As a body-positive loudmouth, I’ve noticed several recurring themes bubbling in the deep, fetid swamp that is a troll-laden comments section. When scrolling through conversations about fat acceptance and body diversity, occasionally I’ll reply, always remembering that nobody really wins a fight on the internet.
So last week I’m perusing a comments thread on the idea of using the word “fat” as a self-descriptor, adding an occasional rebuttal to the fat-shamers, and I find myself thinking: Sheesh. I’m just saying the same things over and over again.
Further down in that comments section, I stumble upon a flurry of these little guys:
Ugh & Eyeroll.
A. You guys. “Fat” is a noun, verb, and adjective. An adjective is a descriptive word. Synonyms for the adjective form of “fat” include, but are not limited to: corpulent, substantial, thick, chubby, large, plump, stout, paunchy. A person can be fat. I am fat. Yeah, that’s not the only thing I am, I know that. But it’s NBD because I’m not ashamed of being fat. I get to describe myself however I choose, and frankly, if you identify as Fingernails, I support your right to call yourself that, too.
B. Saying, “You’re not fat, you HAVE fat,” only furthers the idea that it’s bad to be fat.
C. It’s often coming from a fellow fat person who is trying to be the “Good Fatty.” A “Good Fatty” lives in a constant state of mea culpa, so that slim people see that they’re Trying So Hard; the “Good Fatty” hates the word “fat” too, and hopes for brownie points by insisting that they also think that fat bodies are shameful.
Back to the comments section:
Me: Hey! All bodies are good bodies! I use “Fat” as a self-descriptor because I love myself and that word holds no more poison for me!
Fingernails Meme: Um, Nope. I’m a MEME. You can’t argue with me. I’m a square with art and some words in it.
Me: Okay, but this fingernail analogy is flawed, and also I’m saying that I have chosen to love myself unconditionally and I’m claiming respect and dignity. People shouldn’t be afraid of the word “Fat.”
Fingernails Meme: Stop it I’m a meme and you’re not FAT YOU’RE NOT FAT AND YOU AREN’T FINGERNAILS LOOK LOOK NOW I’M ON PINTEREST I’M ON INSTAGRAM LOOK OUT WORLD
Sigh. That little square is now cruising around cyberspace, giving people an excuse to hold on to their shame.
I’ve learned a thing or two about the power of the meme. There are a couple memes of me zipping around the interwebs right now, and although I did not create any of them, I’m thrilled that they’re out there. I’m overjoyed that people are fired up about posting and discussing these bite-sized representations of radical body acceptance. Memes are accessible, sharable conversation starters. The term is “snackable content,” which gives me a chuckle, considering the people in comments sections who think I must eat all day.
Fighting body shame can be intimidating and exhausting, and there are some angry, sad, and mean motherfuckers out there. While I know it’s not my job to explain my perspective to every troll, I think it’s a mistake to allow cruel people to invade any space that’s meant for positivity and support and to then spread poop and vitriol wherever they please. I think it’s important to be loud, to push back, and to show solidarity with other body love warriors, even though trolls can be vicious.
When it comes to speaking up online, I am very picky about my battles, but I continue to engage because I refuse to be silenced. I do it because of all the times I thought I was worthless and disgusting. I do it because of the emails I get from people thanking me for raising my voice and helping them find a new perspective.
The trick, for me, is to set boundaries for myself. Boundaries help me choose my words carefully and express how I truly feel, keep me from getting mired down in negativity, and help me avoid wasting a whole day obsessing about a post.
There’s no right or wrong way to confront people about their harmful biases, but if you’re looking to get loud too and aren’t sure where to start, here are some of my boundaries:
- I’m not likely to throw down in a no-holds-barred forum like Reddit or YouTube.
- I’m very willing to respond to negativity in a Facebook group about body image, for example, or hateful comments on a friend’s Instagram.
- I avoid making personal attacks and try to share my own individual experiences.
- I don’t engage with people who sling threats or discuss violence.
- I tend not to rage, because I feel like trolls love the flames too much.
- I participate in the positive reinforcement of the others in the forum.
- I am willing to walk away at any moment, even if I desperately want the last word.
My aim is not to change the minds of the jerks. It’s to change the minds of the people targeted by those jerks. And what’s a concise and powerful way to do that?
With a meme, of course.
So here’s your Body Love Warrior Comment Kit! It’s a short list of old chestnuts that people still use to disrupt and derail conversations about body image, and some handcrafted memes that you can use to respond to this drivel.
Whether you’re new to the world of radical body positivity, or you’re an old-timer and your fingers are aching from typing the same thing over and over again, you may find these memes useful in the world of Comments And Questions About Body Image And Fat-Shaming. Enjoy!
“Being ( too fat/too skinny) is SO UNHEALTHY. Aren’t you scared of dying because you’re OBVIOUSLY SO UNHEALTHY??”
“I can’t change who I’m attracted to, and I don’t like to bang fat chicks.”
“Why don’t you just eat right and exercise? That’s what I did. Anybody can do it, you’re making excuses.”
“You’re fat because you’re lazy and you stuff your face.”
“You’re glorifying obesity.”
“Being fat is just not HEALTHY!”
“BMI is science and the numbers don’t lie.”
When things get heated:
And finally, when there’s nothing left to say: