anger

All posts in the anger category

I Stand With Shakesville

Published July 29, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

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.

Why I Take No Shit From Anyone in My Online Spaces

Published May 28, 2013 by Fat Heffalump
  • Angry fat bitch!
  • You’re so bitter!
  • You don’t care about the CAUSE, it’s all about YOU!
  • OMG you’re so rude!  It’s no wonder you’re hated when you’re so RUDE!  I was just giving my OPINION!!
  • You’ve got such a foul mouth!
  • Why are you so sensitive?  God, get over it!  What are you, paranoid?!
  • Well, you’re not getting MY support any more!  Not if you can’t be nice.
  • If you weren’t such a rude bitch, you wouldn’t have these troubles.  You catch more flies with honey than vinegar you know.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard something along the lines of the above statements, I would have a LOT of dollars.  It happens a lot.  I get people turning up here, and in my other spaces online, lecturing me on how I’m supposed to behave and react and address them… in my space online.

I feel like a broken record half the time, telling people to fuck off.

But I think people need to be told to fuck off once in a while.  It does us all good.  Actually, if being told to fuck off on a blog or a facebook page or somewhere else online is the worst of your troubles in a day, you’re doing well I reckon!  I wish the worst that happened to me in life was being told to fuck off!  In fact, at any given time that I comment on someone else’s blog or other online space, I do so knowing that they have the full right to tell me to fuck off.  After all, I’m in THEIR space.

There’s a reason I’m so vehement about telling people to fuck off.  Two reasons really.  The first is because most of the time, in everyday life, we can’t just tell people to fuck off.  Because people are so threatened by two words “fuck off” they’re likely to resort to violence, or ACTUAL bullying tactics.

Incidentally don’t let anyone convince you that telling someone to fuck off is bullying.  It’s clear, it gets the message across, it’s not hidden away from witnesses like actual bullying is.  It doesn’t denigrate someone or cause them any harm.  It is simply a succinct, profane instruction.  Fuck off out of my life.  As much as so many people want to clutch their pearls and carry on like they’ve been slandered or wounded or some other great harm, fuck off does nobody any actual harm.

The second is that unless we stand up and stand solid in our own little corners of the internet, then we just get silenced again.  And again and again and again.  We fat folk are constantly told that we have to play by society’s rules.  We have to put up with so much shit in this world.  From hearing that we’re sub-human, worthless and inferior, through to being the subject of hate, derision and scorn, and right through to physical harm – be it passive (diets, weight loss surgery, dismissal of our health needs, an environment that we have to painfully squeeze our bodies in to) or aggressive (actual physical assault and harassment).  Every day we are subjected to being policed for every aspect of our behaviour – from the mere space we take up through to what we eat and what we wear and what we do with our bodies.

So when we do carve out a little space, a tiny corner of the vast universe of the internet, then we have EVERY right to set up boundaries in that space and not tolerate anyone who tries to police us within those boundaries.  I have to sit through people telling me I don’t have the right to agency over my own life and body every single day, I’ll be damned I’m going to sit quietly while people do it in my tiny spaces online.

Actually I just thought of a third reason.  So that I can hopefully give you folk, even if it’s only one of you, the strength to tell someone to fuck off when they’re behaving in a manner that is unacceptable to you.  If I give just one of you some strength when you’re feeling like the whole world is just pushing you down at every opportunity, then it is worth it.

You bet I’m angry.  You bet I’m going to get hot headed and loud about it.  It’s WRONG and unless those of us who can speak up DO speak up, it’s never going to change.

I’m under no illusion that I’m “nice” or “sweet” or even “popular”.  I don’t want to be nice, or sweet or popular.  There are no “true colours” waiting to be exposed – I’m angry, I swear a lot and I have little tolerance for bullshit.   I want to be the thorn in people’s side when they’re behaving in a way that is unacceptable.  I want to be that painful bit of sand that irritates the oyster of the world and creates change.  So what if people hate me for it – people hate me already just for living in a fat body, they hated me even when I was a brown mouse fatty too scared to say anything to anyone.  I’m used to being hated.

