‘Good mums don’t, apparently, wear make-up’

negotiating discourses of gendered parenthood in Mumsnet Talk


  • Jai Mackenzie University of Birmingham




Mumsnet, motherhood, discourses, subjectivity, online community


This article explores the discourses and related subject positions that are negotiated by contributors to the discussion forum of a popular British parenting website, Mumsnet Talk. Drawing on analysis of a single thread posted to this forum, I explore the ways in which participants, who present themselves as women and as parents, negotiate dominant discourses of gendered parenthood that position them as ‘mothers’, and often, by association, as the primary caregiver, who is defined and positioned exclusively in relation to children. I also show that contributors use a range of linguistic and digital resources to challenge such discourses, and that their resistance can be facilitated, at times, by the affordances of the forum itself. The potential to connect with a large community of Mumsnet users, for example, is identified as a powerful resource at their disposal. Overall, I find that Mumsnet Talk is a fruitful site for negotiating, resisting and subverting socio-cultural norms and expectations, but that it remains difficult here, as elsewhere, for women to escape dominant discourses that work to position them in restrictive gendered subject positions.

Author Biography

Jai Mackenzie, University of Birmingham

Jai Mackenzie is a teaching fellow in English language and applied linguistics at the University of Birmingham. Her primary research interests lie in explorations of language, gender, sexuality and parenthood, especially in new media contexts. She is about to publish her first monograph, Language, Gender and Parenthood Online: Negotiating Motherhood in Mumsnet Talk.


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How to Cite

Mackenzie, J. (2018). ‘Good mums don’t, apparently, wear make-up’: negotiating discourses of gendered parenthood in Mumsnet Talk. Gender and Language, 12(1), 114–135. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.31062