Have You Thought About Not Caring?
by Jessica Fithen
“Be the bigger person is bullshit advice. My bigness is not determined by my capacity to quietly absorb bullying, degradation, or abuse.” – author unknown
Recently, a friend of mine shared one of YLLAM’s Facebook posts. One of the responses from a man was, “Have you thought about not caring?”
In the same breath, he let me know that “comments like this happen to everyone, just gotta let it go.” And then explained to me that if I was so sensitive to being “excepted” [sic] (because apparently that’s what verbal abuse is?), maybe it’s me who should get off the internet.
Since YLLAM began I have been increasingly surprised at the number of (usually) males who tell women being harassed to “get over it.” They claim to support women, but also believe that women should accept the abuse dished out over the internet with a stiff upper lip. You’re fine, babe, who cares what other people think. They are also VOCAL about instructing the women in their lives to be quiet about harassment. Out of one side of their mouth, they say “just ignore it,” but when a woman shares her story of abuse, they have no problem not “ignoring” her post and voicing their opinion on how the woman should respond.
Even more shocking is the belief that if a woman doesn’t accept being harassed, SHE needs to be the one to get off the internet, “maybe it’s not the best place for you.”
I started my personal Instagram account as a training log. It was simply an easy, organized place to store videos of my Strongman training. I didn't sell anything, wasn't hashtagging the bejesus out of popular terms to gain more followers, and certainly wasn't looking for likes or approval from the Random Man audience. Yet, here they came anyways, now insisting my refusal to accept gross and demeaning comments on my account means I have some deep need to "be accepted" by everyone.
Last year my son’s school ran an anti-bullying campaign that encouraged children to speak up and reach out to an adult if they were being harassed or bullied. Yet I can’t help but wonder at what age bullying is acceptable – if it’s not acceptable for children to behave this way, why is it acceptable for grown adults to participate in this as well?
Imagine your child coming home from school and through her tears, she tells you that every day in the lunchroom, a group of boys sit around and scream obscenities at her. She doesn’t know them. She’s never spoken to them. She minds her own business, walking through the room, gathering her things, talking to her friends. But these boys scream at her:
“Hey fatty you don’t need that!”
“Wow where are your tits?”
“You look like a boy, wear a dress or something!”
What is your reaction? Based on the comments I have received from many men in response to YLLAM’s public callouts of the harassers, it would sound like this:
“Have you thought about not caring?”
“Maybe school isn’t the best place for you if you’re going to be so sensitive.”
“Why do you need them to like you?”
“It’s free speech, they can say what they want.”
Or, that’s probably not your reaction. You’d likely march into school, demand to speak to the principle, and call those boys into the office with their parents to address their unacceptable behavior.
This is what’s happening every single day on the social media accounts of hundreds of thousands of women. Yet, it’s acceptable because the harassers are not boys sitting in a lunchroom, they are men hidden behind the anonymous protection of a screen. And instead of sympathizing with the person being attacked and standing up for mistreatment, the women online are told by their OWN friends and family, “maybe the internet is not the place for you.”
Women are not asking to be “accepted” when they post a video of themselves on their personal social media account. They are not asking for everyone to like them, their bodies, their training, or their chosen sport/athletic hobby. In fact, women are making it quite clear that being “accepted by everyone” is not their goal, it is the random men of the internet who insist on voicing their acceptance or non-acceptable of a woman’s body or athletic achievements.
As more and more women begin to speak out about harassment they have ignored for far too long, support them rather than insist they remain silent.
Jessica Fithen (@filthy_fithen) is a competitor in the sport of Strongman and creator of You Look Like A Man.