Don’t feed the trolls: Every time women role models like Lizzo quit, the bullies win
It is understandable why Lizzo would want to take a break from all the negativity because persistent hate can take a toll. Since she had taken such an anti-body shaming stance, her decision to quit Twitter becomes a defacto win for trolls
On January 6, Lizzo tweeted: "Yeah I can't do this Twitter s**t no more... too many trolls. I'll be back when I feel like it." Despite her fans supporting her decision and some others begging her to come back, her feed was overrun with trolls celebrating the fact that they had made her quit Twitter.
It is a known and well-researched fact that women are harassed on social media and other online forums more frequently than men. Trolling and cyberbullying could range from shaming comments and jokes, slurs, offensive language and in extreme cases, stalking and doxxing.
It is also no surprise that women who have an online voice and presence like journalists and celebrities often get an even greater amount of vitriol, especially if they espouse a cause or stand up for a certain issue. Online scrutiny often translates into body shaming especially for celebrities for whom appearance is part of their personal brands.
Chrissy Teigen was body-shamed for a "flat a**" in July 2019. In 2018, Millie Bobby Brown left Twitter after becoming a homophobic meme, without her consent. Kelly Marie Tran, who starred in 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi', deleted all her Instagram photos in June 2018 after months of harassment from racist 'Star Wars' fans.
Selena Gomez deleted her Instagram in 2017 after hackers got into her account and shared nude photos of her ex-boyfriend Justin Bieber. Even after reinstating her account, she reportedly deletes the Instagram app from her phone once a week just to avoid trolls who "want to cut to your soul".
Lizzo in some ways stood at the intersection of four "hate streams." Being a black, plus-sized, female celebrity, she was already a prime candidate for online trolling. In addition, the rapper-singer had also made body positivity and being plus-sized a cause celebre and part of her personal brand.
In doing so, she had taken on the fight against body shaming. On Twitter, instead of ignoring comments about her weight, she would also actively fight back.
For example, when a certain Dr. Boyce Watkins on social media insinuated that she was only popular because of America's ongoing "obesity epidemic", she clapped back saying: "I’m popular because I write good songs and I’m talented and perform high energy hour and a half shows filled with love. The only person who needs to do better is you. Keep my name out ya mouth and look in the mirror before you come for me. Here’s the attention you ordered."
But the latest toxic joke tweet about dropping her on Iran instead of nukes might have been the final straw. It is understandable why Lizzo would want to take a break from all the negativity because persistent hate can take a toll.
However, because she had taken such an anti-body shaming stance, her decision to quit Twitter becomes a defacto win for trolls. The final aim of any troll is to shut their victim up, to erase their presence and their voice.
Each time a female celebrity who serves as a role model for those struggling with the same issues that they are speaking up about quits, the trolls and bullies win. Lizzo could take a page out of Greta Thunberg who has been trolled by everyone from Donald Trump to Meat Loaf about her climate change crusade.
She has been selective in replying to her detractors. She has used humor as a weapon. She has also used facts to refocus attention on what really matters.
Replying to Meat Loaf's claim that she had been "brainwashed", she tweeted: "It’s not about Meatloaf. It’s not about me. It’s not about what some people call me. It’s not about left or right. It’s all about scientific facts. And that we’re not aware of the situation. Unless we start to focus everything on this, our targets will soon be out of reach" and attached an infographic tweet by website CarbonBrief about UNEP's warnings about carbon emissions.
In Lizzo's case, highlighting the fact that she performs "high energy" shows that underline how fit she is despite being overweight and shaming trolls with humor or simply ignoring/blocking detractors are all much better options than quitting Twitter. Social media needs women like her to stay loud and proud.