Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes has a guide for mediocre columnists keen to drum up some manufactured outrage over Parents These Days.
You’ve seen those columns on Stuff and in the Herald and The Daily Mail (if you read that garbage) – you know the ones – Parents/Children Are Out of Control! – the headlines scream. They’re desperate grabs for attention by a never-ending stream of columnists whose names and moans aren’t even useful for fish and chip paper. It’s kind of relentless – screeds and screeds on everything parents are doing wrong, every annoying trait children have, every way in which we are encroaching on the lives of people without kids or people who have grown children. Divisive, angry, pointless clickbait. I’m not a fan (if you can’t already tell).
The latest column that popped up in the most-popular section of a Will Not Be Named website was a list of things parents should never do in cafes. I’m not even going to link to it, because I refuse to feed the beast. BUT be assured, it was shit and it sent me into a rage. Because it was the ultimate weaksauce on the poo kebab that is Columns About Parents By People Who Want To Make A Name For Themselves By Being Controversial Click Baiting Chodes.
I decided to save everyone some time and just share the formula for writing this crap so we can all identify it and save these tragic “columnists” some time.
Step One: Pick a topic that is so easy to get people worked up about it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.
Might I suggest children in cafes? How about children on planes? How about children making any noise of any kind in any space ever? How about children existing on this planet? Perfect! If you’ve already written about this countless times and still haven’t beaten off enough rage boners – try breastfeeding in public, formula (anything about formula works), screen time (terrible!), or just any variation at all on that tried refrain of children are so bad because they don’t get smacked anymore because smacking is illegal now Hell in a Hambasket PC Gone Mad In My Day we had to walk 16 miles in the snow over broken glass to find a stone to give to our dads to beat us with for being naughty. If you’ve exhausted those options just repeat “Parents these days” x 1000.
Step Two: Share a totally believable and not at all completely imagined anecdote that definitely happened to you.
You were at a cafe and a mother pulled off a child’s nappy and smeared feces all over herself and her baby while screaming Heil Trump? Yes, that definitely sounds like like a True Fact. You were at the gas station minding your own business when a breast feeding mother held you down and made you suckle her teat while screaming Formula is Poison – I’ve seen this happen before! It happened to my uncle’s cousin’s uncle!
You were performing for the Queen and tickets cost One Actual Right Arm and yet in the front row there was just all these pre-verbal babies who heckled you and said you’ve got no talent and made you feel like maybe you won’t win an Oscar one day? Yup, I can see it now – how awful for you!
You were at a Pixar movie minding your own business and all these kids came in and were laughing joyfully and it hurt your ears? Well, actually – that does sound a bit right and a 6000 word column on how much that upset you is definitely a good idea.
You saw a pregnant mum feeling good about herself and had to take her down a notch by reminding her that it’s just a crotch nugget and she’s just a breeder and she’s already SO BORING? And Having A Baby Isn’t A Miracle And Doesn’t Make You A Goddess (this is an actual headline).
Step Three: Make sure everyone knows you’re special and NOT LIKE THOSE OTHER PARENTS.
Yeah, you raised your kids right. I totally believe you. You’re not like all these terrible parents out there. You’re a great parent. You’re not at all trying to make yourself feel better about your own parenting failures by vomiting judgement and scorn on other parents! That’s not you at all. You just did it right didn’t you? It’s easy to parent – it’s been 60 years since you did it but you did it the proper way. You don’t have rose-tinted glasses on. You’re not just looking back with softened edges and nostalgia. You’re not throwing other parents under the bus in the hopes that somebody else won’t fling you under there too. Definitely not – you’re just a better person right? All these mums struggling through, trying to do their best, they are just useless. And it’s important they know that about themselves – I mean they’re probably already feeling that but make sure you tell them anyway.
Step four: Give back by adding to a discourse that encourages violence against children and silences struggling mothers.
Woah Nelly! Hold up! You’re just trying to get some clicks. You’re not doing any harm here. You just want to be a columnist and it’s tough out there – controversial means clicks and you need those clicks. You’re being way too hard out saying this opinion that children should be seen and not heard and actually not even seen at all is dangerous! I mean when almost every piece of writing in mainstream media encourages an already thriving societal pressure on parents to keep their children away from adults that’s not going to have an impact is it? And you said parents not mothers. Never-mind that the primary caregivers of parents are mothers and when a father goes into a cafe with his child he’s showered with French pastries and blow jobs because he’s Parenting in Public and a mother is treated with scorn before she even enters the door. How could you possibly be adding to that?
All you did was write a column saying the following things irritate you about mothers when they’re in cafes – when they give their children screens, when they don’t give their children screens, when their child eats, talks loudly, laughs loudly, touches anything, when they bring a buggy, when they don’t put their child in a buggy, expecting people to treat you kindly in any way because they’re a human being and you’re a human being…That’s fine isn’t it? I mean afterward there were thousands of comments attacking mothers and children and saying they shouldn’t be allowed anywhere in public and they’re all terrible and they’re all shit and they’re all the Worst and they should just stay in their houses and stay the fuck away from the general public….but it’s all engagement right? Nothing comes from this? It’s all a bit of harmless banter right? A complete society system change to support our vulnerable parents and children and look for ways to make sure all children feel safe and secure and cherished and valued isn’t needed in a country with high-rates of suicide in mothers and abuse of children. Oh. Uh. Shhhh.
Step Five: Pour a glass of wine and enjoy the hate-village you’ve created.
You did a great job! 4000 hits! Go you! You’ve really achieved something today. Lots of angry people who hate kids and mothers agreed with you. Lots of Really Good Mothers Not Like Those Other Mothers agreed with you. Lots of people got to have a great little rage wank and everyone is feeling great. Well, not the new mother who is already feeling anxious about leaving the house lest she get pounced on for doing literally anything that shows she exists in public. And umm not the mum with a child on the spectrum who is now reminded there’s no space for her family in public. And not the mum who has PND and is just trying to make it through the day and not feel so desperately isolated. I mean not them, but fuck them because look at all your fans! You’re so popular. Your editor wants another one. You can do it! These things are so easy to churn out, they take actually no thought at all. Who knew this could kick-start that failing writing career. You’ve been shot up the ass with a rainbow.
No time to waste: Go to step one. You’re on deadline now.
Feed the beast.
This content is entirely funded by Flick, New Zealand’s fairest power deal. In the past year, their customers saved $417 on average, which would buy enough nappies for months… and months. Please support us by switching to them right now.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.