It’s been a bit of a rough week for me. A stressful time at work with two huge projects about to hit their critical points, coupled with the most debilitating allergies (don’t let anyone tell you that allergies don’t have a high impact on your quality of life – they’ve never experienced them fully if they think so) have left my tolerance levels very low. Where I would often ignore someone’s ignorant behaviour/attitude, I’ve just had no tolerance for that kind of shit this past week or so.
It all culminated in me making some decisions on how I use tools like Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook, which blogs I read and follow, and what kind of approach I want to have for the world at large last night.
I vowed this blog would be positive this month, so I’m going to put a positive spin on this past shitty week and talk about some of the awesome people who’ve stood up to the ignorant, the insensitive, the bigoted, the narrow-minded and the downright rude over the past couple of weeks. I want to celebrate those who with their passion, eloquence, strength of character and articulate writing make a difference to the world we live in.
There has been some drama within the Fatosphere/Fat Acceptance world over the past couple of weeks with one blogger (whom I won’t name, y’all have encountered it) who has made some folks uncomfortable, and instead of listening when people tried to respectfully point out how they were making others uncomfortable, they did one of their now famous rant “teardown” posts, which then grew into a big mess on Tumblr. I personally have been the subject of one of these teardown posts and it still smarts to this day that instead of talking to me directly, I was torn to shreds publicly. Oh the author apologised, and I accepted that apology, but it doesn’t mean that it was right to do it in the first place.
Anyway, there were three writers who really amazed me with their responses to the anger and arguments coming at them and others. The first I saw was from Simone Lovelace, who with grace and a whole lot more dignity that I had to offer, laid out the points of her argument over and over with such clarity that I can’t tell you how impressed I was. I am without doubt that so many who would read along would learn so much from Simone’s writing and hopefully take it away to think over a bit before continuing on. I know I have.
The next one that knocked my socks off was the fabulous Jessica of Tangled Up in Lace. Her response to a very angry post on Tumblr was nothing short of fucking brilliant. For me, I nearly fell off my chair with this quote:
But seriously my fingers are too fat to play the tiny violin for you….
Not only does Jessica have the ability to make an amazing argument, and express herself beautifully, but she’s such an entertaining read as well. Her sense of humour and creativity in her writing is the stuff that will have you spraying your Reese’s Puffs all over your computer screen with laughter and general cheering . Or is that just me? Go read her stuff, plus she’s all glamorous too, so you get even more value from her work.
However, the writer who really knocked my socks off in the whole brouhaha was Elizabeth of Spilt Milk, who posted a response on her Tumblr (read it here, I can’t leave this one un-linked) that touched on so many points that are so deeply important to me, and did so in a manner that was nothing short of brilliant, that I shed a few tears and needed a few days to process my own feelings around the topic before I talked about here. To my mind, Elizabeth is one of the best writers in the Fatosphere and indeed beyond. I am constantly learning from her and expanding my own thoughts thanks to her writing.
What all three of these women did so beautifully, that I’ve struggled with a bit over the past couple of weeks, is stood up and spoke up when someone was behaving in a way that bothered them. To be honest, the circumstances behind it don’t really matter, it was the fact that they did so, and did so in an eloquent and articulate manner.
I realised over the past few days that I censor myself a lot of the time. Particularly when I’m outside of my immediate circle of supportive friends and the fabulous Fatosphere. For example I have a Twitter account that I use for work purposes (mostly library stuff and librarians) that I found myself tolerating some really ignorant behaviour, until this week, when I wasn’t feeling well, and I decided to challenge someone who has troubled me with their ignorance about health/weight before. Of course, this guy had gone unchallenged before, so he really didn’t like me pointing out that something he posted and his assessment of weight loss being “simple really” was highly patronising. The hostility he responded with opened up quite a shit storm.
Then of course, it being White Ribbon Day this coming week, and there being extra campaign activity in the media, the indignant choruses of “But men suffer violence too!!” have started up. As a survivor of domestic abuse, this is a topic very close to my heart and one that I have spoken out about before. So I found it particularly offensive that some of the people around me STILL don’t get it, and that I have to take up that message again.
And finally, the short lived Privilege Denying Dude (which has been closed down on Tumblr and pretty much taken over by privilege denying dudes on the meme generator – how meta!*) started out as a fantastic way to express just what the marginalised folk of the world are up against (and it’s ridiculous) but is now a neat little lesson in just how far those who wish to keep us marginalised will go to shut us up. I believe there are threats of law suits against the creator/s of the meme who paid for and credited the image they used for the meme. Yup, not even a silly internet meme is safe from the kind of person who thinks that nobody should speak out against the privilege denying dude! I say keep making and sharing and reblogging the meme.
But what with all of the above things happening over the past week or so, I’ve seen a whole host of:
“You’re being too sensitive!”
“If you block or remove people who oppose your views, you’re just surrounding yourself with sycophants!”
“Feminists have no sense of humour.”
“Don’t be so paranoid!”
“You’re just censoring my freedom of speech.”
And my “favourite” of the week:
“Methinks somebody needs to take their meds.” (way to stigmatise mental illness and undermine other people’s realities hmm?)
What I want to get at with this post, the positive message I want you to take away, is that you don’t have to shut up and suffer through ignorance. You are not censoring anyone, you’re not humourless, you’re not surrounding yourself with sycophants if you choose who you engage with, you are not too sensitive, and nobody ever has the right to question your fucking sanity or suggest anyone needs to be medicated.
These are all just tactics to shut us up when we speak up about ignorant attitudes and behaviour. They’re passive-aggressive manoeuvres to put us on the back foot, to make us feel we have to explain why we are speaking up about their ignorance.
Keep speaking up. Don’t let them undermine you by telling you that you’re too sensitive/paranoid/humourless. Disengage whenever you need to, and cut them right out of your life if you want to and can. Why should any of us waste our lives with people who treat us and others as though they are less than them? Every minute you spend on someone who is disrespectful and wilfully ignorant, is one that you’re not able to spend with the wonderful people out there. Every minute that I waste on trying to convince some patronising jerk on Twitter that he’s being ignorant is a minute that I could be spending talking to one of my awesome friends or reading the fantastic writing of people like those I have mentioned above.
Keep standing up. Keep speaking out. Disengage from those who would shut you up for calling out their ignorance and bigotry.
And in the words of Dr Seuss:
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
*I just found out that Privilege Denying Dude was shut down on Tumblr, but has sprung up again on Blogger. Linky linky!