The troll translator

Let’s face facts – I am never going to win any popularity contests. And I have made my peace with that. But over the last few months, I have had a lot of interactions with trolls, and I have gotten quite good at translating troll speech. In the short time that I’ve been speaking out against weight stigma, I have already created a fairly impressive list of enemies. I frequently get told where I can shove my opinions (hint: somewhere the sun never shines), and several people are apparently looking forward to the day I “develop diabetes and die”.

Getting to know the troll

Oh well, popularity is over-rated anyway. I’d rather get sh*t done. And according to one famous British woman:

You have to make more noise than anybody else, you have to make yourself more obtrusive than anybody else, you have to fill all the papers more than anybody else, in fact you have to be there all the time and see that they do not show you under, if you are really going to get your reform realised.

Emmeline Pankhurst

My sister sent me this quote the other week and I have been sitting with it for a while. I am aware of some of the the issues within the suffrage movement. It was classist and to a degree racist (although I understand that this was much more the case in the USA than it was in Britain). Sufficr it to say, the suffragettes were by no means perfect, but they did get sh*t done. I’m not trying to whitewash the history, but I think we can be flawed and still achieve great things at the same time (at least I hope we can otherwise I might as well quit now!)

Photo by Grianghraf

I love what Emmeline Pankurst said about being loud and obtrusive. That woman had an impressive list of enemies and she was trolled too. I am still in the getting-to-know-you stage when it comes to my trolls. I am trying to figure out what makes them tick and why they act the way they do. And this is what I have figured out so far.

Putting trolls into context

Before we can begin to translate troll speech, we need to put things into context. In my opinion today’s society is all about the currency of thinness and the church of healthism.

The currency of thinness

Being thin pays out! If you think about it, being thin equals cheaper insurance, more likes and follows on social media, and better job prospects. For the longest time, I was desperate for a thin body because I believed it would grant me access to certain areas of life that I was currently being excluded from. I no longer believe this. I know it. Once you read the evidence there is no denying that being thin will buy you better health, more power and a better quality of life.

The currency of thinness buys you happiness, acceptance and influence. And guess what folks? Some of us fat activists have had enough with the status quo and are trying to level the playing field. Unsurprisingly we are being met with resistance.

Thinness Sells

The diet and weight loss industry is thought to be have an annual turnover of $72 million. Everywhere you turn, people are trying to sell you thinness. From the muscle clad “nutrition experts” who sell you their own brand of vitamin supplements, to the lipidologists and bariatric surgeons who just can’t wait to give you the thinner body you have always desired (for a modest fee, terms and conditions apply).

Photo by Huha Inc. 

Anyone can set themselves up as a health and wellbeing expert on social media nowadays, and many of them make a hefty sum of money doing it. As long as they look the part. Because no one wants to take health and lifestyle advice from a fat person.

The church of healthism

It goes beyond body image though. For the last 40 years or so, thinness has been equated with health. Which is ironic, because a hundred years ago, being thin was associated with poor health. Why? Because a hundred years ago, we were most likely to die of malnutrition or infectious diseases like Tuberculosis and Cholera. Back then, health insurance companies offered lower premiums to fat folk. Can you imagine?

But as time went by, fashions changed and people started to associate fatness with greed and laziness. The Christian church had a big role to play in this. That, and a hefty dose of racism. Fat folk became the enemy and thus the weight loss industry was born.

Unsurprisingly scientists allowed their conscious and unconscious bias to bleed in to their medical research and began looking for proof that fat was bad for your health.

By the turn of the 21st Century, the medical research industry had convinced themselves and the world around them that fat was as unhealthy as it gets. And any evidence that suggested otherwise was branded a “paradox”. So began the medicalisation of fatness

The origins of the church

It’s from these humble beginnings that the church of healthism was born. Let’s face it, many of us have grown tired of organised religion. We don’t like the rules and restrictions and we’d rather have a lie-in on the weekend. But we all need something to believe in, because that’s human nature. So we’ve traded priests for fitness instructors and swamis for white yoga instructors. Just look at the number of individuals who label themselves as health or weight loss “gurus”. A guru is a hindu religious teacher.

Photo by Deva Darshan 

When I first appeared on This Morning, a well known fitness professional decided to take a swing at me on Instagram. I had never heard of this guy and aside from the fact that he superimposed a picture of me on his sweaty groin (which I continue to take umbrage with) I have no issues with him. He likes to post pictures of himself squatting an awful lot, which is weird to me, but whatever. What I couldn’t understand is why he had such a strong reaction to me in the first place?

