Saturday, August 12, 2006

A comment to Gina Ford's legal team

If Ms Ford starts to curb off all negative discussion of her books and methods then be prepared for when babies grow up who may claim that they were traumatised by her methods. They may well be able to sue the publishers unless disclaimers start going into her publications that some of the methods therein may need to be discussed with professionals* and references given to criticisms and evaluations. If that information on emotional wellbeing and abuse etc is not given honestly and openly then I would say that judges could well rule in the favour of "traumatised" children and adults.

* (I can't say "other" since Ms Ford is not a professional in anything other than writing that I am aware of?).

Friday, August 11, 2006

If your forum... The Rebel Alliance vs The Empire

If your forum or ones you know of have been threatened by Gina Ford would you please leave me a comment. It would be nice to build up a legal case against Gina Ford's tactics.

If as many mums out there as possible (and that includes previous fans) who take issue with Gina Ford's methods would state it across the internet then she won't have a leg to stand on legally. Come on everyone - stop your fears and start talking.

It has also been said that an organisation called the NSPCC (yes!) caved in to pressure from Gina Ford's organisation after they too discussed whether some of the methods outlined in her book were questionable in terms of child welfare. So even they seem intimidated but is this right? Is this acceptable that an author has that much power when children, when babies are her focus?

Write to your MP as well and highlight the situation with Mumsnet, with other forums and ask questions on why the NSPCC did not go ahead with releasing the information to the public on some of the methods outlined in Ms Ford's books. Surely the public have a right to know and to hear both sides and not just Ms Ford's positive feedback?

With reference to Ms Ford not being a mother - there are plenty of non-biological mothers who adopt - no one is having a go at them because they are real mamas too - but if you set yourself up as a parenting guru then maybe it's about time you became a parent.

So what ought a forum to do?

I'd say call her bluff. She hasn't got a legal leg to stand on in terms of the content of her books are allowed to be discussed and it's perfectly acceptable for people to either like it or dislike it and say so. If people think the methods are cruel and she is cruel for advocating them then that is all right. A vegetarian may think that Gary Rhodes is cruel for advocating a recipe for beef stew and may so - Gordon Ramsay even showed 2 pigs being slaughtered on his show the other day - I'm sure that vegans felt sickened if any of them watched it and it would be perfectly fine for them to comment and complain and say to Gordon Ramsay he is barbaric etc. Even GR looked upset by the whole thing.

It's the same with other TV shows and books - people are allowed to comment as they are out in the public domain. If you don't want people to disagree with you as a writer then I suggest you stick to vanity publishing Ms Ford and just give your book to friends and family. You are writing on babies - real life babies who are human beings, not objects, not things you can put away in a cupboard or turn off the switch on. If you don't treat them well then you risk their wellbeing.

Oh and I forgot - there's all her team. Big business in guruing parents and if they are linked with someone who should ever lose her footing in the eyes of parents then they stand to lose their careers too. So it pays to protect the hub and to threaten forums with closure and to threaten mums who ask questions or make negative comments about her books because you may just get egg in your face. So yes I'm sure they can provide very expensive solicitors and get letters and all sorts of threats going but the key question is... can they really do more than bluster?

Are we living in a country without freedom of speech? Are we not allowed to comment against people we may believe are harming babies with their words? Are we not allowed to challenge those words so that people don't act upon them? Are we not allowed debates on these issues because some hyped up guru threatens us all with legal action? (which she has done countless times - bluff bluff bluff and huff and puff)

So come on - are there any solicitors out there willing to take up the gauntlet and say "I don't think so Ms Ford"? It's not about her writing her books - if she wants to write books that is fine. It's about the way she stops people saying anything negative and plays on the fears of the vulnerable - mothers who are just trying to take care of their children with compassion.

Back to Gina Ford

So back to Gina Ford...

I'm writing this because I dislike the way this woman lords it up over mothers and forum owners. She has no legal right to stop anyone discussing her books - positive or negative. I'm also entitled to ask questions about her qualifications - she cannot stop me or anyone else under UK law.

So, yes, I want to know what she really is? She's a writer - yes but again I say her biography is meaningless. Conan Doyle and Dickens were writers but I'm certain she doesn't fall into the same literary category.

Blackout blinds were around in WW2 so she's not original with that one. She's not original with lots of things so she can't be blamed entirely for what is in her books as she hasn't created a lot of it. However, a lot of the information in her books, in the view of those who have researched infants, child development, nutrition, infant physiology, infant psychology etc, is just out of date and cruel to babies in many cases as it is not responding to their needs.

Why do people have to defend her? It's like a cult and she is the leader.

Are babies objects?

Your baby is not an object. It's a real life form, with feelings - they can feel joy just as much as pain, they can feel your love or they can feel it when you reject them. If someone tells you to ignore your baby because it says so in the book he or she wrote do you listen to them? Who would you listen to out of the following list with reference to your baby?

1. A mother of three children reared to adulthood
2. A GP who has 2 children
3. A self-professed parenting guru who has never had their own children and who has no formal qualifications in child development or medical knowledge
4. A PhD in Child Psychology but has no children
5. A health visitor
6. A father with 4 adopted children
7. Your baby

What is the answer?

Well you could listen to all of them but I hope that you would also listen to 7. your baby most and yourself as well. The mother of three may have raised them in the 1950s - parenting knowledge has changed since then. The GP may have 2 children and have medical knowledge but may not see much of his or her own children because they are working flat out so may not know very much either. The guru may just be full of hot air but may be able to write well and have a marketing exercise and publicist behind them. The PhD may know all the academic theories and may well have worked in clinical settings with children but did they get up last night at 4am? The health visitor may know quite a few things about mainstream medical care for babies but may not know anything about non-mainstream practice because they don't get to think outside the box. The father with 4 adopted children probably knows a great deal about the adoption process and hopefully would be a good parent to those 4 children.

