bullying

All posts in the bullying category

Fat Feminist Fun

Published September 7, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

I just have to share this with you all.

Today I found this image of a black rain frog aka Brevicus fuscus on Twitter (posted by @Strange_Animals):

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I mean just look at it’s wee grumpy face there.  And that blorpy round body!

I just loved it so much I made it my profile pic everywhere.  Liss from Shakesville asked me on Facebook what it was, and I answered that it is an angry fat feminist.  One Google image search for the Breviceps fuscus (black rain frog which also found images of the desert rain frog)  And then behold – a meme was born.

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We decided that the rain frog should be the official mascot of angry fat feminism everywhere!  Especially after we heard the sound the damn thing makes.  Look and listen:

Seriously is there anything more awesome than this frog?

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The thing is, being a visible woman anywhere (online or off) brings a whole lot of jerks calling you various animals as a means to insult and dehumanise us.  We get mooed at, called pigs, whales, hippos, manatees, you name it.  Like this is supposed to be some great insult, I mean seriously, look at these gorgeous creatures…

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Fluffy Cows

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The reality is, fat animals are hilarious, cute and sometimes even delicious!  If some loser with nothing better to do than harass women for kicks wants to call me some kind of animal, then good!  I’d rather be like a grumpy frog, or a manatee, or a pig, or a whale than be anything like the kind of person that gets his kicks from being cruel to other people.

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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.

We Are Not the Problem

Published April 7, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is NOT our fault.

It is NOT your fault.

Frequently Heard Asshattery

Published February 6, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

For any of you who follow the comments on my posts, you can see that I have a fairly steady stream of people trying to make me feel shitty by leaving hateful comments.  I have to tell you, they are unbelievably boring.  It’s always the same thing.  That’s why I edit their comments now, because I have to get some amusement out of them, and I figure many of you might get a laugh too.  Hell we may as well amuse ourselves with these losers if they’re going to keep hanging around here.

However, I’m often asked for advice on how to deal with douchey people who make nasty comments about their weight or appearance.   The thing is, the kind of comments people ask me how to deal with are the same, boring-as-bat-shit-old-hat-pathetic-excuse-for-an-attempt-to-be-clever thing that I see here all the time.  Honestly, I can pinpoint a handful of the same thing said to fat women over and over and over.   I can’t believe I ever let that sort of thing get to me – it’s so unoriginal!

So I figured we’d feed two birds with one seed (I don’t like killing birds with stones!) – I can create a list of Frequently Heard Asshattery (FHA) so that I can refer trolls to how unoriginal they are, while also highlighting just how pointless it is to let this tired old pap make you feel bad.  So, without any further ado, here is my list of Frequently Heard Asshattery.

You’re fat/hey fatty/landwhale/hamplanet/[insert other reference to me being fat here].

NO SHIT SHERLOCK.  How long did it take you to work that one out?  Was it the fact that this blog is called Fat Heffalump?  Or that I refer to myself as a fat activist?  Perhaps it was one of the hundreds of pictures of my fat arse that I’ve posted all over the internet?  You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know.

Besides, I like fat people, I like fat animals, I like fat artwork.  You are in fact, complimenting me.

Put down the cheeseburger/fries/[insert other food reference here].

Only if you put down the keyboard first.  What I eat is nobody’s business but mine, what you do with your keyboard is far more problematic.

You should kill yourself.

How about you demonstrate how it’s done for us first?  I’m waiting…

You’re ugly and I don’t get a boner when I look at you.

It’s not my problem that you’ve got a limp dick.  You can rest assured, I not only find you repulsive and have no intention of seeking sexual contact with you, I can also find plenty of other people who do get a boner (or lady boner) when they look at me.

However, if you’re protesting too much because I do give you a boner and you’re embarrassed about being attracted to a fat woman, perhaps talking to a psychologist would help you with your shame about your own sexuality.  Please stop fapping over my photos.

But being fat is unhealthy!!

Provide me with unbiased scientific evidence of that.  What is unhealthy is spending your time attempting to bully people on the internet.  Again, a good psychologist would help you deal with those issues.

Get off your fat arse and do some exercise.

Why do you think about my fat arse so much?

I’ll make you a deal.  You grow some gonads (of the gender of your choice) and identify yourself fully to me, since I’m not hiding behind anonymity online, and I’ll dedicate my next bike ride, swim or walk in your name.  I’ll even document it.

By the way, yelling “Get some exercise fatty!” while I’m riding my bike, swimming or walking makes you look REALLY, REALLY stupid.

Everyone knows [insert anti-fat sentiment here]…

Stop right there Sparky.  Everyone once knew the earth was flat.  Everyone once knew that frontal lobotomies were a good idea.  Your point is redundant, not only can “everyone” not know a thing at all, but “everyone” can be seriously fucking wrong.

