Why you should follow Bilbo – the Good Cat Boy – on Twitter.

I have two kitties at home. They are lovely! They taught me to go to bed on time and that having a routine is better for my well being. My husband and I have learned lots of things from the kitties, they trained us well.

Right now, I’m typing this blogpost twisted in the most unlikely way, so I can accommodate my kitty on my lap. Rule in the house is: You don’t disturb the lap kitty. You’d think with all the fur flying about the place that I’d have enough kitties, and wouldn’t need to follow kitties on Twitter.

I’m going to explain why you should be following Bilbo, the beautiful orange boy, and add him into your timeline.

If you follow Bilbo, amidst the horrors of the climate crisis, the gaping maw of Brexit, the ruinous news from the collapse of democracies the world over, Bilbo’s ROUND face appears. He cheers me up every time he appears on my timeline. I think he’ll cheer you up too and give you hope.

He has a sweet voice. So soothing.

I think we can learn lots of things from Bilbo too. So here’s why I highly recommend following Bilbo.

Blurring Beauty Standards for Body Positivity

There’s a lot of fakery in the online world. People carefully edit photos to hide problems and present a “better self.” Polished, face-tuned, and filtered. Researchers have connected this experience to a rise in depression. The more you’re confronted with it, the worse you feel about yourself. Fat, bumpy, spotty, cluttered, disorganised (just me?) Apparently not just me. Social media use increases depression and loneliness, study finds.

“There’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens. When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.”

It’s not hard to image that prettily arranged photos of your home, friends, pets, and life could actually hurt someone. Especially people who don’t have these things.

I wanted to write a whole post about how Bilbo’s imperfect, blurry, “unflattering” photos help viewers feel better about their own imperfections. Bilbo’s house isn’t perfect, there’s clutter and real life happening. Bilbo is a blur, these photos aren’t perfect.

I can relate to this because unless my kitties or my pup is sleeping, I struggle to get a perfect little photo of them. They are in motion, living, active… and doing a blur.

And then I came across this article about representation, and disability photography via the amazing photographer Kate O’Sullivan, and a lightbulb went off.

Why Ugliness Is Vital in the Age of Social Media. This article is especially focused on how gender non-conforming people don’t fit into binary beauty standards. “So much of the fear of “ugliness” is rooted in racism, gender binarism, and ableism.”

I think my connecting this to a few blurry photos of a cutie kitty and the presentation of self is perhaps a bit of a stretch, but the photos on Bilbo’s account do make me think about these things.

And I know for sure this is a big part of why I love having Bilbo’s updates on my timeline. He makes his fans feel good.

Paradox of Tolerance

Another lesson you can learn from Bilbo is the Paradox of intolerance. We don’t have to tolerate people who want to oppress or eradicate others. We can say no to nazis on our timeline.

Should we, prizing ourselves so accepting and tolerant also accept that someone is just racist, homophobic, transphobic, prejudiced, etc? No. Karl Popper explained the paradox is that we must be intolerant of intolerance itself.

“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.” – Karl Popper, Jewish philosopher, escaped from Nazis.


You should see this article to understand the whole idea, but I want to also include the another part of the quote:

“We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”
Karl Popper

Bodily integrity – the right to control your body

Following Bilbo you’ll be reminded of this fundamental human right of bodily integrity. You can say no.

“Bodily integrity is the inviolability of the physical body and emphasizes the importance of personal autonomy and the self-determination of human beings over their own bodies.” – Wikipedia

Violations of bolidy integrity include sexual assault, abuse, unwanted pregnancy, no access to birth control, circumcision. Being able to say ‘no’ and assert your bodily integrity is a fundamental human right.

We can learn this from all cats, who have claws and make it very clear when they don’t want to be touched.

I think this speaks for itself. In this ‘me too’ era it seems society is waking up to something we all secretly knew. There has been widespread mental and physical abuse by a tiny number of individuals. It’s only when victims slough off ‘shame’ that people have been able to uncover these monsters. These individuals were often in positions of power using sexual harassment on anyone they could oppress, anyone in a vulnerable position. Men and women, young people, people of colour, women, trans men and trans women – and not only that but they were often holding onto their positions through intimidation and abuse of power.

It’s OK to ask for help – and express what you need

I struggle with communicating directly. Though it’s one of my pet peeves in others. JUST ASK FOR HELP, don’t make me play a guessing game.

When I observed my nieces do this I recognised it as a pattern. I don’t ascribe to essentialist notions of “women from venus / men from mars” communication styles. It is cultural. I noticed when I lived in Japan- you’d hear things like “maybe it’s impossible” from both men and women (Meaning: Definitely NO, but I can’t say no because — culture.) As a westerner, I found it was exasperating and difficult to get a direct answer.

In our culture, indirect communication seems to be used by women and children.

It’s exhausting and frustrating. I want to learn to be more direct with requests.

Bilbo gives good reminders of this.

Also Bilbo’s fan club is amazing

Bilbo’s mentions is a great place to be. This is so freaking heartwarming 😭😭😭😭

You can get stickers, t-shirts, hoodies, to show your good taste to the world.

Trans Rights are Human Rights

Following Bilbo you’ll get periodic reminders that trans rights are human rights. Bilbo supports trans rights.

Bilbo is raising money for the only trans community centre in the UK and Ireland, here in Belfast.

I’ve been totally blind sided by “trans-exclusionary radical feminism” especially in the UK, in the last couple of years. I’m just like: WHAT. I’ve been shocked to see older women I admire even questioning this at all.

This to me seems obvious. My feminism includes anyone suffering under the patterns of power and oppression. I may not be up to date, I may have malingering ideas from my 90s era third-wave feminism. Yeah I probably screw up some times, but I’m continuing to learn, and I appreciate the next generation pushing us forward.

But my understanding was the feminism liberated men from their constricting roles as much as it was to liberate women. Feminism was supposed to include people of colour. Feminism was absolutely supposed to support things like marriage equality, and LGBT+ rights. To me there was nothing essentialist about ‘women’ being better than men either. Gender is a spectrum. Expression is cultural.

I feel quite strongly that I want to live in a world where trans people are safe. If they aren’t safe, no one is safe.

Belfast Trans Resource Centre – Please Donate!

Bilbo is Ellen Murray’s cat. Ellen is a trans activist and now Policy & Research Officer with TENI. She’s been promoting this fundraiser for the Belfast Trans Resource Centre. If you want to support her, and thereby support Bilbo, please donate!

I checked today and saw the fundraiser is nearly at the half-way mark. £5,765 of £12,000 raised.

Can you donate? Even £1 will make a big difference.

To see young trans and non-binary people being accepted and be ‘out’ touches my heart. It makes me so happy to see them living their best lives. It gives me so much hope, I can just about bear it.

This is the only such centre in all of the UK or Ireland. It is amazing, especially considering Northern Ireland is currently in the grip of fundamentalists, who don’t all agree on basic scientific facts like evolution. If this resource centre is needed anywhere, it’s here.

Now is the time to continue to make progress for human rights. Please donate!

Final lesson: Take care of yourself

If you follow Bilbo you’ll get periodic reminders to take naps, and streeeetch!

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