I’m tired of playing nice with people.  Nobody plays nice with we fat folk.  We are forced to justify our existence time and time again, we are dismissed, dehumanised, derided and denied.  We are treated as though we are inferior, and we are vilified as monsters at every turn.  So I feel no obligation to be “polite” with people who turn up in my online spaces under the guise of “disagreeing” or “freedom of opinion” with our rights to live our lives on equal footing with any other human being.  Nobody gets to debate fat people’s right to fair treatment in the world.  NOBODY.

I’m not here to convince fat haters, not-fat people looking for superiority and “skeptics” of fat activism that fat people deserve to be treated as human beings.  They’re never truly going to be convinced anyway, and they waste all of our time putting caveats on that, on the condition that we “play nice”.  The minute they disagree with us or we stand up to them, they turn that hate back on to us all over again.  Don’t be afraid that you’ll “lose their support”… if they’re that easily turned away, we never had their support to start with.  And NOBODY is that important that their withdrawing their support is going to end the fat activism movement.  And I believe if you connect with ONE person properly that it’s worth far more than suppressing your voice to make a thousand people happy.

I’m here for my own sanity, my own voice but most importantly my fellow fatties, who are told everywhere else in the world that they are inferior.  I’m here for you my beloved fat community.  I’m here to show you that you don’t have to stand for shitty treatment and that you are valuable, that you are worthy, that you are equal human beings to anyone else.

I have no interest in catching flies with honey or vinegar.  We all know flies eat shit anyway – I’m here with a can of Fuck Off, to repel those flies from this one little corner of the internet.

Rage Against Injustice

Published February 8, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

Following on from my last post, and after the good ole ranty pants I had on Twitter this evening, I want to talk some more about anger.  Because you know, the minute a woman stands her ground and says “Enough!” she is accused of two things – being selfish and being angry.

I think there is a whole lot of shame attached to anger, particularly in women.  We’ve talked before about how accusing someone of being angry is meant to derail and silence someone who is speaking up/out about something.  I want to expand on that a bit further.

Particularly on the accusation “You’re such an angry person.” that so often gets thrown in the direction of women.

When it comes to social justice, which is what fat activism is a form of, anger is a completely understandable emotion to feel, and to see from social justice activists.  Because really, we’re talking about injustices here.  We’re talking about the oppression of people based on their size.  We’re talking about the open hatred of people because of their weight.  We’re talking about social and medical discrimination of human beings.  We’re talking physical, emotional and social abuse of a whole swathe of people, simply because their bodies don’t fit into a narrow, arbitrary measure of “acceptable”.  I say there’s something wrong with you if you’re not getting angry about this.

In fact, I get angry about ALL forms of social injustice, be they based on gender, size, race, sexuality, spiritual beliefs, physical ability, economic status or beyond.  I get angry at the marginalisation and oppression of human beings for any arbitrary reason.  Because it’s fucking wrong!

If that shit isn’t making you angry… there’s something wrong.

Of course, speaking up about any of this gets that dreaded accusation “You’re such an angry person!!”

What many people fail to understand, is that they so often only see one aspect of someone.  Many readers of my activism work know little more about me than what I write here, or tweet.  They see just this perspective, Kath in her activist boots.

We’re all a whole lot more multi-faceted than that.  Yes, as an activist, there is a good amount of anger expressed through my work.  But then there’s my career – those people only know me through my employment.  They see a different side of me, and many of them don’t know about the activism I do.  They see dedicated Kath who loves her job to bits and most of the time, has a whole lot of fun doing it.  They see Library Kath, in her librarian hat.

Beyond that, there are people who know me primarily through my hobbies.  They see yet another facet of me.  They see someone who loves to have fun and laugh.  They see playful Kath, who loves to try new things and expand her horizons.  They see Leisure Kath, in her leisure dress.

