I am going to let you in on something that might come as a shock. I need you to just have faith that we can handle this together.
I am a human woman. I know that this is a bombshell. Here you all believed me to be a pony this entire time. Deep breath, because I am not even close to finished yet. I am not always as attractive in real life as I am in my profile pictures. I use the best pictures I can to represent my brand on this page and my site. I then use filters, and crop the images further, to make these best likenesses of myself into something even better. Deep down I suppose I want you to all like me, and think I am pretty. I am sorry I have been so dishonest with you. As you can see, I look different in different pictures. Sometimes I look attractive and sometimes a picture isn’t actually about simply documenting my loveliness for future generations:
Of course you expect nothing but the very highest standard of evidence from a site called “Science Pony” but the reality is that some angles are not as flattering as others, and I have bad hair days, and – this one seems to be really confusing people – I am not a size zero when I am pregnant. I was 109 pounds when I conceived, and so far in the first 3 months of this pregnancy I have gained 21 pounds. I am fine with it, and I expect that, with enough time to process, you all can be fine with it too.
I am speaking to this because a recent post on my wall pointed out that the day after the fire I looked particularly not attractive in an interview that I gave and accused me of using a 10 year old picture (shown left) on my wall to “get compliments” – the picture is from this summer, the fact that I am wearing shirt that has “Science Pony!” on it seems like a dead give-away. The meme compares a (poorly timed, to be clear) still shot from the interview juxtaposed with my profile picture. I am apparently a fraud because the two likenesses are not the same. My motivations for taking the interview were clear-cut – I wanted to get donations for the organization that came to my rescue when I had no shoes, no jacket, no bra and my poor son has nothing but a t-shirt and pair of underwear to his name. Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society saved us that day and they did so while treating us with dignity and respect. I was willing to do anything to help them, even though I had no make-up, no shampoo or conditioner and had not even been able to shower since the fire. When Global News Edmonton rocked up five minutes after the call requesting the interview, leaving me no time to try to plead with my hair to do, fuck, something, or try to beg, borrow or steal some make-up from a neighbour, I just sucked it up and did the interview anyway.
Here is the saddest part of this aspect of this tragedy for me personally – that I knew that my appearance would invariably be made fun of even though I was using my voice to try to benefit an incredibly noble and worthy charity. I knew that it would distract from the victims and their plight, and I knew that there was no way to speak to it without in turn drawing attention from where it needs to be. In light of the fact that my neighbour, Mr. Gregory Fenton, was murdered in this fire, I would hope that the good people of my city of champions, Edmonton, would come together to give the help that is so desperately needed to my neighbours and friends from the building, most of whom, like me, are facing homelessness this Christmas. I would hope that my science family, and my peers who advocate for consensus and common sense, would likewise focus on what actually matters – finding solutions for those in need, and justice for Mr. Fenton, so that his last acts on this earth will not have been for nothing.
Greg cared enough about his neighbours to trade his life for my children’s and in doing so he sent a message – that these were lives that mattered, that every life matters, even in the ghetto. This should be a given but the past three weeks has taught me that it absolutely isn’t one. It wasn’t a given to the arsonist that doused the stairwell beside my unit in kerosene and casually lit a match while my babies slept, and it wasn’t a given to my landlord who never bothered to ensure that the basic fire safety requirements of the building were met – we had no fire extinguishers on our floor, nor fire alarm, and the fire door directly next to our unit was broken proved utterly useless to Mr. Fenton. He died because there are some who saw little value in my neighbours, our children, and our lives but there is value here. This is a point that needs to be made, loudly and repeatedly, until it becomes normative and thereby our reality. Supporting this message is how we should be choosing to focus our time an energy, not on creating childish memes in the attempts to embarrass a victim over her physical appearance. I am in awe that I am having to explain this. Priorities, they are things that exist.
News flash – I am well aware that I don’t wake up looking amazing, I have to do things to my hair, wear make-up, choose clothing that flatters my body and the like to get the best results, and even with all of the normal effort I exert to beat back the hands of time and cheat the appearance of my own mortality, I still will choose the best angles and the best resulting images that can be gleaned from this illusion of beauty that I have constructed. I don’t need help comprehending that “profile picture” Penny is not “first-thing-in- the-morning-with-sleep-in-her-eyes” Penny, it is evidence-based. The part of this situation that has me absolutely *stumped*, however, is why any of this fucking matters in a discussion about the desperate need of my poverty and now tragedy stricken neighbours.
To the troll who posted the image today on my wall (for the second time this week):
- You assume that my followers only support me because of the most superficial of reasons: my physical appearance.
- You base your belief that portraying me as unattractive – as a human being, not glamour model, will negate said support on this flawed logic.
- You are wrong. You are an idiot. You are completely missing the point.
I have enough faith in the quality of my followers, as both science advocates and human being, that I am not, at all, concerned that they will bolt at the first wart or wrinkle. But if they do, then they are not the type of follower I want anyway. As my Mother would say, if they don’t like you for you really are then they aren’t real friends. To be clear, I consider my Science Pony fans, all 8000 plus of them, real friends. Don’t be a hater because I am so blessed to have found them. Work on being a decent human being and maybe you will attract a few of your own. And to those of you who claim that I somehow damage the goals of feminism with my very existence, please stop a moment and consider the real world harm you are doing to women in STEM everywhere by making my appearance the topic of discussion. I am so much more than a pretty picture.
If you get one take home from this post, let it be this:
You can insult my appearance, but do not attempt to diminish the importance of my message. My neighbours are hurting and you are distracting me in my mission to help them, and for that you are the lowest of trolls and human beings. You deserve every misfortune that your future has in store for you because of this. I hope when your time of reckoning comes, you have managed to bank enough goodwill to get the assistance you need from your own friends and neighbours, because I mean it when I say that all lives matter.
Even the lives of sad little trolls like you.
Your Faithful Science Cheerleader,
To help my neighbours please donate to the GoFundMe which was set up by my dear friends Destroyed by Science, The Mad Virologist, and The Technical Skeptic. It was altered when the goal was met and the extra $600 raised went to recouping some of the costs of storage rental and uhaul hire from the furniture and clothing drive I did for my neighbours. I was able to get clothes for both women and children (both sexes), toys, some furniture and some other incidentals. All items are being donated to the Edmonton Emergency Relief Society.
If you are in the Edmonton area and have a basement where we could store things, or a truck you could use to collect bigger items, or if you want to donate used goods, please email me at [email protected]
To all that previously donated, you have no idea how much this has helped during this ordeal. My children will have a Christmas because of you. Words fail to convey the depth of my gratitude.
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.
Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
– Albert Schweitzer