Stop being so angry/mean/such a bitch.

Sure.  You stop saying all of the frankly boring and stupid things above, and I’ll be as happy as sunshine.

               ********************************************************************

That’s it.  That’s what 99% of the hate comments that are made anywhere on fat blogs and spaces say.  Eight different variations on the same theme.  Not only have we heard it all before, but it’s stupid as well.  It’s so not worth our time and energy getting upset by it.

Broken…

Published October 9, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

I was feeling like crud.  Stomping my way in to work this morning, really fighting with the black dog of depression, feeling like dirt.  And there she was.  An angel in a floral skirt and cream top.  The young woman I had been standing beside at the lights about 10 minutes before – I had been staring at the print of her skirt trying to grasp the one thing that was nice in my brain at just that moment – a pretty pink floral.  I was walking back towards my office having stopped off in the markets to pick up some breakfast, when  she stopped me on the street and told me that she really loved my blog, and that even though I hadn’t posted in a while she still hoped I would.  She complimented my taste in clothes, mentioned that we had the same dress (the hot pink one from Autograph) and that she loved my fatshion reviews.  I was a bit flabbergasted and I forgot to ask her name, which I always do, because it always takes me by surprise.  She made me smile, she thanked me and touch my arm, and we parted.

Five minutes later I was sobbing in the ladies room at work, finally able to feel something.  That’s what depression does to you, it robs your ability to feel.   You might walk around talking and even smiling and laughing, but you don’t really feel it, instead you’re kind of just going through the motions, performing as yourself instead of being yourself.  At least that’s what it does to me.  I wasn’t crying because something had upset me, I was crying because I’d finally felt something (surprise, pleasure, even a glimmer of joy) and that caused the floodgates of all the feelings I haven’t been able to feel for weeks to open and let them all out.  The crying was a good thing.  Embarrassing and uncomfortable, but ultimately good for me.

The past months have been hellish for me with my depression creeping up stronger than it has for some time.  It isn’t just the usual chemical stuff either, usually brought on by hormones and stress, I began to recognise it a few weeks ago.  It was emotional burnout.  It had all got too much for me.  My job is a bigger workload than it has ever been (it’s that way for everyone at my work these days) and I feel like Sisyphus, having to roll the same boulder up the hill every day only to have it roll down again.  (If only it was like Loki, burdened with glorious purpose.)

Add to that the fact that I’d been doing fat activism for over four years, 95% of it for free, out of my own time, pocket, talent and energy only to be constantly bombarded both by general hate as a random fat person on this earth, and deeply targeted hate from really fucked up people out there who cannot bear the thought of an unapologetic and even proud fat woman existing on the planet.  Even still, even though I haven’t posted in months, there are days when I get over 4000 hits via a Reddit hate forum alone, filled with people who spend hours and hours of their lives hating on me and other visible fat people for a hobby.  They dig up old posts, they steal the photos from this blog (and my Tumblr or Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook), they spend hours and hours and hours discussing my life in minutiae… as a hobby.

One nutter even keeps a dossier on every food post I ever make online and keeps tabs on what I eat (or at least the bits I post online) and then crops up on old articles about me, or anything I comment on online to try to “discredit” me by “proving” that I’m a “liar” because of how “unhealthy” I am using the posts about food as “evidence”.  They send me long, rambling emails detailing how many calories are in every item of food I post, and how each morsel is hardening my arteries and sending me to my grave.   Who has time in their life to do this shit?

As much as I block, spam and filter all of that hate, it still gets through.  I still see bits of it.  I still see the referring links on my dashboard of my blog posts, all coming from a Reddit fat hate forum.  I still see old blog posts targeted by thousands and thousands of people in one day.  I still see the hate comments that I have to delete, block as spam, report as abuse.  As much as I rationally know that their hate is not about me, it’s no reflection of me and my worth, it’s still toxic.  I’m still being bathed in this venom all the time.  Some of it has got to sink through my skin.  I am a human being, I do have feelings and I’m not made of steel.  People can hurt me.  This shit eventually does hurt me.  There is no shame in my being human, and vulnerable.

However, that wasn’t the worst of it.  The worst of it was that all that hate and harassment robbed me of the one thing that is most precious to me – my ability to write.  It did EXACTLY what they wanted it to do, it silenced me.  I was so battle scarred by all of that shit that the minute I started to write anything, instinctively I shut down, as a protection mode.  My brain would simply block any flow of thought, any language out of sheer self-protection against the rightly anticipated onslaught of hate and harassment.  I had the worst case of writers block I have ever had, because it wasn’t just fatigue or lack of creativity, it was like a great big door slamming shut in my brain and locking all the good stuff in to where I could not reach it, and to further the torture, I knew it was still in there but it was out of my grasp.  This is what caused me to spiral further and further into depression.  The more I couldn’t write, the more depressed I got, and the more I felt like I had abandoned my activism, and the more it made me depressed, which then blocked me from writing… and so on.

