Flora vs Mumsnet: the culture war is out of control

One tweet was all it took for the beloved margarine brand to pull its advertising from the ‘transphobic’ parenting site.

Joanna Williams

Joanna Williams

Margarine is now on the frontline of the culture war. Not just any old margarine, but the longtime family favourite, Flora. Until a few days ago, Flora advertised on Mumsnet. As it is 2019 we must not acknowledge that this particular butter substitute, along with a heap of other high-street brands, placed ads on Mumsnet as a convenient way of hitting its target market – women who buy stuff for their family. But in any case, that relationship is no more. Appealing to mums in charge of the food shop is clearly no longer a margarine advertiser’s chief concern.

For the uninitiated, Mumsnet is ostensibly an online forum for parents to share concerns about raising children and to offer each other support and advice. Over the years, it has morphed into something far more than this. It has become a virtual community where thousands of women meet, make friends and discuss the ups and downs of life. A quick browse through posts on the AIBU (‘Am I Being Unreasonable?’) forum offers an eye-wateringly frank and often hilarious insight into women’s lives. (Random post from yesterday, with 136 responses: ‘Do people really make their partners “wash their willy”?’)

One theme holding all the millions of Mumsnet posts together is the experience of being a woman – as a wife, mother, daughter, or all three. Unsurprisingly, what it means to be a woman is discussed most explicitly in relation to the transgender movement, and in particular the impact gender self-identification will have on women’s rights. Some contributors are concerned that the privacy and safety of women-only spaces, whether changing rooms, toilets, prisons or refuges, will be threatened if men can enter simply by declaring themselves to be women. Other Mumsnet posters have raised concerns about their own children being encouraged to question their gender identity at school.

Transgender activists hate that Mumsnet provides a forum for these concerns to be expressed out in the open, without either censorship or a clear editorial voice passing judgement on what is said. And rather than just not going on Mumsnet, or trying to challenge particular arguments made on there, Twitter warriors have instead petitioned companies to pull adverts from the site in order to rob it of revenue and ultimately have it shut down. This practice has been well-honed by the campaign group Stop Funding Hate, which ‘names and shames’ companies that advertise in the Daily Mail, the Sun or any other publication its members decide they don’t like.

Last week just one person, Helen Islan, tweeted, ‘I like Flora but there is no way I am going to buy it while it is partnering with Mumsnet which platforms nasty, trans-hostile posts on its website’. Another asked Upfield, the company that produces Flora, how its company values of being ‘intolerant of discrimination and harassment’ aligned with a promotion that marketed Flora as ‘Mumsnet rated’.

There’s a horrible, bullying narcissism in these activists’ insistence that, just because they don’t like what people are saying on Mumsnet, they will shut down the platform and stop the conversation entirely. Casually throwing around accusations of transphobia and bigotry is designed to intimidate companies into submission. Unfortunately, it works. Within less than two hours of Islan’s tweet, Upfield responded: ‘We’ve investigated. We are wholly committed to our values, which include treating everyone equally, so have made the decision to no longer work with Mumsnet. #DiversityMatters.’

Upfield’s decision makes no economic sense. Even if Flora is the margarine of choice for every single member of the trans community, the bottom line is that mums still buy more. But, as we have seen with Gillette and a host of other companies that have suddenly gone woke, making a profit no longer seems to be their reason for existing. Bizarrely, those who produce Flora now see the brand’s remit not as providing a cheap spread for the nation’s morning toast but preaching to us about how to live. The aim, it seems, is to appear morally pure rather than to be economically successful. Avoiding being labelled ‘transphobic’ overrides every other concern – from making a profit to defending the core customer base: women and mothers.

