Shining Angry People

I’m going to illustrate a situation you may or may not have been in, but it’s a situation I’m currently in after publishing a piece on xoJane about fatshion blogging, activism and brand influence. Ok. So. There might be a time (or many times) when you’ve expressed how you feel on a topic and then someone strongly disagrees with you; suddenly everything escalates into a keyboard mashing frisson. You’re frantically trying to remember and defend your key argument while responding to lightening fast rebuttal, fingers are tumbling over the keys and you’re stumbling over your phrasing, your cheeks are over heating and your hands are curiously very far away from your body, almost like they don’t even belong to you. It seems your arms are as long as giraffe necks and what’s happening down there on your input device is kilometres away from the goings on in your brain.

Is this a common thing? I’ve seen people talk about Alice in Wonderland syndrome, and while I can definitely identify with experiences people have had and the types of bodily distortions that are described in the book, I have a feeling it’s more common than a syndrome. Maybe it’s passion? Maybe it’s identification? Maybe it’s oppression?

I’ve been taught my whole life that emotional people aren’t taken seriously; being the type who cries readily, laughs loudly and forcefully projects her voice, I’ve always felt disadvantaged when it comes to confrontation. Even if my argument was solid, I’d burst into tears or raise my voice, and suddenly the argument was lost. I’m pretty sure a lot of this conditioning happened as I was growing up, because I was an anxious and emotional child and my father used to tell me I shouldn’t cry or shout during discussions or confrontations. I learnt about the tone argument so young but never knew there was a name for it until I grew up!

Of course, it’s easier for a man to say that. They’re so much more ~logical~ (I don’t believe this is true, masculinity is constructed to have logical traits) that they don’t get emotionally involved in debates. In recent years I’ve started to think that if you’re not emotionally involved in an argument, your participation is merely academic. Or to put it less kindly, get the hell out because you’re not necessary in this discussion. People who are intimate and entwined with an issue, an experience or an identity (like oh, if you’re fat!) are more than bloody entitled to cry and scream in arguments, particularly when it’s against someone who isn’t fat.

And so I think it’s understandable to be emotional in a debate. It’s unreasonable for people to dismiss emotion and say someone’s argument is unreliable because they are so deeply affected that they sob or sweat or scream. Only a person with a buttload of privilege could say that. When two people who are affected by the same thing disagree, there are bound to be strong reactions and none of it takes away from the simple fact that obviously these two people care so very much to be putting themselves on the line. Big conversations need to have that emotional investment or else they are worth nothing.

(That said, please take care everyone. Arguing can be exhausting.)


  1. I (stupidly, it seems) assumed that you might be supportive, or heck, even proud, of what’s happening with fatshion blogging.. to find out instead you just think we’re a bunch of pathetic sell-outs ….. disappointing to say the least.
    I feel as though I have lost both a hero and a friend today, and found a knife in the back where I least expected it. Yes, I’d say an emotional response is very appropriate.
    And before you say “me calling you out on privilege isn’t a knife in the back!” or some-such . just.. no. You don’t get to decide what I put in my blog, and whether or not I am political enough or not. I might not be fat enough or activist enough or political enough or brash enough for you, but my readers appreciate my blog, and I know (even if you don’t) that I’m doing some good – and so are the other Aussie Curves women.. your blatant attack on them, us, me, says a lot more about you than it does about us.

  2. Omega, I never NEVER said bloggers are “selling out”. Please do not carry on as if that’s the case. I wrote an article concerning the state of fatshion blogging and my opinion on it, how I’m worried that the influence brands have on it are unhelpful at best and damaging at worst. I absolutely resent the way that brands give bloggers nothing but smoke up the arse and a few free things, and we are expected to give them all of our platform and our audience. I will not be ok with that anymore on my blog, and I want people to think about what’s appropriate for them and how it checks in with their own politics.

    I did not write this for fun and I do not have time for malice. I think it’s cheating a lot of fat people out of justice to be happy for a couple of fat bloggers who get to turn up at fashion events, or the piddling amount of free swag or whatever else brands are trying to woo us with these days. Small wins are great but there is a world of shitty things happening and I feel rotten about settling for mainstream press coverage on lighthearted issues when we need to push for more.

    I know where my politics are and I want us to think bigger.

  3. Go ahead and hate brands if you want, resent brands if you want, but that’s your choice – your post attacks your fellow fat bloggers a lot more than it attacks brands.
    Who I choose to engage with on my blog is my choice, not yours – I will continue to engage with brands in a way that feels right for me, and you can sniff and complain all you like.. at the end of the day there is only one person who dictates my blog content, and it sure as heck isn’t you.

    Suggesting that those of us who don’t have the sort of content you’d prefer we do are “cheating a lot of fat people out of justice”?! is hyperbolic to say the least.

