abuse

All posts in the abuse category

Stares, Sneers and Snickers

Published February 14, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

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 Fat Heffalump

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.

The Burden of Hate

Published September 24, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

So yeah, I dyed my hair turquoise on the weekend.  Check it out:

I’m really happy with it, it’s bold and colourful and fun.  But I didn’t expect the reaction I would get from Joe and Jane Public.  Holy crap!

I did expect it to draw some attention, of course I did, why else would I dye it such a bold colour?  I like being different, I like standing out, and I like being unapologetic for who I am.  But I had no idea that it would attract the sheer hostility that it has done in the past 48 hours, peaking this afternoon at some random guy yelling “What the fuck?!  Why would you want to draw attention to that fucking head??!” as I walked to the train station after work.

But it has been happening in a myriad of ways over the past two days.  Three times yesterday I caught people photographing me without my consent, and two of them showed the people with them the photos and laughed.  People have cast disgusted, even hostile looks at me, have stared, have laughed, have nudged each other and pointed, have made negative comments about my appearance and generally just made it apparent that I should not have turquoise hair.

It’s exhausting.  I feel like I have to be on guard to protect myself all the time, because when I let my guard down, like I did walking home tonight, that’s when I get slammed with something like the attack above.

Yet if I looked like this, I’d be told my turquoise hair is beautiful.

See, I think it boils down to this.  Fat women are not supposed to make themselves visible.  We’re supposed to be ashamed of who we are, we’re supposed to hide ourselves away and make sure nobody can see us.  Why?  Because the media and marketing, the government and even medical practitioners tell the world that fat should be prevented, cured, eradicated.  Fat should not exist, and if it does, the bearer of that fat should be deeply ashamed of themselves.  They should not draw attention to themselves, they should not walk with their shoulders back and their head held high, they should not be confident.  They should be apologetic for their existence.

This is what happens when a culture believes fat = bad.  This is what happens when it is culturally acceptable for fat people to be vilified publicly by the media, marketing, the government and the medical field.  This is what happens when a world stops treating fat people as humans and treats them as a disease.  “Obesity” is no longer a descriptive word for human fatness, all humanity is stripped from it, and fatness is seen as a disease, a thing that must be eradicated.  Our personhood matters nothing when our bodies are fat.

The general public get this message hundreds of times per day, that fat must be eradicated, that fat is a scourge on society, and that fat is less than human.  Daily there are so many messages blasted at everyone, on television, in newspapers and magazines, in journal articles, in books, in advertising, in movies, from comedians and writers.  Over and over that message is repeated – fat is less than human.

So is it any wonder, that when a woman like me, very fat and very visible comes along in Joe/Jane Public’s world, walking down the street, minding my own business on my way home from work, that some of them think it’s perfectly acceptable to pour hatred on me.

But I will not carry that hate.  I will not hate myself because society says that my body makes me less than human.  I will not hate myself because you are taught to hate me.  I will not hate myself because you hate yourself.  I will not feel ashamed of my body because you deem it shameful.

I will continue to dress and adorn MY body in a way that pleases ME, because it belongs to ME.  The eyes I look into in the mirror are mine, not yours.  The life I am living is mine, not yours.

Keep your hate to yourself.  It is your burden to carry, not mine.

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

Published August 31, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

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.

Genuine Concern vs Concern Trolling

Published January 4, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

Quick housekeeping – I’ve started a Tumblr for all of the troll comments I get here on Fat Heffalump.  Behold – Trollapalooza.  Be warned though, you may find it triggering, as there is an awful lot of fat hatred, threats of violence, healthist bullshit and general nastiness that comes my way.

Now, on to today’s post!

I think it’s time to talk about concern.  I’ve noticed a phenomenon, one where people don’t seem to recognise what is legitimate concern for someone’s wellbeing, and what is concern trolling for the sake of sticking your nose up in someone’s business, or using it as an excuse to shame them or make oneself feel superior.

So let’s talk about it, and learn to recognise what is genuine concern, and what is concern trolling.

