It pains me to say that although the body positive movement is increasingly expanding and growing ever so strong, there are still many people who express fat phobia or sizeism, and feel the need to continue to bully and harass plus-size people who are refusing to hide themselves away any longer. This message is for all of those people, on behalf of myself and other plus-size men and women trying to figure out how to deal with Internet trolls.
Not long ago, I wrote an article about a little social media experiment I did where I, a plus-size woman, posted a lingerie selfie every day for a week to see what the reactions would be. The article has since gone internationally viral, and to my absolute delight, it's touched and inspired thousands of fellow plus-size humans around the world. But there are still many of you who believe that all of this strength, all of this confidence, and all of this self-love being celebrated by my fellow fatties and myself is a wrong and "down-right disgusting" revelation. And that needs to be addressed immediately.
Now, I've been a follower of the "Do Not Feed The Trolls" notion for some time now, but the problem with that is that unfortunately, a lot of you are not even "trolls." Most of you are regular, everyday people who do not take to the Internet to make lives miserable for others on a regular basis. Most of you are (probably) decent human beings (or so you like to think). Yet it still seems to be a very accepted thing to bully and shame fat people, not only online, but in real, everyday life as well. We could go on ignoring you, as we have often done, but then I ask myself: Who is going to educate you? So I'm taking it upon myself to give you some lessons on a subject you clearly skipped over when it comes to the School of Life.
Let's first address your main concern: That we are all unhealthy and promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Because you're just so concerned about us, aren't you? You toss and turn at night, sleepless from the concern that we fat strangers are all at risk of diseases, and that we are going to eventually turn everyone in the world fat with our "fat pride" until we are all dead in our beds from diabetes. Oh, the humanity!
This, my dear ones, is what we call concern trolling. You use "concern" as cover and justification for shaming us (and don't shake your head, you know you do it) when, in fact, your behavior is plain and simple fat phobia and sizeism rearing their ugly heads. Of course, some of you may not even realize you're doing it — having also been brainwashed since birth believing that "fat is bad." This is a misconception, and can no longer be used as a reason to shame us fat people. You think you're doing the "right thing." You think you're "helping us." But you're just perpetuating a negative stereotype and an uneducated view. We see right through it, you guys, and it's lost the power it used to once have. So no more fake concern, OK?
Here's another thing, peeps (and really try and let this logic sink in, OK?), you cannot judge someone's health status by what they look like. The end (but allow me to break it down for you). Being overweight doesn't automatically mean that you are unhealthy, just like being thin doesn't automatically mean you are healthy. Sure, being overweight can be less healthy in some instances, but health is a complicated spectrum, and we are all on different sections of that spectrum, at varying points in our lives.
How do you know that the person you're shaming hasn't just lost 50 pounds and is in the middle of a very healthy weight loss journey? How do you know that that person you're shaming doesn't have a disorder of some kind that makes losing weight profoundly difficult (like a metabolic disorder, lipedema, or PCOS, for example)? How do you know that the person you're shaming isn't profoundly happy with their body? And side note: What if you knew that a thin person had diabetes? Would you then shame them for showing off their "unhealthy" body?
There are thin people everywhere who do not exercise, eat poorly, and suffer from a multitude of health problems and concerns, just as there are fat people experiencing the same, but the latter are the ones being shamed. Do they deserve to be shamed because you can visually see evidence of what you believe to be poorer health? Do you always go out of your way to troll those you think are "unhealthy?" Because news flash: Even if someone is "unhealthy" by all of medicine's terms, that does not give you the right to torment them.
Listen: When a fat person posts a photo of themselves in a bikini, lingerie, or anything else a thin person might share, they are not trying to tell everyone, "Go forth, eat terribly, and stop exercising everyone!" No. Just like all those people having a drink, smoking a cigarette, or indulging in less-than-healthy food aren't saying that, either. What we are saying, however, is that we deserve the same equality. We deserve to still be confident, love ourselves, wear a bikini or sexy lingerie, just like everyone else.
Because in this contemporary age, body positivity is becoming a topic of discussion, and it's time that we start realizing that we are all human — all unique and made differently — and that all bodies are good bodies. We are also not "in denial" about our bodies, in case you were wondering. We are aware that we are fat, and we are also aware of our own personal health status (which, healthy or not, is actually none of your business).
Personal health is everyone's own personal business, and it's no longer a reason to feel (or dish out) shame. Not to mention, "personal health" doesn't just include physical health, but also mental and emotional health as well. When someone feels confidence and full of self love, this strengthens their mental and emotional health, and they are much more likely to want to take care of themselves in general (including physically). Most of us, thin, fat or in-between, are constantly trying to work on our own health, happiness, and well-being. We may come in all shapes and sizes, but we are equals.
