Rachel Moss and the WisCon drama

29th May 2008

Rachel Moss and the WisCon drama

There are two kinds of regret: regrets of omission (things not done) and regrets of commission (things done). I bet Rachel Moss is really kicking herself over the latter.

Quick summary: Moss, a young college student, attended the feminist sci-fi convention WisCon, where she photographed fat, disabled and trans people (including children) without their permission and then poorly edited out their faces (but not their name badges) and posted to a high-traffic site with scathing editorials on each and their bodies. Read more about the details here, here and here.

Moss has since posted an apology on her LiveJournal blog and successfully lobbied the site she posted on to remove her comments. But as with most things on the internet, the first half of what Rachel wrote has been archived here and here. (Warning: Don’t visit those links if fat hatred bothers you – I post it only to show the depths of hatred for those whose bodies are classified as deviant.)

Another blogger, Badgerbag, did some googling and found that Moss suffers from an eating disorder. Read more about this here. Last July, Moss posted about her struggles on the Something Fishy message board. Perhaps Moss has made significant gains in the past year with her psychiatrist, but it appears unlikely. Even Moss admitted at the time that she felt she is in denial about her disorder. (I ask that readers please respect this site as a place of recovery and do not post malicious comments to Moss on her thread there).

I do not condone Moss’ actions, but as a fellow eating disorder sufferer, I sympathize with her. I can only hypothesize that her actions were borne of her own innate and intense fear of fat, and/or perhaps an unconscious envy of those fat people she feels do not struggle with the issues of control and deprivation she battles on a daily basis. And if Moss is unwilling or unable to deal with or manage her disorder, images of fat women — for whom thinness and restriction Moss assumes to be unimportant or irrelevant goals — might appear downright threatening on an existentialist level. In the midst of my eating disorder, I remember feeling envious of anyone who appeared to enjoy food without restraint, especially if that person were thin. Their disregard invalidated all the restriction, deprivation, starvation and self-harming “sacrifices” I felt I was making in that almighty quest for thinness. Eating disorders are a Faustian bargain in which you sacrifice your health, sanity and wellbeing for a tediously monotonous life of restraint, emotional volatility, magical and disoriented thinking, low self-esteem and the pervasive pursuit of slimness. The bargain is so much easier to keep in a culture that vilifies fat and stringently reinforces otherwise disordered behaviors as necessary and admirable than in a culture that embraces and respects body-size diversity.

But I also do not want to dismiss Moss’ actions and culpability beneath the rug of mental illness. Her actions posed irreparable and significant harm for many people – for both those whose photos were posted and culture at large – and mental illness should never be used as a justification to harm others. I really do hope Moss seeks recovery and is eventually able to come to a place in which she does not judge the self-worth of either herself or others on the basis of physical appearance.

This is all really a sad situation and I feel bad for Moss, but I feel worse for all the people she hurt.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, May 29th, 2008 at 8:59 am and is filed under Eating Disorders, Fat Bias, Pop Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 24 responses to “Rachel Moss and the WisCon drama”

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  1. 1 On May 29th, 2008, BigLiberty said:

    Thank you for your fair and balanced take on this, Rachel. I’m also quite sorry for Ms. Moss, but I’m more sorry for her victims.

    Note: the forum to which you linked has begun mining my site, and putting up my posts (in particular, the post on my story of abuse and rape) up on their board in threads to mock. I’m sure they’ve done this to other blogs before. It doesn’t really phase me, as you can see by this post:

    We’ve all got bigger fish to fry than tangling with tired tripe of trolls.

  2. 2 On May 29th, 2008, Jae said:

    While a part of me feels bad for her, because obviously Ms. Moss seems to be mired in self-hatred, but my sympathy kind of dies because of how she choose to deal with that hatred.

    There are (too) many people in the world with eating disorders, and probably even more people who hate themselves, who do not do what this woman did. Your story Rachel, which you’ve bravely shared, proves that; you confess that you harborded hateful thoughts for people not struggling as you were, but I doubt you ever did anything like this.

