The internet has been an instrumental force in bringing together plus size people the world over. Online and on social media, many have crafted an alternative narrative on what it means to be worthy of basic human tolerance and self-love. That's not to say that fat shaming on the internet doesn't exist, though. Being a visible fat person online — particularly one who isn't seeking to be not fat — almost guarantees harassment and trolling. Luckily, there are plenty of plus size bloggers and influencers out there whose self care tool boxes could be beneficial to anyone dealing with trolling themselves.
Of course, fat shaming isn't born and bred on the internet alone: It's a deeply-rooted cultural narrative, the kind that conditions many to believe that thinness should not only be coveted, but required. Social fat shaming promises that showing off your visible belly outline in public will yield snarky remarks from passerby. It's the reason wearing a bikini as a fat kid might mean your "friends" decide to turn their backs on you. But online — where repercussions are even fewer and agendas are loaded — fat shaming is allowed to exist and thrive without much consequence to the trolls that are responsible for it.
All that in mind, this is what 17 plus size babes had to say about their trolling coping mechanisms — their words could make a world of difference for anyone dealing with the same.
1. Substantia Jones
Photographer Substantia Jones spends quite a lot of time around naked fat bodies — both her own and those of the many glorious models who participate in her Adipositivity Project. The trolling she receives spans the spectrum of intolerance. Sometimes, it's just unoriginal dudes calling her a whale. At other times, it's death threats.
"When [harassment] involves violent threats, I report them," she tells Bustle in an interview. "Otherwise, I block/ignore so as not to further wind them up or give them more visibility." Reporting trolls, she finds, is "largely effective" and might even lead to a happy ending in which the shamer is banned off social media. But still, her method to coping is "not very satisfying," she says.
"For satisfaction, I go to FatPeopleFlippingYouOff.com, a Tumblr I created," she adds. It's a site where you'll find many bold fats very literally flipping off the world and its BS. "I usually just peruse all the wonderful middle fingers found there until my smile returns [...] It's also fun to drop the link into a thread that's brimming with fat shaming commentary."
2. April Raquel Reynolds
Plus size model April Raquel Reynolds utilizes a bit of simple logic when dealing with online harassment: "I always tell myself that the things they say say more about them than [they do] about me," she tells Bustle. At the end of the day, the majority of fat humans who exist online are doing just that: existing. They are not causing pain, or hurt, or damage. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The trolls on the other hand? They're the ones with the prejudicial outlooks. Subsequently, they're the ones with the problem.
3. Liz Black
"I always say 'hurt people hurt people,'" plus size style blogger of P.S. It's Fashion and Refinery29 writer Liz Black tells Bustle. "I genuinely feel sorry for the person leaving a mean comment; clearly they're suffering in their life or they would have no desire to try to hurt another person."
Empathizing with harassers might seem counterintuitive. These are people who find joy, amusement, or entertainment in being cruel. But Black might be onto something: Fulfilled, happy people don't go out of their way to mess with the happiness of others.
4. Melissa Jantina Medina
Melissa Jantina Medina of the blog It's Melicious believes that the key to surviving trolls online is having a strong support network off it. "I surround myself with people that give me good vibes," she tells Bustle. "Haters gonna hate [but] good people build you up and don't try to tear you down."
At times, physically "removing yourself from the negativity" is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Step away from your computer, take a moment to breathe, text someone who'll understand, and do whatever else brings you joy. Above all, trust that your presence as a fierce and free fat person on the internet is helping a lot more people than you might even know.
5. Chrystal Bougon
Chrystal Bougon, owner of the Curvy Girl Lingerie Boutique, is someone who totally exercises her right to a fulfilled, fat life. Whether she's talking about having hot sex as a person of size or musing on the lack of cute knickers for big bums out there, she's unapologetic in everything she does — and she definitely gets trolled for it.
"Because it can be so intense and exhausting to continually have to defend my (and my community's) right to exist, I am very liberal with the ban button," she tells Bustle. "I've found you cannot reason with the haters and trolls. Sharing links to facts is futile. I've stopped wasting my time."
It's important to remember that it's not your duty as a fat person to educate every ignorant human to come your way. If you find engaging exhausting, you have every right not to. But for those extra special trolls — the ones who threaten your life or say you'd be better off dead — Bougon recommends holding onto the messages. "I keep them in a special 'asshole' folder," she says. "I've reached out to our local law enforcement people and they said that I should keep those in case they ever have to investigate."
6. Ashley Sellers
Plus size babe Ashley Sellers has one simple tip for all who dare be fat and unapologetic online: "Never read the comment section."
The temptation to see what people are saying about something you've posted is very real, particularly when the subject matter is controversial or close to your heart. But try to deduce where your triggers lie and what your mood on any given day is. If you feel certain in your gloriousness one morning, then it's unlikely that any negative cyber troll will get in the way of that. But if you don't, consider forgoing a browse through the e-remarks.
7. Amy Pence-Brown
Activist, artist, and speaker Amy Pence-Brown knows, logically, that trolling "comes with the territory when you're an outspoken activist for a radical cause." That said, she never wants anyone to underestimate the value of self-care, whether that means pressing the delete, block, or ban buttons frequently, or taking screen shots of violating messages or photographs should you ever need to take legal action against anyone.
"Otherwise, I typically do not engage or reply to the comments at all," she tells Bustle. "It seems to do nothing but escalate the hate and anger despite my attempts to educate and reform." Oftentimes, remembering that trolls usually don't want an education in your politics is all it takes to move on. They're probably on your page for one reason: To cause disrupt. You needn't give them your precious time.
9. Chelsea M
Photographer and all-around badass plus size babe Chelsea M is a big proponent of positive self-affirmations. If ever anyone is harassing her for an image she has posted, she tells Bustle that she "look[s] at the pic they're mad about until I see nothing but amazingness."
