Anyone who knows me personally will know that I'm not silenced easily. I'm sometimes brash with my opinions and I can be cutting in a debate. I'm vicious in my support for equality and don't hold back when I think something is wrong and needs to be tackled. I figure, I'm here for a short time, I want to make a difference. I've been an anti-racist activist since my uni days, nearly 15 years ago and I'm Chair of our local anti-war movement. I was brought up surrounded by strong women who's voices were heard and I'm proud to carry on that tradition.
I keep my political life and my business life separate, but it is who I am and SisterHub will always channel that same message of inclusivity and intersectionality that I push through my political activism. It will always be a safe space.
Over the last couple of months I've been the subject of four separate malicious reviews on my business. I've previously had nothing but 5 star reviews and this hurts. The first was a man from Instagram who tried to sell to me by criticising my business and saying I needed to buy his services, having never spoken to me before. I called him and idiot (yes I really was THAT restrained) blocked him and moved on. A couple of hours later, two negative reviews appeared like a big dirty blue bottle fly in a beautiful bowl of 5 star chicken soup.
I knew it was him, he even mentioned it in one of the reviews. My initial reaction was one of shock and sadness. I felt a bit shaky. I was on my way out for a lovely afternoon tea and it left a bit of a sad cloud over the event. I also felt like I was being scrutinised. What if people believe them? I'm such an opinionated person, (I told myself off for being gobby in my head a million times), what if this makes people turn against me?
Before I knew it, the members of SisterHub had pounced on the review. Their responses were amazing. I felt like I was being defended by my own little army. I felt justified and reassured and warm. After a flurry of comments, arguments and reporting, one of the reviews was removed. The other is still sitting there. It was a grey spot I told myself I could live with.
One of the other things I do is help to admin on a large local group on Facebook. It has almost thirty five thousand members. Obviously a few people get riled when they get blocked for breaking rules (posting threats or racism). These people also recently targeted their anger toward my business using fake profiles. They accused me of being transphobic, something wildly untrue as we've had trans women involved with SisterHub and I'm a passionate advocate for trans rights, having had political articles published on the matter.
So the whole thing set me thinking about the emotions, the effects, the anxiety and the general psychology of it all. I'm concerned about the way this has made me feel attacked, powerless, frustrated and alone. As someone who is surrounded by support I've found it hard to process. My business is precious to me and my lifeline. I can't bear to see it attacked and some people's response is to tell me to stop being who I am. Be less brash. Don't confront racism all the time. Stop arguing. Part of me feels so aggrieved and angry that these people should win and silence me but the other part of me just wants to curl up and stay quiet for the sake of my livelihood.
Add to that the incredible frustration when Facebook won't let you report an unfair review. There's no email address, no live chat, no way to submit a ticket or complaint or call anyone. You just have to report it via the actual post and this is so often ignored or actually doesn't work, (repeated connection failed messages).
I removed the review facility from my Facebook business page eventually. Not before copying every single review and making beautiful Canva graphics using the kind words which I'll continue to share.
Please get in touch if you've experienced this pain and helplessness. It isn't something that's easy to shake off and it's such an awful and intrusive feeling. Please don't suffer in silence, as I almost did. You must remember that these people are the powerless ones. If your only power over a strong woman is to leave an unfounded negative review spouting lies about their business then I imagine they really aren't very happy in their own lives.