Skinny and Fat on Tumblr

The popular blogging site Tumblr has announced that it is going to ban blogs devoted to self-harm including blogs about anorexia, bulimia, cutting, suicide… etc. This raises a couple of interesting thoughts about freedom of speech and what qualifies as self-harm.

I, for one, applaud Tumblr’s decision to ban self-harm blogs. I’ve never actually visited any of these sorts of sites on Tumblr but a while back, when I worked as a women’s issue coordinator for a radio station, I was doing a radio piece on anorexia and found myself exploring the world of pro-anorexia. Pro-ana sites from that point forward have held a very prominent place in my mind as a major issue. I spoke to a few pro-ana girls on my radio show that week and all three of them stated that without the support groups they wouldn’t be proud or out about being anorexic. Now, I think it is important to have a support group – but not one supporting your habit… rather supporting your place and life and leading you toward recovery.

However, I know that this Tubmlr issue raises an important question about freedom of speech. I used to be the Ontario executive director for the Center for Inquiry. While I was working there we started the “Campaign for Free Expression”. During the campaign I realized that I don’t actually support limitless freedom of speech (*edit* Some people think this sounds wrong – I just think there needs to be self-censoring in the world). I think there are a lot of instances where people need to be censored. Hate speech, this sort of thing on Tumblr, sexism, racism… etc. Social networking sites that promote the use of their services as a way to get your word (or pictures) out about an issue should actively censor things that cause harm to people. And yes – I would contend that these blogs do indeed cause harm to young girls looking to harm themselves.

Now, what does really bother me about this is that pro-fat girl blogs won’t be targeted. This is a serious beef I have when it comes to body image stuff. I should maybe at this point state that I am a plus size girl… I’ve worked in plus size stores, I’ve done a lot of love-your-body awareness type things and like looking at plus size blogs (such as my beautiful friend Sadia, who has quite a presence on Tumblr). However… pro-fat movements bother me almost as much as pro-ana movements. Being fat is really unhealthy. I know I am  unhealthy – and as I get older I am definitely trying to change my lifestyle to become healthier (and being much more successful than when I was younger). These pro-fat sites often have women complimenting plus sized girls calling them “real women” and “gorgeous” because they are curvy. You’ll also see some of these girls calling themselves “healthy fat”… because they can still run up a flight of stairs or whatever. While I think that women should love their bodies and I think beauty standards are really unfair – I also think that we, as a culture of strong, intelligent and gorgeous women need to stop lying to ourselves. Fat women might be beautiful – but we are also at risk for a lot of health problems (like heart attacks, diabetes, sleep apnea and more…). For example my doctor told me that I really should lose about 20 lbs before going back on the pill because being overweight seriously increases the chance for blood clotting and strokes with the medication I’d be taking.

So… it is great that Tumblr is doing this but I also think that they perhaps should be looking out for open feeder girls or blogs that seriously promote being obese. I think that plus size girls really can be gorgeous – equally as gorgeous as skinny girls. Everyone is gorgeous. YOU’RE ALL GORGEOUS. But we all need to keep our health in mind as well. It bothers me that fat girls get called beautiful and curvy while a really skinny girl is called sick or gross. Both types of girls need support and motivation to be healthy and happy in their own skin – at any size.

Via: Gawker

Image Cred: Bestweekever.tv

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Katie is a graduate student from Canada studying the environment and systems theory. She also loves dinosaurs and baking cupcakes. Follow her on twitter @katiekish


  1. February 24, 2012 at 3:02 pm —

    There is a correlation between being overweight and being unhealthy, but it is not a necessary causal connection. There are people who are overweight who eat better and exercise more than skinny people, and often doctors prescribe losing weight as a cure-all when in fact there are other problems or no problems. I think you’re right that blogs that promote unhealthy eating habits should be censored to some extent, but being overweight is not a life-threatening illness in the same way that eating disorders are (which can kill you in a matter of months). I think there are some important differences between the two.

    • February 24, 2012 at 3:12 pm —

      I think my frustration comes from the fact that overweight women are not subjected to the same rigorous questioning of healthy lifestyle as really underweight women because there is this womanly-empowerment message within the celebration of fat women.

