An Open Letter to Sujai Johnston
Updated: Jan 21, 2019
I am writing this letter to you today, Sujai, because I must encourage you to examine your impact, both as a parenting leader and as a fellow adult. May you work to do better moving forward, if not for me personally, but for the children you claim to care so deeply about.
When I first joined your Gentle Parents Unite Facebook group several years ago as a new parent, I recognized your leadership immediately. I was incredibly thankful for the community you fostered and for the wonderful people I connected with there, several of whom remain my friends today. To say I was grateful for your work is an understatement.
At that time, I was in the throes of balancing my newly-found passion for radical parenthood as a new parent, mental illness as a direct result of my childhood trauma, and my ever evolving grief in regards to what would eventually be the complete and total loss of the relationship with my parents, which became the birthplace of the work I do today as a children's rights activist and consultant for people healing the mother wound.
Sujai, you and I had not spoken since December of 2016, which is why I was surprised when I discovered your initial comment on my October 15, 2018 post about the toddler who had been locked in a room and left to cry themselves to sleep at the guidance of Lisa Sunbury, a well-known RIE parenting leader. This post, as you know, is one of many in my ongoing work to reveal the childism being perpetuated by wolf-in-sheep's-clothing parenting leaders.
When I first saw your name in my notifications and before I read your initial comment, I imagined I might find you saying something about your shared concern for this child and the unknown number of children harmed by Sunbury's childist guidance, but what I found from you was entirely different.
A post uplifting children and their very real suffering is NOT the place to air your concerns about adult reputations, Sujai. What you did here is known as adult centering, and it is 100% unacceptable. In short, my post that uplifts an oppressed child is not for you or for any other adult.
While my original post was not about your parenting leader friends Lelia Schott, Eric D. Greene, Rebecca Eanes, and Kirsty Lee at all, I do want to inform you that I am not "telling bald faced lies" or "slamming others" when I have stated that your parenting leader friends are guilty of perpetuating harm against children with their persistent patterns of silence and adult centering in the face of child abuse.
Truth: Something someone has said does not suddenly become a lie or a personal attack because you happen to disagree with it, Sujai.
If you have unrelated concerns about me (or "dirt on me" as you said in your comment) that exist beyond the you're-a-bad-girl-because-you-were-mean-to-my-friends variety, I certainly welcome you to bring those to my attention AWAY from my content that centers children. There are plenty of ways for your adult concerns to be heard without centering yourself and other adults on posts that center children. Emailing me and making your own public post about me (you already know how to do this, but leave out the toxic ableism this time) are two of your countless options.
As someone who claims the well-being of children to be at the center of your work as a parenting leader, you really should know better, Sujai.
Unfortunately, your comment above was only the beginning of your harm that day. On a separate post of mine you commented saying, "I'll settle for a public apology to Eric D. Greene, Lelia Schott, and Becky Eanes. Otherwise I am going public with all of your mistakes, too." Manipulative threats aside, what exactly would you like me to apologize to these leaders for, Sujai?
Do you want me to apologize to Eric D. Greene for my anger in regards to the racism being perpetuated in his Peaceful Parenting Community group of 20,000+ by his admin Vanessa SC?
Or do you want me to apologize to Greene for my anger about how my concerns and those of other members regarding this racism were wholly dismissed?
Or do you want me to apologize to Greene for my anger about how his group admin also engaged in passive aggressive emotional abuse towards me, which resulted in me being removed and blocked from his group after I asked for his help in regards to that?
Do you want me to apologize to Becky Eanes (Rebecca Eanes) for my anger that proceeded my choice to call her out for her public share of an article (yes, what is shared on her business page of over 1 MILLION followers is HER responsibility) that normalizes leaving babies to cry themselves to sleep as a mere parenting approach?
Or do you want me to apologize to Eanes for my anger in regards to her reactive audacity, not to mention serious entitlement, to then come on my page declaring that I was somehow in the wrong for not writing her privately about her own childist public error?
Or do you want me to apologize to Eanes for my anger about her maintained refusal to hold herself accountable for the harm her share of that article caused an unknown number of children? Quick clarification: Her choice to delete the evidence of the childist content that appeared on her page to more than 1 million adults who interact with children is NOT accountability. Accountability for her public error that perpetuated childism would look like a public apology.
Do you want me to apologize to Lelia Schott for my anger about how she calls herself a "child advocate" but has repeatedly chosen not to use her very large social media platform to speak up about the egregious harm against children coming out of the RIE parenting community, a community she knows that MANY of her own followers participate in?
Or do you want me to apologize to Schott for my anger in regards to how she chose to count Eanes' non-apology and failure to hold herself accountable as somehow sufficient rather than see it for what it truly is, which is just more childist harm?
Or do you want me to apologize to Schott for my anger in regards to how she presented my call out of Eanes' error in sharing that information with her more than 1 MILLION followers as "unjustly slandering and shaming" her? For those who may be unaware, slander is a false statement, NOT a true statement that some people happen to want left unsaid, and pointing out an error is speaking of someone's guilt ("You did something bad"), which is NOT the same as shaming someone ("You are a bad person").
