I have had an abundance of Shakers express to me lately that they despair about carrying on with feminist/progressive activism, between vicious surges in trolling and feeling overwhelmed with shitty news and/or defeated by opportunities for meaningful activism. This post addresses the former, as much as anyone's experience can potentially be of help to someone else, as I can't make prescriptions. Part Two will address the latter, in the same way.
Somewhere on the internetz, among the many sites populated by seething reprobates who are obsessed with fat feminist women, there must be a place where the information provided about me includes the erroneous information that I am "on disability" because I am fat. Or maybe it just provides the correct information—that I am fat, and that I have a disability unrelated to my being fat—but somehow that information gets conflated, in the dysfunctional brainpan of a rightwing anti-feminist terrorist, and repackaged into a story that I am disabled from being fat and am getting payments from the government for it.
No and no: I have never applied for nor received disability benefits—but I have discovered that even saying you are disabled in the vicinity of a rightwinger is generally met with the assumption that you are "on disability," despite the fact that many disabled people, including many who qualify for disability benefits, are not. As per usual, it is the people most inclined to scream about BOOTSTRAPS! who are the least likely to recognize them when they're being used by marginalized people who are able.
The facts of my life—that I am fat, that I have PTSD, and that I run this space as my full-time occupation—are well-documented and not easily misconstrued, but, in the great tradition of conservative projection, rightwing anti-feminist terrorists are, as they routinely accuse feminists of doing, always looking for something to get mad about.
And while there's not a whole lot to fairly object to about a woman writing her thoughts in a space she created, or being fat, or having a disability, or being a feminist, recasting me as a fat scam artist who whiles away her days eating
From a recent missive:
Landwhale,Et cetera. I've redacted the most vile bits, which, among other things, made reference to Anders Behring Breivik, a recent hero to violent misogynists everywhere. The emailer identified himself as an English volunteer police officer. It was sent under his real name.
I would like to raise a few points that I find particularly repugnant about you and your website.
…You are desperately in need of harpooning. If you ever meet anyone called Ishmael, Ahab or Queequeg I would advise you to waddle away as fast as your stubby legs will carry you. And do I sound bitter? Maybe I am, as I'm somewhat tired of paying for your kind's healthcare when the only 'disability' you have is a despicable lack of self control. Diabetes can't come soon enough, you're a plague on humanity.
And why is it you seem to think that your being fat is down to anything other than immaturity and a hunger for immediate gratification? You would not be 'fat shamed' if you were able to resist that third Big Mac of the day and the extra fries, would you?
You hate men. This is largely because no man would like to have sex with you, as frankly those who enjoy being crushed to death during coitus never seem to have too many sexual encounters.
This is someone who will accuse me, without a trace of irony, that I have to "look for things to get mad about," even as he sends me an obsessive and threatening message based on an imaginary version of who I am.
Who, exactly, is the one looking for things to get mad about…?
Were I in the business of seeking out things that make me angry, I'd never have to go further than the emails designed explicitly to scare me, to dehumanize me, to silence me, which arrive like clockwork in my own inbox.
I share this mess for this reason: Every day, feminist women—some of them fat, some of them survivors of sexual assault—get engaged with public activism. This is what they will face. Because of that, every day, feminist women disengage with public activism.
I will never, ever, argue that women (or men) should tolerate abuse for any cause. Keeping oneself safe and maintaining one's sense of security is of the utmost importance—and if that means locking the door on an internet space and throwing away the key, or walking away from an org that once felt bigger than life itself, it should be done without regret or shame. Taking care of oneself is evidence of strength.
This, then, is for the people who frequently ask me how to navigate it, how to keep going. And the answer is: I don't know. I don't know what's best for you, in terms of processing this shit.
But I do know is that recognizing it as projection, seeing it for the pitiable flails of desperate men that it is, is important.
All of their furious bravado, and the genuine threats, are meant to terrify me, of course, but I am not the one who is terrified. The men who misrepresent my life in order to justify harassing me know, in some deep down place, that they are wrong. They know that my fat, disabled, feminist self is, in truth, everything that the Patriarchy tells them men are supposed to be: They know that I am strong, that I am tough, that I am resilient, that I am smart, that I am independent, that I am brave. They know that I fuck, that I influence, that I do not yield.
And that's what prompts their terroristic missives in which they try to mask behind their rage a derisible fear of the powerful feminine. Not that they believe that I am weak, but that they know I am strong.
Having that perspective helps. Having that perspective, for me, makes all the difference.
They're going to twist your life, and they're going to try to use it against you, and they're going to do it because they are trying to make you less than, which is evidence they know you are not.
They fill my inbox with howling brays of "FAT CUNT!"—and the corner of my mouth curls in a half-smile as I hit delete and take the compliment.