This is very long and intense. (There’s a tl;dr at the bottom.) Please take note that this article will discuss issues like diet culture, intentional weight loss, interpersonal relationships, and race.
I expect some folks to deliberately misread or immediately denounce. I hope everyone else will find some value in it which is in part why I write it. I write it for advocacy reasons; essentially activism is about working to ensure that the folks following you are not treated the bad ways you have been. I also write it for myself; I wasn’t ready to speak up or out about anything until now.
What actually happened?
I’ve been asked this by a few people and I think what folks are really asking is what did I do to deserve the treatment I received. Personally, I would never wish this kind of treatment on a person even if they did do harm. I hope nobody ever does this kind of shit to all the folks that did this to me.
My best understanding: Brittany Brown Marsh decided to track weight loss, among other wellness goals. She made an accountability account on Instagram that was private to put that information there. I saw her post about it on Facebook and asked her if it would include weight loss, to know if I should avoid it. She said yes it would include weight loss. I interpreted this to mean she was going for intentional weight loss and did not comment to her about it.
Though I was unaware of it, she started to talk to mutual friends and some of her friends about this topic. I was very sad about it and other fat issues I was dealing with in my life; I posted in I See You Raising Babies on a “tell your truth” prompt about feeling devastated when friends start intentional weight loss attempts when I thought they weren’t believers in that. I didn’t remember that BBM was a member of that Facebook group. I included no names. BBM named herself on the thread and said she was not dieting and that she didn’t want anyone to be mean to her.
I privately messaged her that I forgot she was in ISYRB. I asked BBM if she was seeking weight loss and she said no, but that it was going to happen for her. I talked about how I’m not triggered by wellness seeking and by unintentional weight loss. She expressed sadness and apologized to me. I asked her to ask me next time she was worried about triggering me so that there’d be no guesswork or miscommunications. BBM and I talked over the next week in a combination of text and video chats. We talked about what had happened in public and also about what was going on with our lives as normal. At one point I asked if she was mad at me; I felt like something was off still. She said she wasn’t mad. We continued as normal. Then I sent her a message saying I missed her because I think we didn’t chat for a day or two. She sent me a message saying that the issue wasn’t resolved for her, that she doesn’t owe me anything, her wellness journey is for her, she tried to spare me, she felt I wasn’t hearing her in that she wasn’t angry, just sad. She felt I was centering myself in her journey. She reiterated that she would be talking about her wellness journey openly.
I responded via video chat trying to validate all of her feelings one by one as she had listed out and give her control over the situation by saying to let me know if she wanted anything to change with where we were both in community spaces together. She said I made it seem like I was the victim and that it was off putting because if anyone was the victim, she was. I think this was the main turning point; I resorted to using mostly communication skills I’ve learned in therapy over the years and BBM used the skills she had in her toolkit. Ultimately, they were not compatible skill sets.
BBM increased the public aspect of our fight; she made a public announcement in a smaller space first and then in ISYRB later, leaving these groups after notifying membership that I had a problem. I felt distrustful of people and spaces that BBM “gifted” me with the announcements that I needed help and space. The more public it became, the more I felt isolated and alone.
BBM repeatedly told me that this was all my problem and that she was communicating crystal clear and I was not listening and needed to process. I focused in harder on communication skills of mirroring and validating, trying to solve the obvious miscommunication BBM and I seemed to be having in video chats. BBM said she didn’t feel heard; she said I was disassociating from the situation and that I made up a bunch of stuff and projecting emotions onto her. She said that I was treating her about weight loss stuff like white women treat black women in terms of racism. She said I was centering and that she was fine this whole time – that I inserted myself and got offended about something that had nothing to do with me.
That week is a blur. I remember people starting to come in and say mean shit about me in groups I was in; a few people argued on my behalf. People started talking about race and how dare I indicate BBM was participating in diet culture? How dare I? How gaslighting I was and abusive. I started seeing people unfriend me; I had a few conversations with mutual friends that went poorly. BBM blocked me/unblocked me a few times. A few people messaged me on BBM’s behalf asking about a wrap of hers I had for converting into a bag. BBM messaged me about it herself after I had it in the mail back to her and sent her an email about it. She insisted I hadn’t sent an email and then twice sent messages about hoping the stink comes out of her wrap.