Yet today, a living angel pops into my life and reminds me just why I became a fat activist.  Who reminded me that what I do matters to more than just me.   Who jolted me out of the bleak headspace and reminded me that by letting all the shit that the haters heap on me STAY on me, they don’t win – nobody with that much hate in themselves actually wins anything, but WE lose.  We lose community, we lose our voice, we lose visibility and we lose strength.   This is how they wear us down, by attacking and attacking individually until we individually can’t bear it any more, which breaks our collective strength.  They can’t break us as a collective, so they work on breaking each us one by one.  You are my strength, my fellow fat community.  You folk are why I stand up and say “I’m not taking this shit any more.”

Individually, it’s really hard being strong in the face of all that hatred spewing in our direction.  But collectively, I believe we are unstoppable.  I believe we are all heroes for each other, even if it is only in tiny ways.  A friendly smile, a kind word, a gesture of support.

By giving a spontaneous moment of kindness, this lovely woman jolted me back from a dark, painful place.  It let me get out all the anger and hurt and frustration.  It’s like her kindness broke the crust of hate that had formed from all of the abuse I’d received over the years.  Which means I sit here in my morning tea break (and again in my lunch break) with all of this stuff pouring out of me at last, onto the page, finally able to write again. I can’t say I’m back to my old standards, but I have taken that first step, and it feels like a huge one.

So thank you to the lovely young woman on George Street (do leave a comment and identify yourself, I won’t publish it if you don’t want me to!) in the floral skirt and cream top – you can’t know just how important you are right now!

You Can’t Hold a Fat Bitch Down

Published February 26, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

It’s funny you know.  The more blatant the evidence, the more desperately some people cling on to their notions.  After my last post, which was showing evidence on the public ridicule that fat people endure, I received more hate mail than I have in quite some time.  Don’t get me wrong, there is always a low level, annoying hum of hate mail that I receive, like a mosquito buzzing around my ears all the time, but it really peaked over the past week or so.

It strikes me as interesting that I receive the most hate mail usually under the following two circumstances:

  1. I provide evidence of something really shitty happening to fat people.
  2. I post pictures or text showing myself as the happy, confident, secure woman that I happen to be since I gave up accepting fat hatred.

It doesn’t just happen online either, and not just to me.  Countless fat women have told stories of going about their daily lives, being out in the world enjoying themselves, when someone has felt the need to cut them down with some hate.  Eating out in a restaurant, on holidays with the family, at a party or nightclub, playing sport, at the pool, out shopping… or you know, just walking down the street happily minding your own business.  This is something that happens to people from all marginalised groups, and of course the more ticks in boxes you have for points of marginalisation, the worse it gets. (See intersectionality.)

One only has to read the comments on any news article about fat that gives the remotest idea that perhaps the dominant paradigm about fat is not quite right (it doesn’t even have to be a vaguely positive article), and you will see people hating on fat people.  Not that I recommend ever reading the comments anywhere – except here on Fat Heffalump, where I police them pretty strictly to keep them safe for you.

I’ve been reading bits of bell hooks again lately, thanks to a manuscript I am currently reading, and thinking about the way she talks about dominance as being part of oppression and marginalisation.  Dominance is that constant effort to push a marginalised person down.  To “take them down a peg or two” or make sure they’re “not getting too big for their boots”.  It is that constant assertion that a marginalised person is inferior because of whatever it is society has deemed them “other” for.  In my case, being a fat woman.

Many of those with privilege are most threatened by finding that there is ever a reason why they are not superior to someone without the same privileges as they.  Some without privilege do it too, because they have internalised the stigmatising messages so deeply.  So they must be hateful, or build false arguments (which are inherently hateful) to cut those of us down and attempt to make us feel bad about ourselves.

When we as fat women, refuse to hide ourselves away in shame, make ourselves visible and are openly happy and enjoying our lives, many people feel threatened by that.  So much to the point that they fixate on us and spend time they could be spending actually getting on with their lives.  That’s the thing – us gaining our freedom doesn’t cost them anything!  By fat women being happy and living their lives to the full doesn’t actually reduce anything at all from theirs.  Our getting adequate clothing options doesn’t mean there will be less clothing options for straight sizes.  Our getting decent, non-stigmatising health care doesn’t mean there will be less health care for not-fat people.  Our feeling happy and confident doesn’t detract from anyone else feeling happy and confident.  The world just doesn’t work like it’s some kind of zero sum game.

What it is, is a kind of false reassurance for some people.  They convince themselves that so long as someone who is fatter them (or “uglier” or “older” or “unhealthier” whatever other thing they deem inferior) hates themselves, well then at least they’re better than that “loser”!

