World’s Tiniest Violin —
Trigger warning: Eating disorders, diet talk and assholes.
When I first started blogging about Fat Acceptance in 2009, I made the clever decision to begin by immediately pissing off everybody. As I recall, there was only one other guy writing on the subject, but unlike him, I had zero experience with feminism outside of my preconceived notions of what feminism meant. As a result, I said shit that pissed off many feminists and then, as I tried to understand their perspective by asking questions, I pissed them off even more.
I felt a deep-seeded frustration because I was honestly trying to understand, but when I didn’t frame things properly or when I used indelicate phrasing or when I stated a forceful opinion, I was subjected to the white-hot flames of social justice purgatory. And it sucked.
It sucked because nobody likes to be flame-roasted when they are just trying to understand why their views are so offensive. But the very act of asking questions offended people, since I could just as easily have Googled my questions, found a preexisting blog post on the subject and learned on my own. Of course, from my entitled perspective, I was thinking “Yeah, but if you want me to agree with you then why don’t you just answer the question and I can get on with the work of understanding?” The answer, of course, is that nobody is under obligation to educate my ignorant ass.
When I fucked up, people were mad — mean mad. But because I knew my intentions, my response to them was often “You catch more flies with honey.” Of course, this pissed people off more because who the fuck wants a bunch of flies buzzing around in their mother-fucking honey?
In any case, some people who were patient enough to answer my questions, and hold out a bit of honey, explained to me why it’s so offensive to demand kindness from others when I’m clod-footing around a subject that is so personal and intimate to them. Yeah, by being gentle, perhaps they could lure a few more mansplaining flies into the fold, but because of the overwhelming amount of ShitLords in their midst, they just didn’t have the wherewithal to discern the intentions of each and every guy who came knocking on their door. Those activists were no longer interested in converting ignorant hostiles, but were educating those who were willing and able to listen without jamming their own ego into the center of discussion.
Do you catch more flies with honey than vinegar? Yeah, absolutely. But after nearly five years of blogging about fat issues, I’ve found that 99% of the flies in question prefer hanging out on a great big pile of shit. And do you really want flies dripping feces into your nice jar of honey?
First came the /r/FatLogic folks who took umbrage with our Diet Talk page. Basically, they love to mock the idea of trigger warnings because they think it’s about oversensitive fat people crying themselves to sleep at night after some beefy Brodin “disproves” Health at Every Size® (HAES) with his irrefutable anecdotal evidence. An example of this belief is the first comment on that subreddit which begins, “So this is how they maintain their delusion. This is the same as plugging their ears and going ‘LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!”” I’ve also seen complaints that the use of trigger warnings for everything makes a mockery of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In reality, our blog includes readers who have either overcome, are overcoming, or are in the depths of an eating disorder (ED), whether anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder. Some of those same people also suffer from PTSD, and reading about calorie counting or food blogs or diet talk can put them in that ED frame of mind. Trigger warnings aren’t for all our readers, but for those who need them.
And the whole point of the Diet Talk page is to explain the difference between discussing the science of weight loss and weight loss evangelism, which our readers DO NOT WANT. Of course, this offends the ShitLords of reddit because they believe free speech means we have to let these Jillian Michaels rejects put in their two cents whenever and wherever they want (something we did ages ago to hilarious effect). They think that by banning weight loss evangelism, you all are somehow isolating yourselves from their wisdom and that we are brainwashing you into laying prone as much as possible while having Twinkie cream intravenously pumped into your stomachs.
Now, I don’t go out of my way to start shit with reddit, but if I notice a subreddit talking shit about us, I will sometimes respond if I have the capacity. In this case, I did, and I responded without the honey. Their response was predictable, although I did have a somewhat productive discussion with a few people on the subject (my comments have been downvoted so much you have to search for the thread to open).
Later that same day, /r/TumblrInAction spread word of Shaunta’s Eating the Food post.For those unfamiliar, TiA mocks Tumblr bloggers who write about social justice (people they call SJWs, or social justice warriors), but they try and claim the “high road” by putting in their rules, “Don’t be massive twat. We’re here to make fun of Tumblr SJWs, but we’re not here to outright troll them or personally attack them.” Yeah, because the mouth-breathers who read TiA don’t look at the screencaps posted, then troll the Tumblrs highlighted. It’s a thin veneer of respectability that crumbles beneath the weight of hatred permeating these subreddits.
Again, I only found out about TiA’s post about Shaunta because they linked to our page and some of their trolls tried to comment on our page, so I went there to respond. That reddit thread was chock full of dumbasses “refuting” shit Shaunta never wrote. I summarized their ridiculous response in this thread:
Listen, you’re the people linking to my blog, talking shit about it without actually reading what was written. You’ve got the guy who thinks Shaunta is trying to lose weight by eating more food, you’ve got the guy calls her “lazy and self-indulgent” despite her thorough explanation in this series of her activity levels, you’ve got the guy who says 2,500 calories is too much without knowing how active Shaunta is, you’ve got the guy claiming she has diabetes, you’ve got the guy almost grasps what Shaunta is doing then falls off the deep end, and you’ve got the guy who thinks she’s eating less than she was and is scared of losing weight.
