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Sticks & stones: Shame on you, body shamer

Melanie Nicholas

Melanie Nicholas

Sticks and stones.

I wept over my computer as I read the cruel words from my treasured fan and faithful reader, “westtex.” He loathed my May 29 piece spoofing this year’s presidential hopefuls with a write-in candidate of my own. In the pale glow of his computer monitor, he unleashed his razor-sharp wit in hopes of cutting me to the bone.

“I hardly ever gave this woman even a passing glance in the paper. I find her ‘blog’ to be moronic and useless,” westtex wrote in the comments section below my online post that ran in the Midland Reporter-Telegram opinion section. “Now she wants to dive into politics as if she really knows anything except where to find the cheapest all you can eat buffet. Mrs. Nicholas, please go back to writing articles about the hubs (husband) and the chubs (you) and the kids. No one cares about your very ignorant political opinions!”


Image by ModCloth

Now, on the surface, I thought, “wow, maybe my sarcasm was too subtle for him to understand.” And then I thought, “ouch, well that stings a little.” But, come on, westtex, I have been calling myself fat for years. I have even written about my recent weight loss surgery and the 55 pounds I have lost this year. So, I need you to step up your game if you want to actually hurt my feelings by trying to body shame me. And, why are you so familiar with my work, blog and family if you hate it so? Methinks though doth protest too much. That’s a Hamlet reference if you didn’t get that, either.

Upon re-reading westtex’s witticisms, I think I understand what this person was really trying to say. Westtex was trying to say what small-minded men under cover of anonymity have been saying for years: women don’t have the right to an opinion, much less the right to express themselves.

Reader Steve45 wanted in on the action, too, and was kind enough to call my column “worthless.” He pointed out that my column wasn’t news and called for the Midland Reporter-Telegram to print more news in their “NEWSpaper.” Well, Steve45, you are correct. I write an opinion column, I am no longer a news reporter. My columns tend to focus on women and family issues. Did you know that about half of the people living in Midland County are women, and about 40 percent of the households here have children? More than half the population is married. So, I think what I am trying to say, is that issues affecting women are relevant in Midland. Guess that’s NEWS to you.

While I don’t feel the need to justify myself, let me say that I don’t actually write to please you, westtex. I know, I know! The audacity of a woman not living to please. Boy! I hope no one cancels my Barefoot and Pregnant membership card. I write to organize my own thoughts, to share my own happiness as well as my own grief. I write so that other mothers don’t feel as isolated, and I write so I don’t feel as alone. But most importantly, I write because I have the right. I hear back from readers, male and female, all the time. I get letters, emails, Facebook messages and online comments on a fairly regular basis, and I truly enjoy the interactions. Readers don’t always agree with me or my opinions, and that’s okay. I am not trolling for sycophants, but I am hoping for thought-provoking conversation. I enjoyed hearing from justenoughrope who pointed out that we, the people, have allowed the current political climate. “The government mirrors the electorate, not vice versa. The citizenry have made the situation possible. People will be treated the way they allow themselves to be treated, WE have allowed poor behavior for many years.”

I understand why media outlets include online comment sections; they are necessary in our digital world. The anonymous factor is beneficial for people who may want to provide input but don’t want their words to come back to them at work or church. The ability to comment keeps readers engaged as a story develops, and reader viewpoints help shape overall content and coverage. What is important to readers is important to writers.

But truth be told, I don’t like the “no faces, no names” protection users get online. The inherent nature of the virtual world allows a person to be anyone they want, to look any way they want and to say whatever they want. Newspapers, television stations, my blog, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest – all allow anyone with Internet access to share their opinions with complete carte blanche. Folks get to spread whatever niceness – or nastiness – they want without repercussion. I was amused when westtex declined to post a picture of himself when taken to task for his comments. Like most bullies, westtex prefers to run the other way when challenged.

So I suppose, there really have been consequences to this little fray. Even if I never know your real name westtex, I certainly know you for what you are. And I sincerely thank you, justenoughrope, for reminding me that people will treat me the way I allow myself to be treated.

Sticks and stones, fellas. Your words will never hurt me.

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