I have received a lot of great feedback from the Better Than The Bullies Project that I announced a couple days ago, and thanks to the people who got their submissions done in record time, and the amazing Golda Poretsky for solving some technical glitches, the site is live at www.betterthanthebullies.com
We’re definitely looking for more submissions and ideas to improve the site so feel free to get involved.
I received a few e-mails from people suggesting that I should not stand up to my bullies but rather try to reason with them and make them allies. Can’t we mend fences, they ask. Can’t we all just get along? First and foremost, this is a completely valid and legitimate approach to dealing with bullies. If it is what you choose then I am hapy to support you, rock on. I think it’s also valid and legitimate to take a stand and say “No, I will not allow you to have power over me.” I think it’s possible that different things are appropriate for different people and different situations.
There are times when I just ignore the bullies: In my video for the BttB Project I discuss something that I haven’t talked about a lot- earlier this year I was the subject of a hate attack coordinated using at least 10 different forums that are supposed to be about health and fitness. My blog got over 30,000 hits and over 5,000 negative comments in two days, over half of them telling me I should kill myself. My response to this was to do nothing – my comments are moderated so they didn’t get on the blog, and I didn’t talk about it on the blog at all. So I got a boost in hits but none of their comments made it to the blog – all that work and as far as anyone reading the blog could tell, nothing ever happened.
This situation is extreme but I get hatemail almost every day (I also get fanmail almost every day so it all works out in the end). In the case of the hatemail I’m the only one they are annoying so I typically don’t engage with them, though I did create my hatemail page to give people a chance to see the kind of crap I put up with and also to give cathartic (what I think are) witty responses.
There are also times when I do try to reason with bullies and mend fences. But I think that some bullies need to be stood up to. Maybe they are making people scared to do activism work for fear of being viciously and constantly attacked. Maybe they are keeping people from going to the gym or the pool or out to eat for fear of being shamed and stigmatized. Maybe it’s an organization whose leader creates bylaws that make it impossible for him to be ousted then uses that power to bully others.
In my experience this kind of bullying is typically about power. Some people don’t feel that they have control of the world at large so they focus on bullying a small community of people to feel like they have some power somewhere. There are people who feel horrible about themselves and so try to feel powerful by making other people feel weak. There are those who feel that nobody would choose them to be in power so they take power by force and bureaucracy.
So, having taken the long way around to answer the original question – no, I don’t think we can all get along, because I think that some behavior is deplorable and as long as someone is choosing to engage in those behaviors fences cannot be mended. That doesn’t mean that I have to fight (though I certainly choose to sometimes). In my experience bullies feed on the reactions of the bullied. So you can fight, but you can also refuse to bow to the pressure of the bullies, refuse to change your behavior in response to bullies, leave situations and organizations that don’t make you feel empowered and valuable. In that way you cut off the bullies fuel supply and often they shrivel and die. To me the trick is to remember that it’s not about them – I can’t control other people’s behaviors and I don’t want to try, I do want to control my behaviors and I do not want to allow the bullies to affect me and so I choose my reaction to the bullies about how it’s going to make me feel about me.
Like the blog? Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):
Dance Class DVDs are now available for pre-order Click here for the details
Check Out my Book: Fat: The Owner’s Manual. The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here to order
Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses
I do size acceptance activism full time. A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.
The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post. Thanks for reading! ~Ragen