EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ALISON STANKARD AKA TOTES INAPPROPES
Alcohol soaked parenting guru and runner of marathons.
Fashion Forward bitch.
Mother of three little shits and one Thug Pug.
Wife to Dangerous.
Alison, How did you get to where you are now? Can we have a timeline of how it all started?
I started writing a blog about three years ago as an antidote to my mundane life. I have three kids and my husband had recently started his own Estate Agency in Manchester. Having not worked for a while, whilst the kids were tiny, I’d just gone back to work two days a week. My friend who we refer to as Sharon had started a Facebook blog called “middle-aged housewives of Cheshire” and I was a bit jealous of her so I thought that I’d start my own blog. The copycat blog was meant to be a bit of fun but I felt very protective of it from the start. It was a creative outlet for a woman struggling with being a mother to three young children, working and trying to reclaim her identity.
What was the intention behind the blog?
I originally wanted the blog to be about fashion as I fancied myself as a fashion blogger but being that I don’t look like a model and I dress from the sale rails on the high street, this was never going to happen. Within the first couple of weeks, the blog had turned into a piss take of my husband to see how I could annoy him with my “Totally Inappropriate” attire for work in an upmarket city centre estate agents. I would give myself a mark out of ten for how successful I had been. As the blog progressed, I started to talk about family life but in an open and frank manner. I’m not into all that #soblessed and #mummysspecialangel type stuff. I wrote about the realities of parenting versus the very real expectations that I’d had about being a parent before I was one. I refuse to let the blog become just about one topic. I don’t write about any one specific thing. I write about my children, my love of a bargain, my husband, drinking too much and falling over, mental health awareness, politics, health, running and my misadventures with my dog. On any given day, I can cover what I’m wearing, along with a recipe and a story about the dog shitting on the floor. I have written a couple of things that have had a lot of attention, most notably, was a letter to Marks & Spencers about their range with Alexa Chung. This was taken up by The Mail, The Telegraph, The Sun, Good Housekeeping and the Huffington Post to name but a few. Another post that I wrote was about making Jamie Oliver’s fish pie and my children refusing to eat it. This was read by nearly four million people.
How has this all affected your life? Has it changed dramatically?
In some instances, yes. I’ve had a lot of offers of free stuff in order to promote certain things. A lot of the time, I’ve turned things down but I get on well with a couple of designers like Rew and I
promote their clothes in exchange for freebies. Unfortunately, the downside is that from time to time I have been trolled. Sometimes it’s not too bad and I can make light of it and sometimes it has been dreadful. I’ve had death threats and just some really offensive private messages from people.
Is this coming from people who don’t like your voice on some subjects?
On some occasions yes, I wrote about Brexit just after the referendum and that caused a lot of upset because people shared the piece and ultimately it was shared with people who had an opposing viewpoint to mine. I was attacked for my clothing, being ugly and one delightful person wrote
“I can’t believe that you have three kids. Who would fuck you three times?”
You sort of expect feelings to run high when you choose to write about your political views but I have been trolled for having a piece about shopping in the sales featured in “The Sun” newspaper which I was surprised about and there have been other instances when I can’t get my head around how I could have offended people. Obviously, some people find swearing very distasteful and I refer to my children as “the three little shits”. I’ve had people message me to say that they believe that my children will suffer psychological trauma if they read what I’ve written about them. Ultimately, I know that my children know that they are loved and that they won’t suffer because I call them this. The biggest problems that I have had have been with two closed Facebook groups that I started last year. If I had known how things would play out with the groups, I’d never have started them but we seem to have overcome most of the teething problems now. Last year I started a group called “Run Bitch Run”. It’s a closed group on Facebook for people who enjoy running, swearing and boozing. I started it because I wrote a post in a similar group and it got deleted because the piece had swearing in it. I hadn’t noticed that the group didn’t allow swearing. I thought “Well, fuck you then!” I’ll start my own group that’s for both men and women, allows swearing and allows wound shots. Within forty-eight hours, the group had over three thousand members and this is where all the problems started. Myself and some friends were admins on the group but we had no experience and pretty soon things got out of control. The group was very popular but rather than writing about running, the group members quickly descended into writing about whatever they liked. Within six weeks, the membership had swelled to eight thousand members but anything and everything was being discussed. Some of the people were lovely but they were posting about topics as diverse as problems with neighbours and dating disasters. As the group descended into chaos and its membership grew, I became more and more despondent until finally, I took a stand. I wrote a long piece about the group being fundamentally a running group and most importantly stated that we were going to have rules about what could and couldn’t be