  4. I kiiind of agree with this, but surely discounting someone out of hand for NOT being emotionally involved is just as ludicrous as discounting someone for being highly emotionally involved. Personally I *try* to remain dispassionate even on topics I care deeply about (TRY!!!), because otherwise I find I undercut myself. Not just in the other person’s eyes, but my reasoning actually gets very messy and ineffective. I’d hate to think that would discount me from debates…

    But I definitely agree with your core point that emotional involvement and expression in argument should not disqualify one’s voice, and can even be a very positive thing.

  5. I’d just like to say that lots of people are mad, and that’s okay, I’m not. But usually when you have something worth saying it makes people mad. You’re challenging something that has become a mainstay of fashion blogging in general. You want something more than just pretty pictures of fat people in fashion – which is fine if that’s what people want to have on their website – you’ve moved into the political sphere. You want change. I get that. I think I’ve never agreed with someone more than I have with you.
    Thank you for being brave enough to say something this ‘controversial’ in the fatshion blogosphere.

  6. The amount of hurt fee-fees in the fatosphere is telling. You’re right on, Natalie. And I’m still perplexed as to how anyone can accuse you of labeling others sellouts.

  7. You know, I get it. When I started my fatshion blog, I wanted to share the joy of clothes and style with people and to make fat people more visible. I’m on the lower side of the spectrum (a UK 20-22) so I know that some brands are more accessible to me. However, like you say, I’m not someone who can easily squeeze into a size 18 or 16 (UK) or ‘make it work’ so much. Anyway, I digress. I stopped blogging because I kept getting contacted by random brands without plus size ranges or without clothes that I loved.

    Part of me started thinking about how blogging had become more about the OOTD posts, with new stuff, rather than using the stuff I already had, that might have been years old. So I stopped, because I didn’t know what to think and my politics were a bit of a mess. So I stepped away but I kept reading other people’s blogs, and you know, I love reading your blog because it is so politicized, and makes me think, and in the past has challenged me to look at the bigger picture. Having said that, I can say that fatshion blogging has made me political about size.

    If it wasn’t for people like you, Fat Heffalump, Lauren Darling, and a host of others, I wouldn’t get angry about the diet industry and the lack of access to stylish, affordable clothing. I’ve been there – I had a Simply Be account that I used for years that got me into debt I couldn’t manage, and so I understand the power that brands have over us, how capitalism affects us. I feel like accepting and loving ourselves is only the start, and you can’t operate in a vacuum of no politics even when you are a fatshion blogger. Ultimately, everything is political – from what we’re wearing to what we eat. It just depends whether you have the energy to challenge it all, and I know that sometimes I don’t. It’s hard to have intersectional identities and focus on every aspect (ie. I’m deaf, fat, a woman, but on the other hand middle class but poor, white, etc).

    I still love the joy of wearing something that makes me happy and feeling good about myself in a certain outfit. I love style, and I don’t think that will change. Its just that politics do underpin things, I agree with you. And I guess it depends on how people want to use their spotlight. Its a hard and bitter pill to swallow sometimes. I don’t think anyone is selling out, but I haven’t seen you write/say that anywhere, so I’m not sure where people are getting that from. Big brands have power over us, whether we like it or not.

    ~ Liz

  8. Thank you for writing this, Natalie! I feel the same way when I get deep into online arguments about things I care about, or even when I’m writing a post I feel strongly about–I don’t have exactly the same physical symptoms as you, but I do get shaky and sometimes my heart races.

    I agree, like 110%, with this:
    It’s unreasonable for people to dismiss emotion and say someone’s argument is unreliable because they are so deeply affected that they sob or sweat or scream. Only a person with a buttload of privilege could say that.

    Also, I’m sorry that so many people are completely missing the point of your XOJane article. It’s kind of ridiculous how people will read what they want to hear, instead of what you actually said.

  9. Men are emotional in debates. Just note how they are seemingly unable to disengage. They are furious that Someone is Wrong on the Internet, and so they become condescending bullies. But oh, they are still rational!

    I call BS. They are not rational, logical, unemotional: they are furious and angry and only in it to win, so much so that they can barely hear what I’m saying anymore. Let alone engage with it.

    Here’s a lovely article on this phenomenon from election night in the US:

  10. I have the same issue with crying when I respond to confrontation. Any sort of confrontation. I have major anxiety about performance reviews at work, because I feel like no matter what my supes say to me, I will end up sobbing. I have no idea how to stop it. I am not meant for the business world.

  11. Hi Natalie, it’s tons of months later and I’m not sure you’ll get this, but I just wanted to thank you for this. I was on Fatshionista too, lo these many years ago, and it was a deeply powerful, formative experience for me. I understand the impulse the newer wave of fatshion bloggers are acting on, the excitement about apparent access to glamor and power and insidership, but I also really mourn the old Fatshionista, with its anger and its solidarity and its understanding of the connection between aesthetics and socioeconomics. The new version…well, I have to say, it just doesn’t really interest me. I check in on the fatshion blogs occasionally, ’cause I need to dress my fat ass cute-like, but…there’s not very much there there, anymore.

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