When I was a kid, I got in trouble quite frequently. I was highly outspoken, realizing early on that I didn’t have to listen to what others told me to do, that I could form my own thoughts and make my own decisions on how to behave – which usually pissed off the authorities in my life and led me to spend many hours in time-out.
As an act of adorable five year-old defiance, I once took a pencil (I wasn’t quite rebellious enough for a pen, I pushed the limits, I didn’t leap over them) and wrote “you hat me” all over the hallways between my bedroom prison and the living room freedom, where my brother and sister were currently playing Nintendo.
When I took up too much space, I was sent away to occupy another, always smaller space, whether it be a corner time-out or a trip to the principle’s office. Leaving my bedroom internment to write “you hat me” on the wall wasn’t just a pouty act, it was a defiant one, my way to reclaim the space I was told I wasn’t allowed to occupy.
My parents were so amused by my rebellion, they kept my misspelled political statement up until we moved out of that house four years later, teaching me early on that pushing boundaries can be a moment for us all to laugh and learn (how to properly spell “hate” being just the beginning). These days, my family and some select friends use “you hat me” when we’re joking about someone disliking us or feeling particularly pouty about a situation.
Last night, I wanted to write “you hat me” on the walls of the Internet.
A site, which I will not name or link to because I don’t want to give them any more hits, posted a photo of me and a group of friends sporting our cleavage in a “titcircle” (their amazing new term that I’m totally appropriating) as an example of how unprofessional the women who attend BlogHer act.
My first reaction to this was to joke “FINALLY, my cleavage is getting the attention it deserves!” Followed by “You know you’ve made it as a sex blogger when you have a whole thread dedicated to your boobs!” I embraced it as a sign of having done something right to garner a reaction from trolls like this.
That phase was fun while it lasted, but then I (not so wisely) read the comments:
“When I started to read this post, I was thinking that if I were the woman in polka dots, I’d be so mortified to see how misshapen my boobs appeared. But then in this link, she proudly outs herself. Huh!!”
“I’m slightly fascinated by the bottom lady’s square shaped breasts.”
“Her fingers and bra really divide up her chest in a weird way.”
“It’s like her head just comes out of her chest. Lovely double chins, too.”
“I am a fat woman with enormous tits (they’re hereditary), and I have cleavage in turtlenecks. You can see my boobs coming from miles off; I don’t hate them, but neither do I flaunt them. Those sad little things are fat sacs, not real boobs. Leave this to the real Tits McGees among us, who don’t have to do the titcircle for the entire world to notice them.”
“Looking at this again, clearly blogher14 should include a session on HOW TO GET A PROPER BRA FITTING. Wow.”
“Right? that picture made me shudder at all the non support.”
“Sorry, BlogHer Titcircle ladies…ya ain’t no Katy Perry’s.”
“I can feel my clit retreating inside my body with each second I gaze at that picture, and let me tell you it hurt when it collided with my gallbladder.”
“All I can think about is that disgusting boob shot.”
I am a strong, independent, self-confident, compassionate, intelligent woman, but there is still a scarred little girl inside of me that has yet to heal from all of the times I was yelled at, disciplined and degraded for being me: loud, obnoxious, outspoken, opinionated and fat.
“Show some self-control. You can have fun without … taking photos of each other touching boobs and showing cleavage.”
Sit down and be quiet. Speak only when you’re spoken to. You’re always so loud, Lauren. Shut up and listen to me.
“What the fuck is that shit? Grown ass women fondling themselves in public? Why would you want this shit photographed and how exactly do you call yourself a professional after participating in such shit?”
Cover yourself up, Lauren. No one wants to see that. Grow up, Lauren, learn some self-control. Stop touching your nipples. That is not how a lady behaves.
“I remember doing this sort of thing with my friends when I was in college, and it was stupid even when I was nineteen. With a bunch of 35+ alleged “career women,” it’s just fucking sad.”
It’s a phase. You’ll grow out of it. You’re obviously just doing this for attention.
My first reaction was to fight back, to fall for the bait, to play into their game.
“…I need to know what the fuck is professional about taking group boob shots if you aren’t in the porn industry?”
I wanted to remind them that I am, in fact, kind of in the porn industry. That is, I make a living talking about sex, sexuality, gender and gender identity, including lots of talk about porn. Somebody beat me to it, stating that I was a sex blogger, but they didn’t care.
“I didn’t think the porn industry was that juvenile.”
Which was hilarious to me considering the photo above mine on my Instagram feed was of porn producer Courtney Trouble and a group of plus-sized stars showing off their cleavage in a similar shot as mine (something I very much appreciated seeing).
They didn’t care about facts, they all came to the site to build themselves up by putting someone down, and me and my cleavage were on display, “just asking for it.”
I soon realized that my problem wasn’t with them criticizing the shot or even me, so responding to their comments wouldn’t fix why I was upset. I was upset because they were telling me to sit down, shut up and do as they tell me to do.
Here I am, a 30 year-old decently successful woman, finding myself being attacked, once again, for taking up too much space (which is really what people are saying when they call you loud or fat), this time from faceless, anonymous trolls on a site whose title asserts that the Internet is their property and that others should get off of it.
Well, here’s some news that won’t shock anyone who has ever met me: I will not sit down. I will not shut up. I will not do as you tell me to do.
I will not stop posting photos of my body on the Internet, no matter how often you shame me for doing so.
And I, most importantly, will continue to encourage other bloggers to do the same, including through my #BigDealCampaign, a movement I spoke on at BlogHer13 and created to combat situations like this, situations where women and other minorities are demeaned, put down and made to feel lesser than.
BlogHer and similar women-centric conferences are constantly berated for being “a place that women leave their children and husband behind to let loose.” Articles are consistently discussing the “unprofessional” behavior of women who do things like break into the mini-bar and *gasp* get drunk.
Men do stupid drunken shit at a conference and they’re a hilarious fourth member of the cast of The Hangover. Women get drunk and we’re “White Girl Wasted,” something to be laughed at, gawked at, ridiculed and attacked.
Mona Darling stated in a post about this same issue on her blog DeadCowGirl.com:
“I have been to a TON of male centric conventions. You know what happens there? Hookers, strippers, drugs. It’s off the fucking hook…
The next day these men show up on the conference floor with black eyes and barf breath, shove a mint in their mouth, high five each other for their antics the night before and move on with business as usual.
Yup. Business. As. Usual.”
The issue here is not whether or not we were being “professional” – professions vary and therefore descriptions of “professional” vary – it’s about the misogynistic double standard set for men and women. It’s about attempting to control women’s bodies through shaming them when they show or touch them, especially if what they show is fat.
I’m writing this response not for the people who wrote that article or the trolls who commented on it – because really, they deserve a place to write their opinions as much as I deserve a place to write my opinions – I’m writing this post for the people who read the post, or others like it, and internalized that message.
I’m writing this post to counteract the hate in that post, to encourage others to keep rocking the boat, to stop accepting the status quo, even if it means trolls attack you.
I’m writing this post because I think each and every one of you who found your voice in a world that strives to silence you is a Big Deal.
I’m writing this post because little five year-old Lauren needs to know that she can have an opinion, love her body and be herself when she grows up, without shame.