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Constance Hall is sick of being called a "smelly b*tch". She's reclaiming the Internet for the bullied.

Constance Hall’s TedX talk isn’t really about Constance Hall.

It’s about a 15-year-old girl called Jasmine, whose nickname at school is “Poo Smear”. Jasmine cries herself to sleep at night, and doesn’t want to wake up in the morning.

It’s about Jonathan, who’s 13. Jonathan’s face is Photoshopped on embarrassing images online that groups of his “friends” share and laugh at. He feels like he can’t tell his mum, because she’ll blame herself.

And it’s about a young girl who’ll share only that her nickname at school is “Stubbie”. Because, some time ago, she passed out drunk at a party and was sexually assaulted with a beer bottle. All the other kids thought it was funny, and they all still call her by that inhumane name.

These are some of the stories that Constance Hall – blogger, author, business owner, mother, wife, warrior – shares in her 20-minute TedX talk, given in Christchurch, New Zealand just a few weeks ago.

You can watch a snippet below. Post continues after video.

Video via TED

It’s a pretty big deal to be asked to give a TedX Talk. There’s an involved preparation process to result in an original, thought-provoking speech. And, doubtless, Constance’s rabble of haters are confused about why she should have had that honour bestowed on her. Isn’t she – in their eyes and in her own words at the opening of this extraordinary talk – just a smelly hippy? A walking venereal disease? Someone who should consider killing herself because she’s so very worthless to the world?

Constance Hall is none of these things, and she never has been. What TEdX knows, of course, is that she’s a truth-teller, a woman whose voice on parenting and woman-ing and surviving the myriad shit that life throws at us has resonated with millions.

As a blogger, her talent for connection brought her riches – both literally and figuratively. A million-strong army of passionate ‘Queens’. Two phenomenally successful books. The ability to change the lives of abused girls in Kenya through her charity of choice, Rafiki Mweme. A beautiful house in the country. A sexy new husband who loves her unconditionally. A glorious, big, messy blended family of seven kids. A clothing line that celebrates women of all shapes and sizes that sells out within hours.

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But it also drew another army – one of haters and trolls. A group unable to tolerate a woman who spoke her mind at the top of her voice, who was unafraid to live large and boldly, to tell it like it is about the loss of self in motherhood, about drink and drugs and men and women and our twisted relationships with our bodies and our love-fear relationships with our children and our partners and our lives.

Constance Hall scared the shit out of those people.

So the trolls organised. They formed hate groups online, they sprinkled their stinking bile in the comments at the bottom of everything she created and they flung abuse at her head every time she raised it above a parapet.

Well-meaning people told her this was the price of success. A ‘tax’ on her riches. “Ignore them and they’ll go away”. “Don’t give them the satisfaction”. “Rise above it”.

Listen to the Mamamia Out Loud team discuss what we got wrong about Constance Hall. Post continues after audio.

But years of this hate had crushed Constance Hall, who began to buckle under the weight of abuse and hatred and death threats. Right up until January this year when, after making the decision to go on a prime-time reality show – Dancing With The Stars – she made a video, against all advice, confronting the mob.

In it, she talked about what the abuse had done to her – a strong, confident, loved, successful woman. How it left her broken, with suicidal ideation and panic attacks so severe her husband Denim would find her shaking on the bathroom floor. If it did that to her, she argued, what was bullying doing to children, to teenagers, to all of rest of us?

And that’s when the messages started coming. From Jasmine, from Jonathan, from the girl whose bullies named her for the worst thing that had happened to her.

And she realised. Every single person who told her to “rise above” the bullies was wrong. Dead wrong.

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Constance Hall's viral video about bullying took a stand against the cruel comments she received after announcing her appearance on Dancing with the Stars. Image via Facebook.
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Two years ago, I wrote a novel about bloggers. While I was writing it, I spent time researching in some of those hate-filled groups, trying to understand what motivates a person to waste their precious time dissecting and criticising every move made by someone they profess to dislike.

I couldn't understand it. I never will.

Most of us couldn't understand it. Most of us never will.

But watching Constance Hall's TedX Talk made me realise that although I am no troll, I am complicit in her abuse. And yes, in the abuse of others.

Because almost every single time I have read toxic, vile, bullying comments, I've felt the fury, sighed, rolled my eyes, and moved on with my life. Even when those comments are about people I know, people I love. Even when they are about me.

I had so swallowed the "Don't feed the trolls" narrative that I - and countless others - have left the online world in their hands. We all have.

In our silence, we have let the Internet become a deeply unsafe place.

Constance Hall is done with all that. The moral of her TedX Talk is that "normal" people - people who wouldn't dream of telling a stranger that they stink, or that they should die, or that their children should be taken away - need to start love-bombing the war zone.

Not by adding to the toxicity by insulting the keyboard warriors, but by bolstering the attacked with words of love and support.

"It's not your fault that you're living in this fatal bullying epidemic," she says. "But it is your responsibility to end it.

"We won't combat bullying by hating bullies. We'll combat bullying by loving victims."

Constance Hall says that's what has happened since she politely ignored the wisdom of turning the other cheek and instead turned her face to to the sun. Now her army know how much the abuse hurts, they stand between her and it.

It's what she wants for Jasmine, for Jonathan and for the nameless girl living with uninvited shame.

It's a simple plan, out of reach for too long: Amplify what we love. Shine no light on what we hate. Have no part in hatred.

And blind the trolls with sunlight.

How do you deal with online negativity? 

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