Then there is Kath the friend.  Kath who cares about the people in her life.  The Kath that wants to hear when her friends are going through good times and bad.  They see Friend Kath, in her friend socks.

Then there is private Kath.  This is the Kath who enjoys her own company, likes quiet down time on her own, away from any need to perform to other’s expectations.  Almost nobody sees this Kath, since she likes to keep that side of herself to herself.  That is Kath, in her private underpants.

Some very special people in my life get to see all those facets, and they know me better than others, so they see the whole outfit – dress, hat, socks, boots and if they’re really lucky, underpants.  They see all of me, the whole outfit.  They see that the anger is tempered by the humour, which is balanced by the caring, which is strengthened by the intelligence.  Now sometimes parts of those aspects of myself get a bit worn through, and I have to lean on the others.  That’s how it is with everyone – we sometimes focus on one aspect of our lives more than others, until we are refreshed about our careers, our loved ones, our activism, our hobbies etc.

Yet because people may only see certain parts of the whole, they decide they can judge someone only on the strength of the part they see.  So in my case, lots of people know me as the angry fatty, who rants and raves about how people treat fat folks.

I hold no shame for my anger.  Just like love, or humour, or sadness, or passion, or worry, or dedication, it is part of who I am and a genuine emotion that I have as much right to express as any other emotion.

Many people equate anger with violence as well – but the two are not the same thing.  I believed they were until my late teens, because that’s what I was taught anger was.  I was taught all my childhood and most of my teens that if you made someone angry, the repercussion was violence.  It wasn’t until I met a dear friend of mine at 17 (hey Big Dude, love you!), who taught me that someone could be absolutely livid, totally pissed off, and not engage in violence at all.

Anger can be damaging, for sure.  It can be damaging if we direct it towards the wrong things.  It is also damaging if we let it fester inside us and don’t deal with it.

So often, we bottle up our anger.  We suppress it to be “nice” or “polite”.  Particularly women – women are expected to be pleasant and nice, caring and gentle.  We’re not allowed to express anger at hurt or injustice.  If we are, we’re aggressive, unfeminine… bitches.  So instead, many women learn to be passive-aggressive, and engage in snark or spite.

For the first… well most of my life, I didn’t express my anger at injustice.  I held it in, worried about what people thought about me.  So it came out at things.  Instead of allowing myself to be angry at people for behaving like complete arsehats, I let it fester inside me until I took it out on something inanimate.  I can’t tell you how many appliances I’ve destroyed in complete rage that was boiling over from the way I had been treated as a fat woman.

Now, I focus my anger on the injustices of the world.  Instead of swallowing my anger at bigotry and ignorance and hate, which forces it to surface later, in my job or at my loved ones, I let that rage out at where it should be –  at the injustices towards human beings.

Breaking Down Fat Stigma: Anger

Published September 16, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I’m sure we’ve all heard it before.  The old “Why are you so angry?”  Or “You’re such and angry, angry person!”  Any time we speak up about an injustice, or show passion for a cause, this is the accusation that comes at us to try to derail us from our objectives.

It’s an incredibly passive-aggressive method of derailing an argument.  Particularly when coupled with those concern-troll statements like “I worry about you.” or “I really hope you find peace.”  Oh vomit!  What they’re really implying when they pull the old “you’re angry” defense, is that you’re too emotional, or you’re too aggressive, or too simply “you’re right but I want to save face”.

What it also does is attempt to shame you for having emotional reactions to something, for being angry or passionate or outspoken.  Women are supposed to be “lady-like”, demure, not make a fuss, not get too emotional, keep their opinions to themselves.  People rarely criticise a man for being passionate about a topic, or about stating his opinions.  Men are supposed to be assertive.  But women who display these behaviours are scolded for not being “lady-like”.

What year are we living in?  1911?

