The Power of the Positive Fatkini

Lynne Murray says:

In July of 2013, Rachele (pronounced “Rachael”), blogger at Fat Babe Designs, artist and fat activist, posted a self-esteem-claiming photo of herself rockin’ a fatkini on her blog and social networks. Her intent was “to spread a powerful message about body positivity.”

Rachele in her fatkini

She captioned the photo accordingly:

Anchors away! I finally have myself a proper high-waisted fatkini. I took my body and put it on a beach and voila! Beach body! Wearing a bikini as a fat woman is an act of rebellion. I felt glorious and glamorous all at the same time. I wore my stretch marks as ribbons of honor and let the sun kiss my lumpy thighs and arms without a care in the world.

Rachele never expected her photo to turn up as motivational fodder for a multi-level-marketed diet program.

I was unfortunately … turned into the unwilling face of a diet company called Venus Factor, without my permission or knowledge. I have heard of this happening to weight-loss bloggers. Their before and after photos are stolen and posted on Facebook and websites with false claims and stories. But my photo seems different (i.e. I am sexy [as] hell in it) and I was completely taken off guard when it starting popping up as an ad on Facebook. I thought I found the source, reported it and Facebook removed the pages. But there was my photo again, along with a few using different photos from my blog, and I couldn’t find all of them. They were starting to be brought to my attention by blog readers and then by people in my workplace.

Companies using pyramid-like affiliate networks to skim profits from both their henchmen (aka affiliates) and the gullible public are particularly attracted to weight-loss schemes. Or as a New York article on affiliate marketing states, “weight loss is one of the evergreen niches online…”

Because affiliates are not employees of the company supplying the diet product, the company can claim it is only minimally responsible for any claims or images the affiliates use to make “their” pitch.

It’s the old “overzealous underling” ploy: “I just said ‘kill the competition’; I didn’t know they’d actually commit murder!”

Rachele decided to fight back. On March 16th, she wrote:

It’s been a week for my little ole blog! Sunday, I posted a rant about how someone stole my fatkini photo and used it in a diet ad. Monday, I emailed my local news just to see if they would talk about the issue. Tuesday, they came to interview me and by Friday, it was being talked about all over the world on Yahoo, Cosmo, Daily Mail and more! It has been amazing to see so many folks standing up for me and how my visibility has empowered so many women.

On the flip side, there are a lot of fatphobic comments on the articles and the diet company is attempting to bully me with threats and accusations. Commence the eye rolling! They claim that they are victims as well, that I am spreading lies, tainting their company and doing it all for my own personal gain – and will have to pay for damages and loss of business.

The dead giveaway that diet company brought in its lawyers is the sudden shift from, “We’re so sorry for your bad experience” to, “Hey, bitch, you’re costing us money and we can take you to court to make you bleed.” This tactic works to scare off many people with legitimate complaints who just don’t have the stamina or means to deal with the legal system.

Rachele answers the diet company’s accusations:

Obviously … I am not a money-hungry creep and normally a shy homebody. My day job is in the social work field and I blog to empower women and talk about fat acceptance. Any monetary gain from my blogging usually goes back into my blog. It is ridiculous to think that I am making it big or rich as a result of my story being told. Straight up, I am not. Can we say victim blaming?

Then Rachele takes a step back and pulls out the positivity weapon, countering bullying with self-affirming, rabble-rousing guerilla girl activism!

Instead of giving any more attention to the dirtbags, I want to focus on how amazing it can be to accept your body and refuse to succumb to the societal pressures to maintain conventional beauty. My blogging buddy and fat babe extraordinaire, Leah, suggested we start a “Not Your Before Photo” campaign. A way of showing solidarity where rad fats (and anyone else wanting to participate) pose proudly as a big fuck you to anyone who thinks they can steal our photos for their shady ads.

Click on the button to participate. Some tech challenged sorts (like me) will have to express our solidarity with Rachele and her allies in verbal rather than visual terms but I tremendously admire the attitude and the creative flair. Seeing people like Rachele refusing to be used, intimidated or crushed gives me hope for the future of body positivity!