Genuine concern is ok.  In fact, it’s part of what bonds us as social beings.  When someone we care about, a family member or friend, or even a colleague, is not their usual selves, when something just doesn’t seem right, or when we actually know they are unwell, and we are worried about them, we are genuinely concerned about them.  That friend who seems to have lost their energy, the colleague who has gone from calm and productive to stressed and struggling, the family member who just isn’t their usual self.  Or someone you know who is actually suffering illness (because they’ve told you they are).  It’s perfectly acceptable to ask after their wellbeing.  Things like:

  • Are you ok?
  • You don’t seem like your usual self, is everything alright?
  • Can I help with anything?
  • If you want to talk, you know I’m available for you ok?
  • How are you coping with [insert illness or injury they have told you about here]?

Do know, that you shouldn’t do it because you’re curious, but because you genuinely want to help.  And also know, that if someone says they’re fine, the answer is not to nag them about it, but to say “Please know that I’m here to listen/help if you need it ok?”  Sure, sometimes “I’m fine.” is a way to fob you off when someone doesn’t want to bother you, or because they’re ashamed/embarrassed about needing help, but sometimes it’s also just “I’m fine.”

However, it is not ok to suggest someone has an illness, or that they might get an illness due to their behaviour or body.  It’s not ok to say to that friend eating a donut “Be careful, you’ll get diabetes.” or any other illness or injury.  Even if you know someone has an illness or injury, unless they have spoken directly about it in your presence, it’s not ok to question them on it.  For example, I can’t tell you the number of people who have actually asked me what my blood sugar readings are like since they found out I am diabetic.  NONE OF YOUR FUCKIN’ BUSINESS PAL!

Now, on to what constitutes concern trolling – a little 101 on how to prove yourself nothing but a trolling douchebag who doesn’t give a shit about anyone’s health but wants to shame people for their weight:

  • Stating that someone being fat is unhealthy – and then suggesting they kill themselves to save us all money.
  • Stating that someone being fat is unhealthy – and then bitching about how much it costs the taxpayer money.
  • Stating that someone being fat is unhealthy – and then diagnosing by looking at them (or a photograph of them) that they are going to explode from hernias, high blood pressure, heart attacks, arthritis and any other number of illnesses often correlated (but never causally linked to) fat.
  • Shaming someone for suffering any injury or illness by pointing out that they “caused” it because they are fat.
  • Stating “I’m concerned about your health!” without knowing ANYTHING about that person other than they have a fat body.
  • Attributing laziness or gluttony to someone just because they have a fat body.
  • Accusing someone of being irresponsible about their health because they have a fat body.
  • Demanding people prove their health, or give you information about their health and wellbeing.
  • Claiming people are “in denial” about their health, or their future health.
  • Insisting that you know about their health better than they do.

If you do any of the things that I’ve just listed above, you are nothing more than a bully and a troll.  There, I’m saying it out loud and clear.  I’ll say it again:

If you engage in any of the behaviours in the list above, you are a bully and a troll and you need to stop that shit right now.

I know I sound like a broken record, but I have to keep saying it over and over and over again – If it’s not your body, it’s not your business.

It’s not a difficult concept.

Next time you feel like commenting on or judging someone’s health or wellbeing, ask yourself “Is it my body?”  If the answer is no, then shut the fuck up and mind your own business.

Fatties – the next time someone tries to concern troll you, just ask them – “Is it your body?” Again, if the answer is no, tell them to shut the fuck up and mind their own business.

You don’t have to be nice, be polite, be pleasing, to anyone who concern trolls you.  You don’t have to tolerate their behaviour.  You don’t have to “respect their opinion”.  You don’t have to “not rock the boat”, or “don’t take it seriously”.  If someone is up in your business telling you what to do with your body and your health, rock the damn boat all you like, and take it as seriously as you feel you need to.  It’s YOUR body, YOUR health and YOUR life.  You get to choose what you do with it, and who you allow to have any interaction with it.

Take no fucking prisoners!

Fat Hatred and Discrimination on Public Transport: Guest Post by Foxie

Published November 26, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

About a week ago my friend Foxie mentioned on Facebook that she had been discriminated against by a bus driver in her home town of Adelaide, who refused to allow she and another woman to board a bus, citing that it was full, only for them to discover that it was not, and the driver was only letting thin passengers get on.  On talking to Foxie about her experience, she spoke about the increasing level of fat hatred and discrimination she has seen on her regular commute on public transport in Adelaide.

