An open letter to an internet troll

fat catDear Troll.

Hi. Actually, this is going out to all internet trolls. Cos, let’s face it, there’s a few of you. But, you’re the one I’ve got a particular beef with right now. So, listen good.

The other day, you trolled a blog I used to keep (for journalism school, actually) about anti-obesity hysteria perpetrated by world governments and big corporations. You told me that, if I “put as much energy into weight loss” and I did “obsessing over Fat Acceptance”, I’d “be a healthy weight by now.” You said that you have given up smoking (congratulations) and that you never felt the need to start a “smokers acceptance club” (that’s fine, don’t). You said that if I truly cared about future generations, I’d take part in a war on fat (which can be won, apparently), and that accepting fat was like accepting cancer.

You got a bit pissy when I wrote back to you and said I was neither expending energy dieting nor caring about what you thought of me. I told you that my weight and my health were none of your business, just as your former smoking habit is none of mine – and you weren’t too keen on that. You said I had a “serious problem”, because I got “worryingly defensive” when a poor, innocent, misunderstood soul such as yourself tried to start a dialogue on a public blog. To which I re-stated my position:  you provided unsolicited advice that I should be losing weight, not participating in Fat Acceptance – and I told you I did not care for your advice.

You responded by spewing all this bullshit at me: that you would advise anyone with a weight problem to “act on it, not act out on it”, that “severely overweight people” are deeply selfish because they’re sucking up all the support services and that those of us who advocate for Fat Acceptance are merely lazy, defeatist and are giving up on ourselves.  You also made blanket statements that people of “a sensible weight” live longer and have a better quality of life, without providing a shred of evidence to back this up.

Yeah. What a charmer.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing this letter. Your mind is pretty much made up. But, just in case you do happen to stumble across this blog and discover this post (the same goes for anyone else thinking of trolling this space), I have a few challenges for you. You challenged me on the supposed futility of Fat Acceptance, and I am issuing you a challenge in response. I am a giver like that.

My challenges for you are as follows:

1) First and foremost, if you absolutely must send a stranger condescending, paternalistic messages via email, use a fucking spellcheck. It’s not that hard. Protip: words such as “sesnisble”, “defeatest”, “expectancey” don’t actually exist. Your poor spelling only serves to make you look more like a moron than you already are.  So, if you must be a dickhead, be a dickhead that uses correct spelling.

2) You stated that you only wanted to start a dialouge and “provide an alternative viewpoint” by commenting on my blog. Fair enough. If you disagree with me (and you made that one clear), by all means feel free to send me an intelligent and thoughtful response, saying, “Ezza, I do not agree with the premise of Fat Acceptance, because of ABC, and maybe you should consider points XYZ.” Except…you didn’t do that. You took a pot shot at me instead. You made it about me, my body and my health. You said that if I was being a good girl and dieting rather than wasting my time on Fat Acceptance, I’d be skinny, and we’d all be happy. Sounds…a lot like unwanted, unwelcome advice to me.

So, no, sunshine, you didn’t want to provide an alternative viewpoint. You wanted to pass judgement on a woman whose body was, in your eyes, defective, deficient and diseased. You essentially told a complete stranger than she’d be better off huddling in the corner eating plain lettuce than dedicating her time to a cause she believes in. So,  in future, don’t hide behind the excuse of just wanting to start a discussion. One is perfectly able to do that without casting aspersions on a random woman in New Zealand with a blog.

3) On that note, you claim to be happy with your body. Well…in my experience, people who are comfortable with their bodies don’t tend to make snarky comments about the bodies and health habits of people they’ve never met. So, I would challenge you to examine yourself, and ask why exactly you’re so threatened by a fat woman who actually likes her body as it is.

4) Another protip: when a person tells you their health is none of your concern, reacting with, “Oh my god, don’t be so fucking defensive” isn’t exactly going to endear you to them. Also, if you come into a Fat Positive space and tell the blogger he/she should be “focussing on weightloss”, they’re going to get a bit miffed.

You didn’t like it when I stood up to you, did you? You clutched your pearls a bit when I told you that if you were looking for your beeswax, you weren’t going to find in on my fat body, am I right? I could have ignored you, sure. But on that day, I’d had enough, and told you to sod off.  And, honestly? If being told to sod off on the internet is the worst thing that happened in your day, then you’re doing pretty well. If you’re getting all butthurt over people who reject your unwelcome diet tips, then it’s probably best not to go dishing them out in the first place.

5) You have dismissed those of us who practice Fat Acceptance as “lazy and defeatist”, and claim we have simply given up on ourselves and our health.  Just wondered – have you ever actually hung out in a Fat Positive community before, or tried properly getting to know people who practice Fat Acceptance? I’m guessing probably not. So, my challenge to you is to find a Body Positive community and learn a wee bit more about us. Oh, there’s plenty of places we hang out. You can use Google, I assume?

