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August 26, 2009 / Katie

How To Get Your Comment Deleted

When I first started this blog, I was very nervous about what kinds of comments I’d receive. I wanted to start off unmoderated and wait to see if comments became a problem before moderating. And I have been really pleasantly surprised by the quality and tone of the comments I’ve received so far. Generally speaking, the vast, vast majority of them have been positively delightful. Your comments have been encouraging, you’ve challenged me to think about things in new ways, and you bring fascinating insight and nuance to the conversation. The blog is very new but so far I am having an absolutely wonderful time writing and reading your comments.

I want to talk today about deleting comments, because today alone I had to delete two, bringing the total in the last 24 days that the blog has been public up to 3. I’d say that’s pretty good. If I only have to delete 3 or 4 a month, then I can handle that, especially with the amount of quality comments coming in. My hope is it will stay there, so that I can leave commenting unmoderated.

With two of the comments, I really had no problem deleting. The first one used “fatties” in a derogatory way and asked me if I read my “ridiculous thoughts” before posting them to the internet. The second one didn’t even make sense—it was about how the 11-year-olds the person supposedly taught in their 3rd grade class (yeah) were obese because they ate too much sugar, and then said something about refusing to drink “the FA Koolaid.”

So, how do you get your comment deleted? Insult me, laugh at me, use derogotory language in a non-reclaiming way, and equate Fat Activism to participating in a cult mass-suicide. If you can somehow manage to avoid this kind of disrespect, your comment won’t be deleted. It’s not about whether you agree or disagree with me—if your comment is respectful and in good faith, then it’s all good.

Now the third comment was harder to decide on. In fact, I’m going to go ahead and post it in its entirety here, and let you in on my thought process regarding whether to leave it or delete it.

I haven’t followed this blog much, I was linked here from elsewhere. I guess the question here is what is fat. If this post is all about “fat” by Hollywood or gossip magazines standards then it’s ridiculous.

However, I think the problem you have compared to similar posts on race/feminism is the fact that you can choose to change your weight and that being over a certain weight has damaging affects on your health in all sorts of ways. Being underweight also does so and it’s no better than being overweight but I think if no-one is saying anything to you directly and you are being upset that society wants to look good and be healthy then I don’t think you can personalise that as an attack.

If you are happy in your own weight then let people deal with their own in their own way. If you aren’t or are touchy about it then perhaps that’s a sign that you might be more comfortable if your weight changed. This would apply equally to whether you were over or underweight, a vegetarian or not or in a certain job that attracts offensive comments.

Sorry if this was at all hurtful, it isn’t meant that way but is just a comment from my viewpoint.

Honestly, the comment sounds like it’s in good faith. What ended up sticking me on this one is that it was posted under the name “Anonymous” with the email address “anony@mous.com.” This level of anonymity, when WordPress doesn’t even publish your email address anyway, doesn’t exactly scream “good faith.” So I’m kind of getting mixed signals from this—the words say “good faith” but the anonymity doesn’t.

Also, I think anonymity can be a great way to express our truth when we are the oppressed ones, and have a genuine fear of our words being used against us. But if we are speaking from a place of privilege, using words that oppress others, then we deserve to be called out on it. In this blog, please do not use anonymity as a cover for oppressive words. Doing so will get your comment deleted.

The content of the comment can be held up to the comment policy I’ve written out. It’s a pretty clear violation of number 3, in which I basically state that everyone already knows the “bad news” that fat is supposedly unhealthy, ugly, and perhaps I should now add, changeable. That bad news is all over the place; society is positively saturated with it. This is a blog for the other side of that story; the side that hardly ever gets spoken. The side that is actively silenced by the proponents of the bad news. I am committed to making not only the posts here but the comments stay on the topic of good news for people who are oppressed based on their size/weight. The quoted comment isn’t good news; it’s one commenter’s re-hashing the same old tired ideas we’ve all heard—that fat is unhealthy, that we can lose weight, that we’re being “too sensitive” to our oppression, etc. It’s said very nicely, but it’s still the bad news.

