As a plus size person with a social media presence, Lexie Manion is no stranger to reading hurtful comments about her body. But the comments section became especially heinous after the body positive activist posted a side-by-side photo showing herself in two outfits — one in which she's wearing a sheer top, and one in which she's wearing a baggy sweater — and declaring that she's confident in both.
The post points to the idea that plus size women always need to be put together, or else be thought lazy or disgusting — which they might still be, even while wearing something fashionable.
Comments on her post range from backhanded compliments such as, "You're really pretty and strong honey, but being a bit healthier is better. No hard feelings," to "You are so fat, WTF. How disgusting," Manion wrote in an article for Cosmopolitan.
Faced with hatred like this, Manion went through a few stages of how to respond. First, she wrote, she considered making her profile private, but quickly discarded that idea. Then, she started blocking the people who were leaving hateful comments. That helped make her feel better until she came across a terrible comment that said, "I’m confident that your death is around the corner."
Reading that comment, Manion got angry and she decided to start responding with sass. When that didn't work, because she realized the people she was talking to "desperately wanted to win rather than reason," she decided to try explaining.
"When someone wrote, 'You should lose weight,' I'd respond and explain I'm in recovery from an eating disorder and on medication that makes weight loss challenging," she wrote. Still, the commenters didn't relent and told her that she should just "try harder."
Although she received plenty of hate on her photos, Manion also got a lot of love, and that ultimately inspired the response that made her feel best.
"I appreciated the love and support so much that something finally clicked for me: Instead of defending myself from haters, who are likely acting from a place of insecurity, I'd turn the tables by demonstrating kindness," she wrote.
She started seeking out the people who left angry or hateful comments on her photos and sliding into their DMs, where she would leave them a compliment. "'I love how you spell your name — it’s so unique and pretty!' 'I love that dress on you — you’re stunning!' 'Your smile is absolute sunshine,'" she'd write.
Manion wrote that she reached out to about 30 accounts and only heard back from a few. Some thanked her, and two apologized for what they had said. But, Manion realized, none of the people she reached out to continued to spew hate, and that made her feel powerful.
"Now, when haters attack me in the future — which I know I can't control — I might not have the time to respond with a compliment," she wrote. "However, I now know I'm prepared to protect myself from hurting if I ever feel this way again."
67% of U.S. women are plus-size. Join as Refinery29 gives these women their own megaphone, doubling down on our commitment as allies, and partnering with them to catapult their powerful conversations into a true historic movement. #WeAreThe67
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