Written by Juliette Burton

Voices

Kicking against the pricks

Standing up to the Protein World bullies thrust Juliette Burton into the news. It also got her a lot of negative attention. She explains why the time’s come to start standing up for herself.

An ad on the tube marked with the words “Fuck off unreasonable standard of beauty.” Picture by Jane Bostock.

The Protein World advert that kicked everything off. Photo by Jane Bostock.

It’s been over a month now since a bright yellow advert caught our eyes, made the headlines and weirdly became the unexpected centre of my life. That sounds bizarre, right? An advert I had nothing to do with creating became a focal point.

As many people on social media pointed out, I could have just ignored it. I could also, apparently, just shut the fuck up. Apparently I wouldn’t have been so upset if I’d not grown up to be such an ugly fuck.

But I didn’t ignore it. I’ve been told to ignore a lot in my life: bullies in the school yard, sexist cat-calls, unwanted advances. What they want is attention, right? Many people have pointed out just how much attention this particular yellow advert received because so many people chose not to ignore the ad, chose not to ignore the company’s disrespectful conduct online, chose to speak out and stand up to say, “This is not okay.”

I was also accused of wanting attention. “Clawing my way to social media fame” was one accusation. “Anorexic? Sure she’s starving… For attention!” was another that I now can laugh at. But at the time it was awful. Really awful. I was called “a crazy harpy”, “the definition of insanity” and when I came off Twitter to cope, there were YouTube comments telling me I was an “ugly dyke. I hope she stops eating ’til she dies.”

There have been so many important news stories happening in the world in the past month. Globally and nationally important, world-changing events are happening. Why did I allow an advert to pull me in, even when it became so hurtful and so personal?

Because maybe if we were all freed from the shame and self-loathing inspired by these images, we could free ourselves to think more about the things that really matter. What could we achieve if we weren’t so obsessed with thigh gap and rock-hard abs? What could we do if we stopped wasting so much of our energy on hating ourselves, and hating the way we look? I think of the years I lost to my eating disorder, the hours I still lose daily trying to fight it and realise that it’s one drop in the human race’s ocean of wasted time and energy, wasted for nothing.

“I was called ‘a crazy harpy’, ‘the definition of insanity’ and when I came off Twitter to cope, there were YouTube comments telling me I was an ‘ugly dyke. I hope she stops eating ’til she dies.’”

I do worry about how much money I, and others who opposed it, may have helped this company make. I also remind myself that money comes and goes. What matters is how we treat each other.

Coming home from a gig earlier this week I called in at a Co-op to grab a drink for the drive home. There was a guy in the car park who called after me as I entered the shop: “Oi! Oi!” I ignored him. As I browsed the shelves he and his mate came up to me: “S’cuse me love, do you work here?” I replied: “No.” As he and his mate walked around the corner of the aisle I heard him say, “She’s a slut.”

Now I had a choice. I could’ve ignored him as I did when I walked in. As I did when I was bullied at school. As I have done to so many bullies throughout my life. But I didn’t.

In the queue I confronted him, calmly asking why he’d said that. He denied that he had. I wondered how many of those trolling me and others this past month would also have cowered when confronted face to face.

We could all live life ignoring everything we felt wasn’t right. But ignoring something doesn’t make it disappear. It rots away from the inside. I now know that there always comes a time when we need to confront those things that we are upset about, no longer willing to stand for, the things we want to change. Now seems an excellent time for progress.

Nothing changes until change can’t be stopped.

Juliette performs Look At Me at Leicester Square Theatre on Jun 17 and 18. Click here for tickets. She’s also at the Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh, from August 16 to 21. Click here for tickets.

@JulietteBurton

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Written by Juliette Burton

Juliette Burton is a docu-comedian, actor, writer, thinker, dreamer, doer and person. She has a history of mental health problems and loves The Muppets. These two things are in no way linked.