Here’s the thing.  Anger is a perfectly valid emotion.  I know, shocking isn’t it?   And anger at things like injustice, loathing, bullying, stigmatisation and shaming is perfectly justified.  We have every right to be angry at the way the world treats fat people.  The same as any other marginalised group of people has every right to be angry at the oppression they suffer.  The idea of shaming people for anger at oppression isn’t new – after all, the trope of the “uppity negro” has been used for centuries.  Damn straight we’re angry at fat hatred!  I defy anyone to face that kind of outright loathing and bullying that fat people face every single day, and not be angry at it.

Sure, anger can consume you, and that’s not a good thing.  If something makes you so angry that you’re unable to function because of it, then yes, it can become a problem – particularly as prolonged anger is a form of stress, and we all know stress is damaging to the mind and body.  But anger is also a valid emotion that fuels action when channeled properly.  There is nothing at all wrong with using anger to propel yourself into action.  There is nothing wrong with expressing anger (only when expressing it with violence) at injustice and oppression.  In fact, I believe it’s vital to vent that anger.  Expressing anger doesn’t mean that someone is an angry person, or is in any way angry all the time.  I can get as foot stomping, table thumping angry as anyone but really I’m as happy as Larry generally speaking.  I’m an optimist with a goofy sense of humour, yet that doesn’t mean I’m never angry.

The only thing I don’t condone when it comes to anger is when people use anger to be violent.  There is never an excuse for violence, no matter how angry someone or something makes you.

But I also want to talk about other things that are conflated with anger.  Particularly passion and outspokenness, and especially in women.  It seems that the minute a woman is passionate or outspoken about a topic, it is assumed that she is angry.  Having strong opinions and voicing them is seen as somehow aggressive and irate and overly emotional in women, where usually it is seen as assertive and confident in men.  I’ve had people say to me “You’re pretty opinionated.” in a tone that clearly expresses their disapproval with that fact, as though I’m supposed to apologise for having an opinion or being passionate about things.

Yeah, that’s not gonna happen folks.

Passion is an awesome thing.  I love passionate people.  They inspire me.  I have no time for cynicism or complacency in my life.  It’s boring and counter-productive.  When I’m surrounded by passionate people, who fire my passions, there is nothing I cannot achieve.  Passion is what had me fighting my way through high school when I was expected to leave and get a full time job at 15, writing my first novel at 16 (damn I should try to get that thing published!), starting a radio station at 21 years of age, travelling around the US on my own, working my way into a job that I love and am constantly challenged by, and taking up fat activism.  Passion is what propels me through life with gusto.  I don’t want to be the kind of person who lives half-heartedly, without ever feeling any strong emotions.  That sounds as boring as batshit to me!

If something makes you angry, and you want to express that anger, then vent that anger (non-violently of course).  If someone pisses you off, and you are in a position that you can do so… then say so!  We all have to bite our tongues from time to time, but learning to vent your anger appropriately is so powerful, especially when you refuse to be shamed for it.  Build a network of people you can trust, and who understand that your venting anger is in no way a commentary on them, and let rip!  Be there for those people when they  need a good old vent too.

If you have an opinion on something, make yourself a space somewhere (be it a blog, a letter to the editor, your Facebook or Twitter) and share that opinion.  Sometimes people will have different opinions to you.  That’s ok.  Sometimes you will find yourself shifting your opinion when you listen to other people, sometimes their opinions will shift when they listen to yours.  Other times you each will strengthen your own opinions and always differ… and guess what, the world doesn’t end.  Sometimes if it is something truly important to you, you find yourself having to move away from that person.  But other people, who feel the same way you do, will come into your life.

But most of all, please, please, please celebrate your passions.  Share your passions.  Live your passions.  And by doing so, you inspire those of us who are not afraid of passion.

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.

