"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> urbanMamas

A note on civility and community

When we met in 2004, the foundresses of urbanMamas were all seeking a central place on the 'net to get together with other likeminded mamas; to find and share reviews of kid-friendly businesses, events and things to do; to get advice on the issues that were especially pertinent to mothers living here in Portland. We came up with the name "urbanMamas" and we all loved it -- it represented who were were then and still are now. Women who love the opportunity to raise children in a city, who are proud of our identity as mothers. At the time, we were all working full-time in office-type jobs; now, we have a variety of working situations.

We have put in a lot of work here, and we don't do it for the free wine and antipasti at our w[h]ine nights. We do this because we still believe it's something our community needs. A place without a corporate agenda. A place that's not selling anything but our admittedly passionate ideas. A place where we can be honest -- and you can, too, without fear of being censored or attacked.

That last bit is causing problems lately. Our honesty has often been getting us, not support and advice and community, but personal -- and often hurtful -- attacks. We are called "elitist" with such regularity that it's become a caricature. Sometimes our commenters are attacked by other commenters, which at worst becomes an ugly east/west or working mama/at-home mama showdown.

What we're going to do is this: start enforcing our community standards. No personal attacks will be left published, even if the comment is half-helpful.  Arguments among commenters will not be tolerated, unless they are civil and constructive. There is never -- ever -- a reason to tell another parent she is being a bad parent. As they say in therapy, label the behavior, not the person. And even then! Let's please not label! If someone comes here for advice, give it in love, or keep your thoughts to yourself.

If there are volunteers to help moderate the community, please leave a comment to this post and we'll get in touch.


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love it. more power to you.

thank you for this post. i have been feeling the same way lately. i fully support the enforcing of community standards. thank you for all of the love and thought that you put into UrbanMamas.

Keep up the good work.

I'm all for it, as long as people are allowed to disagree. I'm not interested in conversation where dissident voices are silenced.

Agree with S. I like discussion and debate. I do my best to be polite in tone. Only to be attacked because I choose to live in a slightly different area of town. But I do live in the Portland city limits and moved here intentionally to enjoy this fine place with my growing children.

Love the calender and love the clothes swap we did over at Vino Vixen a while back.

I like that we all chose to live our lives in different ways that are all beneficial to our kids. I welcome diversity. I welcome a place for people to express their opinions and ask questions without being judged. Sometimes our opinions and situations don't match those of others, and it would be nice if that could be accepted. Even on posts where people disagree, could we do something like a "compliment sandwich?" Start the post stating something positive about the person you are addressing. Then give your constructive information or opinion, then end on a strong, positive note. I find that the target person often comes away from the interaction feeling heard and supported, not criticised. People who feel attacked often go on the counter attack, and that's where things often get out of hand.

thank you to those who are being supportive and to Debby for that great idea! I do enjoy a good compliment :) and autumn and jason's mom, I'm sorry -- such concerns are a big part of why we decided to take a harder line on comment moderation.

So glad you are setting this boundary. Thank you!

It fits with the caricature that mamas can't think, disagree and debate and instead I am to be a milquetoast and remain as placid as a Hindu cow. There are a lot of us "urban mamas" that don't fit the 'mold' but we are in your neighborhoods and communities and I guess we are to shut our pie holes or go somewhere else, which does little to increase understanding or question privilege which is vitally important in this environment. Like it or not we are here. I never thought of Urban Mamas as an echo chamber; guess I'm wrong...sadly.

for me the key is to disagree but not be negative or confrontational. i know it's tricky, but i feel it is vitally important and it can be done. i know that if i feel safe (confident i won't be attacked it someone disagrees with me) i will feel comfortable to share my opinions and experience. i understand the foundresses of urbanMamas to be saying that disagreeing is very fine, but please be nice or at least not mean. i feel it is important to come to this forum with a belief and a trust that we are all doing our best and are all good people. we may agree sometimes and we may disagree but we can do it from a place of support, kindness and respect.

