victim blaming

All posts in the victim blaming category

I Stand With Shakesville

Published July 29, 2014 by sleepydumpling

It’s time for us all to break the silence.  It’s time for us to stand up together.

If you haven’t already heard about the harassment and abuse that Liss over at Shakesville is constantly under, please take the time to read her latest post.  Probably best to have read it before you continue reading here.

I am so angry about this.  Both for Liss, because I know how horrible it is to be subjected to abuse and harassment like this, but also because this shit happens time and time and time again to women online and nothing is ever done about it.  I could list hundreds of women I know who have gone through this.  Some of them I like and agree with, some of them I don’t.  It doesn’t matter – women online of all backgrounds and experiences are harassed and bullied and abused simply because they are women and are active online.

Firstly, let me state clearly that I fully stand with Melissa McEwan and Shakesville.  Shakesville has been incredibly important to me for some years now.  I don’t necessarily agree with everything over there, nor am I interested in every single post.  Because despite the abusers portraying people who read/follow/participate on Shakesville as some kind of clueless fool or victim, I’m a grown adult with a brain who can read and decide which posts are of value to me, and which I leave to other people who get something out of them.  Liss’s work at Shakesville, and that of her contributors and moderators, has been integral in both educating me and giving me food for thought to be able to make up my own mind on so many topics.  It has also been vital in building my self esteem as a fat woman, to hear Liss and others talk about their experiences, many of which I can truly identify with.  I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for years of reading Shakesville.  Not to mention that I have been directed to and met many other amazing writers and activists via Shakesville, be it by links in posts, guest posts or other commenters.

I have always felt safe when commenting on Shakesville.  Even when I disagree with something.  I know that over there, there is a dedicated team who keep the space free of bullying and work very hard to keep threads on topic and respectful.  That is a very rare environment for a woman online, believe me.

But I’ve also felt challenged by the writing over on Shakesville.  It makes me think.  Makes me ask questions of myself and others.  It’s good to be intellectually challenged about things.  It’s good to have your ideology tested regularly.  Sometimes I disagree with someone on a topic, and that’s OK.  I can choose to not read it at any time, to skip posts or give up altogether.  Mind you, nothing about Shakesville has made me feel like I needed to walk away from reading it, even when I have disagreed or been disinterested.  I like the mature, passionate, intelligent voices I am presented there.  I like that I can rely on the comments not to descend into hatred, attacks and insults.  It has inspired how I try to keep my comment policy.

Personally speaking, I am glad to have met Liss online.  She is whip-smart, funny, passionate and articulate.  She is also kind and thoughtful.  She shows she cares so often when others remain silent.  She has cute pets that make me smile and I enjoy her selfies and other photos she shares.  Even though we’ve never met in person, and we don’t talk as often as I might with other folk I know and am closer to online, I consider her a friend.  And I’m angry that a friend has been subjected to the abuse that she has.

I know this is going to draw me more harassment and abuse, because this is the way these people operate – they attempt to silence anyone who supports their target so that they isolate her further.  That is their objective – our silence.  They’re not going to get it from me.  I’m already harassed daily by those who want my silence, and even when I am not active online they come after me.  I long for people to stand with me and support me in the face of the harassment and abuse I receive, and it’s the right thing to do to stand by Liss in the face of hers.

I am no stranger to online abuse and harassment myself.

A couple of years ago I attempted to start an online magazine for marginalised women in the wake of yet another horrible example of “women’s media” being harmful to marginalised women.  Within 48 hours I was harassed, abused and bullied relentlessly, as were those who supported the project, until I had to pull the plug on it because I could not protect the very women I was aiming to give space to.  Most of it over a typo.

Daily I open my email to find hate mail telling me to kill myself, that I’m disgusting, that I am dirty, smelly, diseased and dying.  Emails describing how they’re going to rape me, beat me or murder me.  Another favourite method is to describe how someone horrible is going to rape/murder me – they delight in either creating fictional creeps/murderers/rapists or describing known ones.  Alternatively they love to describe how not even the most disgusting, creepy man on earth would touch me.

Someone was ringing my home phone regularly and laughing down the line at me or on to my voice mail, or calling me a cunt/fat slut/bitch/etc until I unplugged my phone since I wasn’t using it anyway.  I have come home to find notes stuck in my mailbox that simply point out that they know I where I live.  I have received my own address emailed to me by fake email addresses.  I have had my employer contacted by someone who demanded they demote me because they believed I wasn’t qualified enough.  I have had my work contact numbers and addresses given to hundreds of weight loss businesses, diabetes clinics and gyms/personal trainers, so that I was inundated with these businesses contacting me at work following up on what they thought was my genuine interest in their business, wasting their time, my employers and mine.

They’ve created fake social media profiles of me.  They create social media profiles just to harass me, so that no matter how many I block, they just create another one.  They leave anonymous hate on all of my social media profiles.  They email or message me gross pornography and gore.

There are pages and pages and pages of hate filled screed online about me.  I see them linked to this blog, and people sometimes send them to me out of wanting to help (it doesn’t), and sometimes the authors of this bullshit send it to me themselves, just to goad me.  There are pages discussing my hair, dissecting every little thing about it to ridicule me.  They speculate over how often I wash it and what with, what brand colour I use on it and what technique I use to colour it.  There are people who keep dossiers my online mentions of food.  Others save/download every photograph of me that is online and then deface them.  There are pages discussing my health, and dissecting photographs of me to try to find outward evidence of Type 2 Diabetes (I have it, have never hidden that).  They discuss whether or not I have pain or illnesses, rubbing their hands in glee when they think I do.