On Expressions of Dismay and Disbelief…

Published April 11, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

It has been a bittersweet couple of days for me.  If you’re not on Twitter and involved in Fat Acceptance, you might have missed the absolute flood of tweets with the hashtag #thingsfatpeoplearetold.  The hashtag originated some time ago with Brian at Red No. 3, but was resurrected a couple of days ago after Catherine Deveny tweeted this damn offensive statement.

And it just took off.   I think the last time Brian tallied up the tweets he could find in a search there were over 2000 original tweets in less than 48 hours.  Mid afternoon I asked Brian to send me the word document he has been compiling, and the document is open here beside me as I type this, 216 pages long, with an average of 10 tweets per page.

I got into it, because it felt like an opportunity for me to vent all of the stupid, senseless, narrow-minded, ignorant, hateful, bigoted things that have been said to me over the years.  As the day went on yesterday, my feelings swung between bitter and sweet.  Bitter because reading all these tweets, and sharing my own, dredges up the hurt, anger, disgust, sorrow, frustration and general outrage I have felt at how I, and other fat people, are treated at the hands of general society.  But also sweetness, because not only was it amazing to hear all of these people finally have a voice, and a considerably powerful one, but there was also a strong sense of community and fellowship building over the past two days.  I gained dozens and dozens of new followers (though I also shed quite a few, who don’t like hearing the truth about the shit fat people are subjected to), and followed many new people myself.

But what I found most telling were the reactions from people who are not fat to many of the things that were tweeted under the hashtag.  And in a way, it makes me angry that so many people are only horrified now at these things.  I feel like “What the fuck have I been saying for the past two years if you’re only getting how horribly fat people are treated now?”

I’ll give you some examples of tweets that horrified some of the people who are not fat that I encountered today:

  • @fatheffalump: [well dressed woman physically pushes me over on an escalator] Well you shouldn’t be so fucking fat! #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @Nocturnal_Nyx said to me – fat people should kill themself and make more room for the normal people. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @lisa_n: No one’s ever going to love you if you don’t do something about that #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @Mrs_Sprat: You should feel lucky you were raped. How else would someone sleep with you? #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @fatheffalump: “Go away, lose weight, find a boyfriend and come back to me when you want babies.” (a Dr to me, aged 19 & in pain) #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @fatheffalump: “Keep walking ya fat cunt!” Yelled at me from a passing car as I went for an afternoon walk. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
These are just a few that I tweeted or retweeted that got horrified reactions from some of the not-fat folk I follow.


What people aren’t getting is that this shit isn’t one offs.  This shit isn’t something that happens on rare occasions.  It happens to lots of us, all the time.  I myself am literally spat at, have things thrown at me from passing cars, have shit called out at me, am mooed and barked at, have people call me a fat cunt, am photographed in public without my permission, particularly if I dare to eat in public, am laughed at by strangers on the street and receive death threats here on this blog, all of these things several times per week.  AND.  I.  AM.  NOT.  ALONE.   Over 2000 tweets in 48 hours give testament that this shit is happening to fat people, every day, every where.  God knows how many people out there are suffering without ever giving voice to the things that happen to them.

Simply because we are fat and we exist in this world.


Yet people are still surprised when we talk about this stuff.  There are still gasps of horror, exclamations of surprise, and declarations of “How can people behave like that to another human being?!”


You know how?  They can because to the people who do this shit, we are “the obese”.  We are not considered “people”, we are considered an “epidemic”.  Governments and the media declare a “war on obesity” – who do you think that war is on?  It’s on US.   We are those headless fatties you see on the news.  We are the “the obese” that the newspapers refer to when they wring their hands over how we’re costing the average taxpayer millions.  We are the “obese women” that journalists write pieces about how we should be ashamed of ourselves, hate ourselves and be shamed by society for being fat.  We are “the obese” who are shamed for daring to want to travel anywhere in a plane and told that we should pay more, buy two seats, not fly at all.  We are the ones who have no decent quality, attractive clothes provided for us at a reasonable price.  We are the ones who are represented on television by fat characters gorging themselves or bullying the “heroes”.   We are the ones that “non-profit organisations” have in mind when they say that childhood obesity is the equivalent to childhood abuse.  We are the ones our own governments set up to be bullied as children in the name of “public health”.