I decided to write a blog post about how I was coping and comparing and contrasting the ideas of centering in terms of both social justice and in meditation practices. There were 24 hours of bullying that followed. I know the post was shared widely enough to get hits from thousands of people. Brittany and her followers commented on the blog post about how abusive, gaslighting, and racist I was. It went on for roughly about 24 hours though some comments kept coming over the next 12. They went to my twitter feed to read about my feelings of suicide and sadness then talked about how lying, abusive, and gaslighting I am. As an aside, no one from the babywearing world followed my twitter except for BBM.
I left babywearing communities and unfriended almost everyone I knew from babywearing. During a panic attack I tried returning wraps I had purchased or was using as an ambassador to various brands that were using me as a photographer. I saw my dietician that I see for disordered eating and my therapist. I posted about how despairing I felt with the bullying – that I understand why kids who are bullied commit suicide. If I didn’t have the family and therapy support I have, I might have tried to end things. I posted about it on the blog post where the bullying had happened, and turned off comments. My mom came into town – just for a visit, but the timing was good because I was glad for help.
The next morning, a police officer showed up at my door saying someone with a name I had never heard of and a Florida number had called in a wellness check. I had nothing to hide and explained I was being bullied online and that the wellness check from a fake name was probably just more harassment reaching out to “real life.” I showed him the post saying I wasn’t going to do anything to harm myself, just felt like it. I gave him my therapist’s number. He wore his gun in my home; he talked about Blue Lives Matter and Trump. He showed me a picture of his dog. I held my baby and nodded. My mom took my toddler to preschool and sent me text after text telling me to get the cop out of my house. She was afraid he could get the kids taken away.
Things calmed down slowly after that morning. I unsubscribed and unfollowed all the various places BBM had been woven into my life on social media and other places online as they popped up in feeds. I saw she posted that someone had gone “FULL FRAGILE” centering in her journey. I saw she blogged that she would be doing intentional weight loss and celebrating it publicly.
I’m very bad at compartmentalizing. I know it hurts people I care about that I can’t put issues aside and act normal about other things while I work on something upsetting. I know it hurts people I can’t even pretend to be normal – even when I know my feelings are not in accordance to my principles.
I fucked up my attempt to compartmentalize with the post in ISYRB.
As the fight progressed, I retreated inside myself and my focus narrowed to just trying to “fix” things. I didn’t listen to her talk about other “regular” stuff. I just wanted to get to what she had to say about the problems she said I had that I was trying to fix. It wasn’t until later while reviewing that I realized she had been sick during part of the fight.
Someone said to me, “The people who speak loudly control the narrative. You have to decide if the narrative is most important or if other things are more a priority for you.” I prioritized trying to make myself safe, which means I shut everything down, including myself. No one and no space in babywearing felt safe, even where people expressed concern or wanting to help. This included close relationships with people, communities, and brands. I know this hurt and confused many.
I knew BBM and many of the mutual friends we shared were capable of doing this kind of thing to other people. I saw them put out calls to publicly tear down communities and people and mostly did not get involved. I knew it was wrong and did not stand up for the folks affected because I was afraid of it happening to me. I’m most ashamed of this.
Despite knowing I shut myself down and isolated, and knowing that until so recently I was in BBM’s circle of influence, I still feel hurt that so few people reached out to me with support, and a precious few offered support privately but nothing publically. So many people had my phone number or email address and didn’t reach out. I should understand for so many reasons, but I can’t turn off the feeling of betrayal.
I lied to myself, a lot. I lied to myself about my relationships with folks and how important I was to people. I lied to myself that I was capable of fixing the problem. I lied to myself that I could choose my language carefully and cede power in the situation and avoid racial conflict. I lied to myself that I could just be chill and wait for things to blow over. I lied to myself that I was really important to some communities – pride – that people would stand up and cry out against the bullying I experienced. Or that they would be aware of it.