They look for mentions of my family and friends and colleagues, and try to make me believe that nobody likes me, that everyone is laughing at me behind my back, that I am alone and unloved.

Generally they just find every way to try to abuse or harass me they can.  The saddest thing is that I am just one of multitudes of women online, some of whom suffer far, far more disgusting abuse.  The objective is to drive us off the internet.  There is even a fucking website devoted to driving people off the internet, with users referring to it as “my internet”, as though they have some right to it that they can decide others don’t.  Silencing people with abuse and harassment is not criticism or disagreement.  It’s bullying.  Instead of behaving like a decent human being and just turning their back on the person they’ve decided they hate and not reading their work or visiting their website, they make it their mission to drive them away altogether.  Not content with making them unwelcome in their spaces online, they are determined to drive them out of ALL spaces online.

The truth of it is that as strong and courageous as any woman is, this constant abuse and harassment DOES cost us.  It costs us our freedom, our voice, our peace of mind and our emotional wellbeing.  It costs us relationships with people who cannot understand what it is like to be constantly abused and harassed, and with those afraid to be subjected to that abuse and harassment by association with us.  It costs us actual money to mitigate the very real dangers we face.  It costs us money in security for our homes, safe transport when we feel we cannot use public transport or travel alone safely, in software and services to block and filter and screen the abuse and attacks.  For some it costs their careers and access to education. But worst of all it costs us our physical safety.

I know exactly what is going to happen.  People are going to make excuses for the behaviour of these abusers and harassers.  They will suggest that women just ignore it, or don’t go online.  There will be those that suggest that Liss and I and other women bring it upon ourselves because we are so “opinionated”.  Others will say that we cannot take criticism – as though these things are not at all abuse and harassment. Criticism is “I disagree with you because…” or “I find the way you handled this problematic because…”  It’s not rape and death threats, stalking, harassment, name-calling, keeping dossiers and trying to silence someone.

They’ll say “Oh these are just sad losers on the internet.” as though they do no harm, or only harm themselves.  Or those around us will just stay silent.   They’ll read this or Liss’s piece, or any of the other examples of it that are written by the incredible strong, courageous women who put themselves online and they’ll just shrug their shoulders and say, “What can I do?”

The truth is, there are lots of things you can do.  Start by believing women who talk about this abuse and harassment.  Help by saying clearly and publicly “This is wrong. This has to stop.”  Signal boost when women write about the abuse and harassment they face.  When other people make excuses about the abuse and harassment women deal with, challenge them.  Tell them it is not acceptable to minimise or excuse the abuse and harassment.  Campaign online platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and any others to put in adequate security for their users – proper block functions, well moderated abuse reporting systems, clear anti-abuse terms of service requirements and strong anti-hacking/spam systems.  If you know a woman who is being harassed/abused online, listen to her when she needs to vent.  Ask her if she’s OK and if there are any ways you can help.  Often just knowing someone cares and is listening is the thing that is least expressed.  Support her if she goes to the authorities to report it.  Document anything you receive by being associated with her.

If you stumble across abuse and harassment of a woman online, think carefully before you approach her about it.  It is likely she already knows, and is finding it difficult to deal with already.  Be sensitive about it if you do feel you need to raise it.  Stay away from hate sites, use DoNotLink if you must link to it anywhere so the perpetrators don’t get the clicks/revenue.  Report abusive social media accounts.  Don’t blame the victim for the abuse, blame the perpetrators.  Point out the difference between abuse and criticism – sadly it seems a lot of people can’t discern that for themselves.

It has to stop.  Whether you agree with or like a particular woman online is irrelevant.  This is not criticism, this is abuse and harassment.  It is violence.  We know what domestic abuse is, we know what emotional abuse is, we know what sexual abuse is.  This culture of bullying, silencing and harassing women online is just another form of abuse.  And online abuse is no more acceptable than any other kind.

It’s time for everyone to stand up and clearly state that the abuse of women online is unacceptable in any form.  Not just to make it clear to the perpetrators that their time is coming to an end and that they will not be permitted to continue this behaviour, but to show support to those who suffer at the hands of these abusers.

No Fat Chicks

Published July 24, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Hey lovelies.  I’ve been quiet for a bit haven’t I?  Well something has brought me out of the woodwork today and steaming from the ears.  The lovely Em aka Boombands from Oh The Places You’ll Go drew my attention via her Twitter to a project this morning called Stop Dating Like a Fat Chick.  Em quite rightfully pointed out just how problematic the project was, and the author of it directed her to this page Who You Callin’ A Fat Chick?  When I read it, I can tell you, I felt kind of sick.

Firstly, most of you already know, I’m a fat chick.  I’m also a single fat chick.  Apparently, being a fat chick is a BAD THING.  The author of the blog/book, Adrienne Santos-Longhurst says that she is offering “the no BS guide to dating with confidence for the plus size girl” – so let me just get this right.  Being a plus size girl is ok, but being a fat chick is not.  Indeed, that is what she says at the top of the page… “If you let your size dictate how and who you date then YOU, my dear, are a Fat Chick.”

Sounds like Ms Santos-Longhurst is buying into the old “No Fat Chicks” bullshit that plenty of douchecanoes have been labelling women that they think they’re superior to for a long, long time.  We’re getting into some good fatty/bad fatty territory with this stuff.

Now that we’ve established that being a fat chick is a VERY BAD THING, and that to become a fat chick you only have to identify as fat and choose people to date and how you date them with relevence to your fatness.  So, that means that because I identify as a fat chick, and because I only date people who accept (and appreciate) my fatness and understand my self-identifying as fat, I “date like a fat chick”.  And that is a VERY BAD THING.