As a public transport commuter myself, I have experienced my fair share of fat hatred and discrimination.  It has affected me so much that I avoid catching trains here in Brisbane because it is so prevalent on them, and prefer to take the bus because at least with a driver on board and within earshot, abusive behaviour is curbed somewhat.

I asked Foxie if she would write a piece about her experiences for me to share here on Fat Heffalump, and she has kindly done so.  So without any further ado, here is her piece on fat hatred and discrimination on public transport.  Hopefully she will also update us on the situation in the comments below.

Trigger warning for fat hatred and abusive language.

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My dear friend, Kath, asked me to write something about what I have experienced in the last three days and I decided that I would as I needed to vent. Writing my vents down has always helped and this subject has really made me angry.

It seems that I have been surrounded by inconsiderate, self-centred, downright nasty people in the last three days all with comments or actions being negatively made towards us fatties. Now most times I just let these things flow over me like water off a duck’s back but this week it has, quite frankly, pissed me off.

Firstly I was dumbstruck at the behaviour of a male aged in his late 30’s to early 40’s on my bus home on Monday who made an initial comment about how he couldn’t sit down because the “fat chick was taking up all the space and making others stand”. Now for starters she was sitting on a seat at the very front of the bus that only fits one person anyway as it’s not a full two-seater like the rest of them. Secondly, he did this loud enough for all those on the bus to hear. I was standing right at the back, hearing his voice so clearly, I actually thought he was standing just a couple of people down from me.

Now some people looked at each other with faces saying “oh my, I can’t believe he said that”, while others chuckled. The lady suddenly slumped her shoulders and looked out of the window. I felt for her, I really did. He continued to make fun of her size and even offered her a mars bar in case she was hungry. Thankfully, someone stood up in defense of her and told him he was a jerk and if there was a kingdom for (and I don’t like the word he used) cu**s, he would be the King. The King of Cu**ville. This made some people laugh and he shut up. Still I could see the lady was distraught but she never snapped back at and continued to ignore him to the best of her ability.

The next day, I got on the bus again and heeeellooo! He was back. This time he was within reach and he started on another lady, except this one was only a young pup, maybe late teens, early 20’s. He was with a work colleague this time and he was not amused at having to stand once again. I hadn’t seen him at first because we were all piling on like herded sheep and it wasn’t until he opened his mouth that I realised it was going to be one of those rides home again.

His first words: “Sorry mate, I’d offer you the seat here but you know, those fat girls are taking them all up again”. I looked at the young girl and saw her get all embarrassed and swore I saw her heart break. I felt my blood starting to boil. I bit my tongue to start with but he just went on and on and on. Finally I had a enough and said “I see the King of Cu**ville is back in town”. He just looked at me stunned and stumbled with any form of a comeback. So I continued….

“I really hope you don’t have a partner or children of your own that suddenly get sick and put on any weight because you’d disown them in a heartbeat wouldn’t you?” No answer. “And I reckon if you had a daughter who was of a larger size and she got picked on by a jerk like you on the bus, you wouldn’t try to defend her at all, you’d tell her to go eat some celery, exercise and harden up right?”. Again, no answer. “Seriously dude, grow up! It’s people like you that cause people to snap and not in a good way. You really should consider what you are going to say before you say it because you have no fracking idea WHY any of us are the way we are, you have no idea if it’s pure laziness and love of food, you don’t know whether it’s a medical condition, you don’t know shit! So shut the frack up before I put you on your ass!”. I got applauded by the majority of people at the back of the bus.

He looked at his work colleague for some back up and he just said “She’s right mate, you can be a real jerk sometimes and a lot of the time, rather offensive towards people.” That there was priceless because he suddenly had nobody and was stuck on the bus for the next 20 minutes surrounded by people that were going to smack him if he opened his trap again.

The young girl who had put her iPod on smiled at me and said “Thank you”, tears rolling down her cheeks. He had pissed me off and I couldn’t hold back any longer. I think if my husband had been on the bus with me he probably would of smacked him out before I had gotten the chance to say anything.

