Trigger Warning: Rape, sexual assault
Bill Maher is in the headlines for more insensitive comments, this time against overweight people. His idea of how “fat shaming needs to make a comeback” as a way to combat the growing obesity epidemic isn’t a solution. It’s perpetuating an ongoing issue that fat people need and deserve to be bullied and harassed.
Last month, I was thrilled to take photos in a two-piece swimsuit. I got some amazing feedback and responses from other people who could relate to my story, were also victims of fat-shaming, and felt uncomfortable in their bodies. I was sent hundreds of photos of people in their own crop tops, two-piece swimsuits (or shirtless swimsuits from the fellas), and other revealing styles while thanking me for inspiring them to take that step.
There was another response that I had anticipated, but I was caught by surprise at the sheer volume of it all. I had men messaging me, and let’s just say what they had to say wasn’t rated G. I think I’ve received more unsolicted pics of men’s junk that I ever did while I was the dating scene. My inbox was blowing up to the point I had to uninstall Facebook Messenger. When this happened, I usually blocked and reported the offenders.
What surprised me was that the men who sent me photos of their genitals still had their Facebook profiles up. I even received reports back from Facebook that the message didn’t violate their “community standards.” I’m sorry, what? What was truly troubling that one of the senders was a convicted child rapist. Like, he was on the national offender registry for sexual assault against a child. It took almost a month for his profile to be taken down.
There were other men who had sent me photos, and I would go to their profiles to see that they had done similar, and to minors, as noted in the comments on their public posts. People are trying to report these profiles to Facebook, and when the social media giant fails to remove the profiles, people are taking to the comments to publicly declare the bad behavior (with screenshots).
I thought I reached my threshold of being shocked, I was then told that I needed to be grateful that I was getting all of this attention from men because fat girls like me don’t get “compliments” like these often. It’s like, because I’m overweight, that I need to just take the harassment and accept it. Not only that, but I’m also supposed to enjoy it? No. Actually, hell no. I know this isn’t an issue exclusive to overweight people. It’s definitely a problem within humanity.
Because I’m an analytical person, I also looked at the types of people that were harassing me. What I found interesting was that these folks were geographically in similar locations (small town America), they were typically men who were not college-educated, and they were conservative. They also had the same empty look in their eyes, and their posts indicated that they likely used illicit subtances. I don’t want to draw stereotypes, because I was harassed by a few wealthy executive-type men. This behavior isn’t exclusive to a single type of income, personality, etc.
I will admit that I found this response overwhelming because it brought back a lot of memories of being sexually assaulted. The men who hurt me told me that I needed to just appreciate and be grateful for the experience because no one else would give me this attention or want me in this way…because I was fat. When I reported my rape, I wasn’t taken seriously because surely no one would do this to a fat girl.
I find these days, being complimented on my appearance makes me cringe. I would almost prefer to be called names in regards to my fatness. Sure, the compliment-giver may mean well, but when I don’t know the person and I can’t gauge intention, I am reluctant to even say, “Thank you.”
I had to make a decision as to whether or not I wanted to continue my social media presence. I had to make a decision on how to respond to these messages and whether or not I still wanted to “call out” the men that were harassing me and sending me inappropriate photos. My method isn’t perfect. I pick and choose which ones to respond to. Most of these messages are being ignored, the sender blocked and reported, and I move on.
Today, I’m still troubled by how my assault was handled. The fact that I was told to appreciate and be grateful for the assault because it would be the “only time a man would touch me” was almost as bad as the assault itself, if not worse. What is even more troubling is watching the segment Bill Maher recently recorded and said that fat shaming needed to make a comeback. Again, it opens the issue of how just because someone is overweight, they need to be subjected to bullying and abuse because it will help them. This is only adding more poison to the mindset that justifies the rape of an overweight girl and the harassment of a human being on the street. It needs to stop.
It needs to stop NOW.