Proud2Bme | Victory! Fat is Not a Feeling!

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Victory! Fat is Not a Feeling!

By Catherine Weingarten--For about four years now I have been involved in the body positivity activist community and have worked with such activist organizations as Realize Your Beauty Inc, the National Eating Disorders Association, Proud2BMe, and Caroline Rothstein. 

A few weeks ago I got an email from Stacey, the head of RYB, where I am currently the resident playwright and board member, about getting involved with an awesome change.org petition about a body negative facebook emoticon. 

We were responding to how you could choose “fat” and “ugly” as feelings on facebook. If you were “feeling fat,” you would see an emoticon of a full-faced smiley with a double chin and if were are “feeling ugly,” you would see an emoticon of a smiley with a Groucho Marx-like face i.e. glasses, heavy eyebrows, and a large nose.

The petition was a collaboration between me and Endangered Bodies, an incredible global activist group that promotes positive body image in the media.  For this petition they had young activists from across the world encourage their networks to pressure facebook to remove the “fat” emoticon.

As a young activist, I feel like I have a strong idea about the impact social media has on my generation.  Facebook has become another world where people can share their accomplishments, stay in touch and tell us how they are feeling.  But this emoticon promoted the idea that “fat” and “ugly” are actual feelings, and not descriptor words that people can call you. 

There are so many young people struggling with eating disorders and self-hatred about how they look, and this emoticon promoted those negative feelings. Our bodies should be respected and loved, not something that should be online fodder.

I want to grow up in a world where people encourage young women to pursue their dreams and creativity, not just lose weight and get “prettier.”  As a young person, I felt so much pressure to seek validation for my looks, and now that I have become a member of this incredibly supportive body positive community, I don’t need that any more. 

I am currently a playwriting graduate student at Ohio University and the encouragement I look for now comes from someone seeing my work and saying it “did it for them” or that they “like theater slightly better now.”  When I was younger I couldn’t have imagined doing something so exciting like this, because all I could focus on was losing weight.

I feel so excited that I was able to share my story. As an activist, sometimes you feel like you are being overdramatic or that your story does not deserve to be heard, but this petition really upped my confidence and showed me that I can make a difference.

Facebook has officially  responded to the petition and its 16K+ supporters by removing the "I feel fat" emoticon from its list of options! This is the first step towards continuing a dialogue with Facebook to support their efforts in being a body-positive platform, leading the way for other social media sites to follow suit.

When I fought for this petition I kept thinking about all the young people I talked to on the helplines when I was a NEDA helpline intern and how girls as young as 11 would call me to talk about how they felt fat/were on a diet. I hope the success of this petition can show them that they are beautiful and that they don’t have to think/talk like that.  We are more than how we look.  We as young women have more important things to feel/think about than that!

What do you guys think about this petition?  Have you seen someone use the “fat” emoticon?  How has social media use changed the way you looked at your body?

About this blogger: Catherine is an MFA student in playwriting at Ohio University. She was a previous NEDA helpline volunteer and is also the playwright in residence for Realize Your Beauty, an AWESOME org which uses theater arts to promote body positive for kids. Her fave dessert is high class coconut cake. She has written lots of trashy short plays with equally trashy titles like “Hot Santa” or “You Looked Hot when You Stole that Dress from Walmart.”

Also by Catherine: 

Glee's Harmful Portrayal of Eating Disorders

Lena Dunham is Totally My Girlspiration

Stepping Off the Treadmill: How I Discovered What Healthy Exercise Feels Like

I'm Years from Motherhood and Already Sick of Post-Baby Weight Loss Stories

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

Proud2Bme was first launched in the Netherlands by Riverduinen, a mental health organization that has licensed the concept to the National Eating Disorders Association. Unless otherwise noted, all original content on this site is copyright The National Eating Disorders Association. The Proud2Bme brand, logos, and trademarks are property of Rivierduinen.