Anonymous commenter, if you’re reading, I want to say a few things to you. First of all, I am genuinely glad you are reading, and I really hope you keep reading. I want to encourage you, if you have an open mind or any amount of curiosity about whether the things you’ve always believed about fatness might be untrue. There is a plethora of information out there, and many links on this very blog to get you started in learning more (I’m particularly partial to Shapely Prose’s Don’t You Realize Fat is Unhealthy? as a starting point!) . The comments here can definitely be a place to ask questions and get clarification when something doesn’t make sense or you disagree with a specific aspect, but this is really not the place to be calling into question the basic fundamental assumptions on which this blog is built, one of which is that fat is not unhealthy, and another of which is that we do not have as much control over our weight as people tend to believe.

No one is holding a gun to anyone’s head and forcing them to read or comment; all of us have the freedom to choose wisely what we do and do not say in blog comments here and elsewhere. l invite all of you to continue to share your thoughts and your experiences here in ways that are encouraging, challenging, and clarifying; in ways that bring the Good News to those suffering fat-based oppression.

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16 Comments

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  1. living400lbs / Aug 26 2009 2:08 pm

    Every blogger has to come up with their own feel for managing comments. Good for you on thinking through it and not just turning them off.

    On a technical note: I find marking inappropriate comments as “spam” works better than deleting them. Marking as “spam” means that further comments from the ip address will also be marked as spam. Also it helps train the spam filter about what you consider inappropriate ;)

    For another viewpoint, a financial blogger discussed how he manages comments here.

    • Katie / Aug 26 2009 2:46 pm

      thanks for the idea! I am so new to this, I didn’t even think about the idea of marking it as “spam” :)

      Also thanks for the link. I checked it out and I liked what the said about taking it to email. Now I wish I had also said in the post that one of the reasons I even made this post is that I wanted to reply to that anonymous commenter via email and couldn’t, because it was a bogus email address :-/

  2. lifeonfats / Aug 26 2009 3:01 pm

    I also mark inappropriate comments as spam and first time commenters have to be approved. I’m lucky so far that actual trolls have not been attracted to my blog, just spammers trying to advertise weight loss products and dating sites, but there are a handful of extremely hateful and harassing trolls out there, and I don’t want to deal with them.

    • Katie / Aug 26 2009 3:08 pm

      that (first time commenters having to be approved) is definitely what I will do if it gets out of hand. WordPress does an excellent job of filtering actual spam, so really for me it’s just the kind of belittling, silencing, and hateful comments that come from trolls (and, it seems, sometimes truly well-meaning people who aren’t super educated about fat issues). So far, I think I can handle not having to approve first-time commenters, but my work allows me to be near a computer for much of the day so I can nip things quickly. Depending on how things shift in the coming months (I’m setting up a counseling practice) I may end up having to do that just for the sake of the readers not having to see hateful crap.

  3. meerkat / Aug 26 2009 3:40 pm

    Yeah, the commenter doesn’t seem like a troll so much as a newbie to FA, because they’re scoring points on the fat-hate bingo card but not writing in a rude or insulting way.

  4. Oliver Danni / Aug 26 2009 6:11 pm

    I think you know how I feel about comment deleting (pretty much NEVER; the only exception being if someone reveals information in a publicly viewable comment which needs to be deleted to protect another person’s privacy).

    I reckon this person posted anonymously because they were afraid of how you or someone else who might know them personally would react to their comment. I don’t think this person is trying to be oppressive. I think this person is trying to have a dialogue with you and doesn’t feel safe doing so.

  5. Alibelle / Aug 26 2009 8:54 pm

    You are not an agent of the united states government, and this is your blog. I think it’s quite enough that you allow any space for comments at all. This person was another “concerned citizen,” which is something everyone has to put up with in day to day life, I think any concerned citizen posts are offensive and rude, and condescending. I’m all for deleting them.

    I will exchange my right to say stupid things on other peoples’ blogs for the right to not have to read other people doing just that.