Today however, was the icing on the cake!

Today I came around the corner from my workplace to see my bus already at the bus stop and people had stopped piling on. There were a couple running towards him and so he waited. When another lady and I got there, he looked us up and down, looked in the rear view mirror and said “I’m sorry ladies, this bus is full and I can’t let anyone else come on.”. Now neither of us had looked at the amount of people on the bus as we ran towards it and therefore said “oh ok” and rejoined the queue.

Upon turning around and saying a couple of things to each other, we realised the bus was not full, in fact it wasn’t even half full of people standing and there was plenty of room for us to get on. We looked at each other, turned towards the door of the bus to see him let on more people, all of “petite” size. Now he had not asked anyone to move back or anything and he hadn’t closed the doors to move on because it was “full” as we had walked back to the queue.

Immediately the lady that had been declined access got her phone, pen and paper out and wrote the bus number and route down, along with a description of the driver and took a photo of the bus, clearly showing the room that was on there. She then phoned up the bus company to complain, stating to me that she would then hand the phone to me for my complaint to be given.

Other people in the line started talking about it and how they couldn’t believe what they had just witnessed and so when she’d finished with her complaint, she asked them if they’d help her by giving her their details if she needed further witnesses to the incident. 7 out of the 10 said they would and gave her their name and numbers. I put my complaint in and then we both got on the next bus. She had told the person on the other end that she wanted a phone call by 5pm tomorrow from management or she’d be taking the incident to the Minister for Transport, ACA and Today Tonight and then filing papers for discrimination against the driver and the company for not disciplining him or getting him counselled.

It was while talking to her on the bus that I discovered that she worked for a Law Firm with her specialty being discrimination. The first thought that came to mind was “he screwed with the wrong lady”. I then wondered if he would of done that if we were actually disabled with canes or a walking frame. I’m betting he wouldn’t have and made people move down instead so that we could get on as well.

I can tell you I was absolutely appalled by the whole affair and to have this sort of crap for three days straight pushed me over the edge.

Yes, I’m a fatty. Yes, there are medical reasons for why I am the way I am and I have learnt to be happy with who I am because in the end, it’s my life and if I am unhappy with it, then it’s up to me to do something about it. I don’t need nor want to hear from someone, who doesn’t know a thing about me, that I need to lose weight, that I am disgusting or anything of the sort. I’m human just like they are. I have feelings just like them and I have a right to be treated as an equal regardless of my size.

There is a very good chance my young daughter will have the same issues as me from puberty so I am working hard to help prevent that; to ensure that she has a life without the bullies and I will do everything in my power to protect her from the jerks like I have had to deal with these last three days.

Will the bullying of fatties ever end? I don’t think it will, but I can always hope and will stand up for those that can’t defend themselves against those that choose to be their own “King of Cu**ville”.

Here’s hoping I see that King again this week……

by Foxie

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What are your experiences with public transport as a fat person?  Do you find some situations are worse than others?  Share in the comments.

Breaking Down Fat Stigma: Criticism of Fat as Identity

Published October 5, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

“Why the obsession with fatness?”

I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve been asked that question.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been labelled obsessed, sensitive, angry, paranoid, fixated, hung-up, pissed… you name it.  It seems that if one wears ones fatness as their identity, and/or speaks up on the injustice of our society’s treatment of fat people, then one must be “obsessed with fatness”.  We’re told to “get over it”.  To stop talking about it, nobody wants to hear about this stuff.  Stop identifying as fat and then people won’t treat you so badly.  People use euphamisms to try to soften the sound of their criticisms of fat activists.  They say things like “You must be proud of being large, if you call yourself THAT” (rarely will they use the word Fat, even though I use it as my screen name).  As though there is something shameful about being proud of who you are, and your body, if you are a, well… large person.

I loathe being called large, big, hefty, fluffy, chunky.  These are weasel words that are designed to shame the word FAT.