To be fair, I do everything like a fat chick.  I breathe like a fat chick.  I sleep like a fat chick.  I dress like a fat chick.  Because… I AM a fat chick!

According to Ms Santos-Longhurst, dating like a fat chick is a bad thing.  On her page, she outlines why this is a bad thing, because apparently fat chicks do the following:

always the best friend who chums around with a guy and even gives him advice about other women all while pining after him.

-the easy lay who has sex with any and everyone because they feel it’s the only way to get the affection and attention they crave.

- the needy and desperate woman who gets walked all over and jumps through hoops to keep a man in fear that no one else will want her.

-women who limit their dating to fat-friendly sites or even limit themselves to specific races who are said to prefer fat women because they fear they’ll be rejected by dating the “regular” way.

That’s a whole lot of assumptions to make about how fat chicks behave when dating.  Not to mention a whole lot of very negative assumptions.  Now, speaking for myself, that’s not really my method in the dating world, so it’s a pretty rich assumption to make about how we fat chicks date.  But hey, some fat chicks do date like that (so do a lot of thin chicks) and it’s a pretty hostile attitude to hold towards the way some women choose to date.  I’ll come back to that a bit later.

I understand that some of the underlying message Ms Santos-Longhurst is trying to get at is that many fat women suffer from confidence and self-esteem issues.  That no doubt comes from a genuine, good place of wanting to help.  But… this doesn’t help.  Shaming women, particularly fat women who are already shamed at every turn, for having low self-esteem and lacking confidence, is not going to help them.  Saying “Men treat you badly because you act like a doormat.” lays the blame at the feet of the victim, not the perpetrator.  It’s not anyone’s fault that someone treats them badly – ever.  If someone is treating you  like a doormat, then they are the one who are behaving badly and should be shamed, not you.  This is a very victim-blaming methodology that Ms Santos-Longhurst has adopted.

I also have a problem with the whole desperate/needy cliché.  Have you ever noticed how often the concept of desperate/needy are applied mostly to women?  That somehow, women when they have feelings for someone and want them reciprocated are desperate and needy, but when men do the same it’s coded as romantic, devoted, determined.  With a caveat – thin, pretty women are sometimes allowed to be romantic/devoted/determined.  But fat chicks – if we have feelings and want them reciprocated, ew gross, don’t be so needy!  Don’t be so desperate!

Unrequited feelings are messy.  We’ve all been there.  But the answer is not deciding that you’re pathetic for having unrequited feelings.  The answer is realising that we’ve all been there, and that it is possible to get past those feelings and move on with your life.  The answer is going “Well, if you don’t like me, that’s your loss.” and not letting it smash your self-esteem even further.  It’s not hating yourself for those feelings.

The next thing that brings me to is the idea of women who limit their dating to fat-friendly sites or people who prefer fat women.  Let’s just note the inherent racism in the way Ms Santos-Longhurst has framed it too – she hasn’t named any particular race but most of us already know that very racist stereotype.  Some fat women do indeed stick to fat-friendly dating environments.  And that is perfectly acceptable.  There is nothing wrong with choosing to involve yourself in community and environments that accept you and understand you and are tailored for you.  I’m not saying that those environments aren’t fraught with issues, but let’s face it, who hasn’t been objectified or fetishised while walking down the street, or on some non-fat-focused website?   I also find it deeply problematic that she seems to exclude these environments from what she calls “dating the regular way”.  What is dating the regular way?  He comes over and is interrogated by your father first?  Writes in your dance card?  Takes you to for coffee the first date, dinner the second date, movies the third?  The assumption that there actually is some “regular” way to date in 2014 is pretty crappy.  People meet one another and date all kinds of different ways.  Sometimes they meet at work, or through friends, or on a dating site, through a kink club, or sometimes they fuck outside a nightclub and then realise that they’re meant for each other.  All of them are valid ways to date.  There is no “regular” way that is more acceptable than any other.

Which brings me to the thing that REALLY made me go “Oh hell no!”  Yes, that big old stinking pile of slut shaming there on point two.  That silly fat girl who is an “easy lay” – the dirty slut!  Here’s the thing folks.  Fuck any consenting adult you want to fuck, as many times as you want to fuck them.  Whether you think they’re the love of your life, or you just want to come and a cuddle.  Fuck a bunch of consenting adults if you want to.  So long as everyone involved is a consenting adult, fuck away to your heart’s content.  That doesn’t make you an “easy lay” and there’s nothing at all wrong with having a whole bunch of sex if that’s what you want to do.  There’s nothing wrong with having NO sex if that’s what you want.  There’s nothing wrong with having a bit of sex if that works for you too.  Darlings, you get to decide that.  Anyone who shames you for your sexuality when it is between consenting adults is a jerk.

Again, I get the underlying thing Ms Santos-Longhurst is getting at is about confidence and self-esteem, but unfortunately the way she is going about it is damaging to a whole lot of people’s confidence and self-esteem.  Instead of telling “fat chicks” that “you’re doing it wrong and it’s all your fault”, I believe the way to build women’s confidence is to point out just how valid their feelings are, to establish that we are the ones who have final say over our own lives and our own bodies, and the biggie – show them that other people’s shitty behaviour is not their fault.

If you’re a fat chick, and are finding the whole dating thing awkward and painful and embarrassing… guess what?  That’s normal!  Dating and relationships are weird and awkward and sometimes painful for everybody.  They’re also wonderful and rewarding and delicious sometimes too.  But they’re not perfect.  They’re work.  The fairytale is just that… a fairytale.

