I have been thinking a lot about feminism lately. What it means to me, what my views are and how they relate to other people. With this in mind I have been joining various Twitter/Facebook groups such as Everyday Feminism with a view to finding interesting discussions and debates.
Yesterday I found myself on the Women's Rights Page on Facebook reading this post which shares the story of a woman called Brittany Miles. Brittany runs a blog on Tumblr called Full Bodied Lovin which tells her story of overcoming depression and anorexia and her journey to finding self acceptance. She describes herself now as a "quirky plus sized ED survivor" and her blog as "a place to nurture my own self love, and help create a culture of acceptance for others".
She describes how fat shaming whilst growing up lead eventually to self harm, anorexia and depression. She documents her journey through her healing process to being the confident person that she is today.
Now, whilst I am rapidly discovering that the Women's Rights Page is not all it is cracked up to be, with far too many adverts, strange off topic statuses and mixed messages; I read this post as the woman in question sounded inspirational, and indeed, she was.
The comments section however soon began to make my blood boil and thus the reason why this article finds itself here today.
Remembering that this was a woman who had overcome fat shaming, who had gotten through anorexia and depression as a result and brought herself out at the other end; some of the comments were in my view, at best misguided and at worst, harmful.
There were a few of the usual troll type comments but as usual, my eye simply glided over them and ignored their rudeness. The comments that bothered me were the ones from (mostly) women who did not seem to get her message at all.
They didn't bother to look at her blog, see that once she was anorexic and now she is (in society's terms) plus sized or the fact that she loves her body and her philosophy to life now. They judged her on face value, on the before picture when she was underweight, to how she looks now, self confessedly fat, and happy.
It was the comments of "she isn't fat, she's lovely", the "she isn't fat, she's gorgeous" the "you're not fat by the way, you're beautiful!" that really bothered me. The last comment was directly in reply to her own personal message on the page thanking them for sharing her story.
All of the messages I know came, in the commenter's eyes, from a good place. An encouraging place. It was the undertone of what they actually meant held the problem.
In my opinion using phrases like "You are not fat, you are beautiful" is just a sugar coated version of saying that "fat is bad, you shouldn't be fat, but it is ok because I don't think you are". It is not the classic version of fat shaming, but it isn't too many steps away from that. It is unconscious fat shaming.
Do you not understand how harmless and dangerous it is to saying that to someone who is recovering from an eating disorder?????
I posed the question "Why cannot she not be both fat and beautiful" and received the response:
"I think because fat has a negative connotation to it"
The word fat only has a negative association to it if you allow it to. If you call someone fat as an insult, that says more about you as a person than it does anything else.
I believe that we need to tell people when we hear this kind of unconscious fat shaming, whether the comment is coming from a place of malice or genuinely wanting to be nice. Those people that try to sugar coat your weight, they think they are trying to make you feel "better", what they are actually doing is trying to justify your weight to themselves.
To understand why you could be happy at a certain size when they could not.
Whilst some dismissed my reply as being "too sensitive" I cannot help but wonder what their comments would have been if they had read her blog and knew her dress size. Would their comments have moved from being guarded to more venomous?
Unconscious fat shaming needs to be addressed just as much as the cruel bullies in the street. Fat shaming of all kinds need to stop. Full stop.