We’re not allowed to have fat as part of our identity, yet at every turn, we are reminded that we are fat.  Every day, we see and hear hundreds of negative messages about weight in the world around us, from the news story about the “obesity epidemic”, magazine covers about some celebrity’s latest weight loss or gain, advertising for weight loss products or diet foods, to public service announcements about living a “healthy lifestyle” which always imply that healthy = thin.  Then if those messages aren’t enough, fat people are told they can’t have clothes as nice as everyone else (lest we be “promoting obesity”), must pay for two seats on many airlines, shouldn’t take up too much space on public transport, should cover our bodies to hide our fatness and are not allowed health care unless it is focused on our weight.  When we go to the doctor, no matter what it is for, most of us are told to lose weight, or asked what we are “doing about our weight”, or lectured on the perils of obesity.  Then on top of that, we are shamed and bullied by the arseholes of the public.  We are yelled at, photographed, body-checked, have things thrown at us, are lectured by our families, friends and workmates, are spat at, are called fat bitches/cunts/fucks, are filmed without our consent by news crews to use as headless fatties on stories about how we are the scourge of the nation, fat children are bullied at school and singled out by the schools as being “unhealthy”, we are called liars if we say we eat healthy, and are called gluttonous/pigs/greedy if we eat anything that is deemed “unhealthy”.  If we don’t exercise, we’re told we’re lazy and deserve to die, if we do, we’re bullied while we go about it.  If we want to have children, we’re told we are too fat and it would be cruel to inflict us on our own offspring, and now it seems if we wish to not have children, we’re told we’re too fat to have an abortion or birth control.  And over and over again we hear messages about how we, as representatives of “the obesity epidemic”, should be eradicated, cured, prevented, fixed, solved, removed.

All of that comes at us every day of our lives, over and over and over and yet we’re not to own our own fatness as part of our identity?  We’re not allowed to identify as fat?

The thing is, we ARE fat.  There is no escaping that fact for us.  But we have a choice, we can buy into the cultural norm of the fatty claiming mea culpa, and never referring to themselves as what they actually are, never using the word fat, except in a whisper or to beat ourselves up, always speaking in euphemisms – large, chubby, big, hefty, plus-sized, thick.  Or, we can claim our fatness as it is – OUR fatness.  Our bodies, our lives, our experiences, our needs, our perspectives.

When someone says “Why are you so obsessed with fatness?” answer them “Because that is who I am and owning my identity isn’t obsession.”

When someone says “You sound like you’re proud to be fat.” answer them “Yes I am.  I’m proud to be a fab fat person who doesn’t let your fat hating culture rule my life.”

Fat hatred is not OUR culture, it is the culture we’re opting out of.  We don’t identify with it any more.  Our identity is fat positive.

We’ve Done Our Time

Published September 19, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

A little questionnaire for you all:

  1. How many years of your life did you put into trying to be thin?
  2. How much of your life did you put on hold while you tried to be thin?
  3. How old were you when you first remember being told you were fat?
  4. How many diets have you been on?
  5. How many exercise “plans” have you been on?
  6. How many years of your life have been taken up with eating disorders?
  7. How many people have told you that you are fat?
  8. How many people have treated you badly because you are fat?
  9. How many years did you spend counting calories, watching the number on the scale or the size label on your clothes?

Now tally the sum of all those years, all that time, all those diets, all those times you made yourself sick in the effort to get thin, all the punishing exercise regimes, all the hurtful experiences add all those numbers together.

Take that number, write it down, look at it for a minute, and ask yourself…

Don’t you think the fat haters should invest the equivalent amount of time, the same number of years, in trying as hard to be a decent human being, as we fat people invested in trying to be thin?

Fat people are not the ones with the problem, or who are in denial.   Fat people are not in denial of being fat.  We know we are fat, and in choosing fat acceptance, we accept ourselves exactly as we are, and we accept others exactly as they are.

You can let go of all those numbers now.  Set yourself free of the pain that those numbers represent.  You’re off the hook – you’ve done your part.  Close your eyes and imagine that all those instances of trying to be thin, or being bullied and shamed for being fat are balloons, filled with helium.  Imagine them in your hand, bobbing above you, all different colours.  Now open your hand and let them all go.  You don’t have to carry them any more.

This isn’t giving up.  This is letting go and deciding that YOU control your life, not other people who feel they have the right to judge you.  This is about deciding to live your life to the fullest you can.