I think that’s why, since I stopped hating myself and started living my life as I please, the abuse has actually got worse, not better.  The big difference is in how I handle it, not in whether or not it is still happening.  An example, I was walking to work one morning, merrily skipping along, idly thinking about the fact that my friend Toots was coming down to visit me on the coming weekend, which always brings a smile to my face.  A man was standing outside a 7-11 shop on the corner as I crossed, I was really paying no attention until I noticed him scowling heavily.  Our eyes met briefly, as they do when one is walking around with one’s head up and facing the world merrily, and he growled at me “You lower your eyes around a man, you fat bitch.”  All because I happened to be a fat woman who wasn’t deferring to his perceived superiority.

It was similar after I posted that last post, demonstrating just how rude people can be to fat women in public.  Of course there were the usual deniers of my experience, I expected that.  But I got literally dozens of hate comments, hate emails and even hate asks on my Tumblr.  People who catalogued all of the things they have decided my life is lacking in (none of them asked me, they just decided/made it up as they went along), told me I was a freak (I believe the correct term is Super Freak, thank you very much), call me a failure, told me I was going to die immediately (I’ve been hearing that for 35 years), telling me I was ugly/unattractive/unfuckable (that’s fine, I wouldn’t fuck any of them either, and I don’t need to see their photos to know that – but of course they’re always too cowardly to identify themselves), called me a bitch/slut/whore/virgin/lesbian/trans-woman/man/dog/cunt/bunch of other stuff I can’t remember and my favourite of all, declared that I’m fat (as if my blog title doesn’t give it away that I might already know that!)  Plus a bunch of other stuff that was supposed to insult/hurt me.

All of these are attempts to dominate me.  To push me down, to remind me of my place, to nip my attitude in the bud, to subjugate me, to mark me as inferior.  Because we cannot, under any circumstances, have a happy, confident, positive fat woman.  We have to knock that fat bitch down a peg or two.

But what it really shows is just how many people out there are so terrified that they have no worth other than being better than someone else.  They’re so desperate to prove their value, they do it by attempting to disprove mine (and anyone else they can find to feel superior to).  There are so many tells that give these people away.  The pointed remarks about how many friends they have, or what a good time they’re having.  The statement that they may not be perfect, but at least they’re not as disgusting as me.  The demands that I “Shut up!” but are then offended when I ignore them – when they apparently wanted me to shut up in the first place!  They are at great pains to make sure that they are not worthless, they are not inferior, that they are somehow better than others.  There are a lot of not-so-subtle hints that they have these fabulous exciting lives that they just love.  The hater doth protest too much, methinks.

Most of the things they try to shame me for are the very things they are ashamed about in themselves.  As a psychotherapist I know once suggested to me, perhaps we should make up cards or jpegs of listings of good psychotherapists to help them.  As he said “I could cure most of those people of their need to hate others anonymously on the internet with some really good therapy.”

For all the anger I have about the way fat people are treated, there is no-one on this planet that I actually hate, and no-one whom I dislike that would be worth me giving the time to go and leave anonymous rubbish on their blog or Tumblr etc.  I have better things to do than try to prove my superiority by making others feel inferior.  I really don’t understand the mentality of spending all your time thinking about and paying attention to someone you supposedly hate.  Why would you do that?  Where is the quality of life in spending all your time focused on someone you hate?   Unless the issue isn’t really hatred, but envy or perhaps fear.  I once read that there are only two base emotions in life, love and fear.  The opposite of love is not hate, it is fear.  What makes these people so afraid?

I don’t know about you, but I simply don’t have the time.  I can’t keep up with blogs and social media of people I love, let alone anyone I don’t like or who pisses me off.  My reading list is a mile long, and I don’t get enough time to spend with the fabulous people in my life, and do all the things that are fun and fabulous, let alone focus on someone I dislike.  Even when I’m seriously pissed off at someone for being a complete douchecanoe, I’m either going to challenge them directly, without hiding my identity, or I’m just going to walk away and not give them any attention.  And I’m certainly not going to abuse some random person in the street just because they look happier than I feel.

What I want you to know dear, lovely fatties, is that the problem doesn’t lie with you.

People hating on you is not a reflection of you, it’s a reflection on them.  Happy, confident, positive people don’t send hate out to others.  They don’t feel the need to push others down to make themselves feel better.  You don’t have to carry around other people’s shit.  Whenever someone tries to hand you a big, steaming pile of hate, don’t carry that shit.  It’s not yours to carry, it’s theirs.  And when people carry around hate, it can be smelled a mile away.  You let them carry around their own stink of hate, and see just how many friends it makes them, how far it gets them in life.

Hold your head high.  Measure your worth by the things YOU value in yourself and your life, not by what other people try to project on you.

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

Published March 2, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

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

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

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

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

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

What is wrong with that picture?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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