So the answer is whatever you deem it to be for most of the list, because there's no real wrong or right here, but you as a parent need to check around, cross reference, get up-to-date and also trust in your own instincts by listening to your baby.

As I said at the beginning of this piece your baby is not an object. If you take on information from others without trusting that you and your baby are amazing together then... Yes by all means read around (I did, a lot), learn about the general care of babies but do you need to put your trust in one person who isn't even present in your life other than in a book and who hasn't even seen your baby, let alone knows you personally? Certain methods of parenting can result in emotional trauma and longterm psychological effects which go through from baby, childhood into adulthood. I wouldn't say any one method is perfect but there are ways which are more ideal than others and both mother and baby have to be taken into consideration.

It helps to share information and to discuss and guess what... it is allowed in the UK to evaluate and criticise books. I personally believe that some of the ideas Ms Ford presents in her books are dangerous to the wellbeing of babies - I think they are in parts cruel and may well amount to mental abuse... and yes I can say that because no court in the country has a law that can stop someone from saying that.

So why Gina Ford?

So if you are here because you are pro Gina Ford and her books "helped you" then fine, but what about you? Do you really feel the need to defend her? Is she a personal friend or just a writer? When was the last time you felt the need to defend an author? If her work is that great why does she feel the need to threaten legal action when people query any part of it? And what about your baby? Why did you choose Ms Ford's parenting style over others?

Where is the expert in you? Did you trust your own instincts or did you hand over to someone who, if the questions asked earlier cannot be fully answered by her, is not really qualified to know about babies? How are the babies doing that she supposedly looked after? She didn't stay very long with them, did she? How does she know they were all right after being in her care? Have they turned into happy and balanced adults?

Why choose her and not another author to be your guru? Why have a guru? Why not another author who maybe has some of the same ideas (but hopefully not all)?

What is Gina Ford in relation to her biography?

In her biography on her website it is stated that:

Gina was born and grew up in the Scottish Borders. After studying Hotels and Catering in Edinburgh, she had an opportunity to become a maternity nurse and discovered her flair with babies. Over the course of her career, she has worked with hundreds of families with babies and small children.
For twelve years she was one of the most sought-after maternity nurses in the world, and specialised in caring for newborn babies and toddlers with serious sleeping and feeding problems. Gina worked for all kinds of people, from leading lawyers and high-flying bankers to newspaper editors, pop stars and other media personalities. "

So what does she mean when she says that she studied Hotels and Catering in Edinburgh? For instance, if I went to London I might peek in the front lobby of a hotel and I might eat out in a restaurant. Therefore, in my own biography, I might be able to say that I studied Hotels and Catering in London, Vienna, New York or anywhere else I visited too. Have I got a professional qualification in this? No but one has to ask has Ms Ford got a real qualification in Hotels and Catering or did she too just look at a hotel and eat out in the city of Edinburgh? Also, as many other mothers have asked out there, how is this relevant to child rearing?

The second one is she claims she was a maternity nurse. Now many people believe that this means she must have studied nursing as in medical nursing, but that is not the case. Maternity nurse is a misnomer - a glorified babysitter if you will. It's not a qualification - it's a role that one may undertake. Strictly speaking this role ought to be carefully vetted if the person has not raised their own children. And that's another thing - Gina Ford is not a mother, not a birth mother or an adopted mother, yet many women trust her so much that they are prepared to hand over their babies into the methods featured in her books.

The last set of questions I have at this point is if she had so many clients, and so many famous ones at that, why does she not name them and does it really make a difference to other mothers? After all, other famous nannies have gone off and had affairs with the husband etc. Does the fact that she has been with famous people make a real difference as to her knowledge base of babies? Also, if the claims are real that she has had these celebrity clients then have any of them yet come forward to support these claims?

Gina Ford books

Gina Ford in her biography claims to have a background that apparently makes her qualified to guru it over parents.

If you like the methods in Gina Ford's books then part of this trust in them is that you must believe that somehow she is qualified to give that kind of information. New mothers are often very vulnerable in taking on all sorts of advice and no doubt some of the stuff Gina Ford has in her books is useful advice. However, it has to be said that much of what is in Gina Ford's books is old stuff that mothers have been doing long before Gina Ford.

The problem in my eyes is why Gina Ford is treated like some sort of deity by mothers who feel the need to defend her. If something in her book worked for you and did no harm to your baby and in fact benefited your baby then that's all right. However, maybe you could have found that information elsewhere. However, there are things in Ms Ford's books that go against the grain of what we know about children and babies and that could be deemed as unhealthy or even cruel. Many mothers feel "bad" about things they did or did not do and it is easy to end up on the defensive at times.

Gina Ford and forums

It has come to light that yet again, so-called parenting guru, Gina Ford has threatened another parenting forum. A few years ago I was a member of a forum which dared to question some of the methods mentioned in Gina Ford's books and Gina Ford got her legal team to threaten the poor owner of the site with legal action if the thread continued. Needless to say, the forum owner, an ordinary mum, trying her best to help form a community for other like-minded mums and with no solicitor or legal advice complied and the conversation was stopped. Gina Ford has done this to several other forums, only now she has taken on Mumsnet, a very large forum used by parents in the UK.

My question is why does Ms Ford feel the need to do this?