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.