Saturday, 8 June 2019

Can a fashion blogger have an opinion? | Blog Stuff

Recently on the blog I was chastised for having an opinion about the Northern Ireland local elections. I used my Instagram story platform to encourage people to get out and vote and in the sequence of stories, referred to my frustrations with the currently useless government (or the lack thereof) in Northern Ireland. I used the word bigoted.

The person who took offence at this told me that they follow me for fashion and beauty commentary and that I shouldn't use my voice to discuss political matters, especially whenever my view was a strong one. Specifically I was told I shouldn't have used the word bigot. When I suggested that person might be better unfollowing me if it was such a problem (probably not the best response in retrospect) things escalated to the extent that the person told me they would report me to the brands I work with.

In the end, I deleted the stories and apologised for my rudeness. But it's irked me since that I was silenced. That I was told to stay in my fashion box and not dare to have a view about anything that's unrelated to dresses and shoes. That my reputation as an honest and transparent blogger could be damaged. The crux of it was that if I was earning money and 'getting free stuff', I need to behave in a certain way to be deserving of this.
(On an aside, there's no such thing as 'free stuff'...but that's for another blog post)

So it all got me thinking, once you earn money and work with brands on a blog, do you have to dumb down your content to a people pleasing, non-controversial level? 

To be fair, I usually don't tackle big issues on my content - I don't ever refer to things that hit the news. I actually think that a lot of modern day anxiety is because we hear every single awful story from all over the world on a constant reel. It's good to be aware of what's going on but it's ever present for us nowadays. Not very many years ago, you'd read it in the paper or see it on the news but you'd not have thousands of sad stories shared on a constant feed. You'd not get every person's perspective on an event - the ordinary people who's lives are ruined forever by what's happened or the people who witnessed it.
We're forever hearing about children getting sick, young husbands and wives dying tragically and unexpectedly, people's holidays being ruined by terrorist attacks or accidents. That 'don't worry because 99% of what you worry about will never happen' starts to feel more like 99% of it WILL happen. We are naturally hardwired to be empathetic but I think at the levels we're having to feel empathy nowadays, the amount of times we have to think 'oh my how awful', we're actually in an anxiety space where we're afraid it might happen to us.

So I stay well away from that space - not because of working with brands or because I don't have a view and feel empathy. I don't follow the fashion-focused bloggers I follow to be further reminded of a terrorist attack in a city near me. I equally don't think said fashion blogger is a heartless person for not mentioning it (I've been accused of this too).

But when it comes to positive action - like voting,  I feel strongly that I SHOULD use my voice to encourage people. We had two sets of elections in Northern Ireland in May and I was shocked at how many of my educated friends had opted out of voting in the first round of elections because they felt it wouldn't make a difference. It made me so sad...in a time when we don't have a government because of bigoted politicians on both sides, that people would just opt out. Be passive and accepting of what's going on. Allow polarised parties to continue to be in control and not compromise one bit.

I was shot down by someone who had a polarising opinion. I was silenced for having a compromising, middle of the road view on the situation. The person possibly gauged from my words who I'd likely voted for and perhaps didn't like it. I might have rushed to defend myself when I was challenged and come across as being rude in my reply but a few weeks on, I realise I was wrong, SO wrong to delete my story and apologise. I feel ashamed that I let this person bully me into doing it. If a brand doesn't want to work with me because I think some of the politics in this county is bigoted, then that's just fine. I don't want to work with that brand.

And on that, challenge me on my opinions, give your opinion, disagree with me. Both on this post and on anything I put on social channels. Bring on the discussion - it's the only way we can all co-exist. None of us should feel forced to keep our constructive opinions to ourselves or to voice our frustrations because our country has had no government for 873 days (as at the 8th June) and that in that time, MLA's salaries have totalled over £10m.

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14 comments

  1. Love this post. I follow you because I like your personality & honesty. Not because of the brands you work with. Please continue to stay as you are!

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    1. Thank you - it's so easy to question everything when faced by a strong negative reaction...I know I should have trusted my instinct. Thanks for your support x

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  2. Great post Averil. I support you 100%.

