We all love to condemn Twitter trolls, nasty commenters and bitchy Facebook followers. And rightly so. They're toxic, unnecessary and a danger to public health and good taste.
As a fairly random example, these Twitterers had a good ol' whinge about the writing of a particular blog post by Lisa from Two Point Five Kids:
“ I couldn’t read it…apparently it’s hard to read when your eyes have rolled so far back into your head from STUPID”
“complete absence of most basic writing ability.”
“By “educated woman” I think she means she read Twilight.”
It just so happens that Lisa has never read Twilight, is university educated and defended herself beautifully in her next post, You can buy an education but you can't buy class.
Right now you're thinking 'How awful!' 'What terrible things to say!' But let's be honest: tell me you've never read a blog post and had yourself a little sigh, eye roll or a quiet 'tut tut'. A misplaced or missing apostrophe. Split infinitives. Too many 'e's, not enough 'l's. I'll be honest: I do it myself. Poor writing grates.
But let me tell you another story. It might make you think twice next time you're feeling irked by seemingly sloppy prose.
Once upon a time there was a section of society, let's call them 'mothers'. There was no internet, no electricity, many of these mothers couldn't even read. Or write. And their babies died. Often.
They lived in a little goldrush town called Melbourne, Australia in the late 1800s. For every 1000 babies born, 103 were dead before they turned 1 year old.
An educated French historian guy called Phillipe Aries had a theory about all these mothers. He figured they didn't really care about their kids very much. They knew their babies would probably die, you see, so they didn't get attached. They weren't surprised, and didn't get upset, when their baby did die. They just handed them over to be buried and set about making another one.
Aries published a book about it in the early 1960s called Centuries of Childhood. A bunch of other educated historian guys agreed. That made perfect sense.
Hang on. What? What the WHAT??
Let me explain. The mothers in late 1800s Melbourne didn't write about their lives. They didn't have access to the internet and free blogging platforms. They couldn't tell everyone else of the heartbreak of losing one baby after another. Of having so much back-breaking work to do that they barely had time to grieve. That they were forced to go back to work soon after the baby was born so they could afford to feed themselves and their family. That they didn't have enough food so their breast milk dried up. That there was no safe alternative to breast milk. So their baby died.
I don't know if it happened exactly like that. Neither do you. Neither did Aries. So he made it up, based on the information he had at hand (which was very little). And people believed him.
The good news is that he created such an uproar (particularly among those pesky feminist historians) that scholars have spent the past 50 or so years doing more research to set the story straight.
Historian Shurlee Swain took up the challenge for poor, uneducated Melbourne Mums of the late 1800s. The only records she could find where these women had been able to record their grief? Coroner's court reports. Why did they have coroner's court reports? Because a law had been passed requiring the deaths of poor women's babies to be investigated. Because they died. A lot. And the politicians figured it was the mother's fault for not looking after them properly and not caring enough. They were looking for proof of their theory.
Instead what they managed to create was a voice for grieving mothers, a record of the hopelessness of their situation and their despair at losing their babies.
Back to 2014.
Mummy bloggers are not writers. Sure, there are some Mummy bloggers who also happen to be professional writers, have self-editing training and are skilled in web publishing. There are also many Mummy bloggers who have no time, no money and little or no education. They share a desire to write about being a Mum, whether they write it lyrically, conversationally or downright ungrammatically.
Without exception these Mums are creating a record and giving a voice to everything Mums go through. In 2014, simply by doing a quick search in Google, you can read dozens of experiences of Mums being pregnant, giving birth, watching their kids grow, struggling with postnatal depression, illness, work/family balance, losing a child, losing a spouse or just dealing with the day to day emotional rollercoaster that is parenthood.
Next time you're feeling irritated about the standard of writing on the internet remember this: more than 80% of Australian women will become mothers at some point in their lives. Yet over 50% of adult Australians aren't literate enough to cope with everyday life and didn't complete highschool.
If you want to read a blog about what it's like to be an Australian mother who didn't have the chance to complete highschool and struggles with day to day literacy you're probably going to have to deal with a few spelling errors. But at least you know for sure that she loves her babies just as much as someone who has a Masters in Spelling and Grammar.
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