She will eat right in your face
Virginia Sole-Smith's approach to critics and trolls
I get off pretty easy when it comes to trolls, haters, and the like. The weirdest I’ve gotten lately was a male former neighbor who texted me a screenshot of an old newsletter issue with the comment, “This is bullshit and you know it,” and then told me it seemed like I hate men before wishing my husband and sons the best. (I didn’t respond).
This is nothing compared to what some of my colleagues and friends get. I’ve seen some people I know get sicced on by actual FOX news, and it’s scary. Then there’s. I’ve been a fan of hers since I used to follow her freelance career. I first got to know her personally when I interviewed her on how life is better when you realize family dinner will not make or break your family. Obviously, we became witchy friends after that.
Virginia edits the incredibly popular, insightful and delightfulon diet culture and fatphobia, especially through the lens of parenting, and has a new book called Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture.
You already know this—people online can be horrible, typically on predictable themes. One of these hot-button issues that really sets horrible people off is fat people’s right to exist, maybe even live peaceful/enjoyable lives. Accordingly, Virginia’s been on the receiving end of some hot takes for her book in particular, and by hot, I mean unhinged and hateful.
Where some people would ignore this type of feedback, address it seriously, or go hide in bed and contemplate never writing again, Virginia has done something I don’t see a lot of moms do—she trolled right back. Fuck the high ground, and fuck not escalating. She said, “Let them watch me eat a brownie while NGAF.”
I wanted to talk to Virginia about this particular aspect of her book promotion and how, if at all, this experience makes her talk to her kids about jerks, online and off.
When did you decide that you would have this policy where you really take these types of critics head-on?
The best advice I got about trolls was from Ragen Chastain, a long-time fat activist who deals with them on just another level that I do not. She said, “People worry so much about the right way to handle trolls, but all that does is center the troll.” You’re worrying, “Well, will they retaliate if I do this, or will they be convinced?” She’s like, “Actually, the only thing that matters is you doing what makes sense for you. So, if that means just blocking and not engaging with anybody at all, that is totally good. If it means getting into a comment back and forth with them some days, okay, fine, do that. Whatever it is.” That was such a helpful perspective shift because I think I was really locked into “What is the best protocol?”
I think, as women, there’s this idea like, “Oh, I don’t want to make them too angry. How do I maintain my professionalism?” But after she said that, I did start thinking, “Well, fuck it. Some of these are really funny. These troll comments are absurd.” That’s when I started having a little more fun with them. That hit me as perfect because it’s fine if people want to do this, but I don’t want to get in and go back and forth with them in the comments. That is uninteresting to me.
I feel very firmly that they do not deserve individual responses because I have already written a book and a newsletter. My citations are there, and I owe you no personal explanation for my work. My work stands, and you can deal with it.
What really gets me is that comments on Twitter and Instagram are one thing, but so many men go out of their way to email me or DM me directly with all of these really intrusive questions because they’re so amazed that a woman on the internet disagrees with them, that they think she owes them a personal conversation to explain everything to them in a way that they can understand.
And I could not be less interested. I could not be less available for that. I do not owe some random dude in his mom’s basement any personal interaction, but if their comment makes me laugh, I will eat a brownie to a funny song.
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