I wasn’t always plus size, believe it or not. When I was younger and even while I was in high school, I was skinny. I danced in ballet classes for more than 10 hours each week, ate total crap and was able to count my ribs through my shirts. All of this stopped when I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. My metabolism slowed and I was put on terrible medications that made me gain 50 pounds. I had to stop dancing. I also realized that all of the sudden, I was a different person to nearly everyone I knew. My family started treating me like “one of those fat people”. People started mentioning diets and exercise, like I didn’t know about the whole calories in/calories out thing. My highschool boyfriend slept with someone else because my new sick body wasn’t attractive to him anymore. It took me years to figure out that being a new person didn’t have to mean that I didn’t have value. I eat better now than I did when I was thin. I consciously exercise more. My habits are healthier. I have nicer friends and healthier relationships. And yet, fat girls on the internet are always targets.
I say this all of this as background, and as a way of explaining that I completely understand why The Nearsighted Owl went postal when she saw that her fat positive bikini picture was being used as a diet ad. As you get older, I think you learn to brush away the hurt that comes from your family or friends treating you badly because you’re fat. You learn to delete troll commentary on the internet and find communities where you feel safe. Having your picture used as a “before” example in a diet ad would be a shocking violation of your space that you couldn’t just ignore. It’s everything you’ve learned to wall yourself off from, but shoved into one little ad that everyone sees and won’t go away.
Every time a plus size blogger posts, they’re taking a chance. They’re putting themselves out their despite harassment of women on the internet (especially plus size women) to help show others that it’s possible to be plus size and love yourself. That plus size women are worthy of existence and respect. That we’re people too.
Internet trolls are scary enough, but they’re crazy people who don’t really have to abide by any formalized code of conduct. Corporations are a whole different thing. Stealing a plus size blogger’s photo to use in a diet campaign is despicable but also illegal. Accusing the blogger in question of profiting off of the attention is even worse. We already have to maintain our cool in our daily lives – surely large companies can follow the rules and not contribute to our stress levels?
When I was a teenager, I never realized that believing that fat people were equal to skinny people would constitute developing a radical political position. Logically, it shouldn’t. On the internet and in the world we live in, it does. The least we can do this week is band together and teach big companies that we are not their “before” pictures to exploit.