As I start to write this post, I'm not sure how I'm going to start it and I don't know what reaction I will get. But today I read the story of Topman and the T shirts that were banned because of sexist comments - and it brought back a whole load of memories for me. Especially when the report said that they had intended the T Shirts to be "light-hearted" - because that's what I always insisted I was.
You see - I have been accused of being sexist many times - and it's not pleasant. Please be assured - I am not condoning the TopMan T shirts - I don't intend commenting on that story or giving my opinion - I'm not sure what the designers had in mind, or even if it was done intentionally to attract publicity. But I would like to tell my story and how I felt when I was being accused of being sexist because of something I was working on.
Four years ago this month, my friend and I started the website www.moanaboutmen.com. The thought behind it was simple. Get women together to chat, make friends and have fun.
Many women, when they get together to chat , make friends and fun do so while talking about their men at the same time - often moaning about them. Not with malice of any kind. But it is a well known fact that certain things - often very small things - irritate women. Hence the name. One that women identify with; that they will smile about; and remember - perfect name to get people visiting a website.
Don't get me wrong - I know for a fact that it also happens the other way round too.
For instance - when my husband makes anything with eggs , he cracks the shell and leaves it in the eggbox. Just a small thing - but it really irritates me. On the other hand I know that I irritate him because when I have a shower , I put the shower gel and shampoo on the floor of the shower and not the shelf. Again - just a small thing - not a reason for a divorce - not a reason to hate him.
But women all over the country have similar gripes, so when I bought the domain name, I did so with a smile on my face - I thought that it would be a great name for a women's website and I wanted to bring a smile to other people's faces too.
I didn't ever think of the negative side of the name - until the first bit of publicity that we had. The name caught the eye of the media very early on and the site had thousands of pageviews. Before we knew it, my friend and I were caught up in a whirl of radio interviews, TV interviews and in magazines and newspapers. It was so exciting - I couldn't believe what was happening and I felt very proud.
Women were flocking to the website, adding their comments about things that their men had done to upset them - silly things - leaving an empty carton of milk in the fridge, leaving wet towels on the bed - bodily functions and annoying habits. The forums made great reading, were lively and ........dare I say it.......light-hearted.
So - imagine my surprise when I googled the website name one day and found all kinds of negative comments. Websites of all kinds - usually run by men - were commenting on how awful the site was and how they wouldn't let their wives or girlfriends join it.
One time , a particular car forum found the site and infiltrated it. Hundreds of men joined the site with female usernames and started posting all kinds of foul and disgusting comments. Sometimes our members would get there before we did and would try to reply - but we learned that it was best not to get involved with this and the best plan of action was to remove any offensive comments and then ban the user.
People would try and join again for a while but then would give up. Insulting us became boring - because, unlike they wanted to think - we were just having fun.
Meanwhile the site was thriving. We had a publishing contract for a book of the same name and we were loving everything that we were doing. We were picked up by MSN Canada and they included us in an article, which promoted thousands of new Canadian members. The forums were buzzing and it was so great.
Our dream of providing a site for women to learn about other women's lives from all over the world was coming true.
I heard of different groups of women meeting up and we were invited on a weekend away with a group of women who came from all over the country. Sadly, I was away on the date they picked, but I heard all about it. They had a fantastic time and are still good friends now.
We were providing support for women that had gone through all sorts of trauma. We had members who were victims of domestic violence and other members who came on for a chat to take their mind off serious illness.
But in spite of this, there was always an undercurrent of dislike towards the name. Although in the main people were getting used to seeing the name around and realising that we were doing more good than harm, we were always waiting for the next attack by a group who didn't like us.
Just after the book came out , we were invited onto GMTV. What an exciting experience that was - sat in the green room, on the sofa next to Ben Shephard - we had a great day and as you can imagine the website was flooded with new users. Our appearance gave new life to the forums - we were uniting women from all over the world.
Not that the chat was confined to little gripes about women's home lives - of course not. All kinds of topics were covered - discussions about news, lifestyle, competitions - we tried to include a bit of everything.
A couple of days after we had been on TV, I had a look at the GMTV forums. I was shocked to find a huge discussion on them about our website. And it wasn't all good. We had sparked off a whole new discussion about our name.
It was disappointing. After everything we had done to show that we had no sexist intentions with the site - all the support we had given to so many women and all the friends that had been made on the website, still we couldn't get away from it.
But this wasn't just disappointing. It was personal. By about four men in particular. I say men, because their usernames were male - but of course this means nothing online - it could be anybody.
It started by insulting the way that we looked. One person said we looked like men. One insulted my intelligence because of the way that I had laughed on the television programme. One man said he intended to start a campaign to bring down our website.
Although in between everything were lots of positive comments, including some from our own members , the extent of the criticism was hurtful and damaging.
One man in particular targeted us in a particularly hateful way. I took a note of his username and I googled him.
I found that he had been on lots of other websites and posted vile comments about us in the same name.
When we had appeared on the TV, a couple of men had started some similar sites for men to go on - also in a lighthearted vein - he insisted on posting on them in his rude and disgusting manner, in spite of being told by the website owner that that wasn't the kind of language or post that they were aiming at.
I tried to let it go over my head, but one particular comment that I read really got to me and I have never forgotten it - I'm not sure that I ever will.
He said that "He hoped the two vile feminist scum that started this website die of breast cancer"
I could not and still cannot understand why someone would write something like that. If he was hoping to really upset me with his comment then he did succeed, and is still succeeding because sometimes I still think about it.
The irony of it is that one of our longest and most loyal members is currently suffering from breast cancer and users the website for support by writing a blog.
This is the side of the website that I wish to promote.
This is the side of the website that I am proud of.
This is the side of the website that I love and want to carry on.
I am not a feminist, I don't think I am vile, and I try to be nice to people that I come across. With the website I set out to create a happy place for women to meet in the comfort of their own home and I think that we achieved this.
It's just a shame that some people can't accept that.
Follow Sue Hedges on Twitter: www.twitter.com/moanaboutmencom