The truth is, there's nothing but amazingness to see. As a fat person on the internet (and IRL) who is refusing to succumb to the BS, refusing to shrink, refusing to be silenced, refusing to eschew bold fashion, refusing to give up, well, you are quite the stunning and empowering entity.
10. Tara M. Clapper
Blogger and Geek Initiative founder Tara M. Clapper has a unique interpretation of engaging with internet trolls: "Fighting a troll is NEVER about the troll and always about the people who see you do it," she tells Bustle. "You are not going to change the troll's mind. However, the right battle is one that others will see — people like you who need support and will appreciate your resolution."
Her advice before engaging is to ensure that "your online security [is] on lockdown (a good general tip for anyone) so that your real address and other info are not easily accessible" and you take the time to "assess the risks to your mental health and schedule" that engaging with trolling could potentially lead to. If you determine that you're up for the conversation (or, more than likely, the argument), then keep in mind that someone, somewhere, will probably get a lot out of your positive, progressive, and inclusive thinking.
11. Lisa Böhm
Alternative plus size blogger Lisa Böhm of Girl Geek thinks a hefty dose of empowering music is a great way of dealing with cyber nutters. "A good portion of Maria Mena" is her go-to, she tells Bustle. With anti-troll lyrics like, "Slouched behind a keyboard, your fingertips are nails. I bet face to face your social skills surprisingly fail," it's impossible not to walk away with a smile.
12. Bertha Chan
Plus size style blogger Bertha Chan of Curvasian doesn't think anyone should kid themselves when it comes to trolls. "I have never once encountered anyone you engaged in a debate with telling you, 'You know what, you are right,' and peace out," she tells Bustle. "Therefore, I think the sensible way to do it is to make a strong argument in one short message and never look back."
Sometimes that can be hard to do when you're limited to 140 characters on Twitter. But should a troll make you want to set the record straight, her method seems like a great opportunity to get your message across without dedicating the rest of your afternoon to someone who ultimately isn't worth a millisecond of your time.
13. Elizabeth Nuñez
BBW Generation blogger Elizabeth Nuñez believes that "success is the biggest revenge" of all. A troll might make you feel vulnerable in the moment, but they can't take away the community you've helped build. "I built the base of my work with empowerment, acceptance, and positivity," she tells Bustle. "I am a fighter and don't believe in turning the other cheek, but have learned in my 42+ years to direct my energy for good."
One way she does this is by refusing to "foster negativity in my posts or cyber homes," she adds. "There are millions of pages, blogs, accounts that [we] can find strength [in] instead of generating negativity." If a troll has managed to make you feel dejected, remember that there is an entire cyber world filled with empowered fellow fats to turn to for inspo.
14. Lindsey Averill
Like most unapologetic fats of the world, Lindsey Averill — writer and producer of the upcoming documentary Fattitude — encounters her fair share of trolls. Her strategy? "Delete. Ban. Ignore."
Just because a troll has taken the time to reach out and taunt you does not mean you have to take time out of your own day in return.
15. Natalie Hage
Plus size model and fat influencer Natalie Hage tells Bustle, "People who make it their mission to hurt others don't have a place in my day." These are people who, she believes, do not care about what she stands for. They do not care about getting to know her. Rather, their point is simply to make her feel inferior and flawed. So by ignoring them — and simply living in her body as unapologetically as always — she finds pleasure. After all, "It blows their minds when fat people don't crumble at their insults," she adds.
16. Breanna Ducat
Spinster Studios producer Breanna Ducats believes that trolling is very much a feminist issue. "As a feminist, I consider it part of my personal duty to try and understand the meaning and intentions behind so many issues that are very anti-feminist," she tells Bustle. "Most conversation I've had with those of opposing views often ends in more understanding, as their stance was based off of very false [or] misleading information." She tries to approach fat shamers in the same way.
"Some just hate fat people and get off on trying to ruin someone else's day," she adds. "But there are some that are being fed misinformation and genuinely believe that they are 'helping' us fat people." When it comes to the latter category, she does not believe these folks have stopped to consider the mental or physical harm their words might have on actual fat people, so she tries to educate them as best she can. "But if it's clear that they're just being an asshole, then it's delete and block."
17. Alysse Dalessandro
Writer, style blogger, and designer of Ready To Stare Alysse Dalessandro has been trolled in many incarnations throughout her time as an influencer. To be a visibly fat person online, she feels, can be "absolutely de-humanizing." "To trolls, you are not a person. You are the manifestation of their hate for fat people," she tells Bustle. "And I think their hate for themselves."
Dalessandro tries not to read the comments. She tries not to engage, either, unless she has the time to write a lengthy response with the potential to "make a larger point about what the comment illustrates about fatphobia."
Realizing that their words are usually only a piece of the fat-antagonistic rhetoric permeating much of society is kind of her coping mechanism, though. Because it's reason to keep doing exactly what she's doing. "Trolls are still sadly ultimately a reminder for how hateful people are and how pervasive fatphobia is on our society," she says. "It's still pretty acceptable to hate fat people. But what that doesn't mean is that I have to change or compromise who I am for anyone. I use trolls and online hate the fuel to my fire for creating social change."
Ultimately, there is no one right or wrong way to deal with an internet troll. Whether you find comfort in ignoring, blocking, engaging, fighting, or forgiving is entirely dependent on you. But although it's not always easy to go about your day in radical peace after someone's just told you they hope you choke on your Big Mac, Dalessandro's words are arguably crucial to remember. The online harassment of fat people is fully demonstrative of the sociocultural harassment and hatred of fat people. And as a visible plus size person online, that's precisely what you're fighting to deconstruct in the first place.
Images: Courtesy the__chza/Instagram (1); Courtesy Interviewees