But here’s to all the fat chicks who live their lives like fat chicks.  Don’t let anyone shame you for being a fat chick.

We Are Not the Problem

Published April 7, 2014 by sleepydumpling

I had planned to write some more about #notyourgoodfatty tonight but I had something happen to me on Saturday night that has really been bothering me and I want to talk about it and why it happens. Not to mention the feeling it leaves with the people it happens to.

I’d had a lovely day on Saturday. I had a delicious brunch with one of my best buds and her adorable doggie, then we went for a paddle down on the waterfront near my home. The water had been so lovely, warm and relaxing, like a bath. We had a little chill time by the bay, and then we went and saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier in Gold Class, which is always an indulgent experience, cosied up in those comfy recliners in a sparsely populated cinema. My friend dropped me home and I decided to nip up to the local Chinese restaurant to get myself a stir fry for dinner, since I had been out all day and was a wee bit sun burnt.

So there I was, sitting in the Chinese restaurant, minding my own business while I was waiting for my dinner. I was reading Instagram and Twitter on my phone, when this kid of about 16 or 17 rolls up to the doors of the restaurant on his bike, and it seems like he’s talking on his phone, but he walks right into the restaurant, holds his phone up to my face, and takes a picture of me – he even left the sound and flash on so I knew exactly what he did and knew his headphones weren’t plugged in. Without any attempt to hide what he is doing or any embarrassment on his part. As he does that, the girl on the counter asks him what he would like to order and he says “Oh… I dunno, hang on a minute” and then just walks out, gets on his bike and rides away.

Now I am not easily shocked by people being shitty to me in public, but this one just had me absolutely stunned. It was like I couldn’t register what he had done. I’m used to people sneaking photos of me (I now photograph them back and post them to my Tumblr) and I don’t doubt there are all sorts of shitty posts out there with my photo and people being douchebags about my body and my appearance. But to have someone just blatantly walk up to me, frame me up right in front of me and take my photo, and then walk away without batting an eyelid just gobsmacked me.

It honestly wasn’t until a couple of hours later that it sank in what he had done, and I can tell you, I felt so violated. It hit me like a wall, this feeling of being violated, assaulted. I think I had to get past the initial shock for it to register just how it made me feel. Usually when people try to take photos of me, they try to sneak it thinking I won’t know (I usually do) and at least have the humanity to look embarrassed when they are busted. Some of them even get pissed that I take their photo back. But this kid had no shame at all, spared no thought for whether or not I knew what he was doing, or how I might feel about being photographed by some complete stranger. My shocked response clearly meant nothing, and who knows where the hell that photo will turn up online.

The thing is, this is what happens when society demonises fat people so much that we are considered sub-human. People like this kid don’t see me as a person, because they’re bombarded with the message day in and day out that fat people are diseased, defective, less than. So our feelings, and our rights, matter nothing to them. Every time they see a headless fatty in the media, it gives them a message that we’re nothing more than a pile of fat. Every time they hear that fatness is a disease, it removes our personhood from their minds. So they have absolutely no qualms in behaving in such an invasive, abusive way toward us.

This isn’t the only thing that happens to us because of the dehumanisation of fat people in the media, but is simply one prime example. Every time we are subjected to abuse and harassment, every time we have someone yell at us from a passing car, every time someone tuts or scowls at us for taking up space on public transport or in other public places, every time someone passes comment on what we eat or do with our bodies, right down to every time someone targets us online for abuse (on our blogs and other social media spaces), these are not because we are fat and somehow cause this abuse ourselves. It is because the constant message from marketing and media tells people that we are sub-human, and then people who are broken and bigoted enough to believe that propaganda act on it.

But it’s not “normal” to spend your life harassing or bullying or abusing people. If these bigots want to talk about what is healthy, they need to look in the mirror first. It’s not emotionally or intellectually healthy to dehumanise other people. It’s not emotionally or intellectually healthy to be abusive or bullying. It is an unevolved, narrow mind that feels they have the right to police other people’s lives and bodies. Only those who are not comfortable and happy in who they are themselves are going to spend their lives looking for opportunities to harass and belittle others. People who are emotionally and intellectually healthy are far too busy focusing on their own lives, and those of the people they love to spend time harassing and bullying others.

The problem does not lie with us. We are not the ones who are damaged here. It is not our fault that we are abused by those who are so messed up that they genuinely believe that it’s a worthwhile pastime to abuse, harass and bully people.

We are NOT the ones who are broken in this equation.

It is NOT our fault.

It is NOT your fault.

Stares, Sneers and Snickers

Published February 14, 2013 by sleepydumpling

If you follow me on my Fat Heffalump Facebook page, you may have seen this article I posted yesterday.  Photographer Haley Morris-Cafiero has documented the reactions of people around her, a fat woman, in public.  If you go to Haley’s page, you will see the full suite of photographs called Wait Watchers as she documents people laughing at her, sneering, and generally just being douchey.

Now I don’t advocate reading the comments on PetaPixel articles (actually, on any articles about discrimination and bigotry for that matter), but I did, and I also saw them elsewhere, suggesting either that Haley just captured “general expressions” (not necessarily aimed at her) or that perhaps they weren’t deriding her because of her weight but because of the way she dressed (which is no different than most of the thin people around her – only fat people are considered “sloppy” in shorts and a top), her looks, or as one said “Those people aren’t looking at her because she’s fat! It’s because she’s doing x, y, z. But if she doesn’t want to be ridiculed in public, maybe she should lose some weight.”

Wait, what?

Regardless of the reason why people behaved like they did, they were behaving in a judgemental manner, and judging her negatively, which their expressions and behaviour showed.

