I almost didn’t post this, because it’s, well, chickenshit particularly in the face of what’s going on in the world right now, but I want people to know that you can’t be a pillar of righteous fire and fury all the time, even assuming you’ve ever been one. Sometimes you’re scared and sad and tired and you don’t know what to do with the person you wish you were but apparently aren’t anymore.
So, here we are.
You know, I’ve changed my mind.
I really don’t want to be brave.
I’ve berated myself for a long time for not being the daring writer I was a decade ago – the one who wrote about life as a fat girl, and who spouted her opinions more or less freely when blogging. I used to have SOMETHING TO SAY, I told myself, and I was willing to go to the mat for it!
Well, I’ve realized that there are actually perfectly good reasons not to do that and, I’m slowly beginning to understand, I just don’t want to. Aging may have something to do with it. I’m just not as energetic as I once was. But at heart the main reason is this:
The internet is terrible. It’s also wonderful, but nowadays the terrible can get you killed or, at the very least, leave you with psychological scars. I only have to look at my experience with Shadowflame and a few very slightly popular posts on fatness – and that was years ago, before the meteoric rise of white cishet misogynist online rage made it literally dangerous to be a woman with opinions on the internet.
I’ve been told in no uncertain terms to kill myself because fat people are “draining resources” that magically healthy thin people should get to use. I’ve been accused of “pussifying” my male characters because they didn’t adhere to heteronormative machismo ideals. (To which I reply, “…YAY!”) But those accusations were couched in such vicious speech – all of it personal, none of it really about my work, but about my body and my right to write and even exist – the silliness of it became sinister. And my experiences have been almost embarrassingly MILD.
I was recently reading a book by a body-positive activist in which she talks about some of the things that have been done to her just for speaking out and suggesting maybe, just maybe, fat people (women, anyway – I doubt she’d get anywhere near the hate if she wasn’t a woman) are human beings worthy of respect. The sheer violence of people’s hatred – talking openly about gutting her and watching her “blubber” spill over the Trader Joe’s floor because she had the nerve to buy food in front of them – made my entire body curl up on itself, and it wasn’t even about me!
Realization: I don’t want it to be about me. I do not have the strength for that. I am medicated enough to get through most average workdays, that’s about it. I do not want to be a Presence on the Internet to the degree that I become a Target on the Internet.
Of course the only way to completely avoid that is never say anything ever again, and we all know how likely that is. I just…I no longer feel confident enough in anything I have to say to stand up and let the world rip my skin off shred by shred.
Rumi wrote, “…don’t move the way fear makes you move.” I wonder how Rumi would have moved if some sick asshole hiding behind a computer had said they wanted to skin him alive and rape his “fat whale” corpse.**
I’m pretty vocal on Twitter as far as politics goes, but my following is pretty small and I only get the occasional nutter spouting bumpersticker rhetoric in a tweet-by then disappearing. As much as I want to feel like a successful author and feel like I have a voice, I’m just too afraid of the consequences anymore. The world has grown so loud and so hateful so fast, it seems (I am aware of the privilege involved in being sheltered from it so long), my
emotional fortitude medication just can’t keep up.
But these are days that demand lifted voices. We cannot be silent when lives are at stake – as is the soul of our society and the hope that one day it could be the dream some of us were lucky enough to think was real all along. These are not days to be scared of empty, sick little men barking just to be heard. Letting those idiotic little shits silence us means they win – and worse than some ideological battle, on the larger scale it means actual humans suffer, families are broken, people die, and things continue to degrade until it is too late to save that dream.
I have a voice, and I have talent, and a few people still listen to me when I talk. I would consider my life truly wasted if I didn’t use those things to try. But just as creative malaise has taken over my fiction – I haven’t had a new story idea literally in years – a kind of moral cowardice has overtaken the rest of me. I can be brave in 280 character increments and even most of those are retweeted from cleverer minds. When it comes to the world we’re in, to the constant barrage of misery and anger that never, EVER seems to let up (I saw a tweet in fact that said the best platform to run for POTUS on in 2020 would be “You will forget I exist for days at a time!”), I don’t know what to say or how to say it.
So week in and week out my blog sits silent. I parrot the Tweets of other people most of the time. My barely-started eighth novel stays barely started. I stare at blank screens where all sorts of status-quo-terrifying relationships could be blooming.
In a time when a viral post can bring rapists to your door, death threats to your family, or even just bile spewed hot and disgusting all over your online presence, I just keep asking myself:
Is there a story left to tell that’s worth my sanity? Is there a blog post important enough to be worth the hatred that’s just the cost of doing business as a woman online?
What words are worth my life?
** – Said to me in an email from a self-declared “fan” regarding my second novel. Apparently hot boy on boy action triggers some men’s “fuck a dead fat girl” fetish?Become my patron for exclusive online content and read new stories before anyone else!