Fatphobia Claims Another Life

Bully Free ZoneToday’s blog is pretty intense – content warning for discussion of bullying, harassment, and suicide.

Brandy Vela sent her sister Jackie a text that said “”I love you so much, please remember that, and I’m sorry for everything.” Then she took her own life.

Brandy was the victim of cyberbullying.  According to Jackie:

“People would make up fake Facebook accounts and they would message her and she wouldn’t respond and they would still come at her…They would say really, really mean things like, ‘Why are you still here?’ They would call her fat and ugly. She was beautiful, absolutely beautiful; the only thing people could find to pick on her was her weight.”
Jackie says her sister changed her phone number and reported the bullying to police, but was told they couldn’t help her.
“They couldn’t do anything because [the suspects] used an app and it wasn’t traceable and they couldn’t do something until something happened, like they fight,” Jackie said.
This is a story that far too many fat people on the internet know far too well.  Anonymous cowards who use the tools that the internet provides, and the fact that laws haven’t caught up with technology, to do things online that would be illegal if they did them in person, or even using traditional mail.
If you’re one of these bullies and you’re reading this, know that you killed Brandy Vela.  You have blood on your hands and it will never, ever wash off.  Walk away from this now, find someplace to hang out other than online hate forums, find something to do that isn’t mistreating fat people. You can walk away, and you should.
If you are the victim of these people, please know that you are not the problem – they are. You are fine, your body is fine, you do not deserve this – you never did, and you never will.
Friends and family are honoring Brandy’s life: Post-it Notes filled with loving words cover her bedroom, and blue hearts are tapes all over the hallways in her school.
I’d like to suggest another way to honor all of those who have been victims of cyberbullying. When you see trolls online putting fat people down, trying to keep us from living the lives we want, trying to keep us from telling our stories and creating community, trying to make sure that we can’t even exist in the world for a moment without constant shame, stigma, bullying and harassment, remember that while it’s easy to write them off as sad and pathetic (and they certainly are both) they are also something else – they are murderers. Brandy is sadly not the first or last to fall prey to them, and we should hold them accountable.
Stories like Brandy Vela’s break my heart. Casualties of the horribly conceived and horrifyingly conducted “war on obesity” and the cyberbullies who all too eagerly enlist themselves in the  army of hate.

If you are a fat person, know that you are amazing. In the face of a crushing amount of bullying and stigma, in the face of the government recruiting our friends, families, and employers to fight a war against us, in spite of the intense oppression that tries its best to crush us, that we keep living our lives is a testament to our incredible strength.

And yes, it’s ok to be fat.  And if they want a “war on obesity” then we will damn well give them one. And know that you can’t be strong all the time so if you are feeling low – if you fear that you may become a casualty of this war – reach out around the fatosphere, and let’s be here for each other.

In a world where waking up as a fat person and not hating ourselves is considered an act of rebellion, I’m proud to be a rebel. In a world where refusing to spend all of my time , money and energy trying to manipulate my body size is considered a crime against society, I’m proud to be a criminal. In a world where loving my body is an act of revolution, I’m proud to be a revolutionary.

Fuck the trolls, fuck the cyberbullies, and fuck the “war on obesity.” Live loud and proud my fellow fat people, because we are nothing short of extraordinary.

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14 thoughts on “Fatphobia Claims Another Life

  1. When I read what happened to Brandy Vela I was crushed. I had read part of the article out loud to my husband and by the time I got half way through I was shaking and fighting back tears. As person who has been fat her entire life I have been subject to fat shaming and bullying for as long as I can remember. The first time I thought of ending it was when I was 8 years old, and that was only the first of many times – up until the time when I discovered Size Acceptance. Size Acceptance and fat activists and their blog and volgs helped turn my life around.

    Today, and for many years now, I wouldn’t ever consider ending my own life. It’s a concept that is so foreign to me now – now that I’ve come to realize the truth behind the way myself and other fat people are treated. And now that I know the joy of loving who I am, despite our society trying it’s hardest to make sure that I don’t.. But I really remember what it’s like to be in that much pain, and my heart goes out to Brandy and her family. I’m so angry at our fat-phobic culture, and deeply bigoted society. A society that conditions people to hate fat people so much that they feel justified in treating them as sub-human.

    Bigots and bullies (whether it’s against people based on their sexual orientation, religion, skin color, ability/disability, gender identity, looks, or size) are on the wrong side of history. I thank God that a day will come when kids are taught about how we used to treat each other based on such things and they will wonder how people could have ever been so stupid.

    Change can not come soon enough. I’m so sorry that it didn’t come soon enough to save Brandy. We have to ramp up the resistance. We can’t let anyone else become a casualty in this disgusting “war on obesity”.