Or do you want me to apologize to Schott for my anger about the fact that she lied about her membership in Lisa Sunbury's toxic RIE: Regarding Babies Magda's Way Facebook group?
And as far as what Schott has time to do and her disagreement with "ANY form of shaming, criticism, and judgement," I will share about her utter hypocrisy in my next open letter.
Or maybe you want me to apologize to Greene, Eanes, and Schott for speaking publicly about my own anger in regards to their true actions and resultant impact as public parenting figures on real children? If so, I suggest you learn a bit more about me and what I stand for.
As far as standing for things goes, I would like to talk about your incredible hypocrisy when it comes to screenshots. In your Gentle Parents Unite Facebook group you regularly speak about your belief that the sharing of screenshots is harmful, and you insist that members uphold your group policy of not sharing screenshots. In fact, you have gone so far as to remove members for even mentioning sharing screenshots.
I am sure others can imagine my surprise when I found you sharing a series of screenshots from a private conversation you initiated with me as a parenting professional to offer me your "support" back in December of 2016 on my October 15 post. It seems your approach to screenshots is another one of your do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do things.
I also find it interesting that you thought sharing screenshots of the private conversation you initiated with me as a professional when you knew I was struggling (you reached out to me after reading a post I had made in your group detailing my emotional distress at the time) would somehow discredit me today, rather than shine a bright light onto your own problematic conduct.
During the course of that conversation, you gaslit me and blamed me for your own ability to navigate the countertransference you were experiencing in response to what I was sharing with you (you chose not to share these screenshots). While this abusive conduct was enough for me to end speaking with you and not choose to work with you moving forward, your choice to publicly share screenshots of that conversation without my consent truly shocked me.
In fact, in all of my time in the mental health and coaching worlds, I have never heard of a professional sharing screenshots from private conversations they initiated with potential clients, and I am not going to ask you how you justify your actions here, as no justification for them exists.
Sujai, you have demonstrated your hypocrisy AND your complete and total disregard for confidentiality. While I am thankfully not personally harmed by your choice to share these screenshots from our private conversation, I am concerned for your current and future clients"
"Right now Sujai says she is here to support me as my parent coach, but if I do something she disagrees with in the future, will she then post screenshots from our private conversations like she did with Stephi Wagner?"
As you may know, I am fully trained to work as a psychotherapist, and I have intentionally chosen to serve my private clients outside of the mental health system because I find many facets of that system to be incredibly patriarchal.
However, if I find anything within the system to be worth of keeping, it is confidentiality. While I am not wholly unfamiliar with the Jai Institute for Parenting that you say you received your training through, I am linking here the American Psychological Association Code of Conduct and the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics for your review.
Pursuing a relationship with a support professional - be it a therapist, a coach, a parent educator, etc. - is a highly vulnerable and potentially anxiety-inducing situation that is made bearable for many by the standard understanding what they share privately with a support professional will confidential. It is my hope that you will never treat someone as you treated me again, and that you will recognize that it is entirely outside of ethical conduct to engage privately with someone as a support professional, only to then use what they shared with you in confidence in a public effort to devalue and discredit them.
Speaking of publicly harming people, Sujai, what brought you to feel that it was in any way acceptable for you as a cisgender person to tag a transgender person on my post as you did in the above comment? Your comment translates like this: "Transgender friend, come here and share your emotional labor about the oppressive trauma I think you experienced in this space already so I can make my point about Stephi." Sujai, you need to hold yourself accountable for this harmful public comment, both to your friend, assuming they still are your friend, and beyond.
As you know, Sujai, your comments on my October 15, 2018 post did not end here.
You say that you reached out to me in "love and support,"Sujai, but the way you actually showed up in that December 2016 conversation was harmful to me, and I truly hope that you have spent time since then working to do better in terms of how you sit with other people in their pain. Furthermore, the next time you want to share screenshots from our private conversation of "support," please go ahead and share the whole thing. The screenshots you carefully picked out do not give near enough justice to your dismissal of my feelings, countertransference reactions, use of spiritual bypass, and toxic gaslighting.
I find these words of one of my followers who commented to you on my October 15, 2018 post about your choice to share screenshots of our private conversation particularly poignant: "...you reached out to Stephi in so much love and light that you kept private messages and shared them in order to expose her?"
Your ableist comment here is unacceptable and hugely harmful, Sujai. You have equated mental illness and inability to access support with an emotion that you clearly deem to be outside of acceptable, and in doing so you have actively demonized an entire group of people who experience oppression in our society for living with mental illness. In fact, you might as well have said,"Only the bad mentally ill people who choose not to get support for themselves are capable of such terrible feelings about children!"
Please educate yourself about ableism and hold yourself accountable for your harm. And after you do that, go back and re-read my post in regards to feelings towards children that you are referencing here wholly inaccurately.
