New Job

I’m excited to announce that I’ve accepted a Freelance Journalist position with a website called Blasting News. They are a European based news curation site that tries to keep the media honest by sourcing their news from freelance journalists who represent all positions. If nothing else it’s a way to get more published content out there for my resume. 
The topics will be wide ranging and represent an opportunity for me to branch out to new subjects. I’m really excited for this new adventure. 

Seeing as I’ll be writing for them at least a few times a week, my posts here will dwindle. I promise to post at least once a week with a provocative and well thought out feminist think piece. 

Here’s my first article for Blasting News:   http://us.blastingnews.com/opinion/2016/06/being-bernie-or-bust-is-a-vote-for-trump-00987903.html  

If you’ve liked what I’ve written here please consider following me on Blasting News or checking out my Facebook account where I’ll be posting links: https://facebook.com/robin.zabiegalski. 

Thank you all so much for your support over the past year. I am still amazed that anyone even reads what I write. Your support has enabled a dream of mine to come true. 

Humbled and a Little Overwhelmed

I absolutely could not have anticipated the response to my second article published on XOJane. In a few days the article has received over 600 shares and over 100 comments. I’ve had to stop reading the comments because it’s too much for me. Not because people have been saying mean things, though some have. For the most part the comments have been incredibly supportive and positive. I just can’t keep up with the amount.

The biggest surprise has been the direct responses I have gotten from people. Friends sent me screenshots of the article on their Yahoo homepages. Friends told me that friends of theirs who had never met me or even been to Vermont were seeing the article on their Yahoo homepages. Friends and family shared the article on Facebook. Friends and family commented on the article. Even more shocking were the people that started to reach out to me via Facebook Messenger. People I hadn’t spoken to since high school reached out to congratulate me and share their experiences. Then people I had never met started reaching out to me and telling me their stories. They poured out their hearts, sharing in intimate detail their struggles with food and exercise. They thanked me for sharing my experience and told me how much it helped.

I never thought anything like this would happen. I didn’t expect one article would touch so many people. I never imagined that people would track me down and trust me with their stories and their secrets. I am honored to be so trusted. I am humbled that my words touched so many people. I’m a little overwhelmed by the entire experience. I didn’t think that putting my work out there would create such a responsibility to the readers. I guess I couldn’t have known that without having an article really out there. I’m not so overwhelmed that I want it to stop. I am happy to have a voice.

 

People on the Internet Are Calling Me Fat and it’s Not That Big A Deal

When I first started thinking about getting an article about my eating disorder recovery published on a major blog, I was terrified at the idea of posting pictures with the article because my biggest fear was that someone would call me fat and ugly in the comments. I was terrified of the trolls. I know that when women talk about feminism online they get awfully abused. I know that when women with larger bodies express that they are comfortable with their bodies they get abused. So I had a strong feeling that if my writing were to be published on a larger scale, I’d be dealing with my fair share of trolls. I’d have to suck it up and deal.

When XOJane published my first article last week I seemed to have lucked out with the trolls. The majority of the comments that I say were positive and the ones that weren’t were criticizing me   for trivializing eating disorders. That hurt, but I didn’t take it too seriously. I’ve spent plenty of time in therapy and with those I love working through feelings that my eating disorder wasn’t real or wasn’t “bad enough”. I was prepared for those comments because I know my eating disorder is legitimate and not a trivial matter. I take it very seriously.

Yesterday, my second article went live on XOJane. This one is about being overweight in recovery, a topic that is not very widely discussed. This article blew up much faster than my first. Within 24 hours it was over 500 shares and 125 comments. I promised myself I wouldn’t get too invested in the comments this time. It wasn’t worth it. But I made the mistake of “just browsing” and there they were: comments about me being fat. One person asked if recovery were really worth it if I was going to be that fat. Couldn’t I just try to diet smarter? Another person called me morbidly obese and insisted I had just swapped one eating disorder for another and now had binge eating disorder. She went back to the old standby: that I was promoting unhealthy lifestyles by being fat. There are probably more comments like this now. My sister just informed me that people have chosen to duke it out in the comments on my article. I’ve stopped reading.

I want to be clear though: I haven’t stopped reading because I can’t take the abuse. I’ve just stopped reading because I don’t care to keep up with the madness. Did it hurt to be called fat by total strangers? Of course it did. But right after I processed the hurt I laughed, and then I was sad.

I laughed because it was so absurd that people were having such a strong, negative reaction to an article about my own experience. I also laughed because I knew what they were saying wasn’t true. I had to pause and think about that for a while. These people were calling me fat and I didn’t believe them. I didn’t believe I was fat and ugly. Major progress.

