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?