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.
As a woman, I feel so much pressure to look put together and well-dressed every single day. As a plus size woman, I feel that pressure even more so than when I was a straight size. I think part of that is because there are plus size women out there who have hid their bodies under baggy clothes for long periods of time - whether it be because we were ashamed to show our bodies or because we didn't have access to clothes we like that fit. Another part of this reasoning is because people judge. I already have a strike against me for going out in public as a fat person; I'm looked down upon and shamed. And I get another strike if I'm not dressed well. This world cares so much about image, so sometimes we have to conform to the pressures. Because as a woman, if I'm not wearing makeup, I'm told I look 'sick' and 'tired', and maybe even 'ugly'. As a woman, if I'm wearing a simple and comfy outfit, I'm not 'trying hard enough'. As a plus size woman, if I'm wearing comfy clothes, I'm seen as 'not trying hard enough' too, but even more so because I'm fat. In many people's eyes, fat equals lazy/unhealthy/gross. So it's another strike of judgment when I'm not putting all my effort into that day's look. And especially now that I have embraced my body as a fat person, people also expect me to ALWAYS be wearing risqué clothing. I'm here to tell you to eff the rules. If you want to wear something baggy (I do for comfort or on days I don't want to stand out), you are no less confident or worthy. You don't HAVE to always look like a 10. What matters is that you feel like a 10, or that you are working towards that number (because you deserve to feel good about yourself!). We may have days we don't want to wear makeup, or form fitting clothing, or more risqué outfits. That doesn't mean that we hate ourselves or that we were faking being confident all along. It just means whatever because it simply doesn't matter. You don't have to wear sheer clothing, less clothing or tight clothing (unless you want to!) to prove you are confident or body positive. Confidence isn't just how we look; it can also be seen in how we speak, and in how we treat ourselves and others.
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."
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