Dear Society, Fat Is NOT A Feeling. Let’s Flip The Script On This Issue

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Since there’s no such thing as feeling fat, it only makes sense there was a petition to get rid of this particular emoticon from Facebook’s status update options.

Wait, you didn’t know that “fat” isn’t a feeling? Of course we don’t blame you, I mean how many times have we all looked in the mirror and said to ourselves “Urgh! I feel so fat in this!”. It is easy to believe the illusion (read: lie) that fat is in fact how we are feeling, when that is actually not an emotion.

Author and spoken-word poet Caroline Rothstein shared her own story of triumph over the “feeling fat” concept and how her own struggles with body acceptance led her to see herself as an person who is worth much more than just the sum of her physical appearance.

It was a powerful reminder of the effects of eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and rape culture. These are all areas which are still not fully explored or dissected in a way that does individual humans justice. They are covered by the media in a very sensationalized way that doesn’t allow for truthful, authentic dialog.

Thankfully when we see breakthrough videos like Caroline’s which was shared by news media site Buzzfeed, the 1 million plus views gives us an indication that everyday stories need to be more more in order to break down myths and stop corporations and industries from hijacking our experiences to make a buck (we’ll get to that in a minute).

Here is the video:

Now that you have watched this, we can get to the “corporations and industries cashing in on our experiences to make a buck” bit. Caroline mentioned that the diet and fitness industry is a BILLION dollar industry. That is no small fry. Why do we as consumers spend our hard-earned money on something that doesn’t necessarily help us feel better, but helps us change who we are in order to trick ourselves into feeling better?

And if you think it’s just the diet, fashion and advertising industries, think again. Social media has become the next frontier where the aforementioned industries can get a first-hand glimpse into how people are feeling in order to better target their schemes. Case in point, the “feeling fat” emoticon option in the status update are on your Facebook home page.

There has been a recent outcry over the way this perpetuates unhealthy body ideals and doesn’t do much to help out. Over the past few years there has been a lot of discussion about the role certain social networking platforms play in exacerbating eating disorder problems, especially given that sites such as Facebook and Instagram are largely visual.

A campaign was created to remove the “fat” emoji from the Facebook status options. A global organization called Endangered Bodies lead the charge to tell Facebook to take greater responsibility for how they treat users.

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Australian woman Rebecca Guzelian was one of the voices leading the charge and started a Change.org petition which received over 16,000 signatures in total. Once again, the numbers show how fed up consumers are with the way real human issues are being handled.

“My biggest concern with normalizing this kind of language (or as it’s more fittingly called, ‘fat talk’) is the effect it’s having on young people,” says Rebecca in the petition, while adding it is about more than just the way it perpetuates eating disorders.

“Body image is consistently rated as the biggest issue of concern for young Australians generally, and there is a huge amount of research that tells us that this kind of ‘fat talk’ actually increases body shame. We are constantly bombarded with an idealization of thinness in our society, which leads to this intense fear of being fat and a culture full of stigma around weight.”

“This can have a major impact on the millions of people dealing with negative body image, with body shaming and weight stigma being linked to lower self-esteem and disordered eating – risk factors for developing an eating disorder! And this is where Facebook also plays a role – did you know that the research suggests Facebook use is associated with increased risk of developing an eating disorder along with other risk factors including worrying about weight & anxiety?”

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Since 2o13 Facebook has allowed users to choose emotions such as “fat” and “ugly” from its status options.

“Having these word choices completely normalizes using derogatory descriptive terms in the place of real feelings. How can a person feel ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’ when these aren’t actually feelings? ‘Fat’ and ‘ugly’ are adjectives. They describe physical characteristics, NOT feelings.  What’s worse is that these adjectives are judgmental and forced on us by society to make women (and increasingly men) feel negatively about their otherwise healthy bodies!”

Being a counselor at the Butterfly Foundation, and Australian organization which supports people with eating disorders, Rebecca felt compelled to stand alongside Endangered Bodies and stop the social networking platform from becoming a public space to perpetuate body hatred.

“Facebook encourages people to focus on and scrutinize the way they look, so as to present the best version of themselves in the online world. Doing this really places an extreme focus on the external, instead of the internal,’ she told the Daily Mail about her petition.

Because we live in such a technological and visual generation, we take social cues from the things we see on certain websites like Facebook, Rebecca says. She believes this needs to be as much of a positive discussion about body image as it is how corporations an do a better job of serving their customers and users. We couldn’t agree more.

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Women from all over the world uploaded images and publicly declared their support to get rid of “fat” and “ugly” from Facebook’s options.

Two women who are part of the Endangered Bodies UK contingent, Vicky and Charlotte, made a video in support of the campaign (below).

In a surprise turn, Facebook actually responded to the outcry and decided to take action! They heard the complaints and released this statement:

“We’ve heard from our community that listing “feeling fat” as an option for status updates could reinforce negative body image, particularly for people struggling with eating disorders. So we’re going to remove “feeling fat” from the list of options. We’ll continue to listen to feedback as we think about ways to help people express themselves on Facebook.”

It’s yet another reminder that we have a duty to raise our voices in order to create change, it’s not just up to the big corporations. Social media has become the great equalizer, allowing more democratic voices a seat at the table when it comes to big decisions in society.

The most important part of this movement is about changing the culture, flipping the script and inverting the perspectives that are currently being pushed upon us from various forms of media and communication. Our voices have the power to direct the conversation to where we want it to go and we are proud to see everyday women standing up for their self-esteem and body confidence in a big way.

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