An Open Thank-You Letter to Margaret Cho

Dear Margaret Cho,

Thank you for writing your blog post, “Being Mad on Twitter.” When first I read it, I felt angry — angry for all of the times I had been made fun of because of my body and didn’t feel like I could say anything back. Angry that I felt like I didn’t matter enough to fight back. Angry because of all of the times I believed the nasty comments were right. And thank you again, because you’re fighting for my body, too.

via colorlines.com

When you posted a picture of your newest ass tattoos on Twitter a few days ago, you got about 11 million awesome comments and two nasty comments from idiots who are obviously out there to troll the Twitter-verse. You rightfully “blew a fucking gasket” over the negative comments that criticized and devalued your body. Next? You “screamed out loud” and then sat down and wrote a blog post about the whole ordeal. I love you for writing the post, and it’s everything that I needed (and a lot of people needed) to hear.

Why? Because you responded to the trolls. Because you’re fighting for everyone who’s ever been told that they don’t matter based on some illogical ideal that is so often not-Asian and not-fat and not-every-adjective-you-can-think-of. And I’m glad you’re fighting back.

I’m glad you’re flying your “flag of self esteem for all those who have been told they were ugly and fat and hurt and shamed and violated and abused for the way they look and told time and time again that they were ‘different’ and therefore unlovable.”

I’m glad you’re telling your readers, “Come to me and I will tell you and show you how beautiful and loved you are and you will see it and feel it and know it and then look in the mirror and truly believe it.”

I’m glad you’re telling your readers,

Being called ugly and fat and disgusting to look at from the time I could barely understand what the words meant has scarred me so deep inside that I have learned to hunt, stalk, claim, own and defend my own loveliness and my image of myself as stunningly gorgeous with a ruthlessness and a defensiveness that I fear for anyone who casually or jokingly questions it, as my anger and rage combined with my intense and fearsome command of words create insults meant to maim, kill and destroy.

Why am I glad? Because we don’t hear this enough.

via bilerico.com

While one fan objected to your response to the trolls, saying that your strong “‘language’ was too much” and that you “had ‘lost a fan’” because of this language, this whole thing isn’t about language at all. It’s about bodies and self-esteem. It’s about not saying something those fifteen times we consider whether we should yell “fat-ass” back before we silently turn around and walk away. And you made the case for your rage so eloquently, because it is not about language but about being angry and letting yourself feel entitled enough to be angry back.

It’s that sense of entitlement to say something, to know that our bodies belong to us, that you are fighting for here. And for all of the bullying and hurt you’ve gone through and all of the times people and companies like ABC have told you your body isn’t “right” enough, there’s an angry and hurt and powerless child who’s been told she’s not “right” enough too.

And by speaking up you’re speaking to all of the kids who are and have been: You are right enough and important enough to fight back. Everyone should have the choice to fight back if they want to. Our hurt and anger don’t need to be justified — we deserve to be heard. As you wrote,

My mouth and mind and typing fingers are weapons of mass destruction and I pity those ignorant idiots who would leave insults about mine or any women’s bodies in comment boxes … I’d like to say things that would haunt them for the rest of their days, because their hideous words stay with me eternally. Their insipid spouts of “no fat chicks” are branded onto my soul, so they must reap what they sow. If I am in my worst way and I talk to you, you will know you have been talked to.

via vancouverisawesome.com

We have words and the impact of these words matter more than the negative repercussions of fighting back. Because in a world where we are made to feel like our curvy, round, shapely, fat, scarred, queer, skinny, race-laced bodies are tiny and insignificant, we feel like we barely take up any space. We feel like fighting words will only make our bodies’ space bigger and more unsightly. But tattooed asses and arms and purple and white stretch marks and bellies and bones and all are worth fighting for.

And for this reason it hits me hard when you write,

I want to defend the children that we still are inside, the fragile sensitive souls who no matter how much we tried were still told we were not good enough. I want to make the world safe and better and happy for us. We deserve beauty, love, respect, admiration, kindness and compassion. If we don’t get it, there will be hell to pay. I am no saint, but I am here for you and me. I am here for us, and I am doing the best I can.

We are all still those children who felt like we didn’t deserve the love that our bodies gave to us. We are all deserving of the respect and love we feel free to give to others but not keep for ourselves. We are all entitled to the voice that knows it’s good enough to fight back.

Thank you Margaret Cho, for doing the best you can.

