Mute and Block

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A while ago I began looking through my social media sites to see who I had blocked. I was curious and made a discovery. The worst of the trolls that I had to use the block button on were temporary or fake accounts that could be linked back to one or two people.

Let me explain what’s going on.

I make a radical statement like women deserve equal pay and the incels come out of the woodwork to bombard me with a barrage of tweets and posts saying that I hate men, I should kill myself, I deserve to be alone and worse. I have had up to 30 or 40 tweets in a couple of hours flood my Twitter feed. There are subjects that are almost as bad. Anything having to do with #MeToo is almost guaranteed to create a furor. #BlackLivesMatter can wind you up in a sticky mess and don’t even get me started on the anti-vaxxers or anti-choice people. #MAGA people are pros at opening the flood gates for something as simple as speaking out against Trump’s racism.

But when I took a closer look at things I was surprised. Now, I didn’t look deeply because I don’t have that much knowledge, time or patience but it seemed to me there were a lot of shady accounts happening. I did a quick Google search and found out there are blogs dedicated to showing you how to create fake accounts.

It should come as no surprise that this is a problem but I don’t think people have thought this through. It’s a bigger problem than anyone has paid attention to and it’s not getting better.

When I talk online about a subject, it’s important to me. There are some biggies I have like poverty and women’s rights but I’m not just flapping my keyboard to keep the pixels moving. There’s a reason I say the things I do and that’s so I can be heard.

It used to be that I had a variety of followers on my various social media. At one time I would chat with those on the right and they would chat with me. Sure we were each convinced the other was wrong but we tipped our hats to each other and gave each other room to breathe.

That’s not happening anymore.

Now when I type something, my mouse starts to smoke with all the blocking I’m having to do or reporting fake accounts. In the midst of all this are people who want to have a real conversation and ask real questions but I can’t respond because I’ve been flooded. My opportunity to connect with someone on the other side has been taken away from me.

However, when you report this flooding to the powers that be, it doesn’t violate their code of conduct and they start telling you to mute or block. Can anyone tell me why it’s up to me to regulate the behaviour of others on social media and not the responsibility of those who run these sites? When someone says I need to be raped, why do I have to shut that down instead of Twitter or Facebook?

People like me are being bombarded by these people in the hopes that the overwhelming amount of vitriol being flung will make me give up and go away. In many cases it’s worked. We are being slowly silenced and our ability to connect is being strangled. It is time that stopped. It is more than time that these social media sites stepped up to the plate and started assuming the mantle of responsibility instead of relying on people to use the mute or block button. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the rest make too much money to get away with such lazy and complicit behaviour.

Pound by Pound

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Today I got fat shamed by someone who didn’t like the fact that I called them out on their bullshit. They somehow thought that pointing out that I’m fat and laughing about it would make me slink away and shut up about their misogyny. They were wrong. They aren’t the first to try this tactic and they won’t be the last. I know who I am and I know my body. There is no shame in that. However, I’d like to show you where the shame in my obesity really lies.

Every time I was called stupid, there was a pound. Every time I was called lazy, there was a pound. Each time I heard ugly, freak, weirdo… there was a pound.

Whenever I realized I wasn’t good enough, there was a pound. Whenever I thought I wasn’t being enough, there was a pound. Every time I knew I wasn’t kind enough, considerate enough, polite enough… there was a pound.

Each time I wasn’t perfect when it was demanded, there was a pound. Each time I fell short of expectations, there was a pound. Each fail, fall, foundering… there was a pound.

Those times I was told I was unlovable, there was a pound. Those times I was told I was good enough to fuck but not to marry, there was a pound. Whenever I became nothing more than a trophy, a fuck toy, a thing… there was a pound.

Times when I was the odd shaped peg that couldn’t fit into the square hole, there was a pound. Times when I asked questions that people didn’t want to answer, there was a pound. When I was too curious, confused, disorganized… there was a pound.

When I laughed instead of cried because jokes hurt, there was a pound. When I agreed that I was too sensitive rather than admitting words can wound, there was a pound. Those many times when it was easier to say nothing, to agree, to mimic… there was a pound.

When I was sexually harassed because of my large tits, there was a pound. When I was grabbed and assaulted because I wore a short skirt to a bar, there was a pound. When I was raped with a hand around my throat ready to choke me, there was a pound.

I carried shame with each and every pound I put on like an albatross. I’ve carried that weight most of my life it’s only now after the diagnosis of diabetes and thyroid and anxiety and depression and polycystic ovarian syndrome and… It’s only now that you can see the manifestation of words and actions taken on me.

My fat makes you uncomfortable not because it makes me less of a person but because it reflects on you those abuses that you have been guilty of. I am a mirror of your worst behaviour, of those dark parts inside that you’d rather not see. I am your own shame made manifest.

I am learning to love my body as it is. I am learning to heal it slowly. I am learning to appreciate it as it is. If you think to shame me for that then you are sadly mistaken. This body is my pride, my beauty, my glory and you will not take that from me.

Me. Too.

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Yesterday I got mansplained.

Specifically, I had my writing mansplained.

