One of the the things that I believe is critical to civil rights work for marginalized groups is the creation of safe spaces. Those who disagree with us, including those who respectfully disagree, haters and trolls often insist that they have a right to speak in our spaces. Today I’d like to address some common arguments around this, and why they are so very, very wrong.
If you don’t let me comment you are infringing on my right to free speech!
I’m embarrassed for the people who make this argument, as it is patently ridiculous. The First Amendment of the Constitution states
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It does not state
Bloggers shall be required to approve your bullshit comments, and people shall be required to allow your bullshit hate all over their Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr pages.
Bloggers work hard to create our online spaces and acquire an audience and the First Amendment in no way requires us to turn that audience over to anyone who can manage to successfully submit a comment. If someone is upset that you won’t post their comment or allow them to wax poetic about how and why they hate or disagree with you on your Facebook, tell them to write their Congress person.
If you really believed in your cause you would allow open debate
In order to fight and have some respite from oppression, marginalized populations have every right to create spaces where their oppressors do not have a voice. The insistence otherwise is about further oppressing people, as well as the shock of people who are laboring under the misapprehension that they should get to say whatever they want, anytime and anywhere they want, and have just learned that’s not actually how things work.
Let’s be clear that fat civil rights activism shouldn’t be necessary. Fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies regardless of what it means to be fat, how we got fat or if we could become thin. Our rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and basic human respect are inalienable, we should not have to debate for them. The reason we have to do that is because people are taking our rights away through an inappropriate use of power and privilege, we are under no obligation to help them out.
I disagree with you and I’m fat so I should get to give my point of view.
Nope. It’s ok for spaces to be created for Size Acceptance, Health at Every Size, Weight Neutrality etc. and to moderate out anything other than those beliefs, regardless of the size of the commenter. I believe that my right to choose Health at Every Size is predicated on a bodily autonomy that means that other people are allowed to choose to diet or have their stomach amputated or whatever. That doesn’t mean that I have to celebrate those options or provide a space for them to be promoted or positively discussed. It doesn’t mean that I don’t get to have an opinion about those options that I discuss in my space. It also doesn’t mean that I won’t fight the industries that profit from selling those options. That said, I don’t go to other people’s spaces and argue about their choices, for example I would never go onto a weight loss blog and try to convince the blogger to follow HAES.
I have a right to an explanation of why you won’t post my comment/deleted my Facebook post etc.
While you might be willing to give someone an explanation, that’s your choice. There is no right to an explanation. Oppressed people get to choose how we deal with our oppression. That means that if you create a space then by an extension of the underpants rule you are the boss of that space. You get to make decisions about what’s allowed in the space, you can change your mind or make different decisions at different times and you don’t have to provide an explanation. Your rights, comforts and desires come before those of people who want to disagree with you – often much to their shock and dismay.
When you refuse to give haters, trolls, and those who disagree with you an audience, they will sometimes throw what we from the South call a big ol’ tantrum. This can take any number of forms from baiting you with the crap arguments above, to getting their chat room buddies to help spam you, to reporting your site for bullshit reasons, right on up to death threats. Why do they do this? Who knows, they seem to have plenty of justifications. I guess when you don’t have to spend time fighting for your basic civil rights you have to time act like, or actually be, a junior high school bully and then justify your behavior.
Again, oppressed people get to deal with this however we want. In my case I decided that I want this blog to be a safe space and so I moderate out anything that I think puts that in jeopardy. In the meantime I’ve created a special page to monetized my hate mail – purchases and donations from my hatemail page help me do fat activism work full time, and fund fat activism projects I’m working on, which fills me with glee. It also helps me look forward to getting hatemail in case it’s interesting enough to add to the page and help me do this work (unfortunately precious little of it makes the grade.) You get to decide how you want to deal with your haters, and whatever choices you make are fine.
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