Laurie Toby Edison

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Fighting Billboards with Billboards: I STAND Conjures Grassroots Viral Magic

Lynne Murray says:

An amazing online effort raised $12,083 in the 24 hours of February 2nd to set up billboards with positive images and messages aimed at fostering health through self-esteem to fight hateful billboards targeting fat kids.

It all started in spring of 2011 with the billboards in Georgia aimed at humiliating fat kids in the supposed name of “health.”

Advocates of Heath at Every Size, including Body Impolitic, saw the billboards as an invitation to bully fat kids. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) “called for the removal of these damaging billboards in March, 2011.” But a recent NAAFA press release says, “since that time” we have learned that Georgia Children’s Health Alliance has committed to spending $5 million over the next five years on this negative Strong4Life campaign.”

Then, like a miracle of grassroots magic the I STAND campaign began and mustered a virtual digital army of positive images and messages in an effort to counter the bullying billboards.

Pattie Thomas at New Year’s Revolutions Resources invited people to “Join us in showing the world there is better use of Photoshop® than telling bullies it is okay to target fat kids.”

Jennifer Johanssen has created a video slideshow derived from the I STAND photos. It’s long at 18 minutes, but the images and statements were so powerful, I couldn’t stop watching.

I STAND! from Jennifer Jonassen on Vimeo.

Jennifer says:

This is my thank you to Marilyn Wann, Ragen Chastain, Atchka Fatty, and everyone involved with the I STAND movement who are making history! I dedicate this to anyone out there being bullied or in pain. Take strength in these images! They are the tip of the iceberg and represent only a few of the people out there who support you. YOU ARE PERFECT AS YOU ARE.

For those who don’t do online video, Carrie Padian has created (and often updated) a Tumblr page for the images at I Stand Against Weight Bullying.

Kickboxing fat woman, caption: I stand for loving yourself today.

Carrie says:

What I DO know is that kids everywhere cannot be hated for their own good, that you cannot shame someone to health and happiness. This is true for adults and especially true for kids; once they start on the cycle of shame, diets, unreal expectations and all the rest, it’s very difficult to get away from.

The “I STAND…” responses moved and inspired me with the inclusiveness of the support–i.e, no one was considered too fat/thin/young/old/heathy/disabled to offer supportive images and statements (including a rolling spotted fat kitty, who won my heart).

The idea of putting up counter billboards seemed impossible, but viral media and several hundred positive-minded activists begged to disagree!


SF Weekly took note of the controversy and the activist response. I can testify that the activists are located all over and not limited to the SF Bay area.

Ragen Chastain at Dances With Fat puts it well when she says:

Bullies count on our fear and their money. Putting up a billboard sends the message that we aren’t scared, and that we can accomplish something big. It tells these bullies that they can’t take our lunch money any more.

100% of the money raised goes directly to the project. Our billboards need to go up, and theirs need to come down.

I am so proud of and inspired by these efforts.

One Response to “Fighting Billboards with Billboards: I STAND Conjures Grassroots Viral Magic”

  1. Danica Duensing Says:

    I’m the woman in the kickboxing picture you have here on your blog. I’m glad you liked the “I Stand” project. I was thrilled with my picture/poster.

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