Now on to Part 2, which is about the harassment I received for this blog.
I understand that people disagree and when people disagree, emotions get involved and conversations can get heated. But what happened here truly alarmed and disgusted me. I saw the worst of human nature unfold right before my eyes.
As I said yesterday, I received both positive and negative feedback for this blog. Some of the negative feedback was beyond negative. It was hateful, malicious, and incredibly ugly.
I ended up quitting one of the groups I belonged to on Facebook because of the unrelenting barrage of negative comments. It wasn’t the first time that happened to me there. This particular group has a reputation for its radical and extremist views. I know of at least one other person who they publicly harassed after a Facebook disagreement. One of their favorite tactics is to enlist group members who have access to your Facebook page to report back on anything you may have said regarding them – kind of like the informant network we all remember from high school – and then flaunt it in your face by quoting you, as if to say nyah nyah, we got you! These are grown and supposedly educated women who function at the psychological level of conspiratorial 14-year-olds. I was called a misogynist. Someone also said that it wasn’t a stretch to infer by my words that I was saying women who dress provocatively deserve to be raped.
While there are perfectly reasonable people in this group as well, it is pretty much run by the aggressive radicals who regularly post there. It is not a group interested in honest discussion and an exchange of ideas. It’s a group where if you don’t toe the line and agree with their views, you will be vociferously targeted and attacked … which is really funny, because here is their group description from their Facebook page:
This is a fat positive community space to discuss fat related topics, size acceptance and talk about our personal experiences. (Hmm … talk about our personal experiences, what do you know?) …. No topics are out of bounds. Only rules are: No personal attacks. (Oh my God, I have to stifle my laughter there. Actually I believe that IS the rule there.) … It is fine to talk about any fat/SA related projects you are doing or books you are writing/have written etc.
Sounds pretty warm and welcoming, doesn’t it? Well, here’s what I learned from being a member of this group. If you do not agree with the majority of posters in this group – and as I said, the dominant ones who regularly post there are radicals who seem to live within the confines of a multisyllabic, dusty textbook – you will be attacked and targeted. They will surround you like a pack of wolves.
Many of them demanded that I back up my assertions with studies and statistics, but that is not my job and it is not my responsibility. It may make my case stronger if I do so, but as a blogger, it’s not necessary for me to do so. I am merely sharing my opinion with people. Do I need to define the word “opinion”? Okay, here it is, from Merriam Webster:
A belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge …
And here’s the definition of the word “belief”, again from Merriam Webster:
Conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence.
I’m not stating that my opinions are unequivocally true for everyone, but they are true for me. It is my right to share my experiences and opinions, and I have chosen to do that publicly with this blog. I realize that not everyone is going to agree with me, and that is perfectly fine. But just because you don’t agree with me doesn’t mean that I should be vilified. I choose to write these blogs and make these videos. You choose to read this blog and watch these videos.
If what I say is so offensive to you, the solution is simple: Don’t read the blog. Don’t watch the videos.
Another very important point that has been missed so far is that there seems to be some confusion about what a blogger is, and the responsibilities of a blogger to her readers.
Let me define the word “blog”. Again, from Merriam Webster:
A web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer.
Here’s another definition from wikipedia:
A blog is a personal journal published on the world wide web consisting of discrete entries (posts) … Blogs are usually the work of a single individual … Many blogs provide commentary on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries … The ability of readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs.
These definitions are crucial. Many people accused me of acting like I am an authority or academic on the subject of fat, and I have never purported to be such. I am an average fat woman sharing my opinions and experiences with other average fat women, and hoping that what I share on this blog will be helpful to other fat women. I never said that I was an authority on fatness. I am an authority on one thing only: MY OWN EXPERIENCE.
I started this blog because I believe that in my 47 years on this earth, I have acquired enough knowledge and insight about life as a fat woman to possibly benefit some other people. I realize that my personal views may not benefit everyone … but I do want to share them with the people it does benefit.
That’s why I do this. To sincerely reach out and hopefully help people, encourage them, and make them feel like they’re not alone.
