Life’s great art is being kind.

Like with many things, I have a love/hate relationship with the fatshionista community on livejournal. On the one hand, I am continually inspired by the brave, stylish and savvy users who post their outfits day after day. It inspires me to try new things (not just in fashion, either!) and to stand up for myself. 

I sometimes feel there is a darker side to it, though. When someone posts a picture and receives a comment along the lines of “Wow, that outfit is really ugly”, it gets me thinking; I don’t know if I like being a part of a community that judges people. Okay, usually they’re talking about the outfits on fatshionista, but aren’t our fashion choices an extension of who we are? There’s often an attitude of “don’t post if you don’t want to be criticised” but I think that’s a load of shit.  There’s a feeling of entitlement in these sorts of comments that unnerve me, the same way stupid youtube/twitter/news article comments get to me.  

It’s things that people would never say in real life, but since it’s on the internet it’s somehow okay. Since they will probably never have to face them in “the real world”, it’s for some reason acceptable to make disparaging comments and judgements about a person. I may be completely naive for thinking this, but I believe the world would be a much better place if everyone reserved judgement of others. We are all a mixture of good and bad, and to write a person off simply because of their appearance (or gender, race, religion, sexuality, political views, etc) is complete codswollop. And while I think fatshionista is a safe place for me to feel accepted and celebrated as a fat person, I still dislike the occasional judging comment that happens there.

Since reading Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby’s book, i’ve realised that I judge people too – I have done it on the internet (generally in the form of emo flame wars) as well as in real life. I often like to sit in public places and “people watch”, and because I love hearing stories I often make up long-winded tales of people I deem interesting.  Sometimes though?  I judge people.  I go “oh, she should NOT be wearing that skirt with that top” or “woah, that outfit is way too tight.”

After realising that I am a perpetrator of the behaviour I most dislike, I’ve made a conscious effort not to do this anymore. It’s hurtful not only to others, but also damaging to myself. Who am I to say what a person should or shouldn’t wear? And maybe that person I am judging has circumstances which I don’t even know about – maybe they wear that outfit because it’s their favourite thing in the world, or it’s all that they can afford, or because it makes them feel confident and fabulous. It’s not fair for me, or any of us to make these sorts of comments on others.  Because that’s what people have done to me about my weight in the past, and boy did it make me feel like crap.

Is it a frou-frou naivety that i’m showing here?  That we should all hold hands and sing Kum Ba Ya and braid each other’s hair? Okay maybe not that far, but you get the gist.  Am I being silly for encouraging people to be nicer to others for no other reason than to be nice? Or do I need a good dose of reality, a reality that can’t change no matter what we do?

Leave your thoughts in the comments, as always I’m really interested to know. Also, apologies if this entry makes no sense; writing in the wee hours of the morning makes me less than coherent. :p

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  • emilylzbth

    Thank you for posting this. I'm glad someone said it.

  • HillaryGayle

    I'm really in agreement with you, actually. If I don't like someone's outfit, I just don't comment at all. Fatshionista doesn't just get judgmental about clothing, either. Someone once posted something that used imagery mocking my religion (I'm Christian…of the highly progressive, liberal variety, but nonetheless Christian), and when I expressed discomfort…WOW! Assumptions & judgments flying out of the WOODWORK!

    I'm still in FA, but not part of Fatshionista anymore. It wasn't helping me accept myself or others.

  • alogsdon

    I agree. There is a distinct difference between the comments that are helpful, constructive criticism, and those that are clearly meant to put the poster “in her/his place.” I mean, there is already a whole community dedicated to making fun of heinous posters in fatshionista, why do they need to put that shit on fats?

    I admit I am not the kindest person around, and I will cut a bitch that crosses me, but I am not one to attack unsuspecting victims. I don't really get the rationale of, “if you put your picture up on the internet, you should know you will be ridiculed.” That may be so, but why would someone willingly take it upon themselves to be that jerk?