The co-founder of Mumsnet, Justine Roberts, deserves praise for defending the free speech of her site’s users. She told the Mail on Sunday that ‘we’re well used to putting purpose before profit. I do think in the end consumers will value companies which show a bit of backbone.’ Indeed. Now, Mumsnet-ers are boycotting Flora for pulling the ads and refusing to stand up for women who simply want to discuss genuine concerns. Back over on the ‘Am I Being Unreasonable?’ forum, discussion has moved on from washing willies to ask: ‘AIBU to think Upfield Global (Flora marg) can get stuffed for calling mumsnet a hate site?’ The vast majority of the more than 700 replies agree that this is not unreasonable.

Back in the late 1970s, Flora ran a series of ads featuring hapless men and the women who loved and shopped for them. The slogan was: ‘Flora, the margarine for men.’ Today, many women will no doubt draw the same conclusion. Flora is still the margarine for men. It’s the margarine for men who think they are women and are prepared to throw their weight around to stop actual women discussing issues of concern to them.

Joanna Williams is associate editor at spiked. Her most recent book, Women vs Feminism: Why We All Need Liberating from the Gender Wars, is out now.

Picture by: YouTube.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Tim Wheeler

20th October 2019 at 7:05 pm

Cannot Mumsnet fight back? It seems probable that normal, sensible Mums are more numerous than anti-free speech Trans activists and carry more market clout. Could not Mumsnet put up a banner explaining what has happened and suggesting that a boycott of Flora along a move to an alternative (they could list several) might be an appropriate response for any Mum who disagrees with Flora’s actions in supporting Trans extremists?

Identity Redacted

19th October 2019 at 9:28 pm

“There’s a horrible, bullying narcissism in these activists’ insistence that, just because they don’t like what people are saying on Mumsnet, they will shut down the platform and stop the conversation entirely”

Activists are the most intolerant of all. Tolerance is allowing others ideas even if you don’t agree.

michael savell

17th October 2019 at 5:36 pm

I suspect that a lot of these companies ,like financial concerns are rapidly coming to the end of
their productive lives and intend to leave taxpayers with their losses just so that their senior management and larger investors pockets do not go away unfulfilled.

Jerry Owen

17th October 2019 at 10:44 am

At least Mumsnet knows which side it’s bread is buttered.
Anyone that buys Flora should try real butter which is what we have reverted back to , yes it’s a bloody nuisance being so hard out of the fridge it breaks your crackers in half in the morning all over the floor .. butter side down usually. But the taste is way better.
Did Mumsnet ever come to a conclusion about women making their partners wash their willy ?

Andrew Leonard

17th October 2019 at 5:43 am

@Jessica Christon

“it is the aggressive championing of minority and ‘marginalised’ groups while being actively hostile to the majority who happen not to agree that transwomen are women, want immigration strictly controlled etc.”

You appear to being saying; why can’t people be reasonable about these things, and know where and when to draw the line?
The short answer is; because care culture has morphed into an ideology (which I call Careism).
The care oriented thinker looks at any social situation like this; how can this be altered to improve human welfare? Its an easy mode of thinking, and thus becomes habitual. The practical problem that Careism solves, is that the state’s capacity for taxing and spending has been saturated, but more ‘caring’ is still required. There are plenty of groups to ‘care’ for, but where do the resources come from? Every caree, needs a carer, in other words.

The trick is to draft people into caree and carer groups, based on immutable characteristics, combined with the assumed guilt of ‘carers’, and the oppressed status of ‘carees’, at the hands of the ‘carers’, or at least those who should be forced into that role. It’s the ideological equivalent of progressive income tax.

Careist ideologues see themselves as the pinnacle of human ethical development, and Careism is becoming mainstream. We now have a situation in which utopian thinking is coming to be regarded as moderate, and anti-utopianism is regarded as extremist. I’m not sure how the West will survive in its current state if this trend continues.

Cody Bailey

17th October 2019 at 11:55 am

“I’m not sure how the West will survive in its current state if this trend continues.”

That is the point. The destruction of western civilization, the undoing of the enlightenment is the left’s stated goal.

jessica christon

17th October 2019 at 5:52 pm

See my reply to your 5:46pm post 🙂

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