He had no idea who I was but he called me a moron. He went on to lecture people about Type 2 Diabetes like he’s some kind of expert. Which he’s not, by the way, and he’s also talking nonsense. Then there was the whole “behind smoking, ob*sity is the highest modifiable risk for developing cancer in the UK”. “Highest” is a very vague word, don’t you think? As for the rest, take a look for yourself. Look at what happens when you disagree with a person’s religion…

Religious zealouts

Now look, I’m not going to bother to respond to this crap, because I don’t need to. I know what I know. I’ve provided the evidence in last week’s post to support what I said. And I don’t need to point out the ways he managed to shame and offend fat people, disabled people and people with mental health problems all in one go. He’s an idiot. An unqualified idiot.

But the question remains, why did he pick on me? I’m nobody. I did a 10 minute segment on a daytime TV show that wouldn’t have got half the notoriety that I did had he not mentioned me on Instagram. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the publicity. I mean, the man essentially launched my success on social media so I guess I owe him one. But for the longest time it didn’t make sense. Until one day I had a lightbulb moment.

You see, people like James Smith are renowned leaders of the church of healthism. And I’m essentially disagreeing with their dogma. What happens everytime someone stands up against the church? Well you don’t need me to tell you that. You’ve seen it plenty of times.

The types of trolls I’ve come across so far

Now that we’ve put the trolls into context, it’s time to take a look at the different types and how they tend to present themselves. I’ve done a bit of my own personal research and come up with a list of common ones. I know that there have been books written on the subject, so if you want to learn actual facts from a qualified psychologist, then you’re kind of on the wrong place. Also, free to add your own thoughts to the comments box below. I’m always eager to learn more about this particular subspecies of human.

The Concerned Citizen (The Health Concern Troll)

What they say

I am concerned that your heart is going to explode any second now because you’ve eaten one too many burgers. I’m just looking out for your health. Perhaps you haven’t found the right diet yet or perhaps you are just angry and bitter and deluded into thinking that you are healthy even though you clearly aren’t

What they mean

I am not actually concerned about your health, but I am concerned that you are fat but don’t seem to want to do anything about it. I am not actually looking out for you, I’m looking out for me and my church. There’s no way that you can be content in your fatness, so there must be something wrong with you.

What I say

Let’s face it, health concern trolls are simply interested in converting us fat folk to their religion. They are the evangelist of the church of healthism. They go from town to town (or social media account to social media account) spreading the gospel of #fitspos and #gymbros in the hope of converting as many as possible. In some cases, they try to sell you something at the same time. Guess what? I’m not buying.

Photo by NATHAN MULLET 

Think of the children (The Stop Glorifying Ob*sity Troll)

What they say

I respect your beliefs and I agree that you have the right to be fat and happy, but I also think what you’re doing is wrong. You’re glorifying ob*sity and endangering other people in the process. Think of all those vulnerable fat people out there who might believe you when you say that they are good enough just as they are, and stop trying to lose weight themselves. I just care about their well being and am looking out for the health of the nation.

What they mean

I definitely do not respect you. Nor do I believe in your right to be fat and happy, because that goes against everything my church has ever taught me. I know it is not possible to actually “glorify” ob*sity but I chose that word specifically because I believe that all glory belongs to the god of thinness.

I am worried that other people might follow in your footsteps and then before you know it there will be fat people everywhere going about their lives as if they have nothing to be ashamed of. It’s my job to ensure that never happens.

What I say

This person reminds me of all those people you see picketing Gay Pride Parades or abortion clinics. They’ve got their signs and their chants, and in my mind they all resemble Maude Flanders clutching her pearls and swooning whilst they cry out “think of the children”!

The devils advocate

What they say

Hi! You don’t know me but I saw your recent blog post/video/podcast and I’m not sure I agree with everything you are saying. Don’t you think that [insert opinion]? Please explain.

What they mean

Hi! You don’t know me but I’ve read/listened to/watched you for all of 5 minutes, and don’t agree with what you had to say. Even though these issues do not relate to me personally, nor am I an expert in any way, I expect you to take the time and energy to educate me. I am not actually interested in learning from you, but I’d like the opportunity to prove you wrong because I enjoy being right and I’m looking for an ego boost.

What I say

Nine times out of ten, this individual is a privileged a***hole who is used to getting whatever they want. They are rarely told no, probably because nine times out of ten they are thin, white, male and well-off. They enjoy playing devil’s advocate for a number of reasons. Maybe they are bored and in need of some light entertainment. Maybe they enjoy humiliating or shaming others so that they can feel better about themselves. They are almost certainly spoiling for a fight, and they have no interest in learning. Only winning.

Photo by Giorgio Trovato 

The privileged troll

What they say

Fat people are a burden on the system. They cost a fortune in healthcare and disability benefits. Why should I have to pay for someone else’s treatment just because they choose not to look after themselves properly?

What they mean

I am privileged abut unwilling to acknowledge or accept this. I believe that fat people only exist because they are lazy and greedy and lack self control. Clearly I am not interested in demonstrating compassion or empathy. If I were in their shoes I would be doing a much better job of taking care of my own body than they are. Ideally, I want to live in a world where fat people don’t exist, which is why I don’t like the idea of paying for their healthcare.