Then I was sad because I started thinking about the people who were saying such mean things. They must be in a lot of pain about their bodies to lash out so harshly at me. Their perceptions of what women should look like and be must be very warped if they see my body as morbidly obese and unhealthy. They must be very sad people. I’m the praying type, so I’m praying for them, hoping they can find what they need for their lives. Not out of pity, out of love, because I know what it’s like to be in that much pain.

I also feel like I’ve gone through some sort of body positivity blogger rite of passage. Every body positive role model I have talks about being called fat on the Internet. It happens to all of us. Now I just kind of feel part of the crew. It’s really indicative of the sad state of our society that women are harshly abused for even trying to love themselves and for speaking out. No matter how much it hurts to be harassed online, I refuse to let it take away my voice.

So Sad

A lot has happened in the news since I’ve been writing regularly. The Brock Turner rape case. The Orlando shooting. Trump spouting more hate. These are the things I believe that writers should write about. I believe that writers have the power to be activists, to promote change through their writing. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I started this blog. I wanted to promote change, mostly within myself, but maybe within others who were struggling with similar issues. I wanted to identify my own feminism, and help others identify theirs. I wanted to be a voice for the things I believe. I’ve achieved that goal. I have a small, but steady following on this blog, and I now have readers in other places. So, I feel like I should be writing about the sad things taking place in this country. But the truth is, I just can’t.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say. I have a thousand things to say. When I heard about the Brock Turner case I exploded with rage. I yelled in my living room for a solid five minutes. I have yelled about it in many other conversations. My heart broke in to a thousand pieces when I heard about Orlando. I cried. A lot. I reached out to my dearest people and told them how much I loved them. I cried some more. I heaved more than one exasperated sigh when Trump took up the cry of hatred against Muslims. I wanted to rage, but I’m all raged out at Trump. I can’t do it anymore. My outrage and outspokenness has done nothing to stop his overtaking of my country.

The truth is that I am too sad to really process any of these things. I am too sad to break them down, analyze them, and come up with some insight. I’m too sad to use my voice for activism on these things right now. I hope that soon I will be able to write about these things. These posts will be overdue and I probably won’t be able to say anything that hasn’t already been said, but I will add my voice to the Internet chorus when I’m ready. But I need more time. I need more time to grieve. I need more time to think. I need more time to process. I need more time to really understand the impact of these events.

When Life Gets Busy

This is probably pretty obvious, but the blog hasn’t been a priority for a while. I’ve been struggling to get one post out a week. This is in direct opposition to my hopes that I would be posting content at least three to four times per week. Of course, life happens. I’m lucky that my life has been absolutely packed since the beginning of the month. That being said, I think those of you who actually read this on a regular basis deserve to know where I’ve been, so here’s a brief update.

After just over a month of unemployment, I finally have a job again. Through experience I have come to believe that nothing awful happens without something better following. This has proven true yet again with regards to my employment. After losing a job I loved and mourning that loss I’m moving on to one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had. I’m spending the summer as a camp counselor for an outdoor adventure camp at a popular ski resort that doubles as a summer family vacation spot. I’ll be getting paid to hike, play dodgeball, swim, and make friendship bracelets. Of course, the trade-off is that I’ll be making the least amount of money I’ve made since I was 16, but for now the pure joy I have when I show up to work is worth being dirt poor. Last week was my training week and I was on my feet from 8:30am to 4:30pm running around the resort and learning how to facilitate all this fun. I haven’t been so exhausted after work since I was working three jobs to pay rent on my first big girl apartment. I had intended to write after work last week, but it never happened. I got home from work and passed out on the couch every day.

Since the beginning of the month I’ve only spent one weekend in my own bed. Last weekend I was in Maine reprising my role as the “cool girl” with my favorite group of guys. Starting Thursday this week I was in CT taking my little sister to see Taking Back Sunday and Dashboard Confessional, then in VT again on Friday night helping my best friend get ready for her wedding. Saturday was a whirlwind of errands, arts and crafts, venue setup, and pure, overwhelming joy. I watched two of my best friends walk down the aisle and pledge their lives to each other. There’s something about weddings that make the rest of the world melt away. Nothing exists except pure, true love. We celebrated, we laughed, we cried, and we danced for hours.

Yesterday I slept as late as possible, 9:30am, and spent the rest of the day curled up on my couch with my husband binge watching Orange is the New Black, and catching the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Today is my first day with actual campers. Teenagers who probably don’t want to spend their vacation hiking and button making, but at the end of the day, I’m still getting paid to hike and craft.

Life is busy. Life is good. I’m hoping that today can kick off a new commitment to getting content back on here. I took a good, long break from writing at all after getting my first few pieces published, but it’s time to get back to the grind. I made my original dream of being a paid freelancer come true, and now it’s time to do the dedicated work of keeping it going.

I’m a Freelancer for Real!

