The internet can be a mean place for anyone, but if you're an overweight woman—heck, even a regular-weight woman—it can be downright terrifying. Every day new stories pop up on social media of women being fat-shamed for regular life activities such as wearing shorts, going to the gym, dressing up for prom, and gasp! daring to take engagement photos.
Basically, the internet is the last place you want to go for body advice. And yet, on Tuesday, one brave woman did just that. She posted a thread on Reddit asking users: "I'm a UK size 16 woman wondering if wearing a bikini this summer is a good idea?"
She added, "I'm 5'5" and fairly muscular but I still have cellulite on my thighs and I have a tummy. I'll be going on holiday to Portugal soon and I'm feeling nervous about the whole thing." #BeenThere
Before I could invent a time machine and stop this woman from committing internet suicide, the comments started rolled in. But rather than shame her, the women of Reddit swooped in and reminded her that the question doesn't need to be asked in the first place.
In fact, the whole screw-the-haters, you-be-you theme was a common and glorious one.
As well as some much-needed words of encouragement:
These wonderful Reddit users were right—no one should have to feel scared to wear a swimsuit AT THE BEACH. Where it's hot. And one goes to swim.
Yet, women still do.
From a young age, we're sent the message that only a "beach-ready body" can actually pull off a bikini. Yet the models who represent "beach ready" are photoshopped into perfection. In fact, some brands even ask models to wear pushup bras under their bikini tops—CLEAVAGE!—which they then photoshop out in editing. Not to mention, too many strangers have no issue fat-shaming other strangers whose bodies they deem too offensive for their little eyeballs. All of which creates a hostile bikini environment for regular gals.
Remember just last week, when Playmate of the Year Dani Mathers fat-shamed a woman for being naked in a dressing room at the gym, telling her Snapchat fans, "If I can't unsee this then you can't either?"
Seriously, people—we need to stop labeling normal-looking bodies as offensive.
Thankfully, as the Reddit thread reveals, the tide may be turning, as more and more people fight back against fat shaming. Indeed, after her deeply insensitive post, Dani Mathers was suspended from her job and banned from her gym—while model Ashley Graham has proudly graced the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition and Aerie lingerie has axed all photoshopping. Even Nike has jumped on the bandwagon: The company's new ad campaign features plus-size women in athletic wear—because, shocker, they work out too!
So if you are someone who is offended by a less-than-perfect body in a bikini, I have two words for you: Sit. Down.
Taryn Hillin is Fusion's love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.