    I hope that this woman gets help for her eating disorder and for whatever other mental and emotional problems she is dealing with, but the fact that she took this course of actions (sadly) leads me to believe that she probably won’t become a kinder person even if her disorder is treated.

    For all the people Rachel Moss targeted: For what it’s worth, know that you have the support of a lot of people. I hope you are all doing well.

  3. 3 On May 29th, 2008, Den said:

    But this does not explain Rachel’s love for trolling that does not involve fat issues at all.

  4. 4 On May 29th, 2008, Cabell said:

    One minor thing: I think that characterizing Moss as a “young college student” is a bit misleading. She’s a 25-year-old graduate student. As a 26-year-old graduate student at the same institution and a long-time WisCon attendee, I find her behavior especially appalling. I do recognize that she has her own demons, but I have to say that I also have a strong feeling that she’s old enough to know better…

  5. 5 On May 29th, 2008, Alix D said:

    I hate to say it, but it’s not much in the way of an apology:

  6. 6 On May 29th, 2008, Lola said:

    It’s sad, really, but, from the little I’ve read, I noticed that she withdrew her apology (which wasn’t much of an apology to begin with), and that, more than being envious of thin people, she showed a real hatred of fat women. I read a few ana/mia blogs some years ago and it’s the same hatred and phobia of becoming fat I saw then. While I do feel sorry for Moss’ condition, I think she still has to regret her actions. That would be a good first step for her to realize she has a problem.

  7. 7 On May 29th, 2008, Rachel said:

    Good point, Cabell. I’m only a few years older than Moss myself and I would never fathom of doing such a thing, even a decade ago.

    There are a lot of people angry with Moss and rightfully so. I’m not angered as much as I am saddened by what drove Moss to do such a thing, and the culture which still condones such hateful behavior directed at a specific group of people. Still, the huge backlash from this drama has reassured me that there is a large and vocal group of diverse people who absolutely do not condone this kind of hate speech.

    As for me, I do not care if Moss ever apologizes. In fact, I care very little about her at all in the grand scheme of things. What I am more concerned about is battling a culture in which this kind of behavior and hatred exists.

  8. 8 On May 29th, 2008, Bree said:

    Definitely her comments about fat women, queers, the disabled, and transgenders were horrible, but what really put it over the top was her mocking of an attendee’s 9 year-old son, calling him a “pussy” simply because his mother was a feminist. And you wonder why we have generations of men who grow up to be abusers.

    The increasing hatred of children by supposedly mature people is downright disturbing. The fact that Rachel Moss chose to do this to look cool to a bunch of jerks on SA really says something about how desperate she is to be accepted.

    We’ve only got one world. It is not only reserved for the thin, white, able-bodied, straight person. People like Moss and her ilk better damn well start realizing that.

  9. 9 On May 29th, 2008, JMS said:

    The fact that Rachel Moss chose to do this to look cool to a bunch of jerks on SA really says something about how desperate she is to be accepted.

    Yes. When will this kind of self-loathing, Quisling-meets-Stockholm Syndrome kind of behavior stop?

    (Probably not until the Ann Coulters and Phyllis Schlaflys of the world stop being rewarded for their public autoexcoriation.)

  10. 10 On May 30th, 2008, sass said:

    You glossed over the part where wiscon bloggers dug up Moss’s name, address, email, personal phone number, and other info to harass her. And the death threats via phone and email. And the bit where wiscon feminists alleged discrimination and attempted to get Moss fired from her university job. Hope that helps.

  11. 11 On May 30th, 2008, Rachel said:

    Sass: That’s unfortunate, for sure. And I in no way condone that behavior, as well. But since this blog is an eating disorders awareness and education blog, I chose instead to focus specifically on what spoke to the blog’s main thrust. Like I said, it’s a sad situation overall.

  12. 12 On May 30th, 2008, Elizabeth said:

    I am sorry that this woman did what she did. I am sorry that those people were humiliated. I am sorry that she has received death threats and anything of the like. But Ms. Moss has just learned a valuable lesson, there are consequences for our actions in this world. Call it Karma if you want but when you maliciously set out to hurt others ,whether you intend for them to know it or not, it always comes back to you. I hope this incident will help her learn a major life lesson.

