That Sad Little Fat-Shaming Photoshop Project

Before After
Malia the pug knows that all bodies are good bodies, no Photoshop necessary.

Recently some of the pathetic trolls from the usual internet troll playgroups have cooked up yet another fat-shaming project, and today I reached 100 requests to blog about it, so here we go.

In this project, they photoshop pictures of fat people including singers, actresses, models, and activists (they’ve e-mailed me two pictures of me that they used and altered without my permission) to make us look thin. (Though  perhaps the only thing more appalling than the project are the photoshop skills of the trolls – I’m considering creating a gofundme to get them some classes, good lord they are terrible.)  They also used pictures without permission by creating fake accounts to generate fake requests to be photoshopped.

A little bit of reading on the thread behind this shows just exactly how 12-year-old-who-watches-too-many-spy-movies this project is:

troll planning

In case you’re blissfully unaware, SJW stands for Social Justice Warrior – which they use like it’s a bad thing, not a shock when you consider that these are people who would rather oppress people than fight oppression.

A lot of people who wrote to me about this were really upset, and that’s understandable – it’s part of a sustained campaign of terrorism that is perpetuated by these people and it’s perfectly natural to be upset and angry when you and your community are the victims of this kind online bullying.

As regular readers know, I have been dealing with things like this every single day for years – from silly things like having my picture photoshopped, to an ongoing campaign to use my brother’s suicide to hurt me, so I have some experience with this, and so I thought that I would try to provide my perspective.

First of all, we’re fighting back and we’re succeeding. Many people, including members of Rolls Not Trolls, have successfully worked with Facebook to have this project deleted (despite their attempt to keep putting it up under different names.) Even better, the media has picked it up.

I know sometimes people feel like it’s better for them not to get attention and that’s a completely valid opinion, but let me suggest this – these people aren’t doing this stuff for us, they are doing it for each other.  They don’t care about outside attention – they are substituting fat hate for actual achievements and so they are showing off for each other with their fat hate, like someone who actually has talent would show off their painting, or quilt. We can use them to help us fight oppression and weight stigma, and that’s what this kind of media does.

It’s important to remember that the people who do this are a relatively small group of people who are very vocal and apparently have a lot of free time (though I imagine there’s a lot of attrition as they graduate middle school and face the demands of high school.)

When they do things like this and the media picks it up they rush to add comments (using the multitude of fake accounts that they’ve created) to make it seem like lots of people feel like they do.  But the truth is that most people find this appalling, and every time they pull something like this I get a ton of e-mails from people telling me that they didn’t understand what I was talking about when I talked about fat shaming, but now they understand what we’re dealing with and that they want to help.  When I work with organizations to help them with Size Diversity  and inclusion, I use these types of projects to show the end result of a society that allows size-based stigma (whether justified under the guise of “health” or not) and it really helps people to “get it.” So, though of course their behavior is terrible, know that many of us are using it to help the fight against weight-based stigma.

Finally, it’s important to remember that this kind of thing shouldn’t happen. We are not the problem – they are – and this isn’t our fault though it may become our problem.  Each of us gets to choose how we deal with this – some will choose to engage with the trolls, some will choose to ignore them, some will choose to fight it in their own way – and all choices are valid. We may choose to handle the same things in different ways at different times based on how we feel at any given time and that’s ok too, I think it’s really important that we support each other in the different ways that we choose to deal with these unfortunate people.

I also think it’s important to remember that some of the most powerful activism we can do is to just live our lives – take that dance class, go to your kid’s soccer game, go to the waterpark in your fatkini, lead your knitting circle, whatever your thing is go do it. Of course this isn’t the only way we need to address fat hate, and it’s completely optional –  nobody should have to deal with duress just to step out their door – but it is one powerful way that we can fight back. In the meantime, do what you need to do to take care of yourself from people like this and their bigotry and bullying behaviors.

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19 thoughts on “That Sad Little Fat-Shaming Photoshop Project

  1. if there’s anything antithetical you think i could photoshop that you might like to post, just let me know. i was one of L.A’s top photoshop people before i got sick three years ago [at least 50/50 eating disorder-related]. i am finally becoming able to work more and i would be thrilled to everlovin pieces to do this job.