I’m sorry to Brittany for not being who you wanted/needed in a friend.
I’m sorry that my best attempts at following all the rules weren’t good enough.
I’m sorry to the other folks BBM has publicly taken down: I’m sorry I didn’t stand up for you.
I’m sorry to the people I hurt in shutting myself down to friendships and communities.
I’m sorry to the companies that are stuck with product photos attached to my face and name.
I’m sorry to those of you that feel betrayed and let down by me.
How I’ve felt:
Full fragile. Just seriously hot garbage and yes, extremely fragile. Suicidal ideation has been in the mix, as mentioned. I lost my three closest friends, my main communities that helped me feel connected through parenting, and my professional pride and joy in photography all in one fell swoop. Nobody asked me for my story and even those close friends I thought I had just offered to help me figure out how I had so terribly wronged BBM. Me, my feelings, none of it mattered. It still feels confusing that so many of these folks had my phone number or email and didn’t reach out beyond offering to guide me through all my damage in public.
And to really grind it in, it’s all related back to fatness, which as you may be aware, is my deepest and ongoing trauma. It is seriously a daily thing to deal with the world not wanting my body to exist in it and pointing it out through verbal violence or simply by a lack of access. During this whole thing, I also had to deal with my doctor suggesting putting a balloon in my stomach, seriously demoralizing fatphobia in my (legally confidential) work, and comments from a lady who was fitting me for a bra while I was naked in front of her. I told Brittany at one point that it wasn’t even her that hurt me, it was my baggage – my existence as a superfat person is pretty miserable sometimes just from how people treat me.
I have felt like no one can be trusted; I’ve felt betrayed; I’ve felt like I want to go to sleep and not wake up. I had stress IBS and shat my brains out for like a week straight every time I ate something. I had three panic attacks in two weeks. I can’t sleep at night. I’ve felt like all I want to do is sleep.
I’ve had a crisis of confidence about my photography and generally my ability to do anything. I constantly question whether I might actually be a piece of shit in a puddle. My social anxiety is back full force.
I have felt utterly lost and powerless. I am still really struggling day to day. I’m trying to find a psychiatrist and have increased my therapy.
Diet Culture & Body Positivity
Body positivity is a political movement that involves bodily autonomy and respect. It means that people should follow the underpants rule: not your underpants? Not your business. This does include choosing intentional weight loss via any method.
Diet culture is basically the concept that weight, size, and shape are valued over health and well being. It shows up in our world in so many ways it’s hard to name off an easy list. Anything that places a moralization or heirarchy on bodies or what is perceived to shape bodies (food, exercise) is a good bet to be a part of diet culture. Lately, diet culture has spun into an obsession with health – where health replaces weight, size, or shape as a measure of a person’s value to society or personal virtue. If you are familiar with social justice concepts, there are so many intersections that impact these things. Race, class, income, etc. all intersect with diet culture and sizeism, healthism, and ableism.
Diet culture is extremely harmful – to all of us. There is more and more information – personal stories as well as scientific evidence – that supports this belief. I think it’s extremely difficult to seek intentional weight loss and not be participating in diet culture.
It’s really tough to live in a body that is stigmatized, especially with multiple intersections of oppression and trauma aimed at people. I still struggle with internalized fatphobia. I still sometimes think about finding something that will make my body smaller and less stigmatized in our world. I don’t blame anyone for choosing to keep looking for what lets them be less stigmatized in whatever way that is.
AND – I have such emotional investment in people that I admire and that I look up to as activists for fat acceptance. It’s a real psychological phenomena to be hurt when a celebrity or admired friend does something that feels like a betrayal of values you think they hold, even if you logically want to support them. Even if you logically know it has nothing to do with you personally. It is still an emotional punch to the gut.
From a body positivity standpoint, I absolutely support someone in making choices for themselves, even if it’s problematic or culturally harmful to others. Why? Some folks may not be safe in their environments without weight loss. Some folks may be denied medical care without weight loss. Some folks may have a limit of amount of trauma they can handle and their body is something they can change, even if those ways will harm their bodies or those around them.