      So yes – I agree with you. There are “overweight” women that are healthy – but I think too many overweight women online are *not* healthy at all and simply use this love-your-body movement as an excuse to remain overweight… I know I have.

      I definitely think if Tumblr had to choose between censoring all anorexia blogs or censoring all feeder blogs they should definitely go with anorexia. But I don’t think this is the case here – I think this is a case where both can be done. I simply wanted to express my frustration with fat-pride blogs and this seemed like a good segue. 🙂

    • February 24, 2012 at 3:33 pm —

      I think that while some amount of extra weight is not necessarily bad for one’s overall health and lifespan, morbid obesity, which is what Katie is talking about, definitely is. The websites and blogs that Katie refers to actively promote this kind of obesity, and completely ignore the negative health implications just like pro-anorexia people do.

      Although obesity isn’t as lethal short-term, a lot more people are obese than are anorexic or bulimic, making it, in my opinion, a much bigger societal issue.

  2. February 24, 2012 at 4:20 pm —

    I think you’re picking the wrong counter-example to pro-ana content. Body positivity content that encourages women to accept and like their bodies even when their bodies are fat are quite different from sites about and for women who are dangerously modifying their diet for extreme weight loss. The other end from pro-ana stuff is really the feeder/gainer community, I think.

    As for the double standard, there does seem to be one in some communities. The idea that fat/curvy women are “real” women and thin women are somehow not is false, sizist, and counterproductive. It simply takes the social prejudices larger women deal with from the mainstream and reverses them. Better for people to just love themselves for who they are and be healthy about it (eat well, move around, etc). Pro-ana and feeder/gainer lifestyles are where the bad stuff happens, IMO.

    • February 24, 2012 at 9:07 pm —

      It’s not meant to be a counter example – it’s meant to be an extension of the idea of self-harm.

  3. February 24, 2012 at 6:56 pm —

    What sorts of “pro-fat” sites are you talking about? Like HAES sites, or something else?

  4. February 24, 2012 at 7:15 pm —

    While there may be some ‘pro-fat’ blogs out there that are comparable to pro-ana ones, ie. encouraging people in the ‘normal’ range to gain weight and eat as much as possible, I’ve never seen those.

    And the fat acceptance ones aren’t comparable. The fat acceptance movement says (this is a massive oversimplification for the sake of comparison) “Eat healthy, don’t diet, and accept your body.” It’s not pro-anything so much as it is anti-body hate that includes people bigger than our cultural standard. It says that being fat is not inherently unhealthy, and losing weight is not inherently healthy. Inherently being the key word there.

    I lay this out because it seems you’re drawing a false comparison.

    I do agree that thin shouldn’t be demonized, or fat elevated over it in some weird reverse body-shaming attempt(Sociological Images covered this really well: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/01/25/the-marilyn-meme/). I don’t want to *change* the cultural standard, I want to *destroy* the idea that women should have to justify their bodies to the world in the first place.

    And that doesn’t mean some people, or a lot of people, wouldn’t be better off changing their habits, but they’re not going to have uniform results in terms of weight, and they don’t have to to be healthier.

    • February 24, 2012 at 8:02 pm —

      I’m not comparing them because they are the same, and I don’t think I said so in my post – if I implied that it was unintentional – I simply bring out the fat-pride issue here because I think it is also something that should be regulated instead of automatically upheld as something good. While I’m not advocating for people to diet – I simply don’t think it’s good for obese people to remain obese and for people to applaud them for being so.

      And now that I think about it I’m not even really sure what I am really asking Tumblr to do here… I want fat fashion sites and pro-body sites to still be around but there are some that are way over a healthy weight limit and don’t seem to be doing much about the fact that they are obviously obese to the point of it being very harmful.

      • February 26, 2012 at 8:07 pm —

        I’d also like to point out that anorexia and bulimia are serious mental illnesses, not simply bad eating and lifestyle choices. They often come with extreme depression, anxiety and self-harm. Equating that with obesity seems like a hugely false parallel.

        • February 26, 2012 at 9:30 pm —

          Which is why – as I’ve said numerous times already – I didn’t equate them. This is an extension of the idea of censoring self-harm blogs… that’s all!

  5. February 26, 2012 at 9:31 pm —

    However – overeating and obesity can be a mental illness as well.

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