Avatar of Whitney

Whitney is a lover of food, books, comic books and journals made for left-handed people. She is a Ph.D. student at Northwestern University, where she studies video games and new media. She is also a graphic designer, writer and editor who has worked for places like Opium Magazine, Literary Death Match, Publishers Weekly and The Feminist Press. Check out her blog at whitneypow.com and follow her on Twitter @whitneypow.

Whitney has written 51 articles for us.

42 Comments

  1. Thumb up 0

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    I just got finished doing a 30 minute workout to a Jillian Michaels DVD that I got for Christmas.

    I’m not skinny and never will be. I more have a Queen Latifah body shape.

    I must say though, that Queen Latifah, Jillian Michaels, Margaret Cho and this blog post make me feel very beautiful. I don’t exercise because I want to be beautiful. I exercise because I am beautiful.

    Definitely, the message of women (& men) loving their bodies needs to be promoted as much as possible. Thanks for the blog post.

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    I have these massive Hcup bewbs and I am very proud of them. You know what makes me sad though? Shows like the L word and blogs like Pussy LeQueer. Where is the variety?? Sure some skinny women are gorgeous, but what about the big ones, the dark ones, the tiny ones? Even in gay media we have a bit of a “bois shaped like boys and lookit how sexy Portia is” Issue. Thats why I love Margaret Cho, she is beautiful and makes me see beauty in myself and everyone else.
    curvygirls.tumblr.com/

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    I love that woman. Part of the power in the statement “that nobody likes a fat/angry/insert adjective here woman” is the belief the listener has that we are alone in being so, or at least that there are so few of us and that everybody hates us and we will never get anywhere until we change ourselves into passive dolls lke the speaker and society want. And she is right there in public saying bollocks to that. She’s living not having to shut the fuck up and take it.

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    I read this the other day, but didn’t fully take in this line till now:

    “I’d like to say things that would haunt them for the rest of their days, because their hideous words stay with me eternally.”

    and it so, so perfectly captures that kind of anger and vengefulness for me. I think we — women, me, people — kind of have this rational idea that we “shouldn’t take it personally” and maybe even feel like it’s a sign of weakness to do so, to want to engage and fight back so badly against this stuff. But what are we gonna do with our rage, then? For someone to say yes, this is what I’m going to do, and not automatically believe it’s going to be a losing battle — that feels powerful to me.

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      Anger and hurt are obviously legitimate reactions to insults, and I think the ‘don’t take it personally’ angle has potential but fails when it doesn’t acknowledge this. I would like to think that the hideous words I have had spoken to me will not stay with me eternally, and I know that I have the power to let them go. That doesn’t entail accepting those words or pretending they’re okay, but it’s the difference between saying fuck off and moving on, or saying fuck off and holding onto the hurt. We all have the right to express hurt and rage at all the various bullshit situations we encounter, and the agency to recognize that we deserve better than those comments and don’t need let them haunt us.

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      I was so happy about her blog post, because I feel that way too. Like, some people don’t seem to see how deeply words can sting, and then we’re not supposed to seem like we even care about it? BOLLOCKS to that. I wish I could call people out like that, but I think that what stops me is that if you do get angry, so often people will tell you to chill out or “it’s just a joke” or “don’t overreact”. How do you respond to that?

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    Guyz, I don’t get it. I don’t fucking get it. What kind of a society do we live in when saying “Fuck you” is more disrespectful and “too strong” language when being called disgusting and worthless is tolerated with a blind eye?

    Also, skimming through the comments on Cho’s fine ass, people have been noting how “brave” she is. Since when is it brave for a woman to take photos of herself and put them up in public? How is that an act of bravery? Oh right, when the very notion of being woman makes you a target for scorn and disdain.

    Fuck society. But thank you very fucking much, Cho, for telling them so.

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    I have a mole right in the middle of my chin. (I think you can kind of see it in my avatar thingy?) When I was a kid, I hated this mole, to the point that at 13 I asked my mom to take me to a dermatologist to see about getting it removed. She did, but I think she told him to gross me out so I’d decide not to go through with because he described the whole procedure to me in explicit detail, which worked. But I still hated it and when I’d picture my own face in my head I didn’t have it. So when I looked in the mirror and it was still there it was always like a let down. Like I was disappointed in my own face or something. It sounds like a stupid thing but it took me a long time to embrace this one little thing on my own face, and stop thinking of it as something that makes me look different but as something that makes me look memorable.