What I say

In Canada, doctors no longer diagnose ob*sity by getting you to step on the weighing scale. Doctors are discouraged from using BMI alone when it comes to diagnosing their patients. In fact, patients are only diagnosed as ob*se if their body weight affects their physical health or mental wellbeing. Dr. Arya Sharma, professor of medicine at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, who co-wrote the guidelines says

“This is a huge departure from this notion that you can step on a scale and diagnose ob*sity. This has nothing to do with size or shape or anything else. It’s simply the question, is your body fat impairing your health?”

Dr Arya Sharma

So to all those privileged fat shamers out there who believe that they know best about the healthcare system, there are people out there who are so much smarter and more knowledgeable than you who respectfully disagree.

The passive aggressive know-it-all

What they say

I agree with what you are saying but I think you’ll find [insert a bunch of fancy words here]. I suggest you take a look at [insert names of author(s) and/or book(s)].

What they mean

I hear what you’re saying but I also think I know better than you. Whilst I kind of respect your opinion, mine is better, hence this show of passive aggression whilst I try and exert my dominance over you.

What I say

There are times when someone says or writes something that is completely false or misleading. On these occasions, I understand why individuals would want to speak up and challenge the speaker/author. There are also times when someone causes offence, and people understandably wish to hold that person accountable for their actions. But when a person is expressing a personal opinion that is neither misleading or offensive, then people would do well to keep their opinions to themselves. We are all human beings who are learning and developing. None of us know everything about everything, and we should be free to learn and grow in our time.

Photo by Arno Smit
Respect my home

My social media accounts are my home. I’ve made them public which means I have opened my home up to the world. You’re welcome to come in and I’m not going to complain about the muddy footprints you leave on the carpet or the occasional glass that gets knocked over. But I still expect a certain degree of respect and politeness from everyone. You don’t like the artwork that I have hung up on the walls or the colour I have painted the bathroom? Well keep that to yourself. No one is asking you to stick around.

As far as I am concerned, anyone who steps in to my home and comments on the decor is nothing but an arrogant self-serving a***hole and deserves to be ejected immediately. It’s my home and I’m opening the doors, which means I get to decide who stays and goes. If you want to stick around, then mind your manners.

The fragile male ego

What they say

How dare you bring gender/race/sex/sexual orientation/body size in to the equation? Not all men are sexist. I don’t see colour. All lives matter. Thin shaming is the same as fat shaming. Slim people experience anti-fat bias too.

What they mean

I am not used to being excluded from the conversation or having my privilege count against me. I will not stand for this because I am not capable to decentering myself from a conversation and giving up my position of power for even a microsecond. Wah wah wah .

What I say

I am not going to waste one more breath addressing this particular type of troll.

Tone policing and toxic positivity

What they say

Don’t stoop to their level. Two wrongs don’t make a right. You are just as bad as they are. It’s a shame because you have the potential to do so much with your platform, but instead you’re just a bitter angry woman who makes everyone feel uncomfortable every time you criticise someone else.

What they mean

I have never really experienced bullying or abuse myself, and I am incapable of empathising with you. I also am unaware of how empowering it is for other victims of bullying and abuse to watch someone stand up for themselves. Although I want to agree with you in principle, in reality that only works when you do things the way I want you to do them. I don’t actually think that all people are equal and therefore don’t like it when you step outside the box that I have placed you in.

What I say

We all have the right to stand up to bullies or hold someone accountable for the abuse they have thrown our way. Two wrongs may not make a right, but why is it my job to make things right in the first place? Especially when I am the victim and someone else is the perpetrator. Why aren’t you having a go at them instead? Yes, I’m angry. I’m furious in fact. If you don’t like it, then you’re free to leave anytime. And since this isn’t an airport, there is no need to announce your departure.

The gaslighter

What they say

You say you stand for [insert anything here] but then you do [insert the opposite here]. You’re a bully/fraud/phony/liar/manipulator. I’m right and you’re wrong. [insert smug emoji]

What they mean

I’m threatened by you so I’m now going to employ one of the oldest tricks in the abusers playbook. Not only will I be able to discredit you, but I also get a sick sense of satisfaction out of it because I am an abuser. I enjoy abusing people.

What I say

I once called a well known fitness professional “gross”. I stand by that initial statement. In my opinion he is one of the grossest individuals that I have come across on social media. I personally think he is smarmy, arrogant, self-centred and abusive. He uses his qualifications to sell “nutritional supplements” and weight loss apps. He preys on people by making them feel bad about their bodies. From what I can tell, he uses his own physical appearance to sell his product. He represents pretty much everything I hate about the weight loss industry. This has nothing to do with what he looks like, and everything to do with how he behaves in public.