Life as a fat person is hard. I think it’s important that we support and encourage each other, and my intent has never been to demean, degrade, insult, judge, shame, or ridicule anyone (except haters, of course).
The radical group was not the only group where I encountered harassment. I was raked over the coals on another group page as well. One of the members emailed me to harass me, and I later discovered that she posted those private emails on the group page for everyone to see (which I believe is illegal). That group and person have both been reported to Facebook. I’m not sure if anything will come of it – if they will be suspended or reprimanded -- but I wasn’t about to ignore it.
Obviously, that kind of behaviour proves that the response I received went beyond disagreement. It was a personal attack. My dear friend Raqui of Large in Charge Radio and magazine quit this group herself when she witnessed this. She took a stand and left because she would not tolerate their behaviour. This is what she said to them before she left the group:
While I understand everyone has their opinion posting a private conversation here that you are having with Gabriela (a former member) is not necessary. Why are you harrassing her and now posting it for the whole group to see. You dont like what she said fine take it up with her but to do this is wrong and fat on fat hate is not what I expected from this group. I respect her thoughts and all of yours but this is wrong. I cant continue to be a member here if this is what is going to happen every time someone says something you dont like. What happens when I say something no one likes will I be treated like this as well? What happens when any of us say something that everyone else doesnt like? This is not fat love or self love. This is hate I cant remain here. I loved being here but I cant continue.
I admit that I was a little disappointed by the lack of public support I received, although I understand why. Make no mistake – I heard from plenty of people who completely agreed with my point of view and emailed me privately or commented on other pages to let me know. But most of them stayed silent when they saw the bullying taking place. Even though I was disappointed by their silence, I understood. It’s the intimidation factor. It’s like being back on the playground when you’re a kid, seeing some other kid getting beaten up. How many of us intervened, tried to do the right thing, and help the kid being bullied? It’s fear. People don’t want to be subjected to the same treatment, so they do and say nothing.
Those of you who think that the lack of public response supporting my point of view means that your views were in the majority are wrong. I heard from PLENTY of people who agreed with me and simply wanted to protect themselves and stay clear of the carnage.
This kind of intimidation and bullying behaviour runs counter to everyone’s basic right to free speech. In some places (like these groups on Facebook), free speech is simply a platitude. Speech is only free if you toe the party line. Step outside its boundaries and God help you.
In closing, I want to let all of the bullies know that people like you have not -- and will not -- silence me. I seriously considered packing in my blog and quitting after this incident because I was so disgusted by the abuse I received. Here I was trying to help people, and this is what I got for it? But several people encouraged me and told me not to quit, and deep down, I knew I never would. I’m a fighter. I always have been. I’m not a physical fighter, but I’m a psychological fighter. In my life, many people have tried to beat me down, intimidate me, and force me to acquiesce to their beliefs. To those people – thin and fat – I have said and I will continue to say: YOU WISH.
You don’t have to agree with me. You don’t have to like me. You don’t have to read my blog and watch my videos. But you’re completely deluded if you think that you can tell anyone how to think or what to believe. And you’re also deluded if you think that you have stopped me.
I remember a comment I got from a person in one of these groups on another occasion. She actually had the gall to say that she didn’t consider me a writer. I found the arrogance and snobbiness of that hilarious. Because SHE didn’t consider me a writer means I’m not a writer? I’ve got news for that woman. A writer is someone who WRITES. Period. You don’t need any other qualifications than that. It helps if you write consistently, and since I have been writing since I was twelve years old, I guess that makes me pretty consistent. You might not think I’m a GOOD writer, and that’s your opinion, but your critique doesn’t make me any less a writer. In the end, I’ll be the one with the book deal and a big smile on my face.
One last note:
Recently, I made another video called Women vs. Women, Rivalry, and Dynamics in the Fat Community. Maybe I had some kind of premonition, because the timing is pretty coincidental. Go back and watch it. (The link is below.)
What happened here is a textbook example of what I was talking about in that video and it proves my point yet again. There is a certain portion of the fat community that is extremely cliquish and elitist, who believe that you need a degree in order to have a valid or legitimate opinion, and who believe that in order for your opinion to matter, it has to receive their blessing.
That is simply horseshit.
Over and out.