I Screwed Up

Motivate FinalThis is one of those retrospective blogs where I talk about a screw up I made and what I learned from it.  If this isn’t your thing don’t worry, I’ll be back with my usual blog tomorrow!

It was late Thursday night and I was getting ready to post the blog I had written earlier that day about a truly offensive article. It had been a rough day.  I had been dealing with two troll attacks – one  on this blog which I’m used to and just makes me want to work harder.  The other attack was on the More Cabaret blog, on Tiffany Kell’s beautiful and moving piece about her father’s death and I found it was really emotionally difficult for me to deal with the fact that there are people who would be so absolutely cruel and heartless as to troll that piece.

Then I started getting negative feedback from people, including some inside the SA/HAES community, for writing about Abercrombie and Fitch’s deeply bigoted marketing and hiring policies.  I was told that I shouldn’t have talked about it and given them “free advertising” that I should have ignored it.  I’ve heard that argument, and disagreed with it, before – but it was harder on that day with everything else that was going on.

So there I was, getting ready to discuss another negative article and I realized that I was opening myself up to the same criticism  – that I should just have ignored it and not given her any traffic etc. I’ve been accused of ignoring criticism.  That’s not the case – while I sometimes ignore my critics, the criticism itself can keep me up at night.  So I caved to my fear of the criticism.  I deleted the “Activism Opportunity” paragraph that contained links to give feedback, I deleted the author’s name from the piece leaving only the title of the article that I was criticizing and I posted the piece without the links.

As is often the case, my readers knew better than I. Ngaire Wadman found and posted the links to the article, the Happy Fan Girl posted the Yelp link for the author’s health consulting practice, Cattie posted her Google Site, Crystal Williams posted the Facebook page and readers went to work.  Now the awful piece has been taken down and the owner of the site as well as the author of the offensive piece have made apologies on the site’s facebook page, and I’m wishing I had been brave enough to include the links in the first place.

I respect people’s right to choose to ignore things like this for whatever their reasons, it is a completely legitimate choice.  It’s also completely legitimate to make choices based on a desire to avoid being criticized.  It’s just not the choice that I wish I had made in this instance.

So I screwed up, certainly not the first time, certainly not the last.  Here is what I learned from this one:

  • Rather than avoiding talking about things because it might bring the subject “traffic” or “free advertising”  I’ll just try to get better at presenting my case to communicate more clearly the option to not to participate in fat bigotry and maybe even choose to speak out against it.
  • Nobody has the right to tell anyone else how to deal with the stigma, bullying, and oppression that they face ever, the underpants rule absolutely applies here.
  • Comments that attempt to devalue someone else’s activism for not being important enough, or not ignoring an issue or whatever – however well-meaning or intentioned – will be moderated out of this blog from here on.  I just don’t believe it’s a good use of this space.
  • I don’t believe that bigotry will just go away if we ignore it, or that giving someone “internet traffic” or “free advertising” is such a threat that I should let their behavior continued unquestioned and unchallenged.
  • I believe that risk is the currency of revolution, including the risk of being criticized. I want revolution, so I will try my best to never allow the fear of being criticized lead me to stay silent about things that are important to me.

I feel especially bad that I didn’t just trust my readers to take the links and run with them – I’m truly sorry about that.  The readers on this blog have moved mountains and done what many said was impossible with their activism, and it should come as no surprise to anyone that they dispatched with this in short order.  Thanks for doing what I did not find the courage to do, I’ll try to be as brave as you all next time.

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Published in: on May 12, 2013 at 8:39 am  Comments (46)  

46 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You put your emotional well being on the line every time you speak out. Do not be too harsh on yourself for letting it be overwhelming that time.

    • I agree with this statement. And quite frankly, the only free advertising you gave A&F was not exactly the kind of advertising that is going to help them sell more of their crappy clothing.

      • ALSO my alarm bells go off the minute someone says “don’t talk about it” re: an issue that needs to be talked about!!!! So there!

  2. Although, respect your admission of screwing up, I don’t see it that way. I see this a testament to the way you have empowered your readers to take thing into their own hands. Things happen the way that they are supposed to and I was so proud of us readers and of you for telling us about that woman and her business.

    • Yes! A true leader isn’t just the one leading the charge but the one who has empowered others to take up the mantle when they are no longer around. Perhaps we all learned something to in all of this. It’s not up to someone else to do the work. Thanks Ragen for leading the charge and for showing others that they can too.

      • This. Look, you’re a high-profile figure, Ragen, which means you’re more vulnerable to trolling and attacks than many of your readers (me included). We can post stuff and get away with it, where it would be deeply risky for you. Worry not! If we get angry about an issue, it’s fairly straightforward to ferret out the article/person involved and decide whether or not to risk publicising it. And, as Marie M. and Cindy say, we can choose… you’re a great empowerer and example!

