“I personally find 300 pounds of chewed bubble gum wrapped in pasty skin to be incredibly sexy.”
“Diabetes in all its glory.”
“Poster girl for birth control.”
“Foul mouthed and fucking disgusting.”
These are just a handful of the shitty comments I received from a bunch of fat-shaming (and white) men publicly wrote about me last month. Knowing absolutely nothing about me personally, they came in hateful droves underneath a Facebook post I shared that went unexpectedly viral. Let’s just say that my image and words were not reposted in a positive way, and both were shared without my consent.
In the photo, I’m purposefully letting my postpartum belly hang out in all her glory. I’ve also got my two middle fingers pointed up with all the freedom that comes from saying “peace out” to diet culture. In the caption, I speak out against social injustices and cultural atrocities that have been exacerbated during our current global pandemic. I call out ageism, fatphobia, classism, LGBTQ+ discrimination, racism, and our president’s bullying tactics against reporters, and the animated language I use makes it quite clear that I’m pissed as hell about it all.
Since I’ve been actively doing body-acceptance work online for a few years now, I’m used to the occasional nasty comment. But these dudes took it to a whole new level. On public Facebook pages like Deplorable Media, Soy Boy, and The Notorious Bigot, a shit ton of unstable men decided to not only bully me for being fat, but they also tore me down for taking a stand against so much. I’m going to assume it’s because the very institutions that oppress so many leave these guys socially untouchable. They’re obviously totally cool with going to ridiculous — and even dangerous — lengths to protect their right to hate.
Had this been the only bullying I experienced, I may have been able to shake it off and move on. But there was one particular individual who just wouldn’t stop. He privately messaged me with unsolicited pictures of his genitals. He threatened the safety of my family and sent me a screen capture of him posting about me on a random online forum. He created several different Facebook profiles and used one to comment underneath many of my photos with images of actual shit in a toilet. But the most frightening moment was when he called himself the “Christ of 4chan,” leading me down an internet rabbit hole I wish I could remove from memory.
As I quickly researched what the hell 4chan even was, the information I discovered about it floored me. According to the Washington Post, it’s a public forum where people can post about basically anything, and they can do so anonymously. While it may sound harmless, certain members of this site are responsible for the aggressive cyberbullying of 11-year old Jessi Slaughter, which led the preteen to become suicidal. They also created a hashtag encouraging Justin Bieber fans to harm themselves in an act of ultimate dedication to the pop star, leaked stolen nudes of female celebrities to the media, manufactured fake bomb threats, and invented the “bikini bridge” trend, which encouraged women in online eating disorder communities to use intense weight loss to create a gap between their bathing suit bottom and their hip bones.
Basically, 4chan has the potential to be really bad news for anyone who happens to sit at the top of their members’ shit list. And since one of its most loyal contributors had already sent me grotesque imagery and threats, I knew I had to take swift action. I blocked the online bullies, temporarily shut down my public Facebook page, and turned on extensive privacy settings for my personal profile. Doing this helped end the barrage of harassment, but I’ve got my eyes wide open now to a situation that may unfortunately repeat itself again if I choose to keep living life publicly.
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The truth of the matter is, there are a lot of qualities that make up who I am. Four of my defining characteristics, however, make me an easy target for online attacks. I’m living in a fat body, openly bisexual, female, and give zero fucks about loudly railing against inequality on social media. This is also not the first time I’ve been bullied for how I look, who I love, or what I believe in, and it certainly won’t be the last. As an impressionable and thin-bodied preteen, I was relentlessly body-shamed by male classmates which led to an eating disorder and a diet pill addiction. I was met with an onslaught of verbal bashing when I tried to come out at home during my college years. And I felt constant pressure to remain a skinny, polite, complacent young woman while navigating sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.
The difference between then and now is profound. These days, I’ve successfully healed a previously damaged relationship with my body, become an out and proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, and worked hard through my writing and social media to help create positive change in this world. I’ll be damned if I let a bunch of cowardly men keep me from shining my light or taking up as much space as I want. While the routes I take to express myself may evolve because of this cyberbullying encounter, I will not be diluting my message for anyone. This pushback only highlights the importance of what I have to say.
This experience has taught me that self-hating people are always going to trash what they don’t understand. They’ll attack you with vicious words if your presence makes them uncomfortable, even if what you have to say uplifts others. Most importantly, this has served as a humbling reminder that our society is still abhorrently fatphobic – and not just toward grown ass adults like me. If this kind of shit is happening on my Facebook page, I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of body-shaming and bullying our kids are experiencing online. I feel compelled to keep going for them, along with that little girl inside of me who felt too damn afraid to stretch her wings on her own terms. They deserve to see role models out there who can show them the kind of world we could all have if we stop giving the bullies the loudspeaker.
Since I started this with quotes, I’m going to include one here at the end. These are lyrics to my all-time favorite anthem, “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman.”
“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down,
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out,
I am brave, I am bruised,
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.
Look out ’cause here I come,
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum,
I’m not scared to be seen,
I make no apologies, this is me.”
My daughter scream sings this song alongside me whenever we have dance parties at home, and her favorite part is when I shake my big ass in the air like I just don’t care. Because I finally don’t. I don’t care anymore if someone has something cruel to say about how I look. I don’t care anymore if folks don’t get why I’m choosing to live joyfully in a fat body. And I most certainly don’t care anymore if the Karens or Chads out there feel threatened when I call out racism or other social oppression. I will keep allowing myself to be seen, I will keep showing up, and I will keep the haters at a safe distance while I do the brave and beautiful work I was always meant to do. This is me. And I am fucking amazing.