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      OH.MY.GOD. Me too! I have a birthmark smack dab in the middle of my chin. When I was younger, I would be told that I had chocolate on my chin probably once a week! (And, occasionally now. Guess that should be a hint I should cut back on the choco consumption…) I wanted SO BADLY to get it removed but was always told to embrace it. Since I’ve gotten older, I get a lot of questions from people who think it’s a scar from getting my labret pierced- it’s pretty sweet that I can seem totally bad ass without actually having anything done. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine not having it! Horray for individuality!

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        Yay! We should start a club. Audra McDonald (Broadway goddess and Naomi on Private Practice) does too, although hers is not as noticeable because she’s black. I met her after a performance once and she pointed hers out to me and said she’d never met anyone else with a mole there. I think that helped me feel better about mine, actually.

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    I just thought of a story that I feel is relevant somehow? I teach at day camp in the summer and the kids often listen to the radio. I find some of the songs that they listen to and enjoy highly inappropriate, but most of it seems to go over their heads so I just let it go. One day the song “Brick House” came on and this 9 year old girl told me that she knew what the song meant and that it was inappropriate? So it’s appropriate for 9 year olds to listen to songs about getting drunk on rooftops but not large women?

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      I don’t know what other songs they listen to, but it’s possible that listening to Brick House made her feel uncomfortable about her own body. Like, I know popular music objectifies women in a million different ways, but that song seems different to me in the lyrics being clearly about nothing other than a woman’s body (opposed to, say, rap songs or pop songs with autotune and fast lyrics where half the words are incomprehensible on first listen). I could see a girl that age feeling inadequate when listening to a song about a woman with hips and cleavage and curves, you know?

      About the post more generally: I remember my dad making fun of my stretch marks when I was about 11, which took me a long time to get over. I also remember him informing me that one day I’d want to have the skin abraded off my face to hide the chickenpox scars I hadn’t even freaking noticed until that point. Jerkface. So yeah, good for Margaret Cho for not sitting back and taking it. If people think you should just ignore people being assholes on the internet, then people should similarly not be upset with her for rightfully raging back at them.

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    Thank you, Margaret Cho, for being the amazing person you are. Thank you too all the people who stand up and shout “ENOUGH!”
    You are the people who inspire me to look at myself and remind me that I am not ugly. I do not have to fit society’s idea of beauty. I do not even have to fit society’s idea of woman/man. I am the person I am and nothing will change that, but I can change my mind over how I feel about it.

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    In 10th Grade, I spent half an hour in the locker rooms with my friend while she cried because the boy she had a crush on wouldn’t date her because she was “fat”. This girl could lift 100lb hay bales over her head and was smarter than anyone. I thought she was amazing, and it still makes me mad that what stuck with her was being called fat. Hell Yeah, Margaret Cho! We need more loud voices telling all girls they’re beautiful no matter what.

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    “I’ve gained like 10 lbs in the past 2 and a half months I think because the new meds have slown down my my metabolism, but whatever. I wear it well.”

    When I said this to my therapist today she said she was thoroughly impressed that I had that attitude, especially at only 17. Its a sad day when we’re surprised and impressed by women loving their bodies.

    And four for you Margaret Cho! You go Margaret Cho!

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    Thank you for writing this. I am always surprised (I don’t know why, you guys are so consistently awesome) when I see a title that automatically resonates or a topic that I’ve been thinking about. And AS always, always, always, manages to do that. It says a lot. Mainly that I hope AS and I have a lot of babies. Anyway, thanks for the post, Whitney, and much love to Margaret Cho.

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    Margaret Cho’s post really honestly changed my life. Because she refuses to be silent she’s given me permission to do the same. So now when I hear people say things that are hateful or mean spirited or in any way insulting of another person’s dignity or self esteem I say something.

    So call me a feminist killjoy if you must but I’m going to call out every instance of body policing I see. I’m going to call out misogyny and homophobia and racism. I’m going to call out classism and ageism and every other fucking ism that anyone can think of because we all deserve to be treated with respect and with dignity.

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    I think the bravest thing is that she actually admits that it bothers her. Too often celebrities don’t really do that, they act like robots with no real feelings and it makes people think it’s okay to treat someone like dirt just because they don’t really know them. It can be as hard to allow people to see your vulnerabilities as it is to stand up to them and the way that she just puts it out there…

    “I’d like to say things that would haunt them for the rest of their days, because their hideous words stay with me eternally.”