  3. Don’t beat yourself up – you do an amazing job putting out this blog and giving the world an alternative viewpoint. Every time we do something new, we open ourselves up to making new mistakes – it’s the cost of exploration. Keep exploring and thanks for all you do!

  4. ((((hugs))) Just wanted to say you are awesome, and I don’t think you should be too hard on yourself. We all have days where it seems just too hard and it’s ok to want a break for five seconds. You have inspired me to live a better life and to stop apologising for being fat or waiting to live my life until I lost weight. You also helped me to stand up for myself and be vocal in educating others about mental illness (I have various mental illnesses). Please forgive yourself and remember we all love you and you are changing lives.

  5. Ragen-
    You do not have apologize for choosing to include (or not include) links, names, ect. to the topics you write about. This is YOUR blog!
    After all, you have no control over what the reader will do with the information, anyway!
    Your articles have inspired me to boycott certain products and companies. By calling out an offending company (I’m looking at you, CVS and Michelin tires) you may have given these companies ‘free advertising’, yet they no longer get MY money.
    It sounds like you had a really rough day on Thursday… but must have been nice to know that your readers will carry your torch on the days becomes too heavy. 🙂
    Your blog has changed how I look at myself, and the world- Thank you for all you do,

  6. Ragan, you are wonderful. You have inspired so many (to include me!) to come out of our shells and speak up for ourselves.
    So you had a bad day–it sounds like you may have run out of sanity points and you backed down from what would be your normal stance. But look what happened! Your readers stepped to the plate and did what you’ve taught us to do. We stood up for you.
    It’s ok to step back from time to time and let others help you. We’re all in this together.
    Much love and hugs. ❤

  7. Oh Ragan, you are a mortal woman and just as prone to exhaustion as the rest of us. Sometimes shit just gets to be too much and you need to protect yourself.

    But the result of your backing down is the chance to see what you have done for your readers! You got to watch while they stepped in and proved all those naysayers wrong!

    Wasn’t that awesome?

  8. While there are times when not mentioning someone/something is a good way to take away their power and voice, especially when what they’re saying is hurtful and bigoted, I think calling out A&F is a good move.

    Consumerism today is all about choice and people need to know they have alternative choices if they have an issue with a company and its policies. Some may say that mentioning A&F is giving them free publicity, but my guess is that it will do more to turn people against that company than help promote it.

    Trust your own bad self Ragan. You’d not have gotten this far if you were doing it wrong.

  9. Regardless if you took it down, it was read by many and the message was sent and received. I do understand however, what you are saying. it’s all good.. i won’t shop at A&F for my very thin nephew anymore..

  10. Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    It’s hard to know what course to take with this sort of thing. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I think it was handled fine.

  11. I don’t have anything witty or profound to add right now (what? I’m not caffeinated yet!), so I’ll just point to all the comments above mine and say ‘What they said, dude.’

    You take the bullet for us every day of the week. It’s okay if you have a few random moments where you feel like ducking.

  12. So what you’re saying is that you’re not perfect, or prescient? Welcome to the human race – none of us are! Cut yourself a break!

    There are days when I feel like I can slay dragons, and am absolutely fearless. Then there are days when I just wanna crawl back in bed and stay there.

    If there are days when you’ve just had enough, you’re allowed to not slay the dragon – and you’ve inspired and empowered enough of your readers that we will do the slaying, even some of us who might never have stepped up before!

    We’ve got your back. You go, girl!

    • This.

    • Yes!

  13. Sending you some love for all you do! You’ve inspired me more than I can say.

  14. You know what? I am glad to know that sometimes the criticism still gets to you. It makes me feel like I’m not so crazy after all. I kept wondering how you built up this incredible shield against anything bad, but it’s good for all of us, I think, to know that it’s not a magic force field but just good, solid emotional armor, and that even your shield can get cracked. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I sometimes forget that people I admire are not just icons there for my admiration, but living, breathing people who are not, in fact, made of pure Teflon. It’s important to know that the comments and critiques don’t just roll off your back, but actually have to be sloughed off every time because YOU CHOOSE to slough them off. It’s a hell of a reminder that every time we face criticism, our response is completely up to us. We are not victims unless we choose to be, and we are not lesser just because someone else thinks we should be. Your willingness to take the time to clean your armor at the end of the day is another form of your activism, and I thank you for it. Thank you, Ragen, for showing us how to do this with elegance, dignity, and hard work.

