We must talk about the things that upset us. Shame shrivels up and dies when exposed to air, and any amount of rage when processed can transform into healthy anger. The way we do this, though, is important if we want a positive outcome.
I'm on the Internet a lot.
It's part of my job, and yes, it's kinda cool. BUT (OMFG, a big ol' but) while I love the community it can create, I'm also hyper aware of the catastrophes that it can quickly cause. Every once in a while, a brand new "body hate site" (a page dedicated to cruel commentary and bullying of a specific body demographic — often, but not always, fat bodies) will pop up in all its blazing glory and, well . . . the understandable horror is contagious. This gruesome display of filterless human nature just sits there, screaming shame-based obscenities in our face like it's NBD. We become upset that this exists, but we don't know what to do . . . so we post it everywhere.
And this re-posting is understandable! When you're battling a lifetime of body shame and are swimming upstream in an attempt to love yourself, this undeserved hate can send anyone reeling. When this happens we all want emotional assistance, and so we share the hate pages with an intended: "Hey, validate this feeling I have so I know I'm not alone." I get it; we all need people in our corner for support. Let’s acknowledge this, and the fact that there are ways to do this that are more effective than others.
As someone who continues to live a happy life after seeing thousands of hate sites (and can easily Google my name to find more!), I want to share three tips that I have used to “deal” when confronted by online body hate:
#1: Be selective with where and whom you share your findings.
We must talk about the things that upset us. Shame shrivels up and dies when exposed to air, and any amount of rage, when processed, can transform into healthy anger. The way we do this, though, is important if we want a positive outcome.
Before I share the Dos, bear with me as I share a few important Please Don’ts:
- Please don't post the link on your pages saying OMG LOOK AT THIS HORRIBLE THING — this can cause an emotional nosedive for a friend or follower who isn't expecting that level of hate and/or doesn't know how to cope with this indirect attack.
- Please don't post it on my page, or on the page of another person that you assume might share your outrage. I know this shit exists and it doesn't need assistance to find me. It does piss me off (you're on point!) but it also doesn't serve me and will most likely trigger followers who aren't expecting something awful on a body positive page.
- Please don't post the links indiscriminately in public. Just, y’know . . . in general. Think twice before giving these sites a platform for others to find them. These sites aren't special, novel, or creative, and after one dies down, there will be another . . . so don't offer any of them 15 minutes of fame! In the years of watching online body politics, I have rarely experienced good that comes from blasting negative web pages into public forums.
Are you still with me? I hope so, because I also have some important Dos for you!
- PLEASE DO find the perfect person or persons to discuss this with. Have a Trigger Buddy. This may sound silly, but if you have a person that you've previously discussed these issues with and you know you're on the same page . . . they are the perfect sounding board. Find this person in your life and keep 'em close.
- PLEASE DO use online support systems. While your personal profile or page may not be the best place to share horrifying examples of humanity, there are online support systems that ARE. Rolls Not Trolls is a great example: It's a Facebook group created by Ragen Chastain that was made for the exact purpose of combating weight hate online. This would be the PERFECT place to share your activism and personal feelings and have a discussion about it (you can message her to participate). Those who have joined this group have consented to talking about these tough subjects. There are other similar pages, find them and use them!
- PLEASE DO follow up with the next two suggestions.
#2: Report, block, and move on.
If it's a social media account, you almost always have the option to report it. You’re not obligated to go back to the site and trudge through online bile, but if you want to "do something" about it . . . report it. It's OK if your request is denied. The reports will stack up behind the scenes and a few clicks are often worth the chance of future scrutiny.
In addition to reporting: BLOCK. BLOCK WITH RECKLESS ABANDON. On Facebook. On Twitter. On Instagram. Block those motherfuckers, sever the connection, and get better sleep at night, OK?
What if the offensive shit isn't on social media? Install a website blocker on your computer and add that page to list of sites you're no longer allowed to visit. If we're gonna be honest with ourselves, sometimes we're drawn to negativity in a way we can't explain. If you know you might check back later out of morbid curiosity, block yourself from it. Ain't nobody got time for that bullshit.
#3: Search out and fill your life with body positive examples.
Because we're inevitably gonna feel something negative when we come across hate, we need to balance our brains with some positive. It's easy to forget that positivity exists, but it does and I'm here to remind you of that with a few useful links.
Sometimes it's helpful to remind yourself WHY these sites exist. For this, I prescribe "Why People Hate Tess Munster/Holliday (and Other Happy Fat People)." Sometimes you need an intersectional reminder that body love is for everyone. For that, I suggest you visit The Body Is Not An Apology. Sometimes you need a million awesome body activists to follow so your social media feeds are flooded with good. Here are 13 I think you'll love. Sometimes you just need visual proof that fierce people exist and kick ass daily. If this is the case, I point you to Virgie Tovar's Instagram. And y'know what? Sometimes you just need a goddamn smile. Here. Have a goddamn smile! You deserve it!
You got this.