In other words, some dimwitted douchebag read the first paragraph, it rustled his jimmies, and he shared it with his fellow reddit ShitLords who read even less (as admitted here) and pounded their chests even more. Once again, I said fuck the honey in my responses to them. As a result, I got this warning from the moderator:
Look, you’re acting like a massive twat right now. Which, incidentally, is against the rules.
If you want to debate or point out parts of the article that people missed (like you did in some of your other posts), fine, but don’t come in here on a high horse looking for a reason to insult the community.
Seriously, though. Knock it off. This is troll behavior.
Around this time, Shaunta joined the fray and has been diligently answering questions WITHOUT calling them assholes (aka, with honey), which is awesome. But then redditors started to complain to both her and me about my tone. For instance:
- Whiner 1: “Thanks for being an asshole, asshole.”
- Whiner 2: “I assume you know /u/atchka… You might want to tell them to stop acting like a douche. You can defend yourself without that twat.”
- Whiner 3: “It would be nice if he’d go back to playing with himself, or whatever it is he does, instead of picking fights with everyone including the mods. /u/shaunta is doing it right; even when she’s been insulted or provoked she’s keeping a civil tongue in her head – but then again, she’s an adult.”
- Whiner 4: “hey dude, you do realize shaunta is here, right? let her speak for herself since this about her. i don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but i wouldn’t want someone talking on my behalf when i can do it myself, especially if they were making a huge specticle of themselves doing so.”
So here’s the message we’re getting from TiA: we can publish links to your blog, mock a version of you we have created out of whole cloth, make fat jokes at your expense and call you a liar, a sloth and a glutton, but don’t you dare call me an asshole!
I get the same response from Tumblr trolls, like this fuckface who has spent almost a year trolling Fat Acceptance posts that have nothing to do with her. She claims to be a former HAES advocate who saw the light and is now fighting our misinformation, except she only wants to argue HAES claims made by random internet people who don’t understand HAES (you can read my honey-free takedown in which I compare ignorant HAES advocates with ignorant evolution advocates here). I spent quite a few hours refuting her bullshit and pointing out her inconsistencies, which I summarized for others she has trolled, but I grow weary of beating my head against that wall.
This morning I discovered another /r/FatLogic post about Shaunta’s writing filled with more mockery and misinformation, like this hilarious claim that Shaunta is an opiate addict(!!!).
Here’s the thing: we always have a choice of how to respond. Shaunta has chosen the patient educator route, which is how I most frequently respond to skeptics and trolls on here and other forums because of my early experience with Fat Acceptance feminists. I definitely believe that taking the time to refute trolls is invaluable, even when the troll being educated chooses willful ignorance over reasonable discussion. Others who witness the conversation will have both viewpoints before them and will get to choose which side makes more sense.
Contrary to Shaunta’s patient vigilance, I chose the scorched earth route this time because I rarely emerge from a reddit discussion feeling like the skeptic is anything more than willfully ignorant and the audience (the other participants in the subreddit) are anything other than hostile and trigger-happy fat-haters. As evidenced above (and elsewhere), few redditors actually read what we write (although a handful have in the last day or two and I had civil disagreements with them), and even fewer even understand the discussion. For most of them, it comes down to FAT BAD and anyone saying anything but that is a threat to them.
I chose the scorched earth route because these flies don’t give a shit about my honey. They simply want to trample my opinions into the ground and charge me for the pleasure. The only response that the vast majority of denizens from fat-hating subreddits will accept from me or Shaunta is “You’re right, I’m wrong, please follow me around 24/7 like a fucking CIA agent and show me the error of my ways.”
I’m a big believer in civil discourse, but I don’t owe civil discourse to those who are clearly uninterested. If they were interested, they would have actually read what Shaunta wrote and asked questions based on her own words, not the words they put into her mouth. Instead, what we got was a bunch of disgruntled dudebros who populate forums devoted ENTIRELY to mocking marginalized groups, but who think it’s unfair for me to be mean to them.
When you are targeted by these groups, or others like them, you get to choose how to respond. Personally, I think being a patient educator like Shaunta with the general population is the most noble way to try and persuade skeptics of the righteousness of our cause. But there may come a point in time when you realize that patient education is futile and you are perfectly justified in fighting fire with fire. I’ve reached that point with hate-bait subreddits.
You do not owe haters your honey. When someone calls you an asshole, you can call them an asshole right back. And when they complain that you’re being mean and unfair and that you catch more flies with honey, just remind them of what Mr. Pink taught us in Reservoir Dogs.