  15. No one can ever reach the level of doing/saying/fighting something in a way that satisfies everyone. We can only approach from our places of truth and honesty, and work from there. It’s hard and everyone that keeps doing that is a hero IMHO.

  16. I particularly appreciate that “Comments that attempt to devalue someone else’s activism for not being important enough, or not ignoring an issue or whatever – however well-meaning or intentioned – will be moderated out of this blog from here on.” I have been in this place before, I won’t give details. You and I do different kinds of work from a different perspective, and I value your work no less. It takes all kinds, activism requires all kinds.

  17. Ragan, you didn’t screw up. You created this blog which draws the most amazing force of readers and they stepped up and carried on with the activism you initiated.

  18. I also want to point out that the offending Gorgeously Green website may get paid for every hit, so if everyone goes there to blast it the ignorant author may profit from her hate-spewing.

  19. What a beautiful and humble response. And I agree wholeheartedly with the other commenters: This is your blog, and you’re in charge of its rhetorical underpants. You do amazing work, whether encouraging folks to charge forward or helping them develop the tools to do it on their own.

    I’m also crazy tired of people monitoring others’ actions and condemning them for not being X enough or doing Y in the right way. As long as we’re all fighting for size acceptance, even if it’s in contradictory ways, we’re getting the word out there and making a difference. You do this every day, and with grace and passion. Kudos.

    And someone trolled Tiffany’s blog post? What kind of monsters are they?! I must go offer random hugs now.

    • To reiterate Lesleigh’s post, this is still a matter of what is politically correct. Too many movements (for example the women’s movement) themselves up with worrying about that. It’s not productive.

  20. Ragen,

    Like many others, I’m not seeing the “mistake” in what you describe. It stands to reason that on different days, and for different reasons, you will feel more or less like “taking on the man”. And you will also (on different days and for again for different reasons) question or change how you do your activism. And that’s OK. Quite frankly, I’m super impressed by all the fighting that you DO do on a regular basis. It’s no surprise to me that some times you find yourself choosing not to “enter the fray”.

    Stay well, Ragen. We love you!

  21. You know, I had a lot of fears when I sent you that link in the first place. I was really afraid that you would ignore it or tell me that, considering the other crap you’ve seen (and I’m sure you’ve seen a lot), this isn’t so bad. Either way I thought for sure you would be too busy for this and I had serious doubts about whether or not I was making a mountain out of a mole hill.

    But you didn’t. You took the time to reply to me and you reaffirmed to me that this really was something worth looking at. That even if it was a small article on the internet, it was still a worth while chance for activism and that meant a lot to me. And then you even wrote a blog post about it and helped get the article taken down! You went above and beyond my expectations and I think you did a wonderful job. And if this experience has made you realize you want to handle things a bit differently next time, that is wonderful too. I think what you posted above shows that you are willing to listen to others while still reaffirming what feels right to you. And no one can blame you if you had wanted to protect yourself as well. You still acted and we are all moving forward because of it.

    And there is one more thing I want to share. The other day I was out for a run training for my own 5k. When a man stopped me and, after asking me what else I am doing for exercise and whether or not I am “eating to match” as he put it, he asked me what my goal was. And I immediately responded that my goal is to get 7,000 steps per day which did not seem to be the answer he was expecting. (In the end he said I was going to be just fine. Ummmm… thank you?)

    Anyway, do you know why I have a goal of gradually incorporating movement I enjoy into my life rather than the weight loss goal he was clearly expecting? You! That was totally you. You gave me the confidence not to let his questions phase me and it was you that helped me to realize what my true goals needed to be. I still have a long way to go before I can truly say I accept myself just as I am but you have blazed a trail and I finally know what direction to go in.

    So thank you Ragen. For everything. Thank you so so much.

  22. I just read your blog. I never read the feedback. I think your blog is great, and that’s all the matters to me right now. Have an awesome day.

  23. Everyone has days like these, Ragen. I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t already been said, but I do have a song that helps a bit when the world becomes overwhelming. http://youtu.be/OzqYA3oZEz0

    • That’s a cool track. Being English, I have a fairly quirky repertoire of inspirational tracks… like this.

  24. Ragen, you were in a tough position. Dealing with the viciousness of the Internet on a daily basis is not easy. That said, thank you for mentioning the Abercrombie & Fitch bigotry, which transcends body hatred and veers straight into sexist and racist territory. I read about it on another site and thanks to you guys mentioning it, I will be sure never to walk into another one of their stores. Fortunately, their clothes are not my taste, so I haven’t wasted money on them.

  25. Don’t see what you’ve done wrong either only what good you have/are doing! You gave us the info and didn’t see it as giving free ad space for a douchy company but let me know how douchy they actually are and refuse to ever buy someone a gift card from there ever again. Thanks for all you do!!

