“I suggest you get into the real world you f**king thick bitch, just deal with it sweetie.”
“You must have a sad collection of politically correct luvvies who follow your rubbish posts.”
Above are two of many messages that I’ve encountered over the last few days. Online criticism is not something new to me, particularly after my book came out. But a bombardment such as the last 48 hours, was a bit of a shock.
It started on Tuesday when I did an Instagram live panel with Frankie Bridge and Poppy Jaman. Apparently not many people think I’m attractive or like the pink jacket that I was wearing… and to these people I say nothing, EXCEPT – it’s not a jacket, it’s an obscene Topshop dress that I fashioned into a jacket. So there!
Things then sparked up again yesterday due to my friendship with Natasha Devon. Our lovely Youtube video became littered with comments from people who seemingly had no interest in mental health, but a need to hurl abuse. I’ve removed the majority, but there’s still a remaining few.
Earlier in the day she’d made a speech the annual GSA conference, about mental health and education. It covered a variety of things such as, the social media and how teachers can help children who are struggling with academic stress.
Five minutes of said speech was dedicated to gender and the use of gender neutral language. This resonated with me, because I’ve experienced first hand how the use of gender language, and the labels associated with them can have an impact. For example, at school I really wanted to play cricket instead of rounders, but wasn’t allowed because it wasn’t something “nice young girls,” should play. I also remember boys being criticised for crying, or showing their emotions. “Stop crying you big girl!”
This, as we now know, can have an impact on mental health later in life. Suicide is still the biggest killer of men under the age of 45.
Despite the hour long speech, the press naturally jumped on the ‘gender neutral language’ part. Am I surprised? Not really, they love to sensationalise. Did she actually say “we should never use the terms boy and girl” again? NO.
To say that she was dragged over hot coals is an understatement;
I received death and rape threats, messages questioning my sanity, calling me a ‘f**king idiot’, trying to insult me through the prism of questioning my own gender, calling me fat and ugly, suggesting I should be burned as a witch and, perhaps most offensively, claiming that I am single-handedly responsible for the current poor mental health of British children.
And here is my fear: I worry that, for the next few months, if my name happens to be mentioned in a pub, or an office, or school the next words spoken will be ‘isn’t she the one who says we aren’t allowed to say girls or boys anymore? PC Gone Mad! Nothing wrong with being a girl/boy!’.
That is how the media, for all the magnificent work it does to raise awareness of mental health, shuts down some of the complex conversations we need to have in order to better understand it.
As a friend, I was outraged (that’s also an understatement). Yet as a mental health advocate myself I felt incredibly sad and disappointed. Do the media really have no shame? Are they that desperate for a bit of drama that they’d attempt to damage the reputation of someone who does truly care about the mental health of youths, and has spent the last few years consistently battling to make things better? It would appear so.
Well shame on them, I hope they all sleep well.
For those who would like to read the full story, please click HERE.