It’s been too long since I’ve written here, but I promise there’s a good reason for that. Yesterday, I got my first paycheck from writing and had my first piece published, and the money wasn’t even for the article that was published! That’s right. In one day I turned in three articles and got paid for the first time and got my first piece published. They’re paying me too, it just hasn’t come through yet. After all my hard work I am finally a real freelance writer! I wanted to share some reflections on my first experiences freelancing, more to process myself than anything else.

About a month ago I pitched a story to XOJane and had it accepted. I wrote the article in one sitting the weekend that it was approved and submitted the story. Then I waited. I checked my email obsessively. I was always looking for something from the editor, some indication that the story was going to be published or some sort of rejection after the fact because my writing wasn’t as good as they’d hoped. Nothing. I basically wrote them off. I figured something wasn’t right and the article would never see the light of day. Then out of the blue yesterday, I received the email that my article was being published, that day! I freaked out. The editor I worked with was amazing and she even checked on another pitch I had and agreed to work with me on that one as well!

A little over 24 hours later the article has received over 350 shares and over 40 comments, almost all of them positive. Of course, being the perfectionist I am I have focused in one the single negative comment. I keep reminding myself that the article has been incredibly well received and that one person’s opinion of my work does not make or break me as a writer. Time to get a thicker skin.

Takeaways from my experience with XOJane: don’t give up if you don’t hear back. The editors you’re working with are incredibly busy. No news may be better than good news. Move on, submit another pitch, and keep trying to get your work out there. And don’t let the haters get to you. It’s impossible to please everyone.

The other articles I submitted yesterday were for a job I found on a writers job board, ghostwriting for a health blog. I was so excited that they wanted me for the job that I agreed before really understanding what they wanted me to write. I thought they wanted me to write about the danger of elimination diets, which I was totally on board with, but what they really wanted was weight loss listicles. I wasn’t comfortable with the assignment, but I’d already agreed to write for them, so I went ahead. It was really difficult. I was completely uncomfortable most of the time I was writing. Because I was so uncomfortable I was slow to finish the articles. What I could have written in a few days took me a week. I found myself reluctant to sit down to write. I knew that I was doing something that was against my values and it didn’t feel good.

I finished the articles and followed up with the editor. I liked her a lot. She was very helpful and easy to work with, so I decided to be completely honest when I turned in the article. I told her that I had really enjoyed working with her as an editor, but that the content had made me really uncomfortable. I told her I would love to work with her again, but that I would not write anything related to diets or weight loss again. I needed to stick to my values. She was incredibly receptive and told me she’d let me know if she needed any other work done for the blog.

Takeaways from my freelance job: Always understand the job before you commit. Don’t just write something for the money. Feel free to turn down jobs that don’t line up with your viewpoints or values. Never compromise yourself.

I’m glad to finally be among the published. I’m psyched that I actually made some money writing. Now on to the next job.

Bewilderment at the Plight of Today’s Women

I’m a huge fan of the radio show “On Point” with Tom Ashbrook. I listen to the podcast all the time and I find it very informative. They explore a lot of issues facing America today and their guests are always insightful. Lately, the show has tackled a few different angles on the issues women face. I wrote another post about the episode they did on #MoreThanMean, which focused on online harassment of women. Other episodes have dealt with the wage gap.  Yesterday, I listened to an archived episode with Gloria Steinem about her new documentary series “Woman”. The series focuses on stories of violence against women from across the globe.

One pattern I’ve noticed while listening to these interviews is that Tom Ashbrook seems continually shocked at the state of affairs for women today around the world. He seems completely bewildered by the fact that women are still treated so poorly. When I first heard this I thought it was kind of cute. I thought, “What a sweet guy! He’s so pro-women he doesn’t see how people could treat women these ways.” But as I listened to more women centered episodes and continued to hear this reaction from Mr. Ashbrook it started to rub me the wrong way. It began to seem like Tom Ashbrook was incredibly naive, almost blind to the plight of women.

I began to wonder how many men out there are bewildered when they hear about the struggles women face. How many men out there think, “It’s 2016 for God’s sake! There’s no way women are that bad off anymore!” Maybe they don’t see women being treated poorly in their own environments and they don’t treat women badly themselves, so they don’t think it’s an issue. How many men live in this kind of naivety? Maybe this is a one of the reasons it’s so hard to get men to take women seriously when they talk about feminism.

The only remedy to this kind of naivety is exposure. Men need to see how bad it is for women around the world. Women need to tell men about how their treatment negatively impacts their lives. Women need to tell men how even microaggressions hurt women and they need to stop. Men need to be told that the patterns of oppression everyone engages in daily build up to a toxic environment for women. Men also need to be told exactly how bad it is for some women. Though it may seem inappropriate or excessive to describe some of the violence that occurs, it may lead to a better understanding of the severity of the situation, which may make men take women more seriously. We need to address this naivety head on so that women can get the help they need.