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The backlash against children’s YouTuber Ms Rachel, explained

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 29: Ms. Rachel attends the Sesame Workshop 2024 Benefit Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on May 29, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

Donning a pink headband and blue overalls, Ms Rachel — a.k.a. the internet’s favorite child care educator —  starts most of her videos by waving excitedly at the camera with her usual greeting: “Hi, friends!”

In one video, she opens jumbo-sized plastic crayons to reveal small toys inside that match the color of the crayon, describing each toy slowly and enthusiastically. In another, she’s visiting a doctor’s office and explores with childlike curiosity what to expect at a routine check-up. Sometimes, she’s just singing nursery rhymes and dancing along, encouraging her viewers to join in. Ms Rachel, over the course of the last five years, has made over 100 YouTube videos for kids, and each one is paired with a smile and a song. 

If you’re a caregiver of young children, chances are you’re already well acquainted with Ms Rachel’s toddler learning videos and that the little ones in your life hang onto every word she says (or sings). But if you haven’t come across one of her videos yet, you may not know she’s one of the biggest YouTubers for kids’ early education. With 10 million subscribers and 6 billion views on her channel, she creates videos for infants and toddlers that are informed by her master’s degrees in early education and music education, and includes a cast of other recurring musical guests. 

She also posts shorter videos on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook, which are more geared toward caregivers and adults. A lot of these videos still include her cheery and gentle demeanor, touching on silly topics like needing coffee to serious topics like talking about postpartum depression and advocating against cuts to funding for early childhood education programs in New York City. In the vast majority of these videos, she emphasizes kindness and positivity.  

So when Ms Rachel posted a video on Instagram and TikTok at the beginning of this month wishing viewers a happy Pride month, it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise to her audience. It struck a nerve with some followers, though, and with some prominent conservative voices, who are now calling for parents to boycott Ms Rachel’s videos.

This backlash isn’t much of a surprise, either. LGBTQ+ rights and issues have been at the forefront of the conservative–progressive divide in the US. Conservative media and movements are particularly focused on pushing back against anything tangentially related to LGBTQ+ life and culture — like when they boycotted Bud Light for doing a paid sponsorship with Dylan Mulvaney, an influencer and a trans woman, or when they boycotted Target for their Pride collection last year. 

Those past boycotts were pushed by Matt Walsh, conservative activist and columnist for the Daily Wire. He has said before that conservatives should be strategic when boycotting “woke” companies and to “make them pay dearly.” He saw Ms. Rachel’s video and tweeted it out with the caption, “Ms. Rachel is an extremely popular YouTuber who makes content for babies and toddlers. She just posted a video celebrating Pride Month. This is a message to conservatives [sic] parents. She doesn’t want your business. You should respond accordingly.”

This isn’t Ms Rachel’s first time experiencing backlash — just last month, she came under fire for raising money for a charity that would go toward children in Gaza — but she’s the latest focus for conservative media and movements. She certainly won’t be the last, especially during Pride month.

Why the backlash?

Just a few weeks before the call from conservatives to boycott her videos, Ms Rachel was already facing controversy with some viewers. She posted a video on May 12 on her Instagram and TikTok announcing her plans to fundraise for Save the Children — a charity she’s an ambassador for — with the aim to help children around the world living in conflict, including kids in Gaza, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ukraine. 

“Children should never experience the horrors of war,” she said in a video on her Instagram and TikTok. “These are grave violations of their human rights.” 

This caused some viewers to be upset with Ms Rachel for not including Israeli children in her fundraiser. According to Save the Children’s website, they do not currently have a presence in Israel but are in communication with “civil societies and authorities” to see where they may be able to help. 

The next day, Ms Rachel posted a written statement on her Instagram that said “[C]hildren should never experience the horrors of war — nor be killed, injured, or taken hostage.” She also posted multiple videos on this issue, including one of her voicing her distress about commenters saying she doesn’t care for all children, another about the plight of children in Gaza, and a third video of her praying for both Palestinians and Israelis. She also continued with her fundraiser and said they raised $50,000 in just a few hours

Then on June 1, the first day of Pride month, Ms Rachel posted a video to her Instagram and TikTok, where she posts videos primarily for adult viewers, wishing everyone a happy Pride. “This month and every month, I celebrate you,” she said in the video. “I’m so glad you’re here, I’m so glad you’re who you are.” Then, the video cuts to another message.