    It’s so bold because we all do it. I think everyone has that horrible comment that someone said/wrote/whatever somewhere branded on their soul. 99 thumbs up but that 1 in a 100 is the asshole you remember.
    Brava, Margaret Cho. You keep doing you.

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    The bravest thing for me was her talking about molestation as a passing point. A devastating event given a brackets worth of mention and being explicitly dismissed as something which ‘doesn’t count’. I wish I felt that way about my abuse.

    I feel fat constantly. CONSTANTLY! It upsets my girlfriend, wastes endless amounts of time and energy and makes me feel like a bad feminist but I can’t stop criticising myself. Gaining 4 pounds this holiday was enough to make me cry and not want to leave the house for over a week because I was scared people would judge me. Why?! Even with the weight gain, I am MILES away from being overweight and it makes absolutely no logical sense.

    I want to be as proud of my body as she is and if I ever get brave enough to tell people where to go when they act like dicks I’ll celebrate it, regardless of how many people disapprove. She’s a role model, pure and simple, and I hope that when I’ve kicked the demons out of my head and accepted my body I am as honest and powerful as she is.

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      I feel the same way about my body most of the time, too, even if it’s kind of illogical (I think it drives my partner nuts, too). Now: Learning how to love my body and stop hating on it and hating it. Sending you all the love. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

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    The idea that you shouldn’t be angry when people treat you like shit has always fucked me off – like we’re always told what a beautiful, loving, pure thing forgiveness is but it’s not, not always, and the people telling us that are often the people who need our forgiveness. Her anger is pure and beautiful and it makes me feel loved and it makes me love Margaret Cho.

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    Ahh darn. The only thing that makes me hesitant on being angry is my stuttering, and my slowness in thinking/choosing the words that exactly convey my rage. That’s why usually I just decide to be the bigger person BUT FUCK IT. Thank you Margaret Cho – you’ve made me realize my right to be angry and fight back and reclaim myself when people insult me. I wish I had your eloquence…but I’ll work on it!! Thank you for the inspiration!

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    So, I guess I’ll go ahead and throw myself on the pyre here and be the first to say… I think she sounds completely crazy.

    Let me start off by saying that I had spent the entirety of my childhood being tormented for my appearance, poverty, and sexuality and etc etc etc, so I am very familiar with people being hateful and the hurt that can cause.

    But really, Cho? You seemed so much better than this. So much classier and intelligent. I’m not concerned about the swearing. It’s just that for somebody who claims to be so secure with her body, after receiving hundreds of compliments, she just comes unglued when some troll makes a nasty comment.

    I get standing up for yourself, but if someone shoves me, I don’t threaten to stab them in the face, you know?

    I am extremely comfortable with how I look, and as such, when someone insults me, especially after I willing put myself out there on them internets, I just sling some mud back and move on.

    Because if you are -truly- proud of yourself, you won’t sink to an even lower level then the troll and you would be holding yourself high enough to not let them really bother you.

    If you want to inspire other girls, tell them they are beautiful, not that everyone else who has a different opinion is ugly.

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    “I want to defend the children that we still are inside, the fragile sensitive souls who no matter how much we tried were still told we were not good enough. ”

    I cruised through this article, hit this line, and tears came like blood pooling up. She’s rad and her tattoos are too. (Does anyone remember her getting a peacock on…L.A. Ink? I think?)

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    Favourite. Woman. Ever. She always reminds me that the attitudes I have to deal with (from other lesbians, too) don’t have to apply to me. I don’t have to feel ashamed for living up to or not living up to a stereotype. I can just be me, because the way I look and the things I like don’t define who I am. And those things are fuckin’ awesome anyway.
    I do think sometimes her reaction to others can be seen as sinking to their level, but in another way I think it’s important to lash out against people who sling insults without thinking about the consequences. Because maybe if you make a big deal about it, and are unashamed to shout them down and get angry, then maybe something will change. Quentin Crisp always said that things get tolerated when they’re no longer interesting- but it works the other way too. People no longer think that it’s a big deal to insult someone’s appearance, so they do it casually. I think we need to be reminded just how damaging it can be.
    But it’s not everyone’s way of doing it. That’s the awesome thing about feminism. It will have all of you ^_^

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