Pregnancy author cancelled for criticising the use of ‘birthing people’ instead of women says backlash was ‘dystopian’ and claims her female professional peers were behind most of the abuse and not ‘random trolls’
- Milli Hill, a bestselling author, said she experienced ‘extreme bullying’ online
- Comments she made on Instagram last November saw her subject to criticism
- Pregnancy author says online storm against her was ‘dystopian’ and ‘terrifying’
A childbirth campaigner who was cancelled online for questioning the use of the term ‘birthing people’ instead of women says the backlash against her was ‘dystopian’.
Bestselling author Milli Hill, from Somerset, was targeted on social media after challenging the use of the term ‘birthing people’ while speaking about obstetric violence – medical interventions performed during childbirth without a woman’s consent.
The mother-of-three was subjected to ‘horrific’ online hate, faced calls for her books to be boycotted and was dropped by a charity she’d worked alongside for years.
Speaking to the Times, Mili said that the online bullying made her ‘terrified and devastated’ and that she felt ‘crushed’ by the pressure of ‘people saying these horrible, horrible things’.
She also claimed that a lot of people attacking her were her professional peers, who used the attention to promote their own businesses.
Bestselling author Milli Hill, from Somerset, was targeted on social media after challenging the use of the term ‘birthing people’ while speaking about obstetric violence against women
‘I was absolutely terrified and devastated. I cried a lot. It felt so dystopian. I thought, “Is this going to be the ruination of me?”,’ said Milli.
The mother says she stopped speaking to people because she was so upset by the backlash and felt ‘ashamed’ by the situation.
‘When all these people are saying these horrible, horrible things, a part of you buckles under it and I felt crushed. It was almost like I didn’t even know what a bad person I am and I’d exposed myself.’
Milli explained that her issue is not with the term ‘birthing people’, but that it should be used instead of the term ‘women’, rather than alongside it.
The mother-of-three was subjected to hoards of online hate, faced calls for her she books to be boycotted and was dropped by a charity she’d worked alongside for years
She says that most of the abuse came, not from anonymous trolls who were targeting her when the backlash started, but high-profile figures in her industry, including midwives and birth trauma specialists.
The mother believes that a select few of these accounts were purposely targeting her page in order to direct traffic to their own social media accounts where they advertise their businesses.
She said: ‘There were a few accounts doing a s****y post about Milli Hill and the next thing on the grid was, “Oh by the way, I’ve only got three spaces left on my hypnobirthing course”.’
The social media storm began when she responded to a stranger on Instagram last November, who wrote: ‘Birthing people are seen as “the fragile sex’ who need to be kept under patriarchal authority by doctors.’
Hill replied: ‘I would challenge the term “birthing person” in this context though. It is women who are seen as the “fragile sex” etc, and obstetric violence [medical interventions performed during childbirth without a woman’s consent] is violence against women.’
In 2012, Milli founded the Positive Birth Movement, a network of support groups for pregnant women, but decided to close the page shortly after she began to receive the swathes of hate online.
The campaigner used to be a creative psychotherapist and worked with young people post abuse and trauma and her work for the last decade as a journalist and author has featured heavily around women’s reproductive lives.
On her blog, she explains that around three years ago, she noted a changed in language around childbirth, particularly the two phrases ‘birthing people’ – which was used alongside or instead of “women”, and ‘assigned male/female at birth’.
She says she found the latter ‘confusing’ because the sex of babies is more often than not determined in prenatal tests and scans, rather than birth, while the word ‘assigned’ implies something is given to you, not innate – like biological sex is.
‘My work and thinking around obstetric violence had led me to the view that it is “sex based violence.” Please note my use of the word sex here, not gender….
The social media storm began when she responded to a stranger on Instagram last November, who wrote: ‘Birthing people are seen as “the fragile sex’ who need to be kept under patriarchal authority by doctors.’ Hill replied: ‘I would challenge the term “birthing person” in this context though. It is women who are seen as the “fragile sex” etc, and obstetric violence [medical interventions performed during childbirth without a woman’s consent] is violence against women.’
‘What I saw happening in this slide was a genuine mix up between the absolutely correct idea that the problem here is patriarchy, a system that oppresses and damages women on the basis of their sex, and obfuscating terminology that is unable to name the oppressed people.’
After her comments went viral online, Milli was dropped by Birthrights – a charity that campaigns for human rights during childbirth which the campaigner had worked with for ten years.
She was contacted by Amy Gibbs, the chief executive of Birthrights, who told her that the charity would no longer work with someone who doesn’t ‘share our inclusive values’.
Milli previously told the publication she finds it ‘troubling’ that people are being ‘silenced’ for expressing their views, and found there has been an unwillingness to engage in discussion.
Birthrights responded, saying: ‘Equality and inclusion is core to our ethos, and our services are available to everyone who is pregnant. We regularly review all our partnerships to ensure they reflect our values.’
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