We are the ones who are reviled, shamed, ridiculed, bullied and abused at every fucking turn by the media, the weight loss industry, the beauty industry, the entertainment industry, even the fucking government.


Why else do you think we are treated like this?  Because we are not considered human beings, we’re considered sub-human, and that message is repeated over and over and over again, day in and day out.  So much that most of us spend our lives repeating it to ourselves.



So I want to say this to all of the people who are horrified at the things they read in these tweets.  Don’t just shake your head, gasp in horror, and cluck your tongue at how terrible people are to the poor fatties.  Stand the fuck up. Say something when you hear fat hate.  Speak up when you see someone being treated badly because of the size of their body.  Challenge those articles you see in magazines, newspapers and on television that perpetuate myths about fat people.  Ask questions of the “facts” you see spouted that shame fat people, think about who might just benefit from fat phobia.  After all, fat activists have been doing just this for decades.


Use your voice and join us in speaking out against sizeism.  How many of you will stand up and speak against the mistreatment of animals, yet just change the subject when you hear fat hate against your fellow human beings? How many of you won’t buy a product because it’s not idealogically sound to you, but will happily support an organisation or company  that shames fat people simply for existing in their bodies?


Look, your sympathy is nice.  I appreciate that you feel dismay that fat people are treated badly.  But ultimately we need more than your sympathy.  We need your solidarity.  We need you standing beside us and speaking up to all of society, to say that these are not acceptable ways to treat another human being.  And we need your vocal and obvious support.


We need more than quiet statements of dismay or disbelief.


We need shouts across the rooftops at the injustice of how fat people are treated.



I would like to dedicate this post to Dr Samantha Thomas, a woman who embodies what it means to be a true ally to fat activists, and who sticks her neck out and stands up for the rights of fat people every day, from getting her gorgeous mug on the telly to speaking up when she hears fat stigmatisation in public.  I feel blessed to have her stand beside me and other fat activists in this fight, and even more blessed to call her friend.


It’s Easy… Just Starve

Published April 10, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Last night I was reading blog posts through Google Reader, and somewhere in my reading travels, I read a commenter I think, relating something a thin colleague of hers had said to her. (I’m sorry I can’t find where I read it, if anyone knows let me know and I’ll link it up)  It went something like this:

My doctor says that it’s easy to lose weight, all you have to do is stop putting anything in here. *Pointing to mouth*

I can’t quite express how it made me feel.  It HURT at first.  Then it made me unspeakably angry, the red mist really formed before my eyes.  Then sadness, and some more hurt.  Followed by a big old mix of rage and pain and sorrow that all came flooding at once.

Because it’s not the first time I’ve heard the opinion that fat people should simply stop eating, AT ALL.  I’ve had it directed at me personally time and time again.  Let me share with you a couple of instances that stick in my mind.

More than a decade ago.  I was severely depressed, dieting (actually, pretty much starving myself) and generally just hating myself for being fat.  I was at the local shopping centre and I was so hungry, I was close to tears.  I hadn’t eaten all day, and I decided I could let myself have a small tub of fruit salad.  I bought the fruit salad, and was sitting on a bench eating it, when an elderly couple came by, pushing a shopping trolley.  The woman nudged her husband to look at me and said, loud enough for me to hear, “Look at that!  People like that should never be allowed to eat.”

I simply lowered my head, and cried.

About five years ago.  I was out on a date with the guy I was seeing at the time.  We were having dinner in a cafe.  I had improved a lot with my eating disorder by this time, but was still “watching what I ate”.  I am eating my dinner, a chicken and mushroom thing with a side salad and a pineapple juice.  He is eating his dinner, a burger with the works, large chips, a strawberry milkshake and a large serve of deep fried, crumbed calamari.  He is tall and very lean, I am average height and very fat.  Two women walk into the cafe, see us and as my date leans over, kisses me and helps himself to some of the food off MY plate, one woman says to the other “That’s disgusting, how can she just sit there eating in front of him?”

