Fathers4Justice advert attacking Mumsnet banned
An advert featuring a young boy, barely more than a toddler, with words of hatred and abuse written across his body was always going to be memorable and controversial.
But campaign group Fathers4Justice may have found themselves at the centre of even more controversy than expected with the image.
Released back in March to coincide with Mother’s Day,the image features in an advert accusing website Mumsnet of promoting attitudes of gendered hatred towards men and boys.
It also calls upon high profile sponsors of Mumsnet such as Marks and Spencer to withdraw their support. The words written across the little boy are said to be comments taken directly from users of the site.
But last Wednesday the ad was banned by the Advertising Standards Agency in response to complaints accusing Fathers4Justice of misrepresenting the editorial content and direction of Mumsnet, and making misleading and unsubstantiated claims.
In an official statement the ASA said:
“We considered that many online web forums and ‘comments’ sections of websites were likely to feature a range of views from across society, with some views being more extreme than others.[...]
“We considered that whilst some users of the website had made negative comments about men in its forums, it was misleading of F4J to imply through this ad that Mumsnet themselves had made or endorsed those comments.”
Fathers4Justice remain unrepentant about targeting the site. In fact, they have maintained a web page entitled Mumsnet – the Naked Truth on which they share Mumsnet quotes, presumably as ‘proof’ of the gendered abuse and misandry allegedly spouted there.
And whilst some of the comments cited are unpleasant, it’s hard to see even here how they constitute ‘gendered hatred’.
One example reads:
“am i right in thinking that if you added up all the male pedos, drug addicts, drinking alcoholics, psychopaths, child abusers, etc etc etc they’d account for more than 0.1% of all men who’ve managed to reproduce?”
Fathers4Justice have helpfully underlined the relevant bits of this quote, but it requires an unfeasibly large leap to argue that these monikers are somehow being applied to the male gender overall.
The webpage is littered with other self-defeating examples that make the anti-Mumsnet crusade hard to understand.
And, somewhat ironically, it makes F4J look guilty of the kind of political, agenda-pushing tactics they’d like to level at Mumsnet.
Why theme the advert around Mother’s Day? Deliberate or not, it pits an organisation for ‘fathers’ against one for ‘mothers’ sending the message that male parental rights will have to come at the expense of women’s.
The controversy that tends to dog Fathers4Justice has little to do with its aims (who doesn’t want to see committed, supportive, equal parenting and fathers who take responsibility?) but much to do with its tactics and this latest incident very much follows the trend.
If nothing else, Mumsnet is a powerful internet behemoth and Fathers4Justice may have scored something of an own goal in seeking to take it on.
Locking horns with such a formidable internet presence may be good for column inches, but it’s unlikely to do much to further their cause, a view echoed by Mumsnet chief executive Justine Roberts in a statement reacting to the advert:
“The recent actions the group has taken against Mumsnet constitute plain and simple intimidation and a naked attempt to court publicity by a group of people who, for whatever reason, appear to have tired of climbing cranes in superhero outfits. And it does their cause no good at all.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fathers4Justice have expressed an intention to challenge the ruling with founder Matt O’Connor declaring, apparently without irony, that it is an “attack on my personal freedom of expression.”
But a battle with Mumsnet seems likely to be one that Fathers4Justice cannot win. And more to the point, why on earth would they want to?