I have a problem with social media. Actually scrap that, I LOVE social media but I have an issue with the way that a minority use it and the fact that minority seems to be able to shout really really loud. Social media is an incredibly powerful tool but like all powerful tools, it can be used for good or evil and when it is bad, it is very, very bad.
When social media started, we used it as a way of sharing our lives, for many it was even a medium of total honesty, think of those early tweets you sent that told people exactly what you were up to, or those first few blurry instagram posts that showed your life as it was not as the photoshopped media version that is now du jour.
Social media, like mainstream media has now become a construct of society, no longer a place to share and be honest, but to openly manipulate, judge and demean others but what’s worse is that it isn’t lofty journalists or the ever elitist fashion industry at fault here, this is a medium where our peers can relish in dismantling our confidence and self belief piece by piece.
Tonight a group on Facebook, calling itself ‘Project Harpoon’ (oh how original) set about ‘trolling’ some of the most recognisable names in the plus size industry and some women (not in the public eye) who dared to put their pictures out on social profiles.
“This movement to “prove” that women look better thinner through the use of photoshop emphasizes the body and beauty ignorance that has been enforced over the last couple of decades. And while I find it vile and absolutely slanderous, how could I have not seen this coming? Women’s bodies are more often than not manipulated in the images we see everywhere and everyday, yet most do nothing to stop this dishonest representation. What this hateful group has done is simply an extreme of what mainstream media and fashion outlets do regularly and without shame.” Lily Cummings, photographer and model
The fact we even have a term for this kind of cyber bullying shows sadly how common place it is and how we have come to accept it. It is so abhorrent we should still be trying to work out how we sunk so low, not adding it as a phrase to the Oxford Dictionary. Altering a woman’s body through photoshop has had the greatest impact on generations, perceiving such a narrow idea of what human’s should look like that you’d think we were all made from the same cookie cutter mould.
Model Georgia Pratt, who’s body was disfigured on this page retorts:”I am sad that someone has gone to the effort to make this silly project about others their personal focus. I am actually worried for this person’s mental health.”
As fierce supporters of the plus size industry and champions of the body positive movement this group is utterly horrifying. Project Harpoon take images of women that they deem not physically acceptable and essentially photoshop them to what they feel is a more acceptable size. They do this under the guise of fighting back against ‘skinny shaming’ but anyone with half a brain knows that body positivity has never been about pitting one body shape against another.
“Spreading this kind of hate and misinformation about women’s bodies always gives me mixed feelings. Above all it speaks brilliantly to the fact that there is still work to be done, and an army of healthy women ready to do it.” Producer Jess Lewis, Straight/Curve Documentary
In a year that has seen legislation against revenge porn, when will we tell technology that enough is enough. When will we take cyber bullying, trolling and the theft and the alteration of images seriously.
Over 4400 people have signed up to the group – and here in lies what still remains one of the greatest prejudice of our time, is that we simply can’t fathom that we don’t all look the same. The writers of this group have a very set standard of what they perceive beauty to be, but with so much cruelty and ugliness surrounding their hearts and brains it is amazing they can see anything at all. Because being healthy means you aren’t filled with anger, rage or bitterness. You aren’t filled with poisonous bile and if you really wanted to champion women (or cared for women at all) a group dedicated to asking people which image they prefer is NOT the way to go.
“I cannot believe somebody would stoop so low as to disfigure some of the most beautiful women in the world. I am horrified at the lack of respect and the vile attitude this person has. Whoever is behind the Project Harpoon page should be ashamed of themselves. It is utterly appalling on so many levels. It is a personal attack on these women – who are some of the most famous plus size models in the world. This is a blatant manipulation of their image and personal bodies. I am seething that this page is allowed remain online. We need to boycott it in a very serious way and stop the spread of hate. Imagine young girls looking at these photos and thinking they are better off skinny or thin. What damage does that do to women and young girls and their self esteem?” Jen McQuaile – Straight / Curve Documentary
We see photoshopped images all day, everyday, in fact we are so used to it we forget that every image we see has been processed in some way. Whether it is a furniture catalogue or a food ad, before we even get to the human body our eye has processed thousands of perceived perfect images a day. And then there is the human. The person that is more than just their physical container. The person with feelings, thoughts, love and ambition that this group has sought to disregard.
Because if we took away the whole idea of fat or thin, or what we think beauty might be, we need to remember that body shaming is wrong on all sides of the spectrum. We have no right to say what another person should look like, it is not open season for debate and groups like this disregard those basic rights.
“This is exactly the reason our documentary Straight/Curve MUST be made. We need to show the world the REAL side of body image and the plus size community. We stand for diversity and inclusivity. We do not attack thin girls, so why would this person feel the need to launch such an unprovoked attack on these beautiful curvy women. It is not about thin versus curvy, it is about all women embracing their shape and their bodies and learning self love and respect. How on earth are women supposed to do that when websites and pages like this are in existence?” Jen McQuaile – Straight / Curve Documentary
It is time that we took a stand against altered images. That we made abusing someones image for trolling purposes as serious as the aftermath. And it is time social media sites like Facebook started to shoulder just a little bit of frigging responsibility for the content it allows.
This isn’t a fat vs thin issue, this is a human issue and it looks like we need a reboot.