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    1. Thank you Eleanor - that means so much. I've come out of this stronger and braver! x

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  3. Just wanted to drop you a line because I found myself incensed by the fact that someone had, in effect, silenced you! Thank you for the post, and for sharing your experience, as uncomfortable as it was. I take a very simple view; that it's your blog, your Instagram account and you have every right to express an opinion. If people don't like it, they don't have to read or follow you! As for "telling mummy" - er, sorry, contacting the brands; I expect any brand worth their salt would've ignored the person's comments!

    Don't be harsh on yourself, Avril - you live and learn. I really enjoy your blog, as do many, many others, so don't let one negative experience make you lose perspective.

    Ali

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  4. Never allow anyone to silence you, this is YOUR space. Telling them to unfollow wad the correct response. The favtvthagthey were going to report you to brands is laughable and, also, blackmail. You are entitled to free speech and to speak up against bigotry. Telling women they are only allowed to talk about fashion and not have political views is abhorrent. I am furious for you and all women who are constantly silenced in this way. We are not living in Gilead, yet.

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  5. If I was in a room hearing this as a speech I’d be on my feet applauding you. Brilliantly worded, as usual. Continue to speak your mind, Avril and well done standing up to the bully through this blog post.

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  6. Avril, living in Northern Ireland too, I understand both your reticence and your bravery in speaking out. There will always be someone close by who doesn’t like what you have to say. It’s hard sometimes to claim the space that’s yours and give voice to it. But it’s important that we do. What you had to say was in no way offensive, you were just urging people to vote. The blog is your voice, your choice, plain and simple.

    Keep writing.
    Sue
    Xx

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  7. Avril, I love what you do. You are most sincere and honest in your posts. I think I would have responded in the same way by saying "just unfollow me". Keep doing what you're doing cause you're so good at it. We can't all agree on everything but we can respect one another despite our differences. Lx

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  8. My response to your post is on my blog. Well done for having an opinion!
    See https://alex-therealdoesnoteffaceitself.blogspot.com/2019/06/politically-assertive-bloggers.html

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  9. Absolutely agree and this is something that really annoys me. Whenever I've had a strong opinion, not even political, I've been flamed for it. Like we're being unprofessional. I like to think blogs are a unique form of media where we CAN voice opinions, genuine opinions and views and not be silenced by a brand, publisher, whoever higher up, because we ARE the higher up, we're our whole blog. That's why I want to read blogs, they have a unique viewpoint that magazines or TV or whatever don't. I mean we all know newspapers and news shows show bias to certain political parties, but they aren't supposed to. They're supposed to be impartial and I feel like we, as 'real' people, should be able to say whatever we want about whatever we want. If people only want to see model like outfit settings or lipstick swatches, without real life chatter along the way, they should buy a magazine. That's not what blogs should be, but they've become perfect, straight out a magazine, glossy things and I don't like that tbh. They're losing their uniqueness.

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  10. Hey Avril, don't be too hard on yourself, you wouln't be human if you weren't provoked into rudeness occasionally, who hasn't? Not that suggesting someone unfollow you is terribly rude anyway! As for deleting and apologising, you did what seemed like the right thing at the time when you were under attack, so please don't beat yourself up about that either. It's your blog, your insta account and your platform, and you are perfectly within your rights to express whatever you like - even if that meant sayig somethig genuinely offensive, which I know you are very unlikely to ever do!!! There will always be someone ready to knock you so chalk it down to experience and keep expressing your own opinions on whatever subject you feel strongly about - your real admirers and followers will support you even more for it. Big hug!! love Anne x

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  11. Intelligent and honest post. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it and I hope you are feeling better about the situation x

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  12. I love reading your blog and have dipped in from the school gate days. I like your friends had been reluctant to vote this time, disillusioned by current politics. My daughter with school went to a talk given by Kate Pankhurst and was full of suffragette tales. She inspired me to vote, it felt the least I could do.Silent well behaved women never would have won the vote. You are a warm kind person not a manikin and have every right to express your opinions.I will continue to read with interest.

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I love reading your comments and will reply as soon as I can if you have a specific question. If for any reason, you are unable to leave a comment, just drop me an email at avril@alifetostyle.com or leave a comment on the A Life to Style Facebook Page! Thank you xx

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