A Little Louder For the People in the Back : A Takedown for Tess

Warning: This blog represents a deviation from the others. It wasn't planned. It isn't curated and pruned and nurtured. I wrote it in a few hours, in the middle of a pretty heated rage.

But it is honest. And unapologetic. And likely full of profanity. 

If you can handle that, read on.

This is Tess Holliday.


She's fat. She's a total bad ass.

She just made the cover of Cosmo UK.

And that is a very big deal (no pun intended).

I had planned a quick post on the day of the cover's release - just a little celebratory word or two and a chance to share this goddess in green with The Project's small-but-mighty following.

But by the time I checked in to social media to publish the post, the internet had lost its collective mind about the fat woman on the cover of Cosmo.

Lost. Its. Mind.

Don't believe me? 

Check out the comments section of Tess' Instagram post.

Need more? Type "Tess Holliday" into your Twitter search. Better yet, don't. You don't need to hunt down vitriolic garbage. If it's past noon, and you've scrolled Facebook, you've probably consumed your daily dose of trash.

Let me summarize it for you.

True to human form, the commentary is deeply polarized.

There is a strong contingent celebrating this moment as a huge leap toward representation and body positivity. 

And then there are the haters.

Now, I realize that the designation "hater" has been co-opted as a means by which to identify people who express a dissenting opinion. That is a lovely, innocuous definition of the word, and not what I mean at all.

I mean actual hate, spewing from fingertips and onto the screen.

A few of my personal favorites:

"You belong on the front of a travel guide instead, you blimp" - Alicia from Oregon

"My only hope is that you die quickly so that you can stop promoting a lifestyle that will kill people." - Matt. I don't remember where he lives. That's probably better for Matt.

I could go on and on, but I'm not giving any more space to this breed of bigotry.

However, I am going to say a few things because a few things need to be said.

And in rare form, I'm going to explicitly address these things to the women in my audience.

(To the 10 men who have stumbled on to my writing, you're already here, so it's pretty likely that you're nothing like my buddy Matt from places unknown. But just in case you have forgotten, it's never, ever okay to wish for a woman to die because you find her unattractive. Women are not ornaments. We are not here to be pleasing on your behalf. We do not owe you anything... not even a "healthy lifestyle".)

Okay, ladies. Listen up.

We need to do better.

I am appalled by the endless thread of inane, vile, despicable, not even remotely creative comments about Tess' body, made by women, who can almost be heard giving each other virtual high fives.

And I'm not even talking about the likes of Alicia from Oregon. I'm talking about social media "friends". And "friends of friends".

Yes, friends, I'm talking directly to you.

We will never find freedom and fullness by tearing each other down. I thought we learned that in eighth grade, but it appears to be time for a little refresher course. Now, we've only got time to cover the high level stuff here, so you're on your own for a detailed application of these directives. Don't worry - I'm sure you just need a little course correction and you can handle the rest.

Let's get started, shall we?

Stop Being a Dick:

A  Guide for Women Who Want to Be Better to Other Women

(Yes, Alicia... I'm talking to you. I don't care if you don't want to.

You owe it to your future daughter. I'm praying you don't already have one.)

1. Avoid offering unsolicited feedback about women's bodies.

I know, this one is hard. You have been trained to believe that everyone wants to know what you think about their body because folks have been commenting about your body since the beginning of time. You know what they say about two wrongs. Or about what to do if your friends jump off a bridge. You don't actually have to do the shitty thing that was done to you.

Stop perpetuating trauma. Let it end.

Be the one to bury it.

2. Health and beauty are not virtues.

You are allowed to exist peacefully without either.

This one is going to sting a little. You've been tricked. Conned. A multibillion dollar health and wellness industry has convinced you that "health" and "beauty" are something other than a subjective social construct. Don't believe me? Ask two people to define "health". Good luck getting the same answer twice. Or better yet, remember the 80s? Kate Moss was the picture of health and eggs were going to kill you.

You see? Subjective social construct, littered with just enough truth to make it sound like gospel.

Now I know, you've spent thousands of dollars.. and worse yet.. thousands of hours chasing some fictional ideal, and that hurts. But you have this singular moment to call bullshit on the whole thing.

And you can start by taking your claws out of Tess Holliday's ample ass.

Maybe you should stick them in the back of the account executive who is making a killing off of your obsession with losing 10 more pounds. That dude is a much more fitting target for your rage.

3. Eat more. Attack less.

Right, I know what you're thinking. Food is always the solution for fat people, but seriously... we have SO MANY WOMEN walking around who are so fucking hungry... like deep in their bones kind of hungry. Before you lash out at another woman, consider the possibility that you're craving nourishment. Then go find a snack. I don't care if you're out of points for the day. Eat it anyway.

You might resent the happy, fat person a little less if you weren't so fucking hungry all the time.

4. Check your fear. It's a sneaky motherfucker. 

Who, me? Afraid? 

Yes, you. If you are subject to any form of body policing, then you are afraid of what might happen if "it stops working" or "if you let yourself go". Oh yes, I know... you would never do that. But I know your story. We might look different, but it's my story, too. I've "lost the weight", and I've "gained the weight", and now I don't give a fuck about the weight. So, I know the fear that accompanies the idea that my body might not respond the way I need it to respond. It's a reasonable fear, considering every diet (yes, even Keto) has a 95% failure rate over a 24 month period as demonstrated in multiple, evidence-based, longitudinal studies. The moral of the story is that our behavior is one factor that influences our weight. But our behavior does not exclusively determine our weight. And that is scary af.

So, here's my suggestion... look yourself in the eyes. Stare hard. You'll know the fear when you see it. Thank the fear for showing up... it thinks it's protecting you, after all. Remind it who is in charge.. you're the grown up here and can handle a little scary extra fat if that's what it comes to.

And move on with your day without finding an abrasive and damaging way to offload your fear on another woman.

Say, for instance, a fat one on the cover of Cosmo. Or me. Or any of my fat friends who are just out here trying to live our best lives.

5. Repeat after me: her health is none of my business.

Oh, dear God, I know. You're just trying to help. Clearly, the obesity police have taken the day off and now the world is safer because you've reminded the fat woman that obesity is bad for her health. I mean, it's totally likely she had forgotten, what with the ease of carrying around a few hundred pounds.

She doesn't need to be reminded. She knows. It consumes every waking thought. It is IMPOSSIBLE to live in this culture and not get the message.

And I swear to sweet Christ, if anyone says something about how her picture "promotes obesity", I'm going to lose my collective mind.

Do you think a picture of a same-sex couple "promotes homosexuality"? (Wait, don't answer that. I've just gotten my rage in check. Let's not instigate it.)

The point is that these are not issues of promotion.

Unless, of course, you're the multibillion dollar wellness industry. Plenty of fear-driven promotion over there, folks. 

Fat people bare their fat bodies for representation... to be reminded that they have the right to exist exactly as they are.

We just want you to leave our bodies alone. Honestly, we want to be able to leave our bodies alone. We've been trying to fix them since forever. It's exhausting. 

And one final thing about Tess...You are no more entitled to an opinion about the health of Tess Holliday's body than I am entitled to an opinion about the health of your body after I spotted you throwing down some wings at B Dubs. It is none of my business. See...I can apply my own damn rules.

That's all I've got, ladies. You've got your rules. Study hard. It's a brutal world out there. The least we could do is hang on to each other.

I know we can do better than this.

Let's get started.

Sarah Stevens