“To those who are going to comment they can’t watch the show anymore because of this support: No worries and much love your way, God bless,” Ms Rachel said. “I am not chasing fame or views, I’m standing strong in love.”

The preemptive message likely stems from previous backlash Ms Rachel has faced for being supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. Last year, some users on TikTok tried to get #cancelmsrachel trending because her videos on YouTube feature Jules, a nonbinary musician who uses they/them pronouns. This backlash didn’t change any of Ms Rachel’s videos on her YouTube, but she did take a break from TikTok after. 

Ms Rachel’s latest comments toward LGBTQ+ community members, while kind and authentic, are also incredibly tame. Saying you’re glad that someone exists and that they’re who they are could really apply to anyone. But for today’s anti-LGBTQ+ movement, even a 12-second video is too much, and she was right to believe some people would have an issue with her message. One viewer commented, “Celebrating who you are sexually attracted to is just weird. It’s not appropriate for children.” (Note: It’s highly unlikely that an infant or toddler would be seeing this video from Ms Rachel since it was posted to her caregiver-oriented Instagram and TikTok.) Another said, “Unfollowing … I’m staying strong in my beliefs also.” 

Influential pundits took notice of her message, too. Chaya Raichik, founder of popular Twitter account Libs of TikTok, reposted Walsh’s tweet and added to it: “Doing my part to spread awareness so parents know what Ms. Rachel stands for! She says she doesn’t want your business if you don’t subscribe to the child m*tiIat*on cult. Pass it on!” (Ms Rachel never said that people must also support LGBTQ+ communities, just that she understands if people no longer want to watch her videos because of her support.)

A day after his first post about Ms Rachel, Walsh posted a thread on X about Jules’s participation at a family-friend Pride event and made it clear that he has an issue with their mere existence and involvement in Ms Rachel’s videos. “Whether they include an overt lesson on gender ideology in your children’s content or not, Jules’ ambiguous physical presentation in the show IS the point.” 

How effective will conservative backlash against Ms Rachel be?

The outrage against Ms Rachel’s post is in line with ongoing anti-LGBTQ sentiment in the US, especially since her work is focused on kids, which sets off people in conservative circles even more.

Conservative consumers have had some success in scaring corporate America, and conservative activists and lawmakers have had success in swaying policy. Ms Rachel doesn’t fall into either of those categories. She’s a YouTuber, though, which means an effective boycott could potentially impact her business.

YouTubers can make money in a variety ways, but a big portion of that money is made through Google ad revenue. If enough people stopped watching Ms Rachel’s videos, it definitely could make an impact on her income. 

So far, it doesn’t seem that’s been the case. For all the negative comments from everyday people and more prominent figures like Walsh and Raichik, there are also many positive comments voicing their support and appreciation for Ms Rachel’s advocacy. 

While it’s unlikely that people like Walsh are going to let up on Ms Rachel anytime soon, she does have something previous targets of conservative boycotts didn’t have: a strong fanbase of parents and caregivers. In the beginnings of the Covid-19 pandemic, when in-person day care wasn’t an option and parents were worried about their children’s development, Ms Rachel was a source of relief for many. She’s still a resource for those who can’t afford to send their kids to day care, or who simply want their children to watch educational content — like she wanted for her own son, who had a speech delay and inspired her to create her YouTube videos.

We’re living in an era where even someone like Ms Rachel, who provides quality early-education content basically for free, is facing backlash for voicing support for LGBTQ+ families and raising money for children without access to necessities like food and water. However, despite the pushback, she’s standing strong in her principles — unlike major corporations like Budweiser and Target.

In a follow-up video to her Pride message, she elaborated on how her faith informs her beliefs to love everyone. “I stand with everyone,” she said. “That’s who I am.”

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