Well, I can tell you now, I have further proof to add to Haley’s testimonial of the derisive surveillance fat people are under.  Because some time ago, I engaged in an experiment with Stocky Bodies photographer Isaac Brown, where I spent time in the Queen Street Mall here in Brisbane doing things that I am normally likely to do in public, as anyone else is (reading, using my phone, eating a salad, eating an ice-cream) and Isaac blended into the crowd and photographed people’s reactions to me.

Before anyone says “But it’s because you have bright pink hair!” let me address that.  Firstly, lots of people have bright coloured hair these days.  But many of them are not ridiculed in the street.  I am a fat woman with pink hair, I get a very different reaction from Jo Public than a thin woman with pink hair.  Secondly, I currently have my natural hair colour (dark brown with a bit of grey) and I get the same treatment no matter what colour my hair is.  Just two days ago I spotted a guy on the opposite train platform to the one I was standing nudge the woman next to him, point me out (brown hair, tattoos covered up, wearing quite a conservative dress and plain ballet flats) and they both laughed at me.  When they realised I had seen them pointing me out and laughing, they both clearly knew they had been busted by me.

And finally, do people with pink hair or any other bright, bold appearance deserve to be ridiculed in the street?  No they do not.

Others suggest people stare because “You look awesome Kath!”  People do not scowl, laugh derisively, or have expressions of disgust at people they find awesome.  They do not nudge and point.  When people find me awesome, and yes, some do, they smile at me.  They pass and say “I love your hair!”  Their faces are open and friendly, not closed and hostile.  Believe it or not, fat people are emotionally intelligent enough to be able to distinguish between negative and positive reactions to them.

I asked Isaac to send me some of the photos he took, so that I could share them with you.  You will see quite clearly that these are not the expressions of people who are thinking “That pink haired, fat lady is awesome!”

KathQSM-14

Some people just stare.

Sometimes I'm stared at by multiple people, not connected to each other.

Sometimes I’m stared at by multiple people, not connected to each other.

Some people show their disapproval quite clearly on their faces.

Some people show their disapproval quite clearly on their faces.

It's not just women that stare either.

It’s not just women that stare either.

Even "nice little old ladies" stare and grimace at me.

Even “nice little old ladies” stare and grimace at me.

Some don't even bother to hide their laughter.

Some don’t even bother to hide their laughter…

... until their companions stare too.

… until their companions stare too.

Nor do they hide their disapproval.

Nor do they hide their disapproval.

Even sunglasses don't hide their disgust at the sight of a fat woman eating in public.

Even sunglasses don’t hide their disgust at the sight of a fat woman eating in public.

As you can see, it’s not just a phenomena that Haley Morris-Cafiero experiences.  I do too, as do many other fat people who spend time in public places.

But what is most offensive is the routine denial of those experiences, as though we are either imagining the stares, disapproving/disgusted looks, the nudging and pointing and laughter, or they are somehow our fault.  Having our experiences dismissed is actually part of the systematic oppression of fat people.  Portraying us as overly sensitive, or imagining the way we are treated is also a form of abuse.   It labels us as “deluded” or emotionally damaged.  It is ironic, many of us do have emotional damage, not because we are fat, but because of the way society treats us as fat people, which includes the regular dismissal of our experiences.

The thing is, it’s not just me that notices the way people behave towards me in public.  It affects my relationships with others as well.  I have had a boyfriend leave me because he couldn’t handle being subjected to so much derision from strangers (yes, I am aware that I am better off without such a man!) and it often diminishes the enjoyment of time out with friends, because they see how people behave towards me and because they care about them, it upsets them and makes them angry, as they want to defend me and respond to the general shittiness of strangers behaviour.  Not to mention that even though I’m mostly pretty thick skinned about it, some days it gets too much for me and affects my mood – it’s hard to relax and have fun with your friends when you are being subjected to the kind of derision and judgement shown in the photographs above.

It is sadly just another example of the way fat people are viewed as inferior in our society.  Not only do we “deserve” the vilification, ridicule and judgement, but if we acknowledge it, we are viewed as irrational, over-sensitive or deluded.

If you are experiencing these things, you are NOT irrational, over-sensitive or deluded.  Your feelings and experiences are valid, and you are not alone.

Note: Any comments denying my or anyone else’s experience with judgement and ridicule in public will be marked as spam and have you blocked from commenting.  You are welcome to state that you are fortunate enough to have not experienced it, but DO NOT suggest that I or anyone else is imagining our experiences, as you will be doing exactly what I call out in this article.

No Excuses – No Victim Blaming

Published November 22, 2012 by sleepydumpling

This Sunday is White Ribbon Day.  I blog about White Ribbon Day every year, because it is a cause close to my heart.

This year, White Ribbon Day is particularly important to me.

What is White Ribbon Day?  It is the one day per year that is devoted to the cause of ending violence against women.  It generally has a domestic violence focus, but it is in fact a campaign to end ALL violence against women.  I’ll give you a few Australian statistics:

  • Every week, a woman is killed by a current or former partner.
  • One in three women over the age of 15 report physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives.
  • Domestic violence is the major cause of homelessness of women and children.
  • 33% of women have experienced inappropriate comments about their body or sex life.
  • 25% have experienced unwanted sexual contact.
  • 1 in 5 women have been stalked.

Be aware these statistics are of reported cases.  This does not cover the hundreds of incidents every day that go unreported.  Violence against women is not just physical or sexual.  It is also mental, emotional, financial and institutional.  Every act of dehumanising a woman is violence against women.

