This week, a high school friend posted a link on my wall of this gorgeous plus size woman in a bikini. She was just like me. Over 200 pounds, gall bladder scars, stretch marks, within a cup size or two of my prodigious hooters. I look at her body and see only beauty and a flatter stomach than I could ever dream of, but for her, showing her body was a very big deal. Just like it was for me.
Except that she’s already kind of famous, so her post got picked up by Huffington Post, and then talked about around the world. Big girls in bikinis are suddenly news. Oh, hello, envy, how nice to see you. Hi, slight tinge of bitterness, yes, yes, you did do this a year and a half ago and it was not picked up by the Huffington Post. I know. Shhhh. Simmer down.
So, I did what any self-respecting blogger would do. I
stalked researched the hell out of her. Turns out that she is effing awesome. Her name is Brittany Gibbons. She’s funny and real. She doesn't like to wear a bra. She reads smut and uses the word fupa in her blog. OK, the more I read, the more I love this
woman. I want to be her new stalkery
best friend. (OMG you guys, she accepted my facebook friend request.) She started an online magazine called Curvy Girl Guide. She appeared on Good Morning America in a bathing suit (one-piece at the time). Her rationale for doing it was "Be the change you wish to see in the world," the same motto I have on a sticker on the driver's side door of my minivan so that I am reminded every single time I get in the car. She did a TED talk in which she stripped down to a bathing suit on stage. I love her. Here’s the other thing I
learned while stalking her, both from her TED talk and from an article written about her:
All of this attention she has gotten for showing her body has not been universally positive.
People give her shit about her body. People say that she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. People call her fat and tell her they're surprised she managed to get a husband. Two things. One. Fuck those people. Fuck them. Two. I’m really, really glad that’s not me.
I posted my bikini photos, fully expecting that the 200 of my nearest and dearest friends would see them. Instead, it was in the tens of thousands. I still get hundreds of hits a week on that page. My bikini adventure was a crazy wild ride for me given the small scale of my blog. You know how many negative comments I got?
One person, not even on my blog, but on BlogHer’s link to my blog on facebook, said that I was glorifying an unhealthy body size. Hundreds or maybe thousands of people were inspired to love their bodies more, and lots of them told me so. One person made me feel like I didn’t deserve to love mine. But of course that one cut me. Of course it did. It was outweighed by the outpouring of support, but it takes a lot of positive messages to counterbalance one negative one.
Here’s what I learned from this. You need a thick skin to hit the big time, and I don’t have that. I pretty much have the thinnest skin around. I’m not ready for the big time. I’m not ready to absorb negative comments as the price of increased exposure. I find myself grateful that my bikini post was not the one picked up by HuffPo. I’m glad that strangers are not criticizing my body and making incorrect assumptions about my health. And hurting my feelings.
I’m intensely proud to be part of the body love revolution. But I don’t need to be the poster girl. I’m glad I’m not the poster girl. And the girl who is the poster girl? She’s awesome. Go read her blog. Especially this post. And this one. And this less funny but very real and honest one. And then if you want to laugh again after that last post, this one.