Now regular readers will know that I have little tolerance for people’s crap and care even less for the opinions of others. There is a myth that if you’re a writer you’ll welcome any and all criticism as a chance to grow. Let me turn on the light on this one. It’s bullshit and I’ll tell you why. Not everyone’s opinion matters and few opinions will actually help you grow.

Varric in Dragon Age 2 said it best, “opinions are like testicles. You kick them hard enough, it doesn’t matter how many you’ve got.”

There are people whose opinions and criticisms I seek out but I’m very picky about it. Criticism is meant to help me see things that I may not see myself. It is meant to help me grow as a person. Therefore, I seek out those individuals I trust to give me an honest assessment even if it’s not what I want to hear. Even that’s not enough. This person has to be someone that I see lives a life that I can respect and admire. This person is going to help me determine the direction my life takes. That’s a huge responsibility and one that is going to be taken seriously.

So that’s why I generally ignore most of the criticism that comes online. Don’t get me wrong. I love to hear from people and love it most when people share their own stories but I’m not interested in hearing your opinion on me, my sex life, my fat, my writing, my whatever.

When I wrote the piece “The Housing Crisis As Seen From Below”, it was in response to my city’s desire to remove adult only housing. As someone who lives in poverty, it affects me directly and I wrote out my frustrations as I so often do. Shortly after I published it I was approached by someone who works in my city’s poverty industry (those organizations dedicated to eliminating poverty). This man is well-known and well-respected in the community. I looked forward to discussing the issues with him. I’ll call him John Doe as I don’t want to release his name.

A discussion of issues is not what I got, however. I was tempted to post the entire email wholesale and let the internet do its thing but my rational brain took over at the last minute (it never lets me have any fun) and I put a stop to that. Instead of a discussion among peers, here’s a sample of what I got;

I think you have a voice that should be heard, but here is some unsolicited advice, meant to help you not criticize you.

If you want to be an effective advocate and writer, I suggest you tone down the anger and tone down your self-effacing remarks. They do not serve you well – like it or not, people don’t want your anger, they want your ideas. And don’t downplay yourself (e.g. “yes, that makes me an asshole”). If people think you’re an asshole, let them, but don’t give them ammunition. Lots of people think I am an asshole, too outspoken, or have radical ideas yet lots of people follow my personal blog, appreciate me, are interested in what I have to say. I am good with all of it.

Your ending will turn off people who may very well be on your side — “But, fuck it. The poor only matter as a photo op.” First lots of people don’t see poor people that way, Lots. Some might but the people you want to listen to you, don’t. It’s a turn off in my mind. Just my 2 cents.

Yeah.

I’m not a person that likes confrontation. Years of abuse trained me to keep people happy at all costs. This, though, made me angry. The condescension of it made me taste bile in the back of my throat. As I read the words, “here is some unsolicited advice” I could hear some guy saying, “you know what I think…?” My answer is the same either way, I don’t give a crap what you think and your unsolicited advice is not welcome.

I won’t even go into how the whole “tone down the anger” part made me feel. Or the words “they do not serve you well” feeling like I’m a naughty school girl (no, not in a Stormy Daniels way, either). Here was a man who decided that his opinion was so goddamn important he had to shove it down my throat.

I sent a rather lengthy email back. In short it was a version of “thanks for your opinion now fuck off” but in far nicer terms. As I said, I don’t like confrontation. It makes me itch.

The next email I got (which I may post tomorrow if I’m still angry) read like an essay being corrected. Instead of responding in his own space, he took over the email I sent and wrote his responses in red around my words. Seriously. WTF? The part that really enraged me was his comparison of being bullied at school for being a geek to my revelation of being abused by my family for much of my life. While I do fight against bullying, they’re not close to the same. You can leave your school. I had no options and while I finally did leave my family, it’s a decision that will have impact for the rest of my life. Come see me at Christmas and then let’s compare your elementary school bullying to my family abuse.

My next response was short and sweet. A very nice version of leave me alone.

I am actually way too enraged to answer this right now. That you don’t see the problem is the problem. I need to calm down before I give any further response. Have a nice day.

But he didn’t. His emails continued despite my repeated attempts to ask him to leave me alone so I could calm down and think about the situation. Dammit, I was going to take his criticism whether I wanted to or not. He even went so far as to leave his cell phone number in case I wanted to “chat on the phone” (because that’s a good idea).

It didn’t stop. He fished out a four year old post I wrote on poverty and said he wanted to repost it on his blog. I gave him permission but no indication I wanted to talk. There were more emails. I finally had enough.

One of my heroes is Kirk Acevedo. So it’s no surprise when I feel I’ve been backed into a corner I come out fighting like a dragon. It’s a #kidviciousarmy thing. I sent an email back lashing out like I rarely do. That’s when John Doe got angry in return.

Here is a man with power and influence who wouldn’t leave me alone and now he’s angry with me. Can anyone see how this will end up? I had a full blown panic attack and at 9:30pm I called the cell phone number he left. Only to have him shut me down and refuse to talk.

Finally I talked to a dear friend who listened and let me vent. This is a woman I admire. Whose opinions matter to me. She reminded me that it was my writing, my story, my words. Not his and not to let him take that from me no matter who he is.

So I won’t tone down the anger. I won’t stop tilting at windmills. I won’t stop. This is my story. These are my words.

ME. TOO.

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