Our collective voices are incredibly powerful. We can use them to support people we believe in or we can use our voices to drown out those we choose not to hear. Over the weekend, I experienced both extremes of this power.
My Instagram account was deleted because the app’s algorithms claimed that I was ‘bullying and harassing’ mummy blogger Clemmie Hooper AKA Mother Of Daughters, who has recently been unveiled as the person behind a troll account known as AliceInWanderlust.
I first came to know of the troll account used by Hooper (although, I did not at that time know it belonged to her) because my name was mentioned in one of the threads she had been involved with on the forum Tattle.Life. The focus of this particular thread was to attack and discredit the black instamum Candice Brathwaite and I was mentioned because I frequently sing Candice’s praises while reminding my followers of the racism she and other black women face in whichever industry we find ourselves.
I was pregnant at the time when I saw my name on the forum and I was aware that I might be mentioned more since I had recently announced my pregnancy with a post that went viral. The issue some of those commenting seemed to have with me was that I state clearly on my Instagram page that I do not educate people about racism for free and that I expect to be paid for that emotional labour. Their failure to understand why I would set this boundary is born from a place of privilege where society expects black people to bear the brunt of teaching others about the oppression they are knowingly and unknowingly complicit in.
When the news broke that Hooper was behind AliceInWanderlust, I was shocked to discover that a seemingly successful and happy mother of four was the person who had dedicated at least eight months of her life to trolling other instamums and even insulting her own husband. I felt a chill down my spine was when I started to piece together something that lots of news publications have failed to mention when covering this story: Clemmie Hooper is also a midwife.
Hooper is a midwife (albeit part-time) at King’s College Hospital, which is the hospital I recently gave birth at. It frightened me that this woman could invite Candice Brathwaite onto her podcast to discuss the shocking statistics that black women are five times more likely to die during childbirth in comparison to white women, while simultaneously using her troll account to share private details about Candice’s life and write statements like ‘Candice weaponises race’ and is ‘aggressive’. (I have previously created a satirical character known as ‘Sally in HR’ to shed light on why referring to Black women as aggressive and angry is actually a way of perpetuating a racist stereotype of Black women.)
Candice Brathwaite went on Hooper’s podcast to discuss how Black women are five times more likely to die during childbirth but Hooper simultaneously wrote statements like ‘Candice weaponises race’
There are many intersecting reasons for the high mortality rates among black women as well as the higher rates of stillbirth – including black women not being listened to by medics and having adequate access to antenatal care. The issue needs to be urgently addressed and a petition (now suspended for the general election) urging parliament to improve maternal care for black women has attracted almost 30,000 signatures.
I took to social media to share my concerns about Hooper’s views with respect to her profession as a midwife. The Nursing & Midwifery Council is very clear on how medical professionals should behave and I believe that Hooper has brought the reputation of midwives into disrepute. I stated in my Instagram Stories that as someone who has suffered a miscarriage and was ignored by midwives and doctors about the level of pain I was in, it seemed clear to me that medical staff aren’t leaving their conscious and unconscious bias at home.
Within a couple of hours of sharing my views, my Instagram account started showing me notifications that my page was in danger of being deleted over claims that I was bullying Hooper. I imagine that her supporters came to report my page.
My account was deleted by Instagram soon after, so I took to Twitter to make people aware of what had happened and was really touched by the support I received from the online community. Due to the incredible support I received, my Instagram account has now been reinstated and I’ve been verified - but I am yet to receive an apology for how the ordeal has affected me.
I am aware that there are others who have been silenced in a similar way to me but their accounts have not been reinstated because we might not be shouting loudly enough or maybe because we believe their voices shouldn’t be heard. I think this is especially true of those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. As much as I am touched that people rallied around me in such a way, I don’t feel at ease knowing that many people from marginalised communities are still being silenced.
Audre Lorde wrote ‘your silence will not protect you’ and I believe this to be true. Silence doesn’t protect; it harms. I refuse to be harmed for speaking out about injustice - especially when it illuminates a wider problem about racial bias in the medical profession.