This week just past has been hellish for me.  In the week since I attempted to launch a project for marginalised women and was forced to shut it down due to the amount of harassment, bullying and threats aimed at me and anyone who expressed interest in participating, I have been subjected to a constant barrage of abuse from complete strangers.  Everything from anonymous hate on Tumblr, days and days of harassment on Twitter, someone creating fake Facebook accounts in my name (with stolen photographs of me) and attempting to spam all of my friends and colleagues to actual death threats.

This abuse does not exist in a vacuum.  This abuse happens because culturally in Australia, and the rest of the world, violence and abuse against women is considered culturally  acceptable.  Not just the kind of abuse I’ve experienced this week either – rape, physical assault and murder are excused repeatedly.  Victims are blamed for their abuse – either they are told they actually did the wrong thing, ie were in the wrong place, wearing the wrong thing, behaving the wrong way etc, or if they do speak up, they are accused of “playing the victim” or “drawing negative attention to themselves”.

The most horrifying fact is that many women internalise these dehumanising messages and then turn them on their fellow women.  Just this week in my own experience, many women actively recruited men to help them abuse me online when I refused to apologise for telling them to fuck off out of my space.  This is disgusting behaviour, and a prime example of internalised misogyny.  “Women aren’t allowed to say that!” or “What a bitch, she’s going DOWN!”  Not once did I initiate contact with any of these people, nor did I go to their online spaces to leave abuse or even respond to them, the only time I responded was when they approached me, and mostly it was simply to tell them to fuck off out of my space.

There is NO excuse for violence against women.  There is NO reason that a woman is to blame for being abused.  No matter how she dresses, where she goes, what she does with her own body, what she drinks or consumes, what she says or how she behaves.

Women do not have to be nice, polite or submissive.  Women are allowed to say NO.  Women have every right to tell someone who comes into her space, be it physical or online to fuck off.  Women don’t have to give someone “the benefit of the doubt”.  If she does, and that person then abuses her, she is then blamed for not protecting herself.  “What was she thinking!?” people cry.  She was clearly thinking that she should give someone “the benefit of the doubt” like she was told to do.  Women are allowed to be loud, to swear, to dress themselves however they like, to have consensual sex with whoever they wish to, to be angry, to inhabit any public space without it drawing violence to her.  Women are even allowed to be rude, cranky, impolite, abrasive, abrupt, nasty, bitchy… and all those other words that are shame code for “women being assertive” without it drawing violence to her.

THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

If you do not like a woman, walk away.  Don’t pursue her into her space either online or physically.  Do not force her to pay attention to you when she does not want to.  Do not bully her anonymously to try to shame or silence her.  Don’t try to passive aggressively shame her by claiming you are offering “constructive criticism” when she does not want it and you are in her space.  You are not “offering” anything, you are forcing her, and that is violence against her.  Don’t recruit your friends or men to bully her if she doesn’t respond to your demands.  Do not abuse her for being rude if she walks away from you or tells you to leave her alone, even if she says “fuck off” in doing so.   She has every right to do so and owes you nothing.

If you really believe you are superior to someone, then you will walk away from them secure in that knowledge.  A better human being always will.

We live in a horrifically victim blaming culture.  We harass women online and off, threaten and bully them into submission, shame them when we deem that they are unworthy or inferior.  We get angry at women who stay in abusive relationships, but also deny them support and protection if they leave those relationships.  We shame them for not standing by their man, not standing on their own two feet, not caring enough about their children, not trying hard enough to make things better.  All the while we absolve the perpetrators of any responsibility.  We deny women support financially and emotionally when they leave abusive relationships, shame them for being “single mothers” or “sluts” or “a drain on society” for needing financial assistance when a partner has financially abused them and their children.  In the same breath that we tell women to give men “the benefit of the doubt”, we then blame her if she does and it turns bad.

But most importantly, we must speak up.  We must speak up as a culture and say “This is not ok.”  It is scary to speak up, as I’ve seen particularly painfully this week, and I am sure this very post will draw it as well*.  I am not “special” or “brave” for doing so – I’m just a woman who has had enough of being treated like shit by society and then blamed for it and treated even more like shit.  I have just reached a point where I can’t survive any more being pushed down for being a woman who is deemed unacceptable or inferior.  You too can speak up whether it’s loudly and publicly like I do, or amongst your own family or friends.  Big or small, every statement made against the violence women suffer gathers, accumulates and gets louder and louder.  Every voice, wherever it is, makes the world a bit safer for women and gives women courage to stand up to abuse and expect better for herself.

Tomorrow and through to Sunday there are many events happening around the country to raise funds and awareness for women who have or are suffering violence.  Every small donation for a white ribbon, every raffle ticket, every cocktail party or rally makes a difference.  If nothing else, donate a couple of bucks, buy a white ribbon and wear it to work, around your friends and family, on the street.  It is a tiny symbol of hope for women who have suffered everywhere that someone cares, that someone will stand with them, that someone believes that campaigning to end violence against women matters.

If I had seen that tiny symbol when I was suffering domestic abuse, I know I would have been empowered a whole lot earlier in life than I was.  I know I feel a whole lot more empowered now seeing it on men and women everywhere.

And if you are a woman suffering or have suffered abuse or violence of any kind, know that I care, as do many others.  I do this for you as much as I do this for me.

*I will be reporting any abuse I receive to the police,  including IP addresses and all other details.  I will also be publishing this information online.