But here we hit another nerve, don't we? Many of you take issue with us fat people being seen and treated as equals. Perhaps it's because you've heard the notion that "thin is attractive, fat is ugly" your entire life, and have struggled and fought your way to obtaining (and keeping) said thinness. Perhaps you're someone who works out everyday, for hours a day, dedicating yourself to an "ideal" body and (hopefully) perfect health. Perhaps it's because you've been blessed with natural thinness your entire life, and have grown up feeling that you're more "special" and more attractive than the rest of us. And then all of a sudden, one fateful day, we fat people come along and try and step up onto the pedestal you've put yourself on. Naturally, you don't want to share. Naturally, you're instinct is to push us off it. But I'm here to offer some words of comfort: We are not here to steal your thunder.
We understand that some of you were born thin, and that's totally OK with us. We also understand that some of you work really hard to stay fit and healthy, and that's actually really respectable and awesome. We're not trying to take anything away from any of you through the body positive movement; we only want to gain the same rights and respect as fellow human beings for ourselves. We don't want to stand on your pedestal — we want to stand on our own. We are not here to knock you down. You will continue to be attractive, healthy, admired, and respected. So please put an end to that fear: We are not a threat.
Lastly, I want to address the issue a lot of you have with plus-size women being "trashy" for posting photos of themselves in lingerie. One of the comments I received in response to my article was that "posting photos of yourself in lingerie is trashy at any size and doesn't give you confidence." Sorry darlings, I hate to break it to you, but that's an extremely anti-feminist thing to say.
First, let's do away with the slut-shaming. If a woman wants to post a photo of herself in lingerie, show off her body, or embrace her sexuality, that is her right (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that).
Shall we talk about the whole "lingerie being trashy" thing now? Lingerie typically shows off the body and the same amount of "skin" as a bikini or bathing suit does, so why is one accepted as OK, while the other is seen as "trashy?" Lingerie is something most stores sell, we wear it every day, and it's a normal part of our wardrobe. Just like a bathing suit, it has a purpose, and it's supposed to show off more skin than our usual clothing does.
This concept that posting selfies of ourselves in bikinis or lingerie "doesn't give you confidence," is, pardon my language, complete bullsh*t. I'd be willing to argue that many of you who believe this haven't had to suffer through the trauma, struggle, or shame that all of us fat people have had to endure our entire lives, so I can see why you wouldn't know what it feels like.
To you, posting a bikini or lingerie selfie is normal, and not something to be "praised or celebrated" — and you're right. For you guys, it's not. And that's the point. The plus-size community would love to get to that point, too — the point where it's "no big deal" for us to wear a bikini or post a lingerie selfie in public. That's the goal. But as of right now, we are still trying to pull down walls, re-define the boundaries, and battle against conditioned shame and self-hate.
For someone who has been conditioned to hide away, hate their body, and feel shame for showing any skin, wearing a bikini or posting a lingerie selfie is something to be celebrated. Like crossing the finish line after a long, tiring, arduous race, to us it means we have won. To us, to be able to do something like that in a world where we are told we are "disgusting" and "wrong" from all of you every day, that is a personal victory. And what do you do when you have a victory? You celebrate it. So yes, you guys — when a fat person wears a bikini in public, or posts a public selfie of themselves in lingerie, it does mean that they have confidence, and it is something that deserves some swooning.
It has been my absolute pleasure to catch you up on some Body Positivity 4-1-1. Really, it has. I hope that you've taken in what I've said, and that my words have enlightened you, opened up your world, and given you a deeper, more educated understanding on the dynamics of fat phobia and sizeism. Remember, you cannot judge someone's health just by their size or by looking at them, and someone's "lesser" health status doesn't mean they should be shamed.
Everyone deserves to be treated equally, and everyone's health and personal wellness is their own business. Fat people are not trying to devalue your thin body, nor are we trying to take away respect and admiration from your own personal healthy lifestyle. We are not trash, and we are not "sluts" for making sociopolitical statements by showing off our bikini bodies (or our sexy lingerie), and it will continue to be celebrated until it's considered to be normal, just like it is for you and your own beautiful bodies.
We are not looking to promote an unhealthy lifestyle, but healthy well-being that starts with body love, self acceptance, and confidence. What we are doing is a good thing, you guys. So the next time you feel the need to shame, bully, or harass a fat person for just doing what all you other "normal" people do, be an intelligent, educated, decent human — and don't. There's a great community of people of all sizes who are waiting for you to join us, as we all celebrate life, diversity, uniqueness, health, happiness, and well-being for all.
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Images: khaleesidelrey/Instagram; Giphy