Unfortunately, this comment was not the end of your ableism. A few days later, you and numerous other parenting leaders from Gentle Parents Unite and beyond gathered together to participate in the largest ableist shit show that I have witnessed in a very long time, the toxicity of which calls for a whole new letter (coming soon).
I'm confused, Sujai. Where did you lift people up in your comments?
Or are you indicating that I am a "weak person" because you think that pointing out the choices of adults (people with privilege in our society) that perpetuate the oppression of children (people who are oppressed in our society) is the same thing as "putting others down" and therefore not something "strong people" do? I am also wondering if you regularly classify people as either "strong" or "weak," and if so, how is that binary thought process which is rooted in patriarchy part of moving our society forward?
Saying someone has lied is very different than someone actually lying. Please stop making baseless accusations and find better ways to say, "I disagree." Also, please educate yourself about the mother wound. Speaking about the very real pain that runs throughout our society as a direct result of patriarchy is NOT misogyny.
You speak as if we are in a war, Sujai. Rally my troops?
It's super entitled (not to mention childist, as I have already discussed above) to think that you are owed a response on your time table from someone while you center adult feelings on a post about the suffering of children. I was under no obligation to respond to you at all, and I certainly was not going to place your personal attacks and ableism above the needs of my clients and my family.
In fact, the only reason I responded to you then and am taking the time to do so now is becauseI am greatly concerned about the harm you are causing with your scope of impact as a leader in the parenting community.
Moving forward, DO NOT address my friends and followers as "minions."What you are doing is attempting to dehumanize people in an underhanded effort to bolster your own position. Your desire to silence anyone who speaks in agreement with me is very apparent. Again, find better ways to say that you disagree. It is unacceptable to attempt to dehumanize and dismiss other people because their beliefs happen to align with someone you do not like. It is ineffective logical fallacy, it is a really bad look, and it is ultimately unacceptable.
This is where your passive aggressive personal attacks (read: contempt) really began to pick up, Sujai. As someone who works as a parent coach and who leads a very large parenting community that espouses gentleness and nonviolent communication, seeing you engage in this way concerns me greatly.
Contempt is one of the Four Horsemen that The Gottman Institute describes as particularly destructive in relationships. In fact, contempt is the #1 predictor of broken relationships. I am linking this article for your review.
Sujai, you have yet to hold yourself accountable for your own childism on my October 15, 2018 post, just as Eanes has yet to hold herself accountable for her childism in sharing the article referenced above. Deleting proof of harm is NOT the same as holding ourselves accountable for said harm. May this be a reminder to you as you move forward.
What people are proponents of and what their actual impact is are two different things. Your words here reveal your desire to see yourself and those you choose to associate yourself with (your friends) as "good people." This is known as "good personhood," and it is rooted in patriarchy and is an aspect of the mother wound that is worth unpacking.
Example: I am a proponent of dismantling racism. I am also a white person who has been conditioned my entire life to be harmful to BIPOC, and as a result of this I carry thoughts that result in me perpetuating racism even when doing so is not my intention. I am working to perpetuate *less* racist harm, AND I am 100% responsible for my impact that is harmful to BIPOC. Shouting, "But I am a good person though!" when evidence of my harm has been presented would just be more racism.
In truth, people are neither good nor bad (binary thinking), and all people are capable of doing good things and of doing bad things throughout our lives. Upholding the reputation of someone (more "good personhood") over their actual impact is harmful and how systems of oppression are maintained. For an excellent example of this, please review the Kavanaugh hearing.
"Shame is your middle name." I am still shocked that you really said that to me.
This is more toxic contempt, Sujai. Again, please review the article I linked above from The Gottman Institute. Naming me with something as serious and painful as shame is beyond egregious.
Also, please educate yourself about what gaslighting is and what it is not. I have countless examples of you gaslighting people, both in our private conversation from December 2016 (the portions you opted NOT to break confidentiality to share publicly) and in Gentle Parents Unite. Women like myself who confidently state their thoughts and feelings are not by default gaslighting, Sujai.
Speaking of gaslighting, urging people to address the "real problems" by focusing on people who are "really hurting people" is a tool oppressors have been using for a very long time to manipulate people into complicit silence. This is also more binary thinking, as well as evidence of your need to unpack your patriarchal conditioning.
ALL adults are "really hurting people."It is IMPOSSIBLE to be an adult in our society - one that is founded on oppressing and therefore harming people - and NOT participate in harming people. Failure to hold ourselves and one another accountable for our harmful impact is how we vote to uphold patriarchy and therefore all systems of oppression.
Children deserve better than childism.
Children deserve better than your childist attempts to center adult feelings. Children deserve better than your childist efforts to silence those who call out adults who act in ways that uphold their oppression. Children deserve better than your childist bids for "good adult personhood." Children deserve better than your childist performative activism.
Do better, Sujai.
As always, I love hearing from you. Please get your thoughts here in the comments.
For more about childism and healing the mother wound, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Update: To read my Open Letter to Sujai and the admin team of Gentle Parents Unite, please check back in a few days.