Online Abuse – It’s Not Just “Words on the Internet”

Published August 31, 2012 by sleepydumpling

I want to talk about trolling.  Mostly because it is a hot topic at the moment, what with the Charlotte Dawson case (please note, this whole case is very disturbing, be warned that it is highly likely you will find it very triggering if you delve too deep into it) happening over the past few days.  A potted version for those who don’t feel up to delving further, Ms Dawson (television personality) was involved in an online argument, which blew into a massive Twitter hate campaign with hundreds of violent, hateful messages aimed at her, and then Ms Dawson ended up in hospital.  I don’t know if she attempted suicide, or self harm, or if she was suffering extreme emotional/mental distress, it really doesn’t matter.  The point is that the bullying did her harm.

At this point, I’m going to stop using the term “trolling”.  I’m going to call it exactly what it is – abuse.  It is not just someone “saying something nasty” online, it is psychological, emotional and sometimes even physical abuse, and it is calculated.  I think that the term “trolling” has a connotation of some silly, juvenile teenager leaving comments on the internet to stir up trouble or be annoying.  It minimises the very real, very damaging abuse that many people, particularly women, suffer from complete strangers.  I am also going to focus on this abuse as something predominantly suffered by women.  And I want to get away from the expectation that we “don’t feed the trolls” and not pay them any attention, because this is about more than annoying attention seeking.  This is about the systemic, institutionalised abuse of women online simply because they are women, and they are visible online.  So from here on in I shall be referring to these behaviours as online abuse.

What I have seen over the past couple of days are a whole lot of privileged people – white, heterosexual, able-bodied, cis-gender, not-fat, educated men (and a few privileged women) thumping on about how we should just:

  • be polite
  • ignore it
  • learn to tolerate criticism
  • get more resilient
  • don’t argue back
  • just block them
  • don’t retweet or quote it
  • don’t let them know they’re hurting you
  • don’t be so sensitive
  • harden up

Funny thing is, those who seem to be dishing out the most of this oh-so-helpful advice are those who have never experienced the kind of organised abuse and hate-spew that we have seen aimed at Charlotte Dawson, and that many other women, including myself, have experienced in their time as internet users.  It must be so easy to come up with solutions to problems you’ve never experienced yourself!

What isn’t being acknowledged by these people is just how privileged they are, in that for many of them, what they are experiencing (and calling trolling) is criticism.  Just that, criticism of their work, their statements and so on.  In fact, in responding to several privileged people last night criticising their dismissal of online abuse and victim blaming, I myself was called a troll, blocked by several and told to “just shut the hell up”.  Because they are so privileged that this is what they consider online abuse, me coming along and saying “I disagree with you because telling online abuse victims to harden up/ignore it/be polite is blaming the victim, and doesn’t solve the problem.”, to them, that constitutes online abuse!

The reason they think it’s so easy to prevent online abuse is because they’ve never actually experienced it in the way that those of us without their privileges do.  They’ve never been sent rape threats, death threats or other violent threats.  They’ve never had webpages made about them stirring up other abusers into trying to frighten them offline.  They’ve never had phone calls at their house, they’ve never had emails claiming they know where they live, they’ve never had their private/personal information published online.  They’ve never had someone sign them up to pornography sites, weight loss clinics, mailing lists sending pictures of maimed and mutilated bodies and so on.

No, what these privileged people think constitutes “online abuse” is merely criticism.  Personally, I would LOVE to be in their position, where the worst behaviour I have ever been subjected to online was criticism.  Not all of the aforementioned abuse, which I have personally been subjected to.  And I know others have been subjected to far worse.

The other problem I have, is the attitude that the victims of such online abuse are not allowed to feel hurt, angry or traumatised by the abuse that they suffer.  These constant calls to “harden up”, or ” don’t be so sensitive” are actually deeply rooted in misogyny.  They imply that women, by being negatively affected by or showing emotion about the abuse are somehow responsible for it.  It’s that implication that women are “too emotional” and “too sensitive” and should somehow change their behaviours and feelings to prevent being abused.  It puts the onus on the victims, instead of the perpetrators, and is classic victim blaming.  Not to mention that our feelings, and our reactions to abuse are perfectly valid and we are allowed to feel them.  The implication that we should stop “acting like a girl” is really offensive because there is nothing at all wrong with being or acting like a girl or a woman.  Particularly as we ARE women and girls.

Another response I’ve seen is to claim that the victims “bring it on themselves” somehow because they are either rude, angry, emotional, impolite, opinionated, they swear or exhibit any other behaviour that people don’t agree with.  Now yes, while the Charlotte Dawson case has had some questions raised about her own behaviour, which I am not condoning at all as I don’t know the full facts, two wrongs don’t make a right.  Not to mention that the absolute violent hate-fest aimed at Ms Dawson was borne of misogyny, and not a direct response to her behaviour.  Ms Dawson’s biggest crime to the abusers was to be a woman who didn’t behave in a demure, submissive manner, and who didn’t bow to early abuse.  The more she fought back, even if she did so in a manner deemed inappropriate, the more this abuse was ramped up on her.

The thing is, no matter how women behave, online abuse isn’t going to go away based on making women less visible, more polite, more submissive, more demure, more “ladylike” and so on.  Mostly because it sets up the standard that any time a woman does something that men don’t like, they can be abused and then blamed for it.  Which means any time a woman has an opinion of her own, that differs from that of a man, it invites those who feel she should be silenced to abuse her.  Besides, not “feeding the trolls” doesn’t work.  There are those abusers who are not just in this for attention.  They’re here to bully women, silence them and inflict pain and trauma on them.  They will continue no matter how much you try to ignore them, because they enjoy the act of shutting women down and they enjoy hurting them.

It is 2012, soon it will be 2013.  We should be beyond telling women that they should be quiet and not hold opinions, not advocate for themselves, that they deserve abuse simply because they are women.  Which is what telling us not to be so sensitive/emotional is in fact tacitly implying.  It’s the attitude of “stop behaving like women, and you won’t get abused.”

