I have a folder in my email inbox called “Creeps on the Internet”. That’s where I stash emails and screenshots of private messages from strangers on the internet who want me to give them my full attention.
Maybe read the rest of this post with Criminal by Fiona Apple playing in the background because it feels so right.
I’ve been a bad, bad girl
I’ve been careless
With a delicate man
And it’s a sad, sad world
When a girl will break a boy
Just because she can.
When I first started XOXO, Lib I was so excited about finally having a space that was mine all mine on the internet where I can be who I want to be and say the things I want to say and be my free, true, and authentic self without reservation. And it’s become that place for me for sure. I’ve met so many cool people. I love the community that’s growing in the Facebook group and on Instagram. I love us. A lot.
And things are growing so rapidly and with such gusto–I’m so excited. I can actually see ways that dreams that I’ve had for this platform aren’t pipe dreams. I’m seeing it all come together and when I think about it, I get so excited. Right now, just telling you about it is feeding my spirit in a way that I haven’t felt in a few days.
With a growing platform and more and more readers, it’s natural to get a few creeps thrown in the mix. Especially when you’re talking about fattness, fat fetishism is so real my friends. I’m not mad that the fetish exists. I’m just mad that another person’s fetish turns into a non-consensual situation that I have to find a way to navigate.
I get an occasional dude in my Instagram Direct Messages saying, “Hi.” On my very best days I’m like, “what a lazy dude.” I mean, honestly, why don’t you just come right out and say, “I’d like to have a conversation with you but I’d also like you to do all the labor of starting it and carrying the weight of it all on your own.” Now, these aren’t so bad. Because as loaded as these messages are, they’re super easy to ignore. I just take a screenshot and then block these people and move on wth my day (after I get a collection of “hi” messages I like to post them in my stories to show off how repetitive and unoriginal men on the internet can be).
But then sometimes I get messages from other types of people who want to build a monument to me and hope that I’ll never change my body ever. A lot of times I try to just ignore these messages, too but sometime I just can’t. I gotta know what’s going on in this person’s head. And ten times out of ten, these people haven’t even looked at my profile or my blog or anything. They don’t know who I am at all even! After I reply, they try to strike up a conversation by asking what my name is or where I’m from. Both of those pieces of information are available on whatever platform they used to find me. Which means that they aren’t even remotely interested in me as a person–they’re interested in cruising through a body positive hashtag and then just messaging people indiscriminately. They’re not interested in me, they’re interested in my fattness. They’re not interested in me, they’re interested in what I can do for them. They either want naked pictures or my bank account information. Every. Single. Time.
Last week, a stranger in my Instagram DM’s kept asking me where I was from and I refused to answer him with anything other than, “that information is easily available in my Instagram bio, have you looked at it?” He kept saying, “Of course I looked at your bio I want to love you. So, where are you from?”
The problem, for me, isn’t that I’m frustrated that people are talking to me on the internet. I love talking to people on the internet. Making connections with new people on Instagram is not only one of my favorite joys but it’s also my business. It’s my job. And these people aren’t messaging me on my personal page on my personal time (that one is set to private). They’re messaging me on my business account. And time is money.
Last night, after getting an old fashioned email (yeah, we’re at a stage where email is old-fashioned) from a man named either Douglas or Steve (inconclusive) who wanted to tell me how much he likes/ supports/ is a fan of me and other people like me (note the lack of specifics), I couldn’t take it any more.
[Image description: screenshot of an email from an account belonging to a person called Douglas Winters. The email reads, “Hi. I am a fan and supporter of your blog.
Your blog for plus women is great and it is very nice.I am a fan and supporter of plus women.I have a big appreciation for big women.I am a fan of the plus industry too.I am a big supporter of size equality.Plus models and plus women’s are great.All women should embrace their body and not be concerned to feel that they have to be skinny to fit in with society.I love how plus models and plus women feel confident about them sleeves without having to be skinngy.I am a big fan of plus size women and plus models.I have always supported them too.Plus women and plus models are great.Is it okay to email you and hope it is okay.I am a fan of you and I would really like to keep in touch with you.I want to email you because I am a fan of you and I support plus women too.Hope to hear from you and have a nice day.
I know as a one-off this email doesn’t seem like much. But imagine that this is the 4th one you’ve received that day and the dozenth you’ve received this week and it’s only frickin’ Tuesday. I sat on the couch with Ryan and I cried a lot. I mostly cried for all the people out there who have it worse than me. I cried for my whole life of being seen as my body before anything else. I cried for the world that gave men this power to (I’m going to quote my friend Courtney here), “just stomp around this planet thinking they can do and say and have whatever they want.” While women are forced into shoes that are created to make us literally tiptoe around the whole world. I cried for the way that these men are allowed to come into my home, into my place of business and ask for my attention for no reason other than the fact that they don’t hate that I’m fat.
I sat there racking my brain trying to figure out how in the hell I can take my power back in situations like these and I came up with an idea. If these people are going to come into my space, into my business and demand my time, I’m going to charge them the same rate–no, higher than I charge everyone else who wants my business on my work time.
So I wrote Douglas/ Steve back and I told him that he’s speaking to me on my business account and I’m sure that he can appreciate that time is money when I’m on the clock. And if he’s looking for my time, it’s going to cost him. So I linked my PayPal account and told him my rates. I’m in charge of this interaction. If he pays me, I’ll tell him about why interactions like these are unwelcome and make me feel unsafe but I don’t have the energy to do the work for all of these men for free.
So here we are. I’ve saved that email into my notes app on my phone and I’ll, from here on out, just copy and paste it to every single man on the internet who wants my time and attention for free.
I haven’t really re-read this post or edited it. I’m just free-writing so I can sort out my thoughts. This isn’t the best/ most eloquent thing I’ve ever written, I just needed to get it out of me so that this bad, objectified feeling doesn’t live inside of me.
Thank you for listening.
I know there are a lot of points of nuance that I haven’t covered. If you’re interested in a conversation about this topic, don’t worry, I probably won’t charge you for it. *wink*
And as always, if you feel the need to come in here and #notallmen me, please know that you’re a part of the problem. Men who know that they aren’t guilty of the behavior that I’m describing and are confident in themselves don’t need my validation which is what this all comes down to, honestly.