The trolls are here! Rejoice!
[This post was originally an email to folks on our mailing list. Join us and make sure our emails are going to your inbox!]
We’ve truly reached a new milestone in Fat Torah history: the arrival of the trolls. Sure, we’ve had one or two comments or private messages on social media in response to a post or an email. But we recently got a little flood of trolling on a lovely piece that Kathryn Post of Religion News Service wrote about our work in the context of other religious fat liberationists.
What did they say?
The comments themselves ran the expected gamut from classic, blunt statements like, “There is never a reason to celebrate being overweight,” to detailed, ever-so-well-meaning “concern trolling.” These are the folks who assure us they are not being judgmental at all, they are just worried that we are encouraging people to “ignore health warnings about what they eat.” Believe me, no fat person is unaware of other people’s ideas about what we should eat, and this “input” usually comes from folks who themselves are completely ignorant of what we actually do eat. As a bonus, we even got one comment from someone who did lots of LOL-ing and saying “Actually, this is pretty sad,” all while letting us know that they themselves are fat. Did they think we had some kind of minimum weight at which it was OK to laugh at our work?
Why mark, let alone celebrate, such a milestone?
Because I truly believe that it demonstrates exciting growth in our impact. Maybe you’ve heard this quote before, often attributed to Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Turns out, Gandhi never actually said this.
But in 1918, in a speech to union workers, Nicholas Klein, an advocate for the American labor movement laid out this trajectory for successful change-making: “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and…then they build monuments to you…. And I say, courage to the strikers, and courage to the delegates, because great times are coming…!”
Have you also been subject to harmful comments recently?
Either from advocating for body liberation or simply from living in the body you live in? I’m mindful that it’s not only here at Fat Torah that we are being trolled. This time of year can be especially challenging. We are bracing for the upcoming onslaught of post-holiday diet talk. And lots of folks have family and friends who like to express concern about fatness, praise thinness, or just generally act in ways around food and bodies that are not what you need right now.
It is never pleasant to be ridiculed or criticized publicly. Personally, online comments push all my little buttons from a lifetime of different forms of ridicule and criticism of my body. And yes, I do have fears about how much of this we at Fat Torah will have to deal with moving forward. Some fat activists have even had this kind of harm escalate as online harassers have doxxed them, publishing their address or other personal information online. I am not making light of the potential violence that starts off as relatively mild comments on a social media post.
At the same time, the arrival of the trolls really does indicate that we are making too big of an impact to be ignored any longer.
So let the ridicule come and let it go. Set good boundaries where you can and give yourself whatever you need to heal from any yuckiness that gets through.
I say courage to you, courage to all of us, because great times are coming.
With blessings of abundant bravery,
Rabbi Minna Bromberg, PhD
p.s. Want more?
Here’s the lovely article that launched the trolling. Please do share it! Note that a lot of the comments seem to have been deleted, but of course, we’ve got screenshots. Note also that refraining from reading such comments can be an important way of taking care of ourselves.
Looking for more fat-liberatory support in these challenging times? Hoping to bring a Fat Torah workshop to your community? We’re currently scheduling both one-on-one mentoring/supervision and workshops for 2022. Be in touch!