    1. OT, here, but since I stopped dieting, I have noticed that I get sick way less often. Oh, I have other physical problems, with chronic pain, but now, I can actually fight OFF the cold bug! Huzzah!

      Nutriments – they’re not just for special occasions, any more.

      Good luck with your eating disorder. It’s hard to beat, but I know you can do it!

      Also, could you (with their permission, of course), photoshop some thin people to see how beautiful they would look fat? To show that the beauty is there, was there, and will always be there? Maybe do some aging, as well? I think showing a beautiful person staying beautiful despite a variety of changes would be fantastic! Maybe even stick the person in a wheelchair, or add some scars, or lop off a limb, and show that the beauty is STILL THERE.

      Of course, for that, you’d need to start with a picture that really captures the essential beauty of the person photographed, and not just the superficial beauty that you get in most fashion photo-shoots.

      1. I don’t think taking people’s photos and changing them without their permission is right. If we did that, we’d be doing nearly what the people taking others photos and Photoshoping them to look thin are doing. I know the message would be different and it would be from a place wanting to make things better for people of all body types, but it would still be changing people’s appearances to fit our cause -which isn’t right. Your heart is in the right place with your idea, but I don’t think it would be a right thing to do.

        1. That’s why I said “with their permission, of course.” I guess you missed that part. Permission is vital.

          And, yes, there is the risk that people would interpret it a different way.

    1. I’m very sorry for your loss, too, Ragen. Internet hugs are yours, if you want them.

      ((((((((((((((((Ragen and family))))))))))))))))))))

      Your strength amazes me. I say it after the trigger warning, but in case you don’t read past the trigger warning, I’m putting that important part right up here. Lots of love, Ragen!

      Trigger Warning: Suicide talk

      Back when I considered suicide, the thing that stopped me was the thought of my little nephew, and how he would feel about it, and how in the world would my family be able to explain it to him in a way he’d understand? Knowing him, he’d probably feel like I didn’t love him enough to stay with him. That thought gave me sufficient pause to be able to pull myself back together. Timing had a lot to do with it, as well. I was blessed with the help I needed, at the time I needed, in the form I needed. My mother told me that her mother went through a similar thing, and it was my mother’s birth that saved her. Grandmother couldn’t kill herself, when she had such a sweet baby to care for.

      Of course, what will save one person may be the very thing that pushes another person over the edge. We’re all different, and what works for one may not work for another, and it really sucks, because if there were a guaranteed cure-all, this would never happen.

      I do know that if I didn’t have my family to live for, I wouldn’t want to keep living. It’s not that I want to die, but that I need a reason to live, and my family is my reason, and I am so very blessed to *have* that reason.

      I’m so sorry your brother was not able to get the help he needed in the way he needed it. Please don’t ever blame yourself for his choice, and hopefully you won’t feel too angry at him about it. It’s super-painful, and the fact that anyone would try to use that as a weapon against you just sickens me to the core.

      Your strength amazes me.

  2. Thank you for writing about this. It was sort of bugging me since I first saw it in RNT – and yes the photoshopping was atrocious!

    “…though I imagine there’s a lot of attrition as they graduate middle school and face the demands of high school.” Exactly this. I realized after seeing this “project” on Facebook and clicking on some accounts that these are essentially children (but also many fake accounts). If there are adults jumping onto this, I’m so sorry for them that they don’t have a better life to engage in outside the internet, but that’s also their problem, not mine. I’m starting to realize that these are probably a lot of bored adolescent boys (and probably some girls) full of insecurity about themselves, lashing out in hatred at anything to make themselves feel better. They call themselves “shitlords” – literally, they have named themselves after feces. What insight into the sad self-esteem of these people.

    Thanks to the Rolls Not Trolls folks who reached out to Facebook again and again to bring attention to this obvious bigotry. Thanks to Ragen who knows how to turn this shit around and use it to help fight the bigotry it perpetuates!!

