Millie

Speaking Up

I did something that I don’t usually do the other day: got drawn into commenting actual real opinions contrary to the mob opinion on something that came up in my Facebook feed.

There are a few reasons why I don’t usually do this: obviously to start with I’ve self-selected my friends to a large extent and so I don’t tend to have a lot of things come up on my feed that aren’t somewhat related to my personal politics/jokes. Of course fat activism is a big (ha! No one’s made that pun before!) step beyond most people’s garden variety “real women have curves!” sort of malarkey that tends to pass for body acceptance in a lot of circles, so that’s not something I generally see, but I don’t get a lot of “straight marriage is the only real marriage!” sort of updates, for example.

Anyway, the actual thing to made me so eye-twitchy was a picture of a woman that a friend of mine had snapped on his phone and posted referring to her as a “bogan” (Australian version of a hick/hillbilly). The photo was taken from behind so you can’t see her face, but she was an average size blond white woman who was wearing a tracksuit and ugg boots (with one leg badly half tucked into the boot). Quite a few people had liked and commented shaming remarks.

My comment shaded into a bit of a rant along the paraphrased lines of: How do you know she hasn’t been with her sick baby in the nearby hospital and this is the first time she’s been out for three days? How do you know she’s not sick herself and had to choose between using her energy to shower and dress well or to go to the shops for food? How do you know she doesn’t work three jobs and hasn’t had time to do laundry? Or is it just that she’s committed the ultimate crime of daring to be female and in public without making herself suitably fuckable?” (Did I say a bit of a rant?) Anyway my friend tried to make a few jokes but I simply stated that I wasn’t trying to have a go at him personally but given how much public ridicule and shame are heaped on marginalised groups like women and poor people and people of colour that perhaps as a gay man he might understand how that would feel and he could be a better ally.

I believe in everything that I said but I have to admit I was a little bit scared. The last time I got into a FB argument all of my friend’s friends piled on and tried to shut me down (that one turned into an argument over whether you could diagnose health by looking at people and the cognitive bias was pretty painful). Also defending personal politics is always more vulnerable and emotion-inducing than trying to be an ally towards other groups. I’ve been trying to make more of an effort to call out racism or homophobia when I hear it but there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to know what some of my acquaintances really think when it comes to feminism or fat acceptance.

Anyway I was angsting over this little incident when I logged onto Facebook today, and found that my friend had taken down the picture. So: win! I had a feeling that I might be able to get my point across with this friend and obviously I did. I feel so much better.

I know that when people have called me out on saying stupid shit (unfortunately I did not spring from the womb a fully formed social justice advocate) I have felt embarrassed and sometimes defensive, but those conversations have often helped me pivot my world view. One of my goals for this year is to be more politically vocal and so I feel like I’m making a good start.

How about you guys? Do you call people out or walk away? When was the last time something like this has happened to you?

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  • Jen

    The other day at coffee break the crowd was joking about People of Walmart. I was keeping quiet, one of the people there asked me about it. I said that I find it a bullying site and very mean and distasteful. He got one of those thoughtful looks on his face and then agreed with me. The others heard out exchange and moved on to other subjects. A small win.

  • Millie

    I like stories with these kinds of endings! And you saying what you thought probably gave that guy more room to state his opinion, which is great.

  • http://www.musingsfromthesoapbox.blogspot.com Veronica

    I so know that feeling (and I think most of us do, really) of your stomach tightening when you speak out for something you know is against the popular opinion. I tend to spend a really long time on comments like that, trying to see all flaws in my argument, but still it’s scary to know that you could be just one “post” away from teh internetz turning on you viciously.
    By the way, I really, really loved your rant!

  • Millie

    Thanks Veronica! And yes that’s a very good way to put it – all you have to do is read a very basic article that just MAYBE says that fat people should be treated with respect and dignity and go to the comments section to see the sharks go into a frenzy.

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