But the moment he saw my comment, he used it against me. He claimed that I was body shaming him which made me the bully and the fraud. And for a moment there, he had me doubting myself because I was raised by a narcissist so gaslighting is a real trigger for me.

But then I thought to myself, f**k this guy. He is gross. I wasn’t trying to body shame him, I was trying to make it clear that I detested everything he represents and was annoyed that he somehow managed to weasel his way in to the comment section of my Instagram account.

The thing is, I know who I am. I do not particularly like straight sized heterosexual cis white men, but I would never abuse them or bully them. Because I am not a bully. I’m tough, I’m assertive and I am flawed, and that is nothing to be ashamed of. I may make mistakes but I own up to them.

Sure I have some issues that I need to work through, and I’m not sure I am ever going to trust men that look like this guy. And yes, that is prejudice and I own up to that. But that doesn’t make me a bully or an oppressor. It makes me a victim who is responding to a bully in whatever way she needs to.

The psychopath

What he said

Hey doc, were those chocolate covered paracetamol and that’s why you swallowed the whole pack? News flash: we’ve all tried to kill ourselves. Nobody gives a f**k.

What he means

I am a psychopath.

Trolls and their microaggressions

Microaggressions are those subtle insults that we fat folk experience on a regular basis. They may be unintentional or even well-intentioned but they are steeped in anti-fat bias and serve to further stigmatise us. Examples of anti-fat microaggressions include…

Wow, you’re really strong/you run fast/you’re very flexible

Translation: I don’t believe that fat people can be strong, fast or flexible. I believe that people are fat because they don’t exercise properly and I feel comfortable admitting this by pointing out that you are “different to all the others”.

You don’t look fat

Translation: Ultimately I believe that fatness is about aesthetics. I don’t want you to feel othered so I’m telling you that you’re not one of them. You’re one of us. Believe it or not, I genuinely believe I am paying you a compliment.

I can’t believe you are healthier than me!

Translation: I don’t believe that you can be fat and fit. There is no such thing as health at any size. I am thinner than you and therefore can not accept that you are healthier than me.

You carry your weight well.

Translation: Whilst I recognise that you are fat, I think you are the good kind of fat. The kind that passes for thin. Ultimately, this is the only tolerable type of fat. People who don’t “carry their weight well” are the bad kind of fat.

You’re so beautiful, if only you could lose a few pounds

Translation: Fat people cannot be beautiful. I like some of your features, but you will never be beautiful until you lose weight and fit into society’s beauty standards. Yes I am fat shaming you, but by telling you that you are beautiful, I believe that this absolves me of any wrongdoing.

Have you tried [insert diet or exercise program]

Translation: You are fat because you eat too much and do not exercise enough. You need to try harder. I am a member of the church of healthism. It is my duty to spread the gospel and I genuinely believe that I can do this without checking in with you first. In fact, I believe it is my god given right to make you sit there and listen.

You run? Good for you!

Translation: I cannot believe a fat person exercises! I am genuinely impressed, and I don’t care that I am showing how ignorant and biased I am. This is perfectly acceptable behaviour. In fact, I believe that I am doing you a favour by praising you.

You look fine but you would look better if you dressed for your size

Translation: Fat people make me uncomfortable and I would therefore appreciate it if you could cover yourselves up. I also don’t believe that fat people are entitled to wear the same clothes as thin people, so please stop.

We all experience fatphobia because of the world we live in

Translation: I am not happy when I am not the centre of the conversation. I am not really interested in learning about your experiences as a fat person who is stigmatised on a daily basis. I’d rather talk about my own negative experiences and find a way to link mine to yours. I prefer to see the world through one lense – my own.

Putting trolls in their place

I’m only just beginning to figured out how to handle trolls because I am fairly new to social media. Here’s one thing I do know, I’m not prepared to just put up with them and accept that they are par for the course. To start with I have modified the comments section of my Instagram page so that you have to follow me before you can add your two cents.

If I believe that you are trolling me or any of my followers, I will delete your comment and either mute you or block you completely. It is up to me to decide which one, since this is my home.

If you send me an abusive message, I will screenshot it and publish it on my social media accounts whenever and however I want to.

I am the kind of person who stands up to bullies, and like the US government in every single action movie I have ever watched, I do not negotiate with terrorists. That being said, I am new to this and I do appreciate it when seasoned professionals drop their words of wisdom in to my lap. Especially if it is done so with love and care.

So if you have some advice to share or you can think of a type of troll that I have forgotten to include in my post today, then why not drop a comment in the box below? As always, you can subscribe to my website and never miss another blog post again.

1 thought on “The troll translator”

  1. Absolutely brilliant and accurate translation of the trolls and the fat-shamers with their micro-aggressions. Thank you for this. It clarified and expressed things I had been feeling for a long time. I love it!

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