You might be surprised to see that a large number of us have not, in fact, “given up on our health”. You might also be surprised to find that we don’t actually live on a steady diet of takeaways, junk food and fizzy drinks. We have a range of eating habits: vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, Paleo, high-protein, low-carb, or just your standard meat and three veg. You’ll find plenty of us who get takeaways once in a blue moon, don’t care much for cake and lollies, and would very rarely add Coke to their grocery carts (I enjoy all of those things, but hey. Civil liberties and all that). You’ll find we actually do like moving our bodies. We walk up to 20-40 minutes a day (*raises hand*), swim, do aquarobics, cycle, do Zumba and yoga, take belly dance and hoop dancing classes, or just go to the park with the dogs and the kids on a regular basis.  Shit, some of us even participate in marathons.

So, no, we’ve not given up on ourselves. We’ve just chosen to practice healthy habits while celebrating the bodies we have. As opposed to, you know, practising healthy habits because we’re fixated on changing our size and shape. Most of us have tried that. So, no, you won’t find any resigned acceptance of our bodies here.  No defeatism. Not much in the way of laziness. Just people out there, enjoying their lives, who eat fresh food, enjoy movement for the sake of movement, and generally living fab lives. So, you might want to check your stereotypes before chucking a label on us – or any group of people.

6) My final challenge to you, darling troll, is this: do some reading. Or, at least do some more reading. I’m guessing you didn’t bother to click on any of the links I provided about the weight=health myth, did you? Did you bother to take a squiz at this study, which found that healthy habits resulted in healthy bodies and good long life expectancies, regardless of body weight? What about this TIME piece, and the study that found that obese people with good fitness levels were almost 40% less likely to die early than their thinner counterparts? Or this one,  where a study found thin people are actually at a higher risk of developing heart disease? (That first study can be found here, by the way).

How about this article about the obesity paradox – which finds that larger patients with chronic conditions have a better chance of survival than slim patients? Or even the basic Health At Every Size Manifesto? Have you checked out anything to do with the concept of HAES? Plenty of free stuff here you can look at.

There’s a nice wee reading list for you. I mean, you must be pretty bored if you’re looking for fat women to lecture online. So, do some research. Educate yourself. That is, if you’re not too scared of having your precious “thin is better” delusions shattered just a wee bit.

Actually, you know what? Yes, read all the studies. All of them. But, my biggest challenge to you, is to treat us fatties with *basic respect*.

Whether we practice healthy habits, or not. Whether we eat nothing but organic foods, or nothing but TV dinners. Whether we have tiny portions, or stack our plates like we’re at a buffet at every meal. Whether we’re gym bunnies, or do barely any exercise at all – due to illness, disability, or because we simply don’t enjoy it. Whether we walk everywhere, or drive everywhere; whether we take the stairs every morning, or take the lift. Whether we’ve got a clean bill of health at our doctor’s office, or are struggling with several health problems at once.

Whatever we’re doing with our lives, we deserve respect. Because we’re human being, pure and simple. We do not need your harassment, whether that’s in our homes, on the street, or on the internet. We don’t need your health tips, or your diet evangelism, or your mean-spirited little digs, masquerading as friendly concern. And we certainly do not need your nosy ass barging in to any area of our lives. Like I said, you look after your health. We’ll look after ours.  Cos you ain’t gonna find your beeswax anywhere near us.

Here’s my final challenge: Leave Us Alone.

Yours,

Honey Bunny.

Fativism: You don’t have to be perfect.

AcceptWow, first post! Exciting.

While messing around on Le Facebook the other day (most likely when I should have been working), I discovered an old friend from my Uni days had posted the following quote:

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe (tennis legend and activist)

Neat, huh? As a young journalist, whose passion is using her pen (uh, keyboard?) to be a “voice for a voiceless” and stand in the gap for her community, I found that particularly inspiring and awesome. But, as an aspiring Body Activitst, this quote was even more awesome – and very timely.

I’ve wanted to start up my own Fat Acceptance blog since I started reading Ragen Chastain’s brilliant Dances With Fat back in 2011. Especially after seeing this massive difference her work as a Fat Activist has made – not only with her big projects, such as getting the fat-shaming Disney ride Habit Heroes shut down, and standing against those anti-fat billboards in Atlanta, but in the lives of all the women who’d discovered her blog. Women like me, who learnt that they didn’t need to hate themselves and their fat bodies were beautiful as they are. And, I wanted to do the same -especially for New Zealand women.

But, I was scared. I knew I had the heart to be an activist, a revolutionary, a rebel and a flag-bearer for my fellow chubby Kiwis. I knew I had the passion. I knew I had the indignation. I knew I had the words. Problem is, I wasn’t sure if I had the cajones.

I order to be an activist, I knew a thick skin would be required. And not just for dealing with hate mail. Mainly because…well, anti-fat is a tricksy issue, and it’s no different in New Zealand. Obesity “prevention” in this country has been a political football for years, and is constantly bandied about in our media. Politicians, doctors, nutritionists and celebrities have been throwing their hands up in despair for some time. We’ve had Government programmes and “initiatives”. We’ve had the Evil Diet Witch and all her TV programmes; we’ve had Do or Die and Saving Gen Y. We’ve had former League players start up bootcamps for overweight teens, and we’ve had award-winning fashion designers heading campaigns to “fight the fat.”