  • meerkat

    Totally. This. If you are posting your own creative output on the internet (be it fashion or some other type of art) and you let slip that you would rather not be flamed, you get this one type of concern troll that tells you you'll never improve if you don't take to heart even the most trollish criticisms and change your work to satisfy their demands, and really, what did you expect for not being absolutely perfect, you coward? Self-expression is a privilege reserved for the most talented.

    But I think there's a difference between noting what you don't like about an outfit to yourself and making your thoughts known to the wearer.

  • http://stayclassyla.blogspot.com JLopezCostume

    I will often tell people if something isn't working…but only if I can produce another solution. Sometimes people are almost there, but just need another opinion, and when they are given another solution, they're like, “Oh, okay, I never thought of that!”

  • http://Jin6655321.blogspot.com/ Jin6655321

    I agree that there is no excuse for just outright meanness. The world would indeed be a much better place if people showed a bit more compassion and decency. However I do think that if you're posting pics of your outfit in a public forum, you deserve whatever comments you get. Okay, wait… maybe not “deserve”, since no one deserves douchey comments thrown at them. “Accept”, yes, if you're posting pics of your outfits in a public forum, you should accept whatever comments you get.

    I agree that the internet gives a lot of trolls the galls to say stuff they would be to chicken/better mannered to say in real life. However, there's a difference between wearing an outfit in public and posting the picture in a public forum. If I put on my favorite outfit, go to the mall, and some stranger said, “Ewe, WTF were you thinking putting that on in the morning? That top makes you look like a fat, pregnant walrus!” I would be pretty pissed off. Who are YOU to comment on what I'm wearing, I didn't put this on for you! However, if I were to post a picture of that same outfit on an open blog and someone said the same thing, as a blog reader, they have the right to express their comments.

    The difference is that when you post something on line, be it pictures, music, videos, writing, etc. you're posting for an audience. You can't say “Look at me! Read me! Comment! Subscribe! Link me!” then turn around and say, “Whoa, hey… nice stuff only, okay?” Your audience becomes the consumer and, as a consumer, they have the right to express how they feel. A movie studio can't release a movie and tell the audience “Hey now, be kind! Don't be a meanie and give this movie a bad review please!” They don't have that right.

    If someone doesn't want to hear negative feedback, they don't have to post a picture of themselves in a public forum. They can just take a picture and email it to their friends, who I'm sure would be way more respectful than that general public. If they want a way to booster their self esteem, they can create a members only private blog. These people are choosing a public forum because they want a broader recognition and audience. The internet maybe a treacherous place full of some of the vilest, ill mannered people out there, but it is easy to create a safe haven, a sanctuary, you just need to go private. The downside, of course, is that you're not going to get much of an audience.

    Now, I TOTALLY agree with you on the whole, “If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all” belief. And, personally, I think mean anonymous commenter are the most pathetic beings out there. If you're going to say something, you should stand behind it and not hide, you know? I don't even know why anyone would waste their time posting a dumb, unintelligent, purposefully hurtful comment but hey, it's their prerogative.

  • meerkat

    A movie studio also can't say “Please don't write pervy incestuous slash fic with our characters” but I am under the impression that it is considered rude to use amateur writers' characters without their permission. A movie studio also gets paid. It's not too much to expect an online community (not every online community, but some) to include people we don't already know and trust and ALSO maintain a culture of respectfulness. There's also a spectrum ranging from constructive criticism to hateful insults. Also, you kind of have to venture into the public in order to have people to invite to your private safespace blog, unless you happen to have a ton of family and friends who actually care about your hobby.

  • lilacsigil

    I love looking at the outfits, but I don't read the comments on them unless the OP has specifically said they want criticism. But for me, the first step to FA has been to stop criticising other people, even in my head. I feel like criticising other people (who haven't asked for it) is like the people who think they should tell fat people they're fat – “for their own good”. It's none of my business, it makes me feel worse about myself, and every single woman in the world is under permanent hostile scrutiny already.

    (I must admit, though, I do privately laugh at teenagers dressed totally seriously in 80s clothes, top to toe. But that's because I was around in the 80s and I'm laughing at myself!)