  3. Maybe I’m growing as a person, but my first thought in response to this was how sad it is. I mean, I’ve got a wonderful husband, no kids — but enough godchildren and “nieces and nephews” to keep me awed, amazed, and all-too-busy, a job (two, really) that challenges me, and extended family to care for. I’m blessed that my life is so full that I literally do not have time to spend going to such great and intricate lengths to upset people that I don’t even know. And I pity them that their lives are so empty that they have time for this.

    Of course, my second thoughts were vague violent urges over the concept that I need to learn that I’m “crazy” because I think you should mind your own business and be nice to people. So maybe I’m not really growing as a person after all. Oh, well.

    1. Laney, you’re growing.

      People will continue to have violent urges as they grow up. The point is, with maturity comes the ability to control those urges. Toddlers cry and hit each other, but they learn NOT to. They learn to control themselves and not give in to the urges.

      Minding your own business is a learned skill.

  4. This project has seriously annoyed me. And to be honest, I have the same problems with projects where people or characters are photoshopped to be heavier, too. Stop changing people’s body types!!! Accept us all as we are!

  5. Once upon a time, I started reading “FLY Lady,” who teaches people how to de-clutter their lives. I started thinking that a non-cluttered space looks better. Then, I was invited to one of those home-decorating buy-our-stuff parties, and looked at the catalogue.

    There was a “Before and After” picture of a bathroom counter. The “before” picture had a sink with a soap dispenser next to it. The “after” picture had the same sink with soap dispenser, candles, fake foliage and a tchochke.

    I just smiled, and thought how much better the “before” picture looked. There were other FLY ladies at this party (in fact, that’s how the hostess got the guest-list), and I pointed that out to them, and they agreed that the uncluttered picture was better, and the poor saleswoman had a lousy day, because none of us wanted to buy the candles, fake foliage or tchochkes she was selling.

    It’s the same with these photoshop pictures. I look at the fat people, then look at the photoshopped ones, and and think how much better these people look in their natural, fat, state. The worse the job they did on the photoshop, the better! It’s really helping me to appreciate the beauty in the fat people, even more than I did before, because these same people, made thin, just look downright weird. They certainly don’t look like themselves. In fact, in one case, they actually changed the person’s facial features – because losing weight makes your mouth wider, and changes the shape of your eyes. Right.

    So, this, to me, is like the Marilyn Monroe/Ragen Chastain picture – EPIC FAIL, HATERS!!!

    I hate what they are trying to do, but I have to grin about the results.

  6. I just saw the article about this on Bored Panda. If anyone uses that site, please find the article and downvote it! Maybe if it goes negative they’ll take it down.

  7. Okay, I just saw the Bored Panda post on this. And I was pleasantly surprised that they just reported it without taking sides.

    That said, while picking at Tess Holliday (and seriously, people, if you’re going to be a jerk and photoshop her without permission, at least spell her name right!) and Kelly Clarkson seems unfortunately par for the course, I was sort of shocked to see that they had done the same to Lena Dunham.

    Not to say that it’s any better or worse to do to her because she’s not as fat (and I’m admittedly not exactly her biggest fan, but there’s no call to do this to ANYONE), but I’d really have thought she’d have been out in the press ripping someone a new one over this.

  8. I know this is way off topic, but is/are the pug(s) in the pictures you post your pug(s)? They are one of my two favorite dog breeds and I love when you post these pictures!

    1. Some are our pugs, and some are pugs my partner Julianne either fostered or mommed before we got together (she is the one who made me into a pug person) and some are her parent’s pugs (she turned them into pug people too). The pugs will appreciate that you appreciate them!


  9. “A little bit of reading on the thread behind this shows just exactly how 12-year-old-who-watches-too-many-spy-movies this project is”

    What is over the top and hilarious is that they spent all that time thinking up this project and posted a long and insane “plan” to “distort the message” and they end the rant with “and they will realize how crazy they are”. ROFL

    That’s the part I lost it. Oh the irony! I laughed so hard!

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