Well folks, it happened again.
Not that that should, or will, be any great surprise to the many people who deal with this sort of bullshit day in, day out. But I felt like it was important to write about it, because of the response to my last post.
The response to my last post was truly phenomenal. To my utter astonishment, it had almost 6.5k hits. Which is about 6,480 more than any of my posts normally get. I had friends old and new, acquaintances and even complete strangers share and comment on it. Earlier this week, someone I didn’t know came and talked to me about it in a pub!
The response was also overwhelmingly positive. And flattering – “I wish I had your confidence” / “I wish I had your attitude” / “bravo!”
But here’s the thing: my confidence is mainly a kind of herd confidence, gleaned from instagrams and blogs of body confident women and the love and respect of my closest allies. A herd confidence bolstered by having worn a good outfit, had a productive day, spent some quality time with friends or family, or really anything that’s affected my mood positively in the last, say, 12 hours.
Like most people, temper all that with a crappy day, a hangover, PMS, a bad mood, even shit weather or just being a bit tired, and I’m pretty soft. I don’t stand up all that well to public shaming. I do care what other people think. Much more than I ought, probably.
That’s the contradiction, I find, for me as a fat person. There’s not a lot I like about my fat, but it is soft, and sometimes soft is nice. Undulating. Curvy. Tactile. I’d rather my body was firm, and flat, and smooth, absolutely no question – but there’s something lovely about soft and sumptuous, too. And that’s what fat is. It’s soft. Giving. Forgiving. Which is ironic, because what you need when you’re fat isn’t a soft, tactile outer layer. It’s a shell. A casing. Armour. Against all the shit, and the judgement, and the sniggers, and the pointing and laughing and name calling. Even against the kindly meant comments. Because they’re still shit.
And so it happened that yesterday, when someone yelled ‘fat bitch’ at me when I was riding home from work, that I wasn’t ready. I was tired. I was feeling a bit soft.
Yesterday I didn’t feel strong. I didn’t feel confident.
Yesterday, someone yelled ‘fat bitch’ at me as I cycled home after work, and I cried all the way home.
I cried as I put my bike away.
I cried as I said goodnight to my little boy.
And I cried as I sat soaking in the bath.
Not the big, heartbreaking sobs of the genuinely bereft. Small, hot, angry, frustrated, hurt tears because I’m just so tired of it. Of people who think it’s somehow ok to be an arse to someone else.
And before you start on at me about freedom of speech, I’m not saying it should be banned. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be allowed, that people should be prosecuted, silenced or gagged. I’m just saying, whatever happened to just being a fucking decent human being?
Because bullying isn’t decent. And that’s what commenting on anyone’s appearance is. What you’re saying is designed to make me feel lesser than you, and that’s the very essence of bullying.
I don’t need any “toughen up, princess” comments, either, thanks. Because, obviously, I’m fine. Some dickwad called me fat. That’s all. It’s one little comment from one little man. One little comment isn’t going to send me into paroxysms of despair. I’m not running a bath and plugging in my toaster.
No, he can get fucked. What kills me is not just one little man’s little comment. It’s the constant drip, drip, drip of the hatred. The disregard. The bullying. You see it everywhere, from Hatie Hopkins to Nigel Farage, from the EDL to Trump’s legions of far right supporters in the US. There are waves and waves of alt-right keyboard warriors who, on seeing that a) I’m fat and b) I was a little upset by the comment, would no doubt label me a precious snowflake, tell me I’m disgusting and entreat me to kill myself.
To put it in proper Laura Ashley terms, frankly the world feels like it has been taken over by really nasty people. And I don’t just mean the fat thing. I mean people who seem to think it’s OK to be vile to someone else, to mock, abuse, belittle or offend them if you feel like it. People who seem to believe that other people don’t deserve your consideration, your respect. That there’s no compunction to just. Be. Nice.
I don’t have an answer for this, or a neat little endline or button for my blog. There’s no moral, there’s not even really a feel good joke for me to tie it all up with. I felt a bit sad that someone had called me fat, and a bitch. But I feel sadder that half the world seems to think it’s OK to be hateful, mean-spirited bigots. And I don’t know how we fix that.
*the pic is M in Paris, in front of a wall of ways to say “I love you” in more than 200 different languages. I feel like we could all learn something from that wall. Literally and figuratively.