  • sonia

    thanks for writing this post! in the past i have been horribly judgemental and rude all around. this is in part from deep rooted insecurity and from having friends that too perpetuated this kind of behaviour. i don't mean to imply that i'm not responsible for my actions, but i had clothes friends who encouraged and rewarded rudeness in a very messed up sort of way. in the last year, however, i've really been opening my eyes and now i can see something posistive and truly beautiful in everyone i see. you are NOT silly or naive for encouraging people to be nice for the sake of being nice. perhaps i could join you on a super-hero mission?

    i am new to the fatshionista community and i'm often unnerved by some of the negative comments (although none i've gotten). if someone asks for constructive criticism then give it. i mean, a comment like “i'd love that with a navy cardigan” or “the dress is so lovely i don't think you need a scarf” are alright but people where the clothes they wear for many different reasons and none of it is my business. if a certain outfit doesn't catch my eye then i say to myself “hey, it's just not my style i guess” and i quietly move on. no need to be rude.


  • emilylzbth

    First off, I think it's really important to distinguish between kind, well intended constructive criticism and “you look like a fat pregnant walrfus.” I may not be asking for constructive criticism, and I may not want it, but I can kind of understand it. Someone telling me I look like a fat pregnant walrus, on the other hand, would be completely inappropriate and uncalled for. What's the good in that?

    Also, regarding your comment about movie studios, none of us are getting paid to participate in this. At least with a public studio or public figure (like a celebrity), earning money is the trade off for potentially being ridiculed. I, for one, am posting because I want to share with everyone else and learn from each other as we try to accept our bodies and be happy with them (largely through the discussion of fatshion, of course.) I don't see any part of heinous criticism that helps us do that. It just sets us back in most cases. Why would we criticize others in the same way we came to fatshionista to, in part, get away from? That makes no sense to me at all. I don't expect it to be 100% safe or always a confidence booster, but I think from shared experience we all know how that feels, so why would we do that to each other?

  • Ankylosaurus

    You tried to join that community twice. :)

  • http://fatheffalump.blogspot.com/ Kath

    Beautiful post Miss Janey!

    I am often astounded at the judgemental comments that I see around the traps. And I'm often astounded by the hammering one gets if someone calls out that judgemental attitude with a polite but firm “Hey, that's not on.” Instead of thinking a little bit about how the recipient of such judgement might feel, it is taken as a personal slight on the person being reminded about not being judgemental.

    It's a full learning process and I too find myself sometimes going “Why am I thinking that?” when I realise I am casting judgement on someone or a group of people. And I hope in most cases I give myself a thorough talking to!

    My rule for myself is that it's ok to criticise an individuals behaviour or their attitude, but not ok to criticise a person or group of people, as you say, because of their appearance (or gender, race, religion, sexuality, political views, etc)

    If it's naive of me to feel that we should go through this world without fear of belittlement or ridicule, I'm happy to stay naive.

    Kudos to you m'dear!

  • alogsdon

    Hi, I don't recognize your user name, so I can only assume you are a mod there if you know that.
    That's correct: I did try to join it. I had heard about it from a couple of people who are members, they assured me I would find it hilaaaaariously funny, but I didn't get accepted, perhaps because I list two mods of fats on my LJ friends. After those two attempts, I had met up with one of the mods on fats when I was in her town, and learned a lot more about the history and nature of unfats. Suffice to say, I will not try a third time. I can be a bitch in real time, face to face, I don't need to waste time doing it on the internet. :)

  • http://arielmeadow.com Ariel

    I'm a big fan of the “if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all” school of thought when it comes to internet discussions. That seems to be how things work over on Wardrobe Remix, and it's the commenting rule we strongly enforce over on Offbeat Bride. The way I see it, a complete lack of response conveys a message (“the community isn't interesting in this”) without any snark or bitchery. If you put something out there and get silence back, you get the message … but without the awful feelings.