People who know me personally will know that I ask that folks do not talk about dieting or intentional weight loss around me – because I ask them not to. They will know I can talk about food, eating, etc. all day long – if they ask me for clarification. I just can’t hear about intentional weight loss. It is too painful for me. But if we’re friends, we have stuff to talk about besides your attempts or my struggles existing as a fat person. But we also have to give each other space and chance to talk about things when we’re ready and figure out what will work for us together…just like any relationship.
Race & Social Justice
I tried to avoid saying the word “angry” at one point during this whole debacle specifically because I didn’t want to stumble into saying BBM was an angry black woman. I told BBM she had the power to choose what happened and which communities I stayed in – which I hoped would counteract the imbalance that favors white experience and emotions in our culture. I still was told that I treated BBM as if she was an angry black woman stereotype, and I was still told that despite trying to cede power and leave it up to BBM, I had the power anyway. It still feels ludicrous to me, given the bullying and the fact that I’ve felt I had to walk away from so many people and communities that were important to me to stay safe.
At one point a mutual PoC friend asked me if I was just keeping them as a pet or to abuse. We also discussed how my therapy-learned skills may be harmful to PoC. I’m still reeling from that. I can handle the concept that I’m participating in a racist system by default, but the concept that the therapeutic skills that have kept me literally alive and functioning are harmful to PoC – I still feel like shutting down when I think about it. Because there’s no way for me to exist without harming PoC. Maybe that’s the inherent issue – white people can’t exist without harming PoC because of the system we’ve set up – I’m stuck facing it. I’m one person in crisis and it feels like the solution is to just die off rather than try to fight the system.
I believe that on the whole, white people deserve whatever abuse PoC want to deal out. White people have done so much genocidal bullshit on a generational, institutionalized level I don’t blame PoC if they want to do violence to all of us whites out there in the world. I can’t blame folks who have experienced so much generational trauma and oppression for lashing out.
At the same time, that doesn’t make the violence, abuse, and lashing out useful. Maybe I wasn’t making much of a difference before in the grand scheme, but I’m currently useless in fighting the racist system via active resistance or trying to educate others right now.
A gentle calling in to those in the babywearing community:
Be careful in dealing with BBM and her circle. Don’t think you are special or important. They are watching and keeping “receipts.” If receipts are missing, that’s a good indicator something is fishy.
If they do it to others, they will do it to you.
I know so many of you fear them already, but if you don’t stand up to them when it comes to bullying, that’s shitty. Don’t make my mistake. Please reach out to people and be ready to follow through if someone needs support in public.
If you call in a welfare check on someone, give a real name. Otherwise it’s just more harassment.
BBM and company are still doing so much good advocacy work; they are on the right side of history in so many ways. They are bright and shining beacons of joy and justice in many ways. Don’t let their mistakes or flaws stop you from fighting the good fight against your internal resistance to change and those that hurt others. Don’t let their shitty behavior in some areas or relationships take away from the amazing things they’ve accomplished for inclusion and diversity and awareness.
Afraid that if BBM and co gets questioned at all, everyone she’s taken down rightfully will come back full force? Guess who’s responsibility that is? The community’s. You have to step up and stand up for what is right even though it is uncomfortable. You can’t expect them to do all that labor for you repeatedly with the weight of generational and intersectional oppression on them and not make mistakes or flip their shit ever. Share the load and the responsibility and there’s less of a reason for hurt people to be bullies.
Be willing to walk away if you are too damaged to keep helping, which is where I am with the babywearing community. If you are dedicated to being a helper, nobody is helped when you are too broken to take care of yourself.
I correctly guessed that BBM was seeking intentional weight loss. I was upset and failed to compartmentalize so she found out. She felt judged by my trauma and centered herself publicly and privately to maintain control. She lied to me, to mutual friends, and possibly herself about the situation. She participated and encouraged a bullying campaign against me on my blog. I failed to maintain emotional stability and still haven’t regained it. I’ve walked away from babywearing as a whole because this has been so painful for me. I feel foolish, betrayed, and will be rebuilding myself for quite some time. I hope those of you reading this will help prevent it happening to yourself and others.