By Alena Thiem, co-founder of the Endangered Bodies chapter in Germany, AnyBody Deutschland
The word spread quickly yesterday morning: From Germany to the UK and Ireland, across the Atlantic to the USA, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico and further across the Pacific to Australia. What had happened? The activists from the German chapter of Endangered Bodies proceeded their usual morning routine: preparing some fruit and muesli for breakfast, putting the tea kettle on the stove, turning on the computer and logging on to Facebook. But something was different.
When we routinely and still a little tired checked the 'feeling emoticons' in the status update on Facebook, the emoticon for 'I feel fat' was gone. Excited, but still not sure if we had actually reached the goal of our campaign #FatIsNotAFeeling in less than two weeks, we asked our international colleagues to double check. And while the word spread around the globe, having one EB-chapter after the other waking up to the news, it became clear: Facebook had listened to us, to the nine young women who had become our petition starters, to the almost 17,000 voices of the people who had signed our petition.
We quickly got to work and released the following statement:
"The eight chapters of the global movement Endangered Bodies are pleased to discover that Facebook has responded to our international petition and its 16K+ supporters by removing the 'I feel fat' emoticon from its list of options! We extend special thanks to the thousands of people around the world who have signed our petition, showing that each and every one of your voices can be heard and has made a positive difference. We look forward to continuing a dialogue with Facebook to support their efforts in being a body-positive platform, leading the way for other social media sites to follow suit."
Facebook as well didn’t just silently remove the emoticon, they addressed us and the thousands of #fatisnotafeeling signers from around the world officially with these words (source: http://chn.ge/1BnJkpE):
"We’ve heard from our community that listing 'feeling fat' as an option for status updates could reinforce negative body image, particularly for people struggling with eating disorders. So we’re going to remove 'feeling fat' from the list of options. We’ll continue to listen to feedback as we think about ways to help people express themselves on Facebook."
Like Facebook says, this petition was about listening to the "people [who] express themselves on Facebook". The ones you all got to listen to were the nine young women who joined forces with us from Endangered Bodies to share their stories of struggling with body image and eating disorders. They explained the harm of the 'fat' emoticon by sharing with you how it actually made them feel to see their friends tagging pictures on Facebook with negative adjectives about their own bodies.
Thus, we would now like to share with all of you what these incredible women had to say once they realized their voices had successfully been heard:
"I think this is incredible, that Facebook has decided to listen to our Change.org petition, and also that people are starting to understand that the word "fat" is an adjective and not an insult. I love this, this is awesome! I'm really excited for us achieving this.“ (Laura from Colombia)
"Together, we've made Facebook better! I'm so happy to have reached this important step in the direction towards a society without body-shaming. Let's keep on going this way." (Inkeri from Germany)
"This idea started with one goal: to remove Facebook's emoticons for 'fat' and 'ugly'. Today the 'fat' status option is out. It seemed unrealistic at the beginning for me, but now that we achieved the goal I'm so happy because with this we'll tackle negative feelings associated with body shapes. We know that a lot of people use this platform since they're very young, and the damage can be huge. Furthermore, this will create awareness of the diversity of body shapes and how beauty standards lead to unacceptance. I'm grateful with Endangered Bodies for all their support, and also very excited and proud for having been their spokesperson, and more importantly, that we did it!“ (Mizheel from Mexico)
"I'm pleased, but at the same time, worried. I'm happy that Facebook has removed the negative 'I feel fat' emoticon but it worries me that they had been silent; I'm concerned that they have only responded in this way to placate us and that they really don't understand what the real problem is. We hope that this kind of thing doesn't happen again, and from here on in, we can enjoy this form of entertainment without taboos and shame." (Brenda from Argentina)
"It is with great satisfaction that I share the news of Facebook’s decision of removing the 'feeling fat emoji'. I would like to thank everyone who signed and shared the campaign: this is our victory. My congratulations to my fellow petitioners and to all Endangered Bodies’ teams for the excellent and devoted work. A simple emoji may seem of minor importance, but I believe that this campaign has motivated people to think more carefully about how a descriptive term, such as 'fat', can be used on a daily basis to carry negative and derogatory meanings. I feel we moved another step towards a more inclusive, respectful and welcoming world regarding the diversity of forms, sizes and beauties, of all colors, genders and origins." (Daniela from Brazil)
"I am so pleased that Facebook has responded to our campaign and decided to remove the 'I feel fat' status option and emoticon. With this victory we can all feel confident that if we rally together to stand up to the harmful body-shaming messages promoted through so many channels in our lives every day, our voices can and will be heard! As someone who sees the effects of this kind of body-shaming and ‘fat talk’ every day in my work with eating disorder clients, I could not be happier that the emoticon has been removed. We are one step closer to creating a more body-positive society for women and men, and girls and boys all around the world!“ (Rebecca from Australia)
"I'm thrilled to see that FB has removed the 'feeling fat' emoji. The petition's success shows us that people together can challenge the cultural messages that are so damaging to our ability to love ourselves and live comfortably in our bodies. As someone who struggledwith body image, I feel so happy that I am eliminating one form of body shaming hatred on the internet.“ (Catherine from USA)
"It was so wonderful to wake up to the news that Facebook had removed the fat emoticon. It's so important that we've got this far and so many people have signed and supported us in this battle. It's great that a company as large as facebook has actually listened and taken action. This shows small actions can create change, and has spurred me on to do so much more.“ (Vicky and Charlotte from the UK)
All of us from the #fatisnotafeeling campaign would like to thank YOU who have supported us in any way and signed the petition once more for your contribution to this success. We’re pleased that this petition isn’t about winners and losers, but that the success – OUR victory – is a newly established dialogue: We will continue the conversation with Facebook.
For more information about our campaign, please read our post, "International Campaign #FatIsNotAFeeling"