  13. 13 On May 30th, 2008, JMS said:

    You glossed over the part where wiscon bloggers dug up Moss’s name, address, email, personal phone number, and other info to harass her

    WHOOPS! You have a typo there for “SASS posters” who were actually the people who posted the harassing information.

    the bit where wiscon feminists alleged discrimination and attempted to get Moss fired from her university job

    And this isn’t true, either, although some people who were fellow students, teachers, and employees of the University of Wisconsin have contemplated reporting Moss’s violation (by harassing them, her colleagues) of the anti-harassment agreements she signed.

    Way to go with the spin machine, though! Maybe if you work hard enough, Lowtax will let you back into SA!

  14. 14 On May 30th, 2008, Rachel said:

    I hate to think that anyone from any group that purports to be about acceptance, whether it be fat acceptance or size acceptance or whatnot, would be amongst those who have made threats to Moss’ wellbeing, job or school. But I think accusing any party or person of any such activity would be better left in the domain of law enforcement. If this incident has taught us anything, it’s showed how real people can get hurt by the irresponsible and malicious posting of words and images online.

  15. 15 On May 30th, 2008, Putting heads back on the headless fatties » said:

    [...] Moss’ decision to photograph fat people and others and post their photos online with scathing commentary on them and t… has rightfully angered a lot of people. There have even been reports of people unrightfully [...]

  16. 16 On May 30th, 2008, Cindy said:

    I have an ED, and therefore have empathy with RM, if she in fact has an ED. I’d never make threats or respond to her post in the same abusive language and tone RM did when she took shots at the Wisconners.

    I agree with the other posters, however, that her ED does not magically erase her accountability for her actions.

    And if that was an apology at her LJ site, it’s the worst apology I’ve ever seen.

  17. 17 On May 30th, 2008, Cindy said:

    empathy FOR Rachel Moss. Not WITH.

  18. 18 On May 31st, 2008, Liza said:

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say I do *NOT* feel bad for her.

    Millions of people worldwide suffer from mental illnesses, and specifically eating disorders, that do not take their own self-loathing out on others in a public and malicious manner.

    Eating disorders do not suspend one’s moral compass. She is an adult and knows right from wrong. So I have no sympathy for her.

  19. 19 On June 1st, 2008, annaham said:

    thank you for this post, rachel.

    you are a much more compassionate human being than i am because you are able to sympathize with her. i certainly can’t bring myself to do the same.

  20. 20 On June 2nd, 2008, Maria said:

    Yeah, I don’t feel bad for her either — cuz guess what? The only reason she apologized is cuz she got caught.

  21. 21 On June 2nd, 2008, On Baby Showers and Rachel Moss « said:

    [...] Further reading at Angry Black Woman and The F-Word. [...]

  22. 22 On June 3rd, 2008, Rvmaooooovldr said:

    Ah, SASS. The haven for those sub-humans who are too antisocial, illiterate, or just plain dumb to fit in at Something Awful. Yes, you read that right. These posts originated within a group of people who were deemed TOO ABRASIVE FOR THE ARMPIT OF THE INTERNET. She might as well have written it in feces on the wall, and we should care just about as much.

  23. 23 On July 28th, 2009, random said:

    I suffered from an eating disorder for more than 10 years (I’m not sure I’m over it yet, to be honest), and I NEVER found it appropriate or acceptable to mock fat people, no matter how badly I was hurting or how jealous I was of their attitudes toward eating (and damn, was I jealous).

    Barring the presence of even stormier mental conditions than we thought she had, Rachel Moss is, in my opinion, a cruel spirited person. To hell with her.

  24. 24 On December 5th, 2009, RaceFail ‘09 and me « it was all one thing said:

    [...] 2008. Rachel Moss mocked WisCon on the internet. As a consequence, she became Internet famous, real-world notorious: …a few persons upset [...]

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