My date didn’t hear, but I did.  I fought back tears, and could not enjoy the rest of my date.

It happens all the time, not just the “stop eating” but everyone seems to be an expert on what fat people should do with their bodies, without any real knowledge at all about those people, their health, their bodies, their lives.  Everyone out there is an expert on fatness, you only have to take a look at the hashtag that has been busy on Twitter today #thingsfatpeoplearetold We suffer people telling us how to diet and exercise, as though we have never considered it in the past.  We suffer people commenting on what we are eating, how much (or how little) we are eating, how we are eating, when we are eating and why we are eating.  We suffer people making snap judgements on our bodies simply based on what they see before them, and their own fucked up assumptions about fat.

There is this fucked up thinking that if fat people simply stopped eating, ceased consuming any food at all, they would no longer be fat and the problem would be solved.  How we’re supposed to do that, when you know, humans need food to live, to survive, I don’t know.

I think the assumption is that fat people can just “live off their fat”, that if we stop eating, our bodies will just consume the fat on them and go along as per usual, without any negative consequence.  But it simply doesn’t work like that.  Ketosis for one, can be highly damaging to a body that is consuming it’s own fat, particularly to the liver.  Bodies that are not receiving nutrition can quickly become malnourished and begin to break down their own muscle and other vital materials rather than the fats stored.  It raises the risk of osteoporosis later in life.  And most of all, starvation makes people lose their ability to function generally throughout the day.  One cannot think straight, focus, remember etc when one is starving.

But all of this is considered acceptable by some, if it means you’re losing weight.

The thing is, weight loss is not guaranteed with starvation dieting.  In fact, I’m living proof that it simply doesn’t work, in fact, makes you fatter.  I starved myself, for long periods, on and off from when I was in my teens to when I was in my 30’s.  I rarely lost weight.  Sometimes I lost some, only to have it come back, even without going off the starvation diet.

Of course, it’s really not about health at all.  It’s about the sight of fat bodies being offensive to some people.  Because no matter how healthy you are, if you’re still fat… well then you are not doing it right.  You must get rid of your fatness, or at least hide it.  Cease to be fat, and if you can’t do that, cease to be.

But what really bothers me is not so much the epic wrongness of these assumptions, but the sheer injustice of being expected to live a life of deprivation, starvation and unhappiness, simply because my body is fat.  That to these people, I am never allowed to taste anything, to celebrate with food, to spend time with friends, colleagues and family over a meal, to experience the world through it’s cuisine, to enjoy food and eating, and most importantly, I am not allowed to make my own choices when it comes to food and eating.

I get angry that there are people who believe that my fatness negates my human right to live my life as I choose to do so.  There are those who believe that simply because my body is fat, that they, or society, or someone, needs to intervene in my life to direct me in how to take care of myself.

Well fuck that shit.  We are grown adults.  We are not stupid, or lazy, or somehow morally corrupted by our fatness.  We are capable of making our own choices when it comes to food and eating, particularly if you let us do so without ramming diets, or general fat loathing in our faces.  When removed from all the hateful messages society shoves on us about food and fatness, we can even become competent eaters.

If you are concerned about fat people eating, then don’t be, because it’s none of your concern.  Be concerned about your own eating.  We don’t need you to be concerned about ours.  I promise you, if fat people are left alone to eat as they wish to, without your concern, they won’t eat everything and leave you nothing.  The world won’t end.  You won’t miss out on that delicious thing that you are craving.  The economy of the planet is not going to collapse.  Children won’t suddenly drop dead from heart attacks.  You’re not going to see human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.

What will happen is that grown adults, regardless of their body size, will make up their own mind about food and eating, and that will be ok.