Guest Post by Elizabeth Broadbent of Manic Pixie Dream Mama
Here’s what I meant: Pets are not kids. The love you feel for the two is not equivalent. So calling animals “furkids” or “kids” or “granddogs” compares them to kids, which isn’t accurate. And which is mildly offensive to those of us in the parenting trenches.
This was all a giant mistake. Never get between people and their dogs.
First, YourTango slapped a splashy headline on it: “No, Your Dog is Not Your Baby, and Saying So Is an Insult to Moms.” Not really what I intended. Then the editors put up an angry lady graphic and slung it on the front page.
The comments began immediately. I don’t read the comments, so I didn’t realize how bad it was getting. Apparently I was offending all people who don’t have children. All pet owners. Anyone who loves their dog as much as they would love a child (and many claimed to love their dog like a kid).
Women with fertility issues argued that the love of a pet is all they have, and I was trying to take even that away from them. Women told stories of how their pets got them through rounds of IVF, or month after month of negative tests. Their pets were their babies, they argued. Nevermind that they of all people should know the difference. An infertile friend of mine cried when she read it and now refuses to speak to me. I remain confused.
People kept sharing the article. It ended up one of YourTango’s top articles that month, currently sitting at 84,200 shares.
The comments migrated to my Facebook page. Suddenly, people were leaving angry notes about how I didn’t understand the bond between a dog and a person. The notes got angry. One woman threatened to call social services on my children (a confounding threat, since my kids are clearly treated well in the article). Several people told me that my dogs should go to the humane society, where they’d have the chance to be adopted by someone who would actually love them (clearly, I don’t love them because I said I ‘ignored’ them for parts of the day). There were lots of those. The comment thread on the article ran into the 200s. I had to block people who were using profanity.
Then PopSugar syndicated the article.
The comments flew thick and fast again. My dogs should be put up for adoption; I must be a horrible parent because I’m a horrible dog parent. They commented on my wall. They sent me private messages telling me I was mistaken because this one person had a dog when he had cancer and that dog helped him through cancer and so everything I said was a lie.
PopSugar must have featured my twitter handle more prominently, because that’s when the Twitter attacks started. I was a horrible person. My dogs should go to someone else. Then there seemed to be a mini-movement to tweet me pictures of dogs and the words “this is MY baby.” Less offensive, but annoying to wade through every morning. Eventually, it slowly died off.
I’d like to say I was blasé about the torrent of abuse. But I wasn’t. The first comments on my Facebook page, especially the one about calling Social Services, really bothered me. It’s hard and scary to see someone call you out that way, even when you know it’s irrational. The two-week barrage really got to me after a while, by sheer aggregation. You don’t want to admit it, because you don’t want to give your bullies the satisfaction, but this much harassment was hard. I had to shut down comments on my Facebook page. My stomach dropped every time I got a message on my page. The twitter record is there for everyone to see, so much so that an interviewer asked me about it.
[bctt tweet=”‘You don’t want to give your bullies the satisfaction, but this much harassment was hard’ @manicpixiemama”]
I took several lessons away from it. Don’t write about dogs. Don’t write about something controversial unless you’re prepared for the aftermath. And don’t piss off the cat people. I mean it.
[bctt tweet=”‘Don’t write about something controversial unless you’re prepared for the aftermath’ @manicpixiemama”]
Elizabeth got pregnant at a very convenient time to quit her Ph.D. program, where she taught writing to college students. Now she stays home with her three boys to procreate, messily tie-dye, and make fun of Pinterest while secretly scouring it for art ideas. Elizabeth’s internet home is Manic Pixie Dream Mama, and you can find her writing on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, xoJane, Bustle, Mamapedia, Today Show Parents, and Time Magazine. She writes a regular column for ADDitude magazine. Follow her on Twitter & Facebook