Writing about parenting decisions on the internet is hazardous if you are a mother. It doesn’t matter that the mistake in question wasn’t yours, and that instead it was a nurse’s fault that your child received the wrong vaccine. If you are a mother, you will only be attacked as a neglectful mother/helicopter parent/narcissist/etc. (Don’t believe me? Just skim some of the first comments, if you dare. I’m still trying to wrap my head around her being called both neglectful AND a helicopter parent. Awesome!)
If you as a mother simultaneously transfused blood into your child WHILE lifting a burning car off of her body, you’ll still be told U R doin’ it RONG. You’re a helicopter (or Jaws of Life) parent! Parents do too much for their kids these days! What a narcissist–why would you write about a private trauma like that? It was dangerously irresponsible for you not to call 911 and let the paramedics handle that! Take take take–that’s all they’ll ever learn if you do everything for them!!!!11!!!1!1!
It’s difficult for me to imagine that a father who wrote a similar essay would be subject to such patronizing, dismissive, and nasty lectures from anonymous (and not-so-anonymous) commenters and tweeters. In fact, in the world I inhabit, I think it’s quite plausible that he’d be offered warm, gooey cookies for an essay like that, even (or especially?) from feminist writers. A man who takes his daughters to the pediatrician, AND lets them make their own decisions about the HPV vaccination! Oooohhh–we can only imagine how scared you and your daughter must have been when you got the phone call! Swoon!!!
Excuse me–I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.
I thought Mary Elizabeth Williams’s original essay about how her daughter was mistakenly and without her consent given the HPV vaccine was thoughtful and raised important issues about feminist values, children, and medical consent. I also can easily imaging writing a response that differed with her opinions and reactions, and yet didn’t make dark accusations about her mental capacity or her abilities as a parent.
One more thought: Twitter should be used cautiously, if at all. 140 characters doesn’t allow for a thoughtful response, let alone a nuanced argument. As far as I can tell, Twitter feeds are just digital food fights. Thanks, but I think there’s enough hostility and name-calling on the internets already.