  6. wriggles / Aug 27 2009 5:14 am

    I think that it’s OK to post, or quote from a trolly comment if it makes a good discussion point.

    One of the worse things about fat acceptance is the lack of quality well thought out opposing views.

    I’m used to having this and rather took it for granted I’m afraid. It’s been a rude awakening.

    There are times to be supported and comforted and times to confront things and work things out. (To each and everything a season!)

    I miss discussion where there is passion and no quarter asked nor given, but also an underlying trust that honourable disagreement is possible.

    The obesity crisis says this is impossible, that’s why it is the real Kool Aid’.

    • Katie / Aug 27 2009 9:30 am

      One of the worse things about fat acceptance is the lack of quality well thought out opposing views.

      Would you say more about what you mean by this? I’m afraid I’m not following you.

  7. Sydera / Aug 27 2009 7:02 am

    I think you are absolutely right to actively moderate your comments. I have a very different experience, and I wish I’d known that I needed to moderate. I work for a gaming blog, and I occasionally make a post about games and society. I did a post debunking stereotypes about female gamers, and I got a huge load of venom (along with a lot of support) in the comments. It still surprises me that in the comments some posters–regular posters, mind you, who made normal comments about gaming topics–advocated all kinds of sex-based discrimination. I don’t think it’s any advantage to the blogger or the audience to debate the very basics of the topic or movement at hand. Some things we should expect the readers to just accept as a sort of condition for reading. On my blog, readers need to accept the notion that women are equal to men–I don’t want to debate that anymore. On your blog, readers need to drop their fat prejudice, at least for the time they read. I actually found the Fat-o-sphere and blogs like this one through feminist blogs–to me they are the same cause, the quest for equality, and I’ve been looking and looking for posts to help me clean up my own comments policy for my work. So thank you! I don’t want to have to stick to non-controversial posts just because about 5 of my readers are bigots.

  8. Mike Arthur / Aug 28 2009 1:54 am

    Hi Katie,

    I’m the above anonymous poster. I have various reasons for posting anonymously on occasion, one of the main ones being in discussions like this to avoid Ad hominem attacks on my argument (e.g. in this example I’m thin so therefore I can’t understand, which I’d disagree with as thin men are also subject to weight-based judgement).

    In case you were interested I was linked to your post from the Guardian’s website and I think it’s fairly inevitable that people are going to come when you get linked from such a large news source.

    I read all the links you’ve highlighted on this and the last post. I wasn’t aware I was breaking one of the “rules” by posting what I did and for that I apologise.

    You deal with one part of my comment, where I mention that being fat is unhealthy. I happened to have many close friends who work in all parts of the medical profession and they’ve repeatedly reiterated this to me which is why I mention it. I won’t bring it up again after this but I think highlighting a extreme minority of studies that agree with your viewpoint is simply bad science on the level of those who deny there is any climate change happening. I think a better approach is saying that you may choose to not change your weight as you are happy as you are, knowing the risks, as I am when I do a slightly-more-statistically-dangerous hobby.

    The main point I was trying to make that you didn’t actually touch on was that I think it’s a bit much for you to take other people being happy about losing weight as a personal insult. You may disagree with them but other people have perfectly valid and personal reasons for wanting to be a certain size and in some cases may have been told to lose weight by a medical professional (which, again, I’ve heard from my medical friends happens more than you’d think).

    I guess in conclusion I view (perhaps very unfairly) this blog as similar to one of people who are fed up of being discriminated against for smoking. It’s your free choice to do what you do and some studies show it isn’t bad for your health. However, selective misrepresentation of the evidence means that you could be negatively affecting the health of far more people than yourself. Notice I’m not saying you are doing these things for sure but the possibility is there and that’s why I feel a topic like this is perhaps dangerous to keep the discussion wholly one-sided.

    My apologies if this is upsetting or seems to be rude, it wasn’t meant that way, just a more thorough explanation of why I posted what I did.

    Thanks all and have a good day.

    • Katie / Aug 28 2009 11:33 am

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for replying and coming out from the cover of anonymity :) I’m going to address a few of your points and then make one of my own.