In the midst of this, neither Size Acceptance nor Health At Every Size has gained much traction here in New Zealand. Well, not that I’ve noticed. At least not to the extent that it has in the US or the UK, or even Australia. I haven’t been able to find any Size Acceptance blogs written by New Zealanders, nor have I seen any fat positive doctors or other health providers stand up against all the ZOMG OBESITY R BAD hysteria. The one time I did see a Fat Activist make a stand in the New Zealand (Cat Pause, a lecturer at Massey University, who organised a Fat Conference last year), it resulted in nothing less than a media shitstorm, with everyone from University professors to our MPs fighting to discredit her. Not to mention (well, at least this has been my experience – particularly in media circles) the fact that while my fellow countrymen seem to be cottoning on that racism is bad, homophobia is bad, misogyny is bad and making fun of special needs kids is REALLY bad, there still seems to be this weird consensus that fat shaming is not a “proper” form of discrimination. Because fat people brought it on themselves, yo.

So, with the LET’S STOP TEH EVOL DEATHFATZ mentality doing the rounds in New Zealand and with very few body activists in our midst, I wasn’t sure how much support I’d get over in my Size Acceptance camp. I wasn’t even sure how my family and friends would react to my blog. I once got into a Facebook screaming match with a friend (also a big woman, and now no longer a friend) on the subject of fat activism, who said that fat people like us will never change the world, because there’s too much evidence stacked against us, so I’d be wasting my time even to even try. Or words to that effect. Shit like that does get under ones skin after a while.

I think, however, my biggest barrier was not other people and their reactions, but myself. Or, more to the point, how I felt about myself. As I said on the About Honeybunny page, I’m not quite *there* when it comes to accepting my own body. For the longest time after discovering Size Acceptance movement, it was very easy to see the beauty in other fat bodies. Other large women were  fierce. Gorgeous, luscious, sensuous, Rubenesque, zaftig and generally lovely. Me? I was just dumpy. Flabby, blubbery, lumpy, porcine, hideous, disgusting. No beauty here. And I was *bitterly* of those bloggers and friends who said they loved their bodies, and felt attractive at their size. Body love had eluded me once more.

Things got better, eventually. But still, I didn’t love my body. Tolerate? Sure. Co-exist with? Totally. Begrudgingly accept, cos I’m stuck with it for life? You betcha. But love? Too strong a word. So, how was I going to encourage people like me to love, even like their bodies when I wasn’t at all enamoured of my own? How was I going to raise an army of liberated, enlightened, kick-ass women of all shapes and sizes, when the chinks in my armour were too deep and too many? How was I going to change the world, when I couldn’t change my head or my heart? So, no. I was a Big, Fat Phoney. I put my blog idea well and truly to bed.

Until one day this year, when I thought, “fuck it”. I had too much to say to keep hiding. Far too much. And then, I discovered the Arthur Ashe quote…and realised with a bump that I Didn’t Have To Be Perfect. And I knew then it was time to start my Size Acceptance blog.

So, here I am. Right now, I’m starting where I am. No, I’m not going to turn around say I love my body. Cos that would be untrue. I am still battling against the shitty body image I’ve had since I was a child. There are days when I feel like I’ve well and truly won the battle, and days when I get gunned down and it takes forever to drag my sorry, bleeding carcass back to camp. There are days when I feel like the sexiest thing since Danerys Targaryen in the bath, other days I feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in drag.

I’m conflicted, see. And when I hit a downward spiral, I go down good and proper. But, I’ve made strides. Big strides. So, if I share those strides on this blog, I can inspire others and help them see there’s life after body hatred. And, if I share my pain and am vulnerable in the moments I struggle, then maybe others will see they’re not alone. So, bear with me. And meet me *where I am.*

For this blog, I am using what I have.  Which is, right now, a writing talent and a teeny tiny corner of the internet. And a Facebook and Twitter for pimping and sharing said corner of the internet. I am not an MP, or a CEO, or a medical expert, or a motivational speaker, or even a professional dancer and athlete like Ragen Chastain. I’m just a small town journalist, with a blog. Hardly the stuff of legends. But, blogs can gather quite a following after a while, or so I’ve noticed. So, I may not be able to change the world, as my ex-friend so helpfully pointed out. But, right now, I’m just going for a few lives. Seeing as my life was changed in a teeny, tiny corner of the internet and all.

And finally, I am doing what I can. Sure, there are those reckon ranting away on a blog does not activism make. Or, at the very least, it’s lazy activism. But what is activism if not speaking out against injustice? If not giving a voice to the voiceless? If not empowering disenfranchised and oppressed groups in our society? And, I hope to do all that in a public forum, through this blog.  Right now, I don’t know if I have the balls to go shutting down Disney rides, or organising Fat Conference or demanding retailers stock more plus size clothes. But, I knew I had to do something, for myself as much as anyone, to speak out against body hatred.  Because, well, in the words of the brilliant Dr Seuss, “Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, nothing is going to happen. It’s not.”

So, here I am. Starting where I am, using what I have, doing what I can. Starting small, and reminding myself that I don’t have to be perfect. And I’ll deal with shutting down Disney rides later on.

Big fat hugs,

Honey Bunny.