People who think that fat people are somehow worth less as human beings as thin people, that fat people deserve to be shamed, discredited, their experiences denied and generally just shamed and bullied for being fat are the ones who have the problem.  They just can’t get on with their lives and let people be who they are, as they are.

We are not the ones in denial, it is the fat haters that are in denial.

Denial that they are in fact… arseholes.

*Post inspired this post by Ragen of Dances with Fat.

 

You Have No Power Over Me – The Futility of Trolling

Published September 1, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

The bulk of this post was written a week ago, and I had intended to publish it then.  However with my coming down with some kind of stomach bug at the end of last week, and then other topics coming up, it waited patiently in my queue, ready to be posted when I got a moment.

However, over the past 48 hours, I’ve been hit by a wall of trollery both here (mostly at people pissed off that I and others keep saying that no matter how fat someone is, they still deserve nice clothes) and on other social media sites of mine – particularly my Tumblr.  So this topic became all the more relevant for me.  I was also preparing to post it tonight when I read this beautifully honest and heartfelt piece from Gluten-free Girl, which I cannot resist linking back to here.

So, I’m going to talk about a subject that is often considered taboo in Fat Acceptance spaces.  It’s often taboo in many social justice spaces.  That is the subject of trolling.

I bring this up because of a comment on an earlier post about someone being attacked by trolls, and because I read this excellent piece by Melissa over at Shakesville about the level of hate that is aimed in her direction, and Ragen from Dances with Fat often mentions the same issue.

There is this unspoken (or rarely spoken) understanding that to talk about the amount of hate and trolling that we get, we are somehow feeding the trolls, that by acknowledging their presence, we’re encouraging them to continue their shitty behaviour.  However, what nobody acknowledges is that they troll anyway, whether you ignore them or out them, whether you keep silent about the hatred or you speak about it.

Just existing feeds the trolls.

To me, this results in a real feeling of solitude, as though we stand alone in dealing with this.  But the truth is, we don’t.  It happens to all of us in the Fatosphere at some point, and the more visible you are, and the more you stand up and speak out about the injustice of fat stigma, the more they do it.

The real irony to me is, it seems that the happier you are, the more comfortable you are in your skin and in your life, the more vicious and nasty the trolling gets to be.

That’s the bit that I don’t understand.  I actually have people, not just random anonymous trolls who pop up for a bit of “You suck, fatty boombaladah!”, but people who have met me somewhere (either through work, or through friends or other things I’m involved with, or they know who I am through someone else) and they are so angry that I’m happy, that I’m confident and have strong self esteem, that they have to troll my blog, and various other social media sites and try to tear me down.  They spend their precious time (and I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have enough hours in the day!) watching my every move, keeping notes on what I say on Twitter, Tumblr, here on my blog and other places, and saving them up to try to use them against me to make me feel bad or something.

These people have so much time on their hands, and are so fascinated by me and my life, that they spend inordinate amounts of time following everything I do, trying to find a way to make me angry or feel bad or something.  Here are some examples of things I’ve discovered my own little posse of trolls doing.

  • They go through BOTH my entire Twitter streams (I have two Twitter accounts, I keep a separate one for work stuff) and catalogue every single time that I mention I’m tired and any other statements they can use to try to prove that I’m unhealthy, and tried to fling that back at me.
  • They spent several hours one evening signing me up to every weight loss clinic, gym, diabetes organisation, personal trainer and diet company they could find in Brisbane.  Those poor businesses had so much time wasted in contacting me back, but I was happy to hand the culprit’s IP address over to their internet service provider’s fraud investigation team, as I’m sure the businesses I gave that IP were too.
  • They spam my Tumblr and Formspring with the most boring, inane questions, like “How much do you weigh?” and “How much time do you spend on the computer?” (Zzzzzzzz)
  • They send childish, passive-aggressive notes, pretending to be my “friend”.  Bwahahahaa!
  • They Google my name and find out as much information about me as possible, and then they troll me saying they hate everything about me (and list it off, every bit of it!)
  • They search for where I have commented on other blogs or news articles, and leave personal comments hating on me.
  • They go through my Flickr stream and look at every photograph of me, leaving insults and bitchiness on my photographs.
  • They comment on Facebook pages for anything about obesity saying that there is this horrible blog called Fat Heffalump that is hating on thin people and “promoting obesity” and urge people over here to “Stand up against this bully!” and troll me further.
  • They are even stupid enough to log on using their work email or on their work internet access to leave nasty comments here on Fat Heffalump… where I can see their IP address, and can put in a formal complaint about them to their employers with concrete proof!  You can get fired for trolling people’s blogs and websites on your work internet.