      Many health professionals agree that fat is unhealthy, but just because they say that doesn’t make it true. There have been other times throughout history when doctors were simply wrong; German doctors were wrong about the inferiority of Jews, American doctors and psychotherapists were wrong about homosexuality being a mental illness. It’s not just a handful of studies that show that being fat isn’t as unhealthy as we all think; when you look closely it turns out to be a majority and how they are reported is faulty. I could write thousands of words about this but my point basically is that other people are already doing that, and they can be found on the numerous other links I have provided here.

      There are, of course, health risks associated with fatness. But what people don’t seem to consider is there are health risks associated with other things too. There are even implications that left-handedness is associated with higher mortality! And many people aren’t aware that thin folks are actually more predisposed to certain conditions than fat folks. Thin folks have lower cancer survival rates than fat folks. When we control for a dieting cycle (people losing and gaining lots of weight in cycles) then fat folks don’t have a statistically different mortality rate wrt heart disease compared to thin folks—which implies that it’s yo-yo dieting that causes heart problems, not weight. And while fat folks tend to have more knee problems, thin folks actually have a higher rate of hip fractures!

      Which brings me to the problem of correlation vs. causation. Many people just assume that if a disease or problem (diabetes for example) is related to being fat, then getting thin will cure the problem. On the contrary, studies show that losing weight may affect diabetes symptoms (like blood sugar levels) in the short term, but in the long term there is really no effect, even if the weight stays off. So sure, fatness may be related to certain diseases, but no one has proven this is anything more than simple correlation, or that the fatness isn’t caused by the disease rather than the other way around. In fact, fat folks who have high blood pressure are often told to lose weight by their health care professional. But there is evidence to show that fat is actually protective in that fat folks with hypertension have a lower rate of heart disease than thin folks with hypertension. So if a doctor tells a patient to lose weight to lower their blood pressure, and they do lose weight but it doesn’t work to actually lower their blood pressure, the doctor has actually increased their mortality rate!

      This brings me to another point, which is that even if fatness is related to some conditions, and even if it could be shown that losing weight helps with these, there is still the problem that we don’t actually know how to make fat people thin (or thin people fat for that matter). If it were really so simple and easy, do you really think that people would be putting up with the abuse they go through being fat in this society?

      This blog is about liberation theology. My official stance on the issue of “diet and exercise” is a Health At Every Size model, which says that at whatever size we’re at, we deserve to eat a variety of healthy and nutritious foods, and get a variety of pleasurable physical activity. Why would that worry you? Why is people doing something healthy for themselves physically, just leaving behind the goal of weight loss, a problem? I mean, if society is right that eating better and moving will make us thin, then that should actually happen. But if it’s wrong, then at least you’ll have a bunch of healthier fat folks running around, yeah? Not to mention that by taking the focus off weight, which for the vast, vast majority of people is really not possible, people become a lot more mentally and emotionally healthy (you remove depression and anxiety related to self-loathing and impossible standards). This is not worrisome. What I’m saying isn’t going to harm anyone—it’s going to help people’s health.

      Finally, you bring up your own thinness and while being thin doesn’t mean you have nothing of value to add to the conversation, it does mean you don’t understand what it’s like for fat folks in the world. And if you are one of the extremely few who was at one time fat and was able to lose weight, you don’t know what it’s like for those who can’t lose the weight even if they try. So in that sense, I hope you can understand what I’m saying when I say there are things about this that you will never experience.

      My last point, my own point, is to say this. It has taken me a good deal of time and energy to write this comment (it would have taken me a lot longer had I gone through and found all the links for the studies I referenced) and I simply don’t have time to do this with every person that comes over here concerned, you know? This isn’t what this blog is for. There are a lot of places to read up on 101 type stuff, and there are links to those peppered all over this blog. I really would suggest starting with the “Don’t You Realize Fat Is Unhealthy?” link I have in the post here. This blog already assumes the 101 stuff, and takes it a level deeper theologically. This blog is for focusing on what role faith, God, Scripture, and human experience have to play in the oppression fat folks face. People who don’t understand much about fat activism or don’t accept its basic tenets have a couple choices—they can either get more educated and then keep reading, or they can choose not to read.

