Secondly, can any author reasonably expect, when they are writing about motherhood, for every person to agree with their advice? Thirdly, by not letting mothers dicuss your ideas then you are halting word of mouth reviews of your book and probably harming sales.

The whole thing was sparked by an interview that Gina gave to Mumsnet which then led some members to post negative comments about her viewpoints. The forum removed the interview and the comments and then banned all mention of Gina. That still isn’t enough.

Sounds crazy to me.

After all, if you give an interview to a forum or publication can you really expect the people reading to all form positive opinions?

Seems a bit heavy handed to me for several reasons. Firstly, if someone is defamed by a newspaper, the newspaper is sued but not closed down. Secondly can you really expect people to completely agree with everything you say when all you are offering is advice and method, rather than something which is a black and white proven solution? Thirdly, can you really demand that a forum never ever mentions your name again in posts (a newspaper would never adhere to such rules)? Fourthly, by stopping mothers discussing your methods and books, how are you supposed to market your books?

I can’t tell you how this prevention of free speech has angered me.

I only read one baby book last time around and this time around and that was “What to Expect when you are Expecting”. I didn’t read Gina or Penelope, as I felt I would be too confused and overwhelmed with what I should be doing rather than what I felt was right. However, I know these books are a lifeline to some. But, to not be able to discuss these books is ridiculous. You don’t see other authors having a fit about book clubs held around the world online where they talk about books in detail and pull apart characters and plotlines.

It is particularly hard for mumsnet because discussing what works for one mum and why it doesn’t work for another is all part of a mothering community. To be unable to discuss one of the top baby authority writers is pretty hard.

I find it hard to understand the character of defamation. Ford writes about a particular style of child rearing and if someone says it didn’t work for them or they feel that style is harsh, is that defamation or just opinion without malice?

All very strange and I feel very dark days for the internet. What do you think about mumsnet having to stop about talk about this particular author?*

*Please, obviously, do not talk about Gina’s methods and if you agree with them here just in case the lawyers are watching.