    On OBB, I've been criticized for being overly controlling with my moderation but you know what? I'm just not interested in hosting dialog that makes people feel like shit. A few years ago, I wrote a celebrity “what not to wear” fashion blog, and it just got boring after a while. I mean, people can be very creative in their insults but really it's a waste of time and energy that could be put into creating your own awesome outfits.

  • http://www.axisoffat.com Zoe

    I know there are people who take issue with unfats, and I'm completely okay with that. It's definitely not for everyone, and because it's a community, there are people who have different views about how it should be used and what sort of stuff should be posted.

    That said, I am a member, and I do enjoy it (and hey, I've been snarked on there too! Way back when I was much less fancy than I am now). I think there is a place on the internet for it, just as there is for fats.

    I really enjoy your posts on fatshionista, by the by – I think you have great style!

  • alogsdon

    Obviously I don't actually know what goes on there since I have not been allowed through the gates, so to speak, so I can't really speak to the content. However, it does create a certain feeling of paranoia to know that someone may be talking about you in this shadow place (even describing it that way sounds creepy, doesn't it?). I might feel differently if it was more transparent–a little more amateur night at the Apollo, a little less Burn Book from Mean Girls, if you get my drift. Believe me, I am not trying to make the internet fart flowers or engulf everyone in a rainbow of compliments, and you know that I always welcome feedback myself, but as much as I would enjoy saying bitchy things about a LOT of what I see on fats, I sort of feel like it's not the best use of my time. I will get my shadenfreude on gofugyourself or look at this fucking hipster, where the targets are more deserving, in my opinion. I don't begrudge you your enjoyment, but I can't really see myself joining in the fun at this point.
    Thanks for the compliment! I also really dig your style. :)

  • http://www.axisoffat.com Zoe

    Totally – I think your opinions and concerns are totally valid! And there tends be a lot of push-and-pull between the members of unfats about what is okay to snark and what isn't (particularly in the realm of bodysnark – there have been some banninations over that).

    That said, I don't want to derail Janey's awesome post into a discussion about one particular comm! :D I maintain that there's room on the internet for most types, and as much as I dislike the truly hateful stuff (fatphobic stuff, for example), I just grit my teeth and walk away – when I can, a lot of the time it's like a car crash, you just can't look away!

    And thank you as well :)

  • dreamer_tink

    I am so in agreement with you – If you can't say something nice don't say anything at all – unless invited to give an honest opinon – but even then you can be pleasant.

    I've posted once to fatshionista (an introductory post with one ootd) and am in serious doubt at the moment as to whether I will post again. The very first comment included the word 'Yikes!'. Not directed exactly at the outfit I was wearing but at something I put about the styles I like. I felt I was taken apart piece by piece and the small blossoming bud of FA I had almost vanished completely. My hair colour was judged, my skin was judged, my outfit was judged – and all were apparently found wanting.

    People have different ideas of what is stylish/fashionable depending on their age/location/disposable income etc – I've seen ootd's that I think WTF?! but I just move onto the next one.

  • http://weightlessone.com/ WeightlessOne

    What you speak of is a normal step on the size-acceptance path. You'll be surprised how this will change your way of thinking about others the more you practice being non-judgemental.

  • tracyalero

    I appreciate you posting this and if requesting that people be civil is naive, so be it. I'll be naive with you.

  • http://skinheadskippy.blogspot.com/ Kirri

    I left the 'fatshionista' community for similar reasons – people were quite critical of my wardrobe choices. I flew the coop after one of my OOTD posts turned into a huge flame war criticising me as an 'inbetweenie' (ie. too big for 'regular stores' but too small for plus-size stores). It was unwarranted and some people were quite harsh. I don't want anything to do with them now – it lacks the community spirit i'm looking for.

  • ?

    the sartorialist's comments section is probably where i have learned the most about fashion in the last few years, because the commentors are well-informed, diverse, analytical and ruthless. i suppose they could have just kept quiet if they didn't have effusive praise to dispense, but i would have learned a lot less.

  • Guest
  • http://woodworking-books.org Woodworking project plans

    The world would indeed be a much better place if people showed a bit more compassion and decency.

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