    1. “Bigots and bullies (whether it’s against people based on their sexual orientation, religion, skin color, ability/disability, gender identity, looks, or size) are on the wrong side of history.”

      I want to steal that and put it on a meme or t-shirt or billboard! ❤

  2. “The lurkers support me in email” is considered a joke, but I’ve occasionally been supported by lurkers, and it helps.

    If you see someone being cyberbullied, and you don’t want to be a target yourself, anonymous or private support might be a good idea. I’m not sure what the current situation is, since people who are cyberbullied may be hard to reach either for self-protection or because they’re being DDOSed. Thoughts?

  3. Sickening, and unfortunately less and less surprising. We march in the streets for the rights of “others” but when it comes to fat shaming innocent children the bullies and abusers have co-conspirators in a vitriolic fat hating society full of doctors psychologists, arm chair therapists, health Nazis, fitness and food police, “well-meaning” friends, family, teachers, and strangers alike (including the US the government) that are there to back up and support the abuse of fellow citizens for their adipose tissue.
    I have said for years we will end up with a fat holocaust. I am 45. I CAN NOT IMAGINE BEING A FAT CHILD IN AMERICAN SOCIETY TODAY! I very probably would have killed myself too.
    The sick sad truth is, they really do want us to die. They are not kidding, they do not care, they think it is funny, and to have such an obvious target to throw their own issues on in hopes “it” will take them away forever is just what they want.
    How can a child cope with such endless vitriol? Where is the safe place for these children? It must be like going to war or Hell everyday for so many!

  4. Cyber-bullying is very real, and even major sites like YouTube won’t do anything about it. People have posted videos of me in my underwear without my permission there. I report them, and YouTube does nothing despite my face being clearly shown on the video and all my reports containing my picture ID. It’s clearly me. I’m astounded YouTube allows that kind of harassment.

    1. Society chooses whom they get to be offended for, and who needs protecting. I don’t think they consider us worthy. It is the old: “If we really cared about ourselves, we wouldn’t look the way we do.”

  5. Thank you for this, Ragen. In this post-election moment, it is so important to call out the bullies and support those targeted groups and individuals. Much love and solidarity to all victims of bullying. ❤

  6. Dear Regan: Because I don’t know how to reach Jackie, and you may be able to (I realize that asking you to do even more is imposition), will you let her know that I pledge to be part of the force to be reckoned with and that while we weep for her and for Brandy we are her strength and her solace. In the aftermath of this horrifying campaign season in which I have been actively involved people keep asking me what we can do on a national scale. The more important question is what MUST we do in our own small part of the world-we must protect those that have been abused and oppressed for DECADES. This is what we CAN change. The fight is the same as it has been for years.

  7. “In a world where waking up as a fat person and not hating ourselves is considered an act of rebellion, I’m proud to be a rebel. In a world where refusing to spend all of my time , money and energy trying to manipulate my body size is considered a crime against society, I’m proud to be a criminal. In a world where loving my body is an act of revolution, I’m proud to be a revolutionary.”

    Thank you for this, because sometimes, simply not hating myself is the limit of my abilities. But just that much rebellion is still rebelling against the oppressors.

    1. With you Michelle!
      Pathetic world we have created, when it requires an act of some sort just to be O.K., comfortable, alright, accepting even happy with who we are. But humanity seems determined to choose up sides and create false value systems in some insane race for bestest, better, more than, less than, other than and how dare you think you have a right to exist in MY world!

  8. There was fat shaming as part of the bullying but there were things that were even worse like putting up fake profiles of her with her number on sex sites. The police saying nothing can be traced is crazy – how does someone create an account and there not be an IP address? There are ways to trace things, I think they just don’t want to be bothered. Maybe now that she has killed herself they will bother? Also, I don’t feel great about her school putting up the blue hearts, like that does anything? Where was the school when those kids were bullying her – you can bet it all started at school. It always does. School or camp. What is the school doing to prevent this from happening again? I bet nothing. They don’t care about bullies – they say they do, but they really do nothing to stop them – unless a vice principal actually hears a kid say something really horrible in person, they don’t believe the kid when someone reports bullying. They say it’s your word against theirs. Then – and this is the big joke – they ask the other kids! The other kids are part of the gang of bullies and they corroborate the stories of the bully so the kids who are being bullied stop reporting it because they end up getting in trouble! Poor thing, I know why she killed herself, and it’s only amazing that more kids don’t. I hope she is finally is a peaceful place.

  9. I almost cannot believe there are people out there who earnestly think that fatphobia is not a real thing…almost. Why do some people not believe it’s real?

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