Let’s just state it clearly – THIS IS ABUSE.  We should be horrified by this abuse, and we should be horrified that most, if not all, women who are visible online suffer it at some point or another.  If men were subjected to this kind of abuse on the same scale that women are, there would be outrage.  But instead, it is directly targeted at women and then is dismissed, predominantly by men, as insignificant.

We should be horrified at any kind of abuse, towards men, women or children.  Abuse of any kind, be it domestic, sexual, racial, gender-based OR online abuse, is abhorrent and needs to be acted on to eradicate quickly.  Online abuse can cause just as much trauma to it’s victims as any other form – as we have seen by the Charlotte Dawson case.

It is also time that the platforms this kind of abuse happens on take some responsibility for hosting this abuse.  Online platforms, like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr and any other service need to take a zero tolerance stand on abuse using their services.  For too long they have closed rank and claimed they’re not responsible for the individual behaviours of their users.  They ARE responsible for what they allow to be published on their platforms.  We need to demand they act swiftly and realise that they have a duty of care to their users.  After all, they are public venue hosts.  If we were in a physical public venue, we would expect that the owners of those venues would have a zero tolerance on other users of that venue behaving in an abusive manner.  We need to start seeing these platforms as the online public venues that they are.

As I was writing the last of this post earlier this evening, this post by Helen Razer was shared around Twitter.  I think Helen hits quite a few nails on the head with it, and I want to leave you all with a quote from the piece:

…there is no correct way to respond to ugly, unsolicited threats. In fact,  if this had happened to you, you could very well find yourself in a corner throwing your own poo at passersby while singing the hits of Nicki Minaj.

Terror has its own logic.  I hope, in or out of the spotlight, you never have to learn its terms.

And I hope that somewhere the daughters that Charlotte and I never got around to having are preparing to enter a world where loudmouth ladies are just loudmouth ladies and not women who asked to be beaten down.

Bullies – You Don’t Get a Cookie for Feeling Bad

Published March 2, 2012 by sleepydumpling

So this article went around Twitter pretty rapidly today, with lots of comments about how heartbreaking it is and how understanding bullies is so important.  Not to mention the words “brave” and “honest” in reference to the interviewee.

Yeah… I’m not jumping on that bandwagon.  I think this is another example of everyone focusing on the perpetrator and not the victim.  Oh the interviewee is regularly crying “Mea culpa!” throughout the piece, but then she also turns around and brags about how cunning she was, how her manipulative behaviour got her through situations where she was almost caught out for the bully that she was.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got no time for focusing on understanding bullies.  I understand them perfectly – they want to make other people feel bad to make themselves feel better, they get away with it, so they do it.  Our culture makes excuses for bullies, so bullies continue to behave the way they do.

Instead of focusing on those “brave and honest” bullies (I find nothing brave nor honest about the interviewee of this piece), we should be making it clear that their behaviour is unacceptable, and that they have to take responsibility for their actions.  There have to clear repercussions for bullying behavior – social ostracisation to start with.  Instead of dredging up sympathy for these people, we need to make it clear that their behaviour is simply unacceptable.

I have been bullied several times throughout my life.  I’ve written about my childhood experiences of bullying before.  I’ve also been bullied in as an adult, and in that case, it was by someone who had clearly got away with repeat offenses of bullying, and found it perfectly acceptable to continue doing so.  It wasn’t until I found the guts to stand up as the victim, (it was a hell of a fight because everyone wanted me to “understand the bully”), and said “This is not acceptable, I will not be treated like this.”  It was only that I found the strength to demand that this person take some responsibility for their actions that made it stop.  As the victim, I had to be the one to put in all the work.

What is wrong with that picture?

Why are we forcing victims to go through absolute hell to stop the perpetrators?  Surely we should be punishing perpetrators, not victims of bullying.

While talking on Twitter earlier today, @VoteGilligan tweeted the following that I just have to share:

I agree.  Bullies need to understand themselves – it’s not up to victims to understand them.  It’s up to the bullies to do the work.  Once they start to look at their own behaviour, and do something about it, perhaps then we can then move forward.  It’s not up to the victims to feel sympathy for them.

Why are we teaching our kids how to avoid being bullied and to have sympathy for bullies, instead of teaching them how not to be a bully?

What bothers me most about the woman interviewed in the article is how she repeatedly says that she thinks the reason she did it was because she was being abused at home, because she suffered mental illness and because she felt bad about herself.  Lots of us were abused at home.  Lots of us suffer mental illness.  Lots of us suffer from low self esteem.  Some of us, like myself, suffered from all three.  But many of us that suffer those things don’t bully people to make ourselves feel better.

The only redeeming quality of the interview in the article is that the interviewee does state that she believes that bullies have to be held responsible for their actions.  However, I get the feeling that she has never done so.  Oh she feels bad, but her feeling bad doesn’t undo what she has done, nor does it help her victim at all.  And I daresay it doesn’t deter future bullies at all either.

So the bully feels bad about what she has done.  So she should.  She has to live with the consequences of her actions.  I’m not going to give her a cookie for doing what we all need to do – take responsibility for our own actions.

Until we take a zero tolerance stand on bullying in every aspect of our lives, it won’t go away.  I believe the acceptance of bullying is the root cause of all abuse in our culture.  If bullies get away with targeting an individual, they’re going to continue that behaviour on to anyone they believe is lesser than them – be that of class, gender, sexuality, race, size, ability, appearance… you name it.  Intolerance and bigotry are just systematic, institutionalised bullying.

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