When a bikini-clad Fiona Longmuir and her mate Tara Costello took a photo in front of that Protein World poster, she didn’t realise quite how much impact it would have.
Not long ago, I took a photo that got pretty out of control: a photo of me and a friend in our bikinis next to a Protein World advert, declaring that we were, in fact, already beach ready. Yup, I’m that girl. Here’s what I learned after unexpectedly going viral.
People like to see women pitted against each other.
A lot of people seemed determined to jam our protest into the ‘woman on woman’ hate narrative, no matter how uncomfortable the fit. My pride in my body was almost invariably viewed as an attack on Renee Somerfield’s, despite me writing three blog posts, countless tweets, multiple Facebook comments and appearing twice on national TV to say that she was absolutely gorgeous and should be proud of her body. In every media interview I did, I was asked to make judgements on Renee’s body. When I refused to do that, I was often invited to slam fat bodies instead. It was unfathomable to people that I was genuinely suggesting that everyone was deserving of confidence and respect, regardless of what the number on the scales read.
“Know that no person who tracks down a woman on the internet and comments, ‘yu are fat and discusting’ 47 times is living a happy or fulfilling life. So get on that high horse and ride it into the sunset.”
This determination to turn women against each other was also nastily evident in people’s treatment of me and Tara, the other girl in the photograph. People would frequently contact us separately, goading Tara and debating me, allowing me to come off as calm and collected, while portraying Tara as angry and unreasonable. This sometimes happened the other way round, but honestly, it was usually this way. Whether it was because I was the thinner of the two that people decided to cast me as the good guy, I don’t know. But the intention to turn my wonderful partner in crime and I against each other was painfully, horribly obvious.
People won’t let your actual opinions get in the way of a good fight.
I firmly believe that it’s nice to be nice. Even to people who have just called you a fat, jealous slut. I tried my very best to respond to questions and comments about our photo in a polite, professional way, explaining exactly what we were trying to achieve. I discovered pretty quickly that people had already decided what we were trying to achieve and would not under any circumstances be changing their mind. And they were disgusted by what we were trying to achieve, even when we weren’t. God, I think I need a lie down.
Some people just suck.
Regardless of how innocuous your message is, some people are gonna try to bring you down. Even if your message is something like, say, “Everyone should feel good in their own skin,” there are always going to be people who are going to take offence to that and invite you to kill yourself. I’ve been sickened by some of the comments that have been hurled at me and Tara in recent weeks, but I think the only thing to do is channel T Swizz and shake it off. Know that no person who tracks down a woman on the internet and comments, “yu are fat and discusting” 47 times is living a happy or fulfilling life. So get on that high horse and ride it into the sunset. Do not threaten to track them down and murder them, no matter how tempting. Remain respectful and upbeat. Practise your morally superior tone. It annoys the arse off of them.
But lots of people are surprisingly awesome.
I spent literally the whole day on Saturday 2 May trying not to burst into delighted tears. The men and women who came along to our body positive party in Hyde Park were just the most wonderful, inspirational, sexy people I’ve ever encountered. Five minutes in their company and every single nasty comment from the past week just washed away. I met two women who were recovering from eating disorders who fell into each other’s arms moments after meeting. I met a mother who brought along her daughters, because she wanted them to know that they have agency over their bodies. I met a troupe of 13-year-old feminists so smart and confident that they felt comfortable holding court among a hundred adults. There were hugs and laughs and tears and inflatables and bubbles, and it was basically the best day ever. And the support we’ve received across the board on social media has warmed my poor little heart.
You are stronger and more powerful than you think.
I got a bunch of strangers to get together, take off most of their clothes and hug each other. In London. With a bit of courage and a bit of madness, you can achieve wonders.
Read Juliette Burton’s brilliant piece on how Protein World showed its true colours here.2030 Views
Fiona Longmuir is a professional storyteller, reluctant adult and aspiring funny girl. When not getting naked in tube stations and binge-watching inappropriate TV shows, she can be found scribbling at the Escapologist's Daughter.