Where has all the anger come from? I think we can all agree on one thing....It is hard being a parent. Judgement makes it even harder as well as being hurtful. I think there is a big difference between disagreement and judgement and a lot of the harsh comments I've read lately have come off as judgemental. I am happy to hear of this new policy and welcome the opportunity to learn from others who agree and disagree with me. Thanks UM.

Anon, I think you might be misinterpreting the intention of the decision to enforce community guidelines.

I can't speak for the administrators of this site, but I didn't hear anybody tell anyone to be "placid cow" or to "shut their pie hole." The original poster said that personal attacks would not be left published.

There is a big difference between civil disagreement and questioning privilege, both of which are essential parts of open debate; and personal attacks, which derail productive conversations and stifle participation.

Good moderation does not shut down open debate. Enforcing a reasonable set of community guidelines doesn't mean people won't be able to express their opinions; it just means you have to find a way to speak your own truth with out tearing someone else down in the process.

Sarah, I felt totally shut down in the "pedal" discussion, and I did not feel that I was attacking anyone in my first comment about wanting a diversity of discussion topics. Maybe you didn't intend to shut me down, but I felt that way. I really thought I was contributing to the discussion in a fruitful way. I'm sorry I thought that one person was doing most of the posting. Oops, my bad. You corrected me, and that's fine. But you did so in an attacking way. In fact, you even used all caps (isn't that shouting online?) in your final sentence to me.

So, when you tell Anon that she is 'misinterpreting the intention of the decision to enforce community guidelines," it leaves me wondering where the line actually is. Because I think you crossed it in your response to me.

I'm not posing these questions with malicious intent. I am truly trying to understand what you consider acceptable discourse here.

S — I did not participate at all in the thread you're talking about, so it must have been a different Sarah. I'm Sarah Schneider (the Sarah who left the comment above at 9:46). I said I though that Anon *might* be misinterpreting the intent of the decision, but clarified that I can't speak for the administrators of this site, because I'm not one of them.

and our parents all claim they knew no one named sarah! :)

S -- *I* am the Sarah who responded to you in the pedal discussion. I apologize if you felt attacked -- it likely wasn't you to whom I should have responded, but many others in that discussion, who were less fruitful. I do often feel defensive, and that is perhaps easy to see, sometimes, in the tone of my comments. telling the writers of the site that they are polarizing was perhaps not as accusatory as it felt on this end. I did not mean to shout.

Anon, your comment is a prime example of one that is unkind and unhelpful. if you wish to question privilege, please do so, but many of your comments have been personal.

I've been a reader since 2004 but seldom a poster. I've taken advantage of much information here at Urban Mamas and thus I thank you for all your work. I welcome a return to a more polite tone of discussion!

Anon is not a single person. I sometimes use it and I'll be on threads where it's already been used by one (or more?) individuals.

Anon: when you include your email address in the "Your Information" section, the administrators can distinguish between anons/alter egos.

one suggestion is that some posters in particular should try not to SOUND so elitest in their posting. that could help :)

I am glad to hear of the desire to moderate more, but I am guessing you have your work cut out for you. I think it takes a pretty careful hand to allow genuine discourse when it gets challenging while culling what steps over the line. Frankly, it's your living room and you get to decide on the boundaries, which I can fully support. I hope it leads to a better opportunity for us to appreciate the diversity that is our community.

You have created and have been running an AMAZING community for YEARS. Thank you for all you've done for Portland mamas.

I too have a great appreciation for this site and the resources is has provided me as a new resident of Portland and as a new mother over the years. You are here by choice, to hopefully build a community. If you don't like what you are reading then stop coming here. Why come here and antagonize and judge? I don't get it.

(sorry for the delay in my reply; I was down with the flu!)

Sarah S -- Sorry for the mistaken identity!

Sarah G -- Thanks so much for your words.

He is a good friend that speaks well of us behind our backs.

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