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Nov 04 2011

I get (sometime very different) emails

Every once in a while, I receive a particularly heartwarming email from a reader. I thought the one I received yesterday was particularly nice, so I got permission to share part of it:

You really, really helped. Sometimes, you get hatemail, and sometimes people say cruel things aimed at hurting you, but you don’t just lock yourself in a room and cry about it, which I have to admit was my worst habit. Or at least, if you do, you at least do it with the glare of a computer screen, so that you can eventually dissect these criticisms and usually end up laughing them off. This is something I am trying to learn to do – I don’t want to blog, but I am learning new ways of coping with negativity in others. You also always do your best to remain measured and fair in all of your posts and I think your recent editing of the ‘dogmatic Jen’ post demonstrates that. More importantly, you helped me think about some things that I never even knew were important to me. Since my ex left me in the debt that he did, I have been single. Three years on Christmas day, in fact. Once upon a time, I told myself that if I was single at Christmas when i was 21 I would kill myself. I don’t think I really meant it, but to look back at myself then is really scary. I needed more confidence, clearly, and some of this has come from things you have helped me to think about. For example, I can now identify as an atheist, humanist and a feminist. I’ve never been especially religious, and I remember even at primary school I got upset that we had to sing hymns to a God I didn’t believe in, but I never had any real way to express this frustration. At my school, the Muslim children had to sit out of assembly because they couldn’t sing the hymns. Really inclusive, right?

The atheist identification means I no longer feel vague and confused when filling out forms that require me to indicate my religious leanings. The humanist identification reminds me that atheism isn’t selfish, because I love people and I want the best for humanity. The feminism means that I no longer measure my success by having a boyfriend, and I am now happy that I live alone, because it means I haven’t settled for someone that only wanted me for my apartment, or for someone that makes jokes about my weight. Also, I’m half-way through losing that extra weight and I now know I’m doing it for myself, not for anyone else. When you wrote briefly about losing weight a few months ago that helped me relate even more to the blog too. I think it is hugely important to have female voices like you and Greta Christina in the atheist movement, and I’m pretty sure you know why because you’ve blogged about it before. Not even just female voices; reading about JT’s struggles with anorexia has really helped to put my problems in perspective; I think it’s massively important that bloggers don’t just write about atheism, or feminism, or any other ism — it’s the personality that makes the argument persuasive; it’s the people that make the blogs what they are.

It’s touching to know that I’ve helped someone in this way.

I then clicked to see my next unread email, and found the following comment on an old post, “Stephen Colbert called me “smoking hot“”:

But you’re ugly

And I laughed. Hard. The comedic timing was perfect.

A couple of years ago, this probably wouldn’t have been my reaction. I had low enough self esteem and enough body image issues that I probably would have locked myself in my room and cried about it. But dissecting criticism through blogging has helped me grow a thick skin, and the sweet emails I get mean so much to me that they keep me motivated even with dealing with assorted drama or insults.

So now, I just laugh. I mean, really? “You’re ugly?” What’s next, that I’m a poopyhead? The fact that someone wasted their time making such a dumb comment makes me feel so much better about myself.

18 comments

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  1. 1
    LS

    I can connect to the sentiment of that email. You’ve certainly helped me with a number of issues in my life.

  2. 2
    RealityBasedSteve

    you could be a ‘smoking hot poopyhead’.

    Steve
    Who is looking nervously for some cover to hide behind. :)

  3. 3
    Crommunist

    This reminds me of being in elementary school and this guy came up to me and said “You’re fat”. I looked at him quizzically and said “Yeah, so?”

    There was no response. He just walked away.

  4. 4
    Cry4turtles

    Jen and others, I identify with you so much. My body issues prompted me to write a book. I called it, ” Memoir of a Recovering Fat Ass”. I don’t want use Jen’s blog to plug my book. I just wanted to say that writing about the people in my life who called me, “fat ass” etc. was a turning point in my life and has finally allowed me to mature and accept myself. It facilitated forgiveness for a lot of bitterness I only discovered I harbored through the writing process. It essentially set me free. If anyone would like to take a peek, email me at [email protected] and I’ll give you a coupon for a free ebook.

    Gina

  5. 5
    willweider

    I am voting “easy on the eyes” but that is not why you are in my RSS feed.

  6. 6
    YetAnotherSteve

    Objective assesment: The “you’re ugly” comment is pointless.

    Subjective assessment: They’re wrong. You’re not ugly, you’re beautiful.

    Personal assessment: I’ve always striven for “pleasantly ugly” myself – sort of like Walter Matthau.

  7. 7
    Lisa French

    I read this article in the Independent (a British newspaper) – thought it was relevant – http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/laurie-penny-a-womans-opinion-is-the-miniskirt-of-the-internet-6256946.html

  8. 8
    waltyarbrough

    Poopyhead

  9. 9
    beardofpants

    I have it on good authority that poopy heads are awesome people.

    And just to reiterate what the email above stated: sites like yours & Skepchick allowed me to find my identity as a feminist and skeptic. I’ve really had my eyes opened, and I’m thankful that people like you are there to raise these issues.

    And for the record, you are beautiful. You always have been. You were beautiful when you were larger, and you’re beautiful now.

  10. 10
    rebecca

    That made me chuckle!

    But yes, I must echo what beardofpants has said re: identity etc. You are very influential :)

  11. 11
    Joey Maloney

    But does your momma dress you funny as well?

  12. 12
    Graham Martin-Royle

    Ugly, beautiful, it’s all subjective. Does it make any difference? No, I read you because I like to. Sometimes I agree with you, sometimes I don’t. What you look like has no bearing on that agreement/disagreement so, as far as I’m concerned, it’s unimportant.

  13. 13
    subbie

    You are not a poopyhead.

    PZ is a poopyhead.

    You are no PZ.

    You’re much hotter. *playful leering*

  14. 14
    Ray, rude-ass yankee

    Hear, hear! Well said. I’m glad I read all the comments before trying to add anything. This is what I would have tried to say in a more rambling less clear fashion.

  15. 15
    hoverfrog

    But you’re ugly

    When I was at school I was taught that it is inappropriate to begin a sentence with a conjunction. I tend to ignore that when writing informally as on a blog (I’m always starting sentences with “however”) but starting a sentence with “but” or “and” always raises my little grammar Nazi hackles. Poor sentence structure indicates a lack of education in my overly snobbish mind and diminishes the impact and value of the opinion given.

    When one marries that to the contrary evidence, the lack of relevance, the clear intent to insult and belittle and the lack of reasoning it is very easy to dismiss such a statement. But mainly it’s the grammar (see what I did there?).

  16. 16
    Jurjen S.

    But you’re ugly

    Yes, clearly your knees are too sharp (that has got to be my favorite Farkism, by the way).

  17. 17
    Craig McGillivary

    Colbert was right. I am generally a feminist, but reading blogs like yours helps I think to overcome the subtle biases. If I didn’t read blogs like yours I might look at things like elevatorgate and think that it was bad but not a huge deal. But now I see things like that and think this is a fucking big deal. People should make an effort to increase the proportion of the blogs they read that are written by women, it really does improve your perspective.

  18. 18
    Fiona

    Beautiful timing.

    x

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