A little while ago, a horrible anti-feminist/fat-shaming meme started going around the Internet. If you’ve been online since it started circulating, you’ve probably seen it. The photo–if there had been no text added to it–is a great picture. It’s inspirational. It’s a plus-sized woman facing the camera and proudly holding a paper that says “This is what a feminist looks like”.
I have similar pictures, of me proudly wearing my This is What a Feminist Looks Like t-shirt. For example: this one, taken when I hosted an amazing event that featured the strong community of women poets and musicians within the Salt Lake community.
Back to the meme.
What on its own is a wonderful picture that speaks volumes of feminist pride and exudes confidence was stolen and the message of power was taken away by a malicious caption: “That’s pretty much what I expected.”
When I discovered the picture, I found myself unexpectedly crushed by the implication that somehow I, as a plus-sized woman and a feminist myself, was somehow less human. Suddenly I was just as easily worth ridicule and disgust. And it wasn’t just the person (or people) who found the image and added the horrific captioning who shocked me–it was the too-many-to-count commenters who were agreeing with the idea, and carrying on the anti-feminist/fat-shaming/anti-human campaign.
I claim to have little faith in humanity among my group of friends. They hear me day after day complaining about the stupidity of people, it’s a thing that I have been doing for a long time, and it’s second nature really. But honestly, under all the bark, I don’t believe it. I generally feel that people are good, that people are capable of amazing, wonderful things. But then something like this happens. And suddenly, my faith in humanity is actually shaken to its very core. The kind of people who insulted this woman are loathsome, vile creatures. And I find it hard to believe that someone could be so very hurtful, and damaging. But it happened.
Then today, I found something wonderful.
Turns out that the stolen picture is actually of a wonderfully badass feminist activist named Kelly Martin Broderick. And she wrote an amazing post about how horrified she was to discover the picture had been stolen and used as it was. But she didn’t stop at horrified. She fought it as best as she could, trying to get the picture removed from facebook since it had been stolen, but to no avail. But that did not stop her from speaking up and speaking out.
Kelly Martin Broderick: You are absolutely my hero.
I can’t tell you how much your voice made a difference to me today. It takes extreme courage to stand up when people are attacking in droves, powered by the fuel of the internet.
I am inspired by your strength, and grateful that you were able to rise above the awfulness of the Internet-gone-bad and make your statement. Despite the awful behavior of the people behind this meme, something great came out of this. Broderick proved that strength is possible in circumstances beyond one’s own control. That even when things are not working towards our favor, we can turn the tide and remind people that our greatest strength is in fact the power of our voice, and our ability to stand strong—and not take other people’s bullshit. If the people behind the meme can use the powers of the internet for harmful purposes, we can use the internet for good. To remind those that found the meme and grew as disheartened as I did upon first seeing it that the world is not all chaos and awful.
I am so fucking grateful for Broderick’s strength, because it’s reminded me that I too am powerful. And we feminists are everywhere. And taking this kind of bullshit is simply unacceptable. Hatred, mean-spiritedness, and spite will get you nowhere. If you want to be happy, if you want to make a difference in the world, you move past those things. You remember that everyone is human, that everyone has feelings and that EVERYONE REGARDLESS OF DIFFERENCE deserves a chance to be happy and live their lives.
If you haven’t already read Broderick’s piece on xojane, you should definitely go do that. Also, contribute to the tumblr page she set up, We Are What Feminists Look Like. As she explains in the piece on xojane:
The biggest miss the creator of my meme made was not realizing the point of the This is What a Feminist Looks Like campaigns; the point is to draw attention to the fact that feminists are not all the same. We are all different.So in response, I am starting a tumblr, We Are What Feminists Look Like. A few friends have already submitted pictures and I hope many more of you folks will submit pictures or thoughts. This experience has taught me that while one cruel person can ruin my morning, I have an entire community of friends, family, and feminists to back me up.