      Like I said, thank you for coming out from behind the anonymity and continuing to engage me in good faith here. I hope I’ve made myself and my position clear. I can’t be everything to all people, and I can’t make this blog everything for all people. The focus I’ve chosen is really to go deeper, because there are plenty of other places to get the basics hashed out elsewhere.

      • Mike Arthur / Aug 28 2009 12:55 pm

        Thanks for replying, you’ve answered a few of my questions and for that I’m grateful.

        I don’t have a problem with people who are perhaps overweight and fit. BMI doesn’t mean a whole lot and I have plenty of thin, lazy friends or bigger active friends, on this we totally agree. The size of a person is less important than their diet and exercise and people shouldn’t be discriminated against because their size. We’ll agree to disagree on the health reasons

        You’ve still not touched at any time where I criticised your original post for saying you find it hurtful when other people are happy to congratulate each other on losing weight or want to try and avoid eating fatty food. I still hold that this is a bit unfair as you are denying other people the freedom to choose their weight when you demand the same freedom to be your own weight.

        I guess I was perhaps thrown a bit off the scent by this blog using the word “fat”, which normally has such negative consequences and isn’t associated with someone who is healthily eating and exercising.

        Again, thanks for replying and apologies for any accidental offence caused. I’ll continue replying to any comments you make here but I won’t be bothering you on your blog, I think we either agree or agree to disagree on all points I’ve made or were interested about.

        Have a good weekend!

        • Katie / Aug 28 2009 4:00 pm

          Well, the post was about the ways that we experience subtle fat oppression in our closest relationships. Many of us (though not all of us, unfortunately) don’t ever experience our friends or family members saying outright rude things to us, throwing around the term “fatties,” etc. It is subtle stuff.

          Coworkers congratulating each other on weight loss aren’t congratulating each other on better health necessarily. I mean, they’re not congratulating each other for having more energy, for improving strength or flexibility, for lowering blood pressure. Weight loss can be very unhealthy depending on how it is accomplished, and it if it is a downswing of a yo-yo diet cycle as I described above. In fact, it’s a little arrogant to assume that someone’s weight loss is healthy. In extreme cases it could even be that they are losing weight because they have a terrible illness; my mom was congratulated on her weight loss in the months prior to her pancreatic cancer diagnosis. She died four months later.

          So hearing other people, who I work with, congratulating each other on weight loss reinforces, even if subtly, the culture that says that fat is bad and, by extension, my fat body is unacceptable. And when I hear it I’m forced into the “terrible bargain” that Melissa McEwan talked about—do I swallow shit, or ruin the entire afternoon? Keep it inside, or put myself out there and risk being told that I’m overreacting? So yeah. Honestly hearing my coworkers talk about their weight loss doesn’t destroy me or anything. It’s just one more drop in the rainstorm of messages that my body isn’t acceptable. Hope that makes sense.

          I hope you have a good weekend too!

  9. Mike Arthur / Aug 28 2009 2:00 am

    Oh, and to add something onto what I said above, as I prefixed my comment with, it all depends on what is considered “fat” in this space. Could you elaborate on what you’d see as a definition of that being here?

    • Katie / Aug 28 2009 11:12 am

      When I say “fat” generally speaking, I simply mean adipose tissue. When I say “fat people” or “fat folks” I generally mean people whose bodies are socially unacceptable because of their size or weight. The line between thin and fat can be blurry, especially because often thin women still feel like they’re fat (a size 6 woman, for example, might pine for the ability to lose 20 pounds and be a size 2). So I don’t define what I specifically mean by a height/weight chart, BMI, etc. For me it’s when you’re oppressed because of your size. And I’m open to other people’s interpretations as well.

      Basically though, my definition does not fit your criteria for what would make this blog acceptable to you.

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