New Blog 'Smile, Sizeist!' Invites Overweight People To Expose Fat Shamers Via Public Photos; Promoting Tolerance Or Encouraging Defamation?

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A new blog intends to offer a place of refuge for overweight people who receive size-related harassment from strangers. Wiki Commons

Photographer Substantia Jones says that she won't turn a blind eye to strangers who publicly humiliate overweight people. In fact, she intends to meet their brazen bullying with a hard-learned lesson, posting their photos on a blog where obese people can share their personal fat-shaming stories.

"I want fat people to know there's a way to fight back non-violently, another way to shield against the shame and humiliation the harasser seeks to impose," Jones told The Huffington Post. "I want to help facilitate a power exchange."

The blog entitled "Smile, Sizeist!" accepts photograph, video, and story submissions from overweight people who want to expose their sizeist harassers. Anyone can submit a story, and Jones makes sure to let potential blog posters know that unkind references about the harasser — whether it be their appearance, age, race, gender, sexuality, or physical ability — will be deleted.

Lesley Kinzel, a plus-sized contributor to XOJane.com, wrote, "There is a rage that comes with the feeling of being utterly dismissed simply because of the shape of your body, and it's difficult to explain."

But does the blog take things too far? In the site's "About" section, Jones addresses the potential legal concerns that a site like this could raise. She first explains that photographs taken in public are controlled by the photographer, not the subject. Then, she goes on to say that only when photos are taken in a place where someone would expect privacy does it becomes illegal. She also mentions that in order to be sued for defamation, the harasser would have to prove that the incident didn't happen. In other words, as long as the submitted stories are true, everything is okay, she says.

That's not exactly how things work. Jones jokes that she should stroll Ryan Gosling's neighborhood on her lunch break because "it's legal to snap and post someone's picture without their consent." But that's only true if that person, as is the case with Ryan Gosling, is considered a public figure. Taking pictures of strangers (who are private figures under the law) on a train, bus, or even on the street and attaching them to seemingly negative stories could still have some serious legal consequences — in the form of a lawsuit or criminal charges.

In any case, the creation of this blog seems to come from a genuine place of concern for Jones. She first gained notoriety for The Adipositivity Project, a blog featuring scantily clad or nude obese people "to promote size acceptance... through a visual display of fat physicality."

Perhaps this new blog will give victims of weight bullying a healthy outlet to deal with their experiences, despite the possible legal effects. Or it could be another case of "two wrongs don't make a right."

"For me, fighting shame with more shame is not effective -- giving shame back to someone who has shamed me does not make me feel better," wrote Kinzel. "In truth, it makes me feel worse."

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