It started with a zoo, a young boy, a gorilla, some untamed curiosity, and ended with a gun shot heard ’round the Internet. Harambe, the 17 year old Silverback gorilla from the Cincinnati Zoo was dead and the young boy who worked his way into his habitat was safe, but the story was not a happily ever after one.
Some folks complained about zoos being sinful bastions of man’s evil. Some folks complained about a gun being used on the gorilla instead of a tranquilizer or another form of pharmacological restraint. Some folks wondered where Dad was. Lots and lots and lots of folks agreed that Mom was a sorry excuse for a parent, clearly negligent and at fault, and personally responsible for the death of the gorilla.
Mom shaming has become the newest national past time, universally practiced (often by fellow mothers), and cheap entertainment. Grab the popcorn, prop up the feet, and read the comments. Who can use the most vile language to speculate what a horrible person mom must be? Who can get the most “likes” on their comment describing the massive flaws of a woman who nearly watched her child die an unspeakable death?
Here’s my POV about what happened in the Cincinnati Zoo over the weekend: I officially have no opinion because I wasn’t there.
I did not personally witness a mother’s negligence, so have no ability to comment on that. I did not personally witness or debrief the team of zookeepers who opted to fatally harm the gorilla in question, so have no ability to comment on that. I will not personally cast any blame whatsoever having not been anywhere near the events in question or having stood in any of the important shoes in question, namely those of parent, child, or zookeeper. I would add gorilla to that mix, for all you folks who love animals more than humans (and I know this exists and is a thing — no judgment from me, as humans suck much of the time), but, you know, gorillas don’t wear shoes, yo.
See how easy that is?
Sadly, so much of the Internet doesn’t see the merit in my restraint. Mom has quickly become this week’s online public enemy number one. In my own circles, I saw shade thrown mostly by fathers or women without children. In other online circles, the hatred towards mom was much more democratic — young, old, mothers, fathers, those with kids, those without kids.
I read a little, but for the most part just kept scrolling. What is it about us that we need to proclaim, in writing and publicly, how awful we think other people are, especially in the face of their personal tragedy? It’s not enough to assume that mom is already feeling, no doubt, horribly responsible for a child that could have easily died on her watch, we need to revile her openly, aggressively, gleefully, almost.
It’s like the Walk of Atonement from Game of Thrones. This mother was metaphorically forced to walk amongst her Internet commenters and simply absorb the hate that was thrown her way. And as awful as that endless mob of ugly was in King’s Landing for Cersei Lannister, I wonder if a single commenter that cast judgment about the Cincinnati Zoo mother’s parenting abilities might consider that she would be aware of the hate cast her way.
We shame moms openly, without concern. Where was Dad? Not on the radar, as it was Mom at the zoo with the very active and curious four year old, not Dad. Though, full disclosure, I did see a friend post a UK story about how Dad has a rap sheet for gang violence and drug use. Somehow, this news, too, is more reflective of what a horrible parent mom is, for choosing such a man to father her children.
Every one of our transgressions is only a click away, folks, which is sort of my point. Let thee without sins cast the first stone. Isn’t that what Jesus taught? Man, I’m not even religious and know that. For every commenter who speculated about how qualified the Cincinnati Zoo mom is to be a parent, take a deep breath and consider your own parenting flaws. For every commenter who posted about how mom is personally responsible for the death of Harambe and should be made to literally pay for his death, take a deep breath and consider the concept of flow charts and chains of command.
Let’s stop engaging in the gleeful mom shaming that is so rampant on the Internet. When you are baited by news outlets craving the next big story, have your thoughts and opinions, by all means, but perhaps refrain from sharing them online, adding to this growing culture of mom v. mob. For all you know, the next time a mistake is captured on someone else’s cell phone, it might be yours. And you know when it is, you’re moments away from that virtual Walk of Atonement.