If you follow a lot of plus size bloggers on social media, you’ve probably noticed that we’ve all been talking about the abuse from trolls that we get simply for being fat and visible. I talked about it because of some shitty comments that I got as a result of this tweet going viral and being picked up by media outlets such as The Sun, Daily Mail and Elle UK – I shared the comments on my social media channels and even had to turn off notifications and mute hundreds of people on Twitter as a result, let alone read the horrific comments left on the articles themselves. More recently, blogging powerhouse Callie Thorpe shared some of the horrible comments she got on a positive article about her written on Yahoo Style – these weren’t your run-of-the-mill “hurr hurr you’re fat” comments, these were violent, hurtful and disgusting. You can watch Callie’s video about them here – please watch it, share it and talk about it.
We shared these comments because it’s really important to challenge that behaviour. It’s easy to dismiss comments as people just being trolls – by calling them trolls, we are dehumanising the people who are attacking us. The truth is, these are real people hiding behind screens that are in our community. By calling them out, we’re making it real and hopefully starting wider discussions around what fat women (and especially fat women of colour, and fat women over a size 24) face on a daily basis and how we can stop it.
So how do you deal with trolling and abuse about your fat body? There’s no magic way of dealing with abuse, but there are tips to do when you are being attacked on social media, and ways that you can protect yourself:
1 – Don’t Read the Comments from trolls…
Okay, so this one sounds like a quite simple one, but if you know that you are affected by negative comments about your body, appearance or just general demeanour, do yourself the biggest favour and don’t read any comments written about you from trolls. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss, especially if you are easily offended or feeling particularly fragile. I admit, I read the comments on articles written about me – however, I waited until a time that I felt mentally strong enough to do so.
2 – …but if you do read them, take a break to recognise your feelings
Reading a shitty take from a troll that is personally about you is one sure-fire way to sadness/anger/annoyance/murderousness. Whether it’s pure unadulterated rage or soul crushing sadness, it’s really important that you allow yourself a moment to feel those feelings. Talk to a friend, a partner, a family member about how you are feeling. Discuss with them about how it’s affecting you – especially if you feel it may have damaged your mental health. It’s really important to talk about your feelings with someone and you don’t keep them inside.
3 – Fight or Flight
You need to make a decision around how you want to process the knowledge that people have written about you. You can either retaliate with something sassy yet strong, or you could decide to ignore and block. THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY TO DEAL WITH SHITTY COMMENTS. You are not weak if you decide that, in order to be mentally safe, you need to block and delete or turn off the internet for a while. Equally, you are not automatically a problematic bitch if you decide to laugh them off with a witty response about how they have made you the centre of their universe if just for one day. However you feel is the best way to respond (or not) to trolls, that is the best way to deal with things.
4 – Don’t get *too* personal
If you choose the retaliation route, be wary of the comments you leave/responses you give. Calling someone out on their misogyny/fatphobia/homophobia/racism/etc. is fine – making sure that you recognise the humanity behind being a “troll” is really important – but commenting on their own weight/appearance/gender/sexuality/etc. is not fine. You cannot win a hate war by pouring in more hate. By commenting on something superficial, you’re validating their opinion of you as fair because you are also commenting in the same way. By challenging them on their behaviour however, you are triggering an internal thought process, even if their internet bravado says otherwise.
5 – Don’t let the bastards get you down
It’s fine to feel negative about the way you have been perceived. You are human and feeling sore about the interactions you’ve had is a natural response. Just like it’s important for you to recognise your own internal thought process, it’s also important to not allow those thoughts and feelings get you down. You exist for you, not for anyone else – allowing the opinions of strangers on the internet to dictate how you live your life and what your happiness should be is not the way you should live. Remind yourself of the importance of your own happiness and your right to exist, even if you’re against unfair criticism. Breathe in positivity and breathe out the negative with all your might.