  26. Hi Ragen,
    I want to tell you how important you and your blog posts are to me. They illuminate, they educate, they emancipate and they create a way to dialogue and to find a way through the murky waters of bigotry.
    You are a beacon. I would not have known about that article if it had not been for your research. I would not have been a part of a very fruitful discussion from women whom I admire greatly, that posted on this blog. Thank you for being you, for being who you are and for doing what you do. And Brave- oh, Ragen, you are very, very brave. Please don’t ever doubt that. Thank you for all you do.

  27. My darling blog wife,
    I find you to be far braver than you give yourself credit for. Fear not though! Even if what has transpired were something to apologize for, we would gladly forgive you. As it stands, I see no reason for apologies. (Translation: You haven’t done anything wrong, and even if you did we would love you anyway.)
    Keep rockin’ our socks off, you amazing and beautiful woman!

  28. I’m surprised that anyone living in our current age of powerful social media doesn’t realize that nowadays when you call a company out in a forum on the Internet, you’re less likely to be giving them “free advertising” than creating a negative awareness of their brand that may go viral and affect their reputation and bottom line in such a way that they could be forced to apologize, rethink their attitudes and/or change their behavior

  29. De-lurking here… No worries! You gave enough info in your article that I was easily able to Google tid-bits and found her site. 🙂 Thanks for everything you do!

  30. Never let anyone make you feel bad about “You’re just giving them free publicity/attention/views!!1!!1!” (Conversely, no one should feel bad about NOT addressing something, like you mentioned, but since the former was the topic at hand…) Silence and neutrality benefit the oprresors, never the oppressed. It’s similar to the advice “if you ignore the bullies, they’ll stop.” But we know they won’t stop. We know that these views persist and are perpetuated whether we talk about them or not. And actually, since they’re the status quo, not talking about them means they’ll definitely stick around. I’m all for calling companies/people out, every time, drawing attention to it (again, if you’ve got the spoons for it), just in case it’s the time someone new says Enough is Enough.

  31. “I was told that I shouldn’t have talked about it and given them “free advertising” that I should have ignored it.”

    I’m sorry you are subjected to that. It’s such a silencing tactic designed to benefit the bully. It’s always the marginalized who are told to “ignore”, “get over” and “don’t be so sensitive”, when the problem is that they’re not sensitive enough! And it’s a willful lack of empathy. What is the alternative?—To let the bullies continue to drive the narrative and spew their hate-filled rhetoric without challenge? No. Thank you for speaking out and for challenging such garbage.

  32. I absolutely agree that the issue should not be ignored.I do think that man’s words need to be challenged. Here is what I said about it on FB and why I think it is very important we discuss what that man said:

    Here is my issue with all of this and his words: every time there is a headline about a teen who decided suicide was the answer due to bullying, adults all wring their hands, shake their heads and shrug their shoulders and ask “What is wrong with these kids?” Then some “expert” takes the news and talk shows to discuss what is wrong with our teens that make them such bullies. And teens are sent to anti-bullying assemblies to be told why they shouldn’t bully. See where I’m going with this?

    We blame kids and tell them not to bully but it is the adults that are leading the way!! How do we expect anything better from our kids when it is the adults sending the message that it is ok to discriminate, and judge people based on appearance? This man is a bully, plain and simple. As long as adults engage in this behavior, we can’t expect kids not to. And the next time there is some headline about bullies or a kid driven to suicide by bullies I hope people will remember the words of this asshat because he is basically saying that some people are better than others and more worthy, all based on looks and that it is ok to shit on those who don’t fit in.

  33. Ragen, you owe us no apologies. As bosses of our own underpants, we also have to take responsibility to see — and seize as we choose — opportunities for our own activism in ways large and small.

  34. “When you can’t run, you crawl. When you can’t do that, you find somebody to carry you.” – Firefly, “The Message”

    We will always carry you. *HUGS*

    Also, the flip side of talking about the bad people is talking about the good people.

    So here is my contribution: http://msfitmag.com/

    “Ms. Fit Mag is a body-positive, LGBTQ-friendly, unapologetically feminist women’s health and fitness webzine.”

    I just found out about them, but I like their attitude.

  35. I don’t think it’s free advertising, rather it gives us an opportunity to boycott. I wouldn’t know to boycott them without the knowledge you provided. I may not fit their clothes but I did buy a lot for my teenager. That won’t happen anymore.

  36. Don’t beat yourself up. I really admire you.

    • Exactly why I decided to comment. Go easy on yourself 🙂 You are a beautiful person, I love the level of self awareness and reflection this particular blog shows. Be extra kind to yourself, you deserve it.

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