Thursday, December 20, 2012

Speaking Up Online

[Content note: online harassment, body shame, fatphobia]

I recently wrote about how I "live feminism" in my daily life. And I mentioned this,
...there is a difference between how I use Twitter/Tumblr and Facebook. On Facebook, since I post under my "real" name and many of my "friends" and family are not feminists, I tone down my activism. I'm honest about what I believe and how I feel, but I don't inundate my page with as many articles and opinions. I don't see a ton of sexism on my own newsfeed that I need to call out, because I have defriended or unsubscribed from the most offensive people. When I do see sexist BS on a friend's page, I don't always immediately call it/them out. It depends on how well I know them. If they're not worth it, I defriend. I will screen cap and share on Tumblr, however.
Honestly, I wish I could be bolder on Facebook.
I feel weird about Facebook and I really hold back on my activism in that space. While my Tumblr/Twitter is full of people I don't really know--they are people who I follow because they are feminist. Facebook is a whole lot of people, that Goyte would say, I used to know; many from contexts where my feminism was yet undiscovered (high school) or not discussed. I mean, it's no secret to my FB "friends" that I'm a feminist but the extent of my personal beliefs aren't as out there as they are on other media.

However--I think there's something very important in making your views known, especially when those views challenge the status quo. For some reason there's a current of people who think that "using Facebook as a platform for your personal political beliefs is annoying and invasive" (direct quote from someone who got 20+ likes this political season.) I understand this to an extent. For example, I'm not going to stay Facebook friends with someone who posts bigoted political rants. But when it comes to the day-to-day feminist thoughts I have, why should I hold back? Being loud and proud on Tumblr and Twitter is safer for me so it's also easier. And it's preaching to the choir, so to speak. I don't change a lot of minds there, because the minds I interact with are already on my side.

In general, the world doesn't embrace feminism. I get that. When I have posted really liberal/feminist things in the past, I've been harassed by former friends who disagree with me. And I'm not talking about healthy discussion/disagreement. I'm talking about trolling and, sometimes, even name calling. I have this wacky notion I adhere to that says if you hate what someone is saying online, and you can't productively contribute, you should just move on. I wish I could get everyone on board with this, but I can't.

After a number of these such interactions, I protected myself by deleting the worst offenders and creating a few groups so that I could filter certain other people out of what I post. But even after that, I came to realize I was still censoring myself too much. For lack of a better phrase: I was letting them win.

This was kind of troubling to me. When I so strongly believe in this stuff, why was I letting people I literally never see have an effect on my behavior? I certainly wasn't having the same impact on them. They routinely posted the same conservative talking points/fat hate/slut shaming/gender stereotypes day after day.

So I tried something.

In the days following Thanksgiving, I noticed a big spike in the number of my Facebook friends who were posting incredibly body shaming things about themselves (probably 10 within a week span.) They declared weight loss goals and swore they would do something about their disgusting bodies. Or they posted before and after pictures of themselves for having lost weight and pondered, "How did I ever go outside looking like that?" For someone who truly believes in and lives body acceptance and positivity it was all too much.

For a few days I sat on this feeling. Then I decided I had to do something. I posted what I called a "Body Positive Declaration" (in full below.) And I did something I never, ever do. I posted it publicly. No filters. Nothing.

It sounds so stupid, but it was a big deal for me. My heart was beating fast when I posted it and I was certain that within a few hours, I'd receive some kind of indignant replies about ZOMGHEALTH! OBESITY CRISIS!

But I didn't.

What I did receive was a ton of "likes" and positive comments. I even received a few messages from people I don't know who share friends with me thanking me for posting it. It was an extremely refreshing experience.

Now I hold no delusions. I know that many people probably thought my post was stupid or, worse yet, that I'm just a foolish fatty whose fat has affected my brain so I don't understand that I will die at 40 (a troll seriously said that to me before.) And I started with something much less "controversial" than abortion, for example. But the point is that, this time, the haters understood that this space wasn't for them. It was for the people who needed to hear that message. It was for me to share my boundaries. It was a time to counteract the typical messaging.

It made me really think about how important it is to take the time, when you can, to really talk about your feminism, your anti-racism, your gay pride, your body acceptance. The voices of the mainstream will always be the loudest. They will always try to shame you and drown you out. But when we speak up, we're bound to spark a thought in someone else or lend support where we didn't even know it was needed.


My Body Positive Declaration (this will get long) I've noticed that I have a LOT of Facebook friends who post hateful things about their bodies and receive a lot of positive affirmation. I spent 24 years hating my body. It was a futile and depressing situation, so around 25, I started to make some mental changes which have brought so much more happiness into my life. I don't talk about this very much, but I'd like to put a few things out there. 

1) Weight=/=health. This is a big myth. Weight is one possible indicator of overall health, it is not the sole indicator of overall health. If you are choosing to live a more health conscious life, I applaud that. But living a more health conscious life doesn't mean "I will lose X pounds." There are very unhealthy people who weight 120 pounds and there are 350 pound athletes. 

2) Your weight is not who you are. All a scale can tell you is a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. It can't tell you your worth, how much your friends and family love you, the content of your character, or what you can and will contribute to this world. 

3) Things I don't/won't do anymore: 
-Talk negatively about anyone's body (yours, mine, that girl's over there.) 
-Police anyone's food consumption, no matter how high or low it might be. (Unless it's to remind a busy person to remember to eat lunch!) 
-Talk about your diet. 
-Engage in fear driven debates about the "obesity epidemic," insurance rates, etc. 
-Talk about anyone's weight loss/gain or positively affirm weight loss (the rest of the world will do that for you.) 

4) Things I will do: 
-Love/respect my body unconditionally. 
-Remind you that your are more than the number on your pants label and compliment your non body related attributes. 
-Support holistically healthy choices. 
-Respect your right to treat your body any way you please. (Even though I won't engage in weight loss discussions, I still respect your choice.) 

If you disagree with me about all of this, that's fine. These are just my boundaries. I hope that you all can respect them and refrain from turning this into a debate forum, just as I will continue to refrain from commenting on people's weight loss related posts.


  1. You are SO my hero. A while back I wrote something very similar and I still have it saved on my computer, but I haven't gotten up the courage to post it yet. Hopefully one day soon I'll actually put it out there like you did.

    1. You're too kind :)

      I hope you do post it. Lemme know how it goes.


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