And these are just some of the examples of just how much time and energy these people put into directing their hate at me.

Here you go darlings.  You don’t have to pour over my Flickr or Tumblr or Twitter, here’s a photo JUST for you:

Check out my big fat middle finger Trolly McTrollerson!

My experience with being trolled is by no means isolated.  Many in the Fatosphere experience all of this and more.

However, do you know what I think?  When people do this kind of stuff at us, they don’t hate us at all.  I know I don’t actually hate anyone (nobody is worth that kind of passion if I don’t like them) but I can’t imagine spending hours and hours examining someone online, looking for any little thing you can pick at them on, reading everything they write and share and looking at every photograph of that person in detail when I don’t like them.  The first thing I do if someone gives me the shits is block them, wipe them totally from my view and move on with my life to all those awesome people I do really love and enjoy.  I don’t have enough time in the day to keep up with all the awesome people and stuff out there, let alone waste it on those I don’t like.

But these trolls, they spend hours pouring over every thing they can find, compulsively checking every single iota of online presence.

I think they actually admire us, but they’re too scared to admit that they’re not happy and wish they could be like us.  I think they fear us, and worry that somehow, by our being happy and confident, they are missing out on something in life.   I think they are jealous of us, because they see our happiness and joy, our successes, the praise we receive, the community we hold and the fact that we simply refuse to hate ourselves because of what other people say about us and they want that.  I think they wish they could be as outspoken, passionate, funny, intelligent, respected, honest, confident and bold as we are.

I think they are sad, frightened, angry, lonely and envious.

That must be the case, because I can’t for the life of me think of any other feasible reason why someone would devote so much time and energy to reading, viewing and interacting with someone they actually didn’t like, let alone supposedly hated.  I’ve said it before, but people with full, happy lives don’t need to hate on others.  They are too busy, too otherwise engaged to do that.  They don’t feel hate in their hearts, or feel the need to make others feel bad.

We fascinate them, we fatty unicorns.  That’s what we are, those of us who refuse to buy into the fat loathing and hate ourselves for being fat, those of us who stand up and say “I won’t apologise for my size, and I deserve the same rights as every other human being.”  We’re fat unicorns.  There aren’t that many of us in comparison yet (though we’re breeding rapidly, which must be a mix of terrifying and fascinating to these people) and we have special powers.  We have the power of confidence and self esteem.  We have the power of the Fatosphere, our very own community of fatty unicorns around us.  We have the power of self respect.

I know, that it gets hard dealing with these people sometimes.  In the past it used to hurt me terribly when I got that kind of crap turning up on my blog or social media pages.  Nowdays I mostly find it funny, or just ludicrous that someone would spend so much time watching me so closely.  But the thing that really twigged in my head a while back was that these people have no power over me.  For all they think that they’re going to bully me into hating myself, or shut me up from talking here on my blog or any of my social media accounts, or change who I am or what I do, they have a snowball’s chance in hell of actually doing any of that.

Because they are completely powerless.  That’s why they do it – they know they have no power in their everyday lives, so they try to exert power over us online.  But it’s completely redundant.

The only person who has the power to make us change anything about ourselves, is ourselves.  Promise me you will never forget that lovelies.

Words: Use Them as Firewood and Let Them Burn

Published May 7, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

To every one of you who have felt the pain of someone’s hateful, hurtful words.  To every one of you who have been bullied, humiliated, shamed and trolled.  To every single one of you who have been told you are ugly, horrible, disgusting, gross, worthless, less than, or any other hurtful thing just because your body doesn’t match what someone thinks is acceptable, this song is for you.

Words

*original photo courtesy of (UB) Sean R on Flickr