My post had massive repercussions. A lot of the members happily obliged and returned to posting about running but a minority of a couple of hundred people were extraordinarily angry about the
imposition of rules. They started a splinter group who’s main focus was their anger toward myself for having the audacity to ruin the group. From this group, I had death threats and people trolling
my main blog page and all manner of problems. Unfortunately, this same thing has played out time and time again. We have found that the biggest contributors to the group are the people who invest the most time and effort. Sometimes they feel that the group should evolve and move away from its original themes. They become angry if rules are reiterated, especially as I tend to do these things with humour. People often don’t see humour as a good means of enforcing rules but that’s my way. In one post I stated that the group wasn’t a democracy but a “dictatorship”. This went down like a lead balloon. Luckily, I have had a great team of friends who admin the groups with me and at times, I have really needed them. Undeterred by my horrible experiences with starting a running group, I also started a group for people who like fashion, boozing and swearing called “Fashion Forward Bitch”. Again there were tons of teething problems, lots of angry people who sent me appalling private messages but we seem to have overcome our initial problems with this too. Fashion Forward Bitch has a great ethos and I’m very proud of it. It encourages people to step out of their comfort zone with clothes, embrace colour and wear things that they wouldn’t ordinarily. The group’s aim is to encourage body positivity and diversity but with humour and warmth.
Where is this coming from? Were you always this way?
No. I just reinvented myself. I took a frazzled mother of three young children and turned her into a frazzled mother of three young children that wore mad clothes and wrote about her life on social media.
I stopped caring about other peoples’ opinion. How did your family feel about what you were doing? My husband pretty much ignores it, especially when people come to say hello to me in the street. The kids don’t mind that much. They’re used to it now. When I was in the newspapers, I made the mistake of not telling them and my eldest was upset that someone at school said that they’d seen a picture of her in “The Mail”. Now, I’m very conscious of telling them if I’m doing anything. I was on Good Morning Britain last year. I’ve been on the BBC a few times so I’ve had to warn them about it but they’re pretty cool about it.
Were they just interviews about who you are?
No, as a blogger, especially one that talks on occasion about parenting, you get invited to talk about parenting issues when they have a space to fill on breakfast telly or Five Live. I spoke on the BBC about the Dutch style of parenting which is very permissive, open and free. I was supposed to have a differing opinion to the lady that I was debating with but she was a childcare expert that
had thirty years’ experience so I couldn’t really argue with her. The Good Morning Britain one was another debate about parenting and using tickling to teach children about consent. I had an opposing view to another blogger and we were supposed to have a heated debate. The trouble is, I’m fairly shit at public speaking. I look like a startled rabbit, not helped by knowing nothing about the subjects that I had been invited to debate about. I just thought that I’d give it a go but I was dreadful. I managed to sit with my legs wide open when I was on Good Morning Britain as I hadn’t realised the camera angle that they were filming from. My mum phoned me afterwards and said, “Why were you sat like that?” I replied “Mum, I was sat on a bar stool and I thought that they were filming from straight on. I thought that people would see the desk in front of me. How was I supposed to know that they’d be filming from the side?” Needless to say, I’ve never been invited back anywhere!
What would you say to somebody who wants to get into blogging?
I wouldn’t use Facebook solely as a platform, as you are putting yourself and your blog at the mercy of its algorithms. I’d use a mixture of Facebook, Instagram and then build yourself a website.
What makes a good blog?
A unique voice. A unique viewpoint. Never write to a formula and find your own voice.
Do you want to be bigger? What are your plans because you’re
obviously a key influencer on social media.
I don’t see myself that way. I don’t see myself as an influencer. Occasionally, I see those adverts for social media influencers and occasionally, I’ve applied to companies but they always write back
and tell me “No Thanks”. You can’t take yourself too seriously. I’m trying to write a book at the moment and I’m hoping that someone will want to publish it. Touch wood for the book and then I don’t know. I will go with the flow. Some people recognise me on the street and it’s so random. Just people staring at me and I know they’re thinking: is that her?
Do you think your kids will be following in your steps?
You know it’s funny how some people are saying that I ‘m damaging my kids because I talk about them in my blogs. That I will look back on this time and regret it. People do say things like this to me. And sometimes people take you too literally. My oldest little shit is Bella. She has a YouTube channel. She’s only made two videos but one of them had twenty thousand views.