Teen Gets Schooled After Calling Plus-Sized Models 'Disgusting'

July 5th 2017

Kyle Fitzpatrick

School might be out for summer but one teen recently schooled another on why every body deserves respect.

Anna Sweetland of Wilsonville, Oregon participated in an online health class where one classmate shared some body shaming thoughts—and she called him out with facts.

Sweetland and a male classmate were assigned to read articles related to the effects and legality of manipulating photos for advertising.

In response to a Target body positivity campaign, Sweetland’s classmate referred to plus-sized models as “disgusting,” adding that their being featured “encourage[s] obesity.” “This is wrong,” the student added. “And no one wants to look at an obese model.”

Sweetland did not sleep on this opportunity and swooped in with an education that was likely unexpected.

“I appreciate you sharing your opinion,” she started. “However, I would like to offer some extra information on the topic.”

Sweetland mapped out various subjects, on why calling someone who is bigger “disgusting” is problematic and the importance of representation of all bodies. Moreover, she noted that a person being overweight is more than “being fat” but circles back to issues of addiction and the lack of availability of healthy foods.

Anna Sweetland clapped back at body shaming classmate.

“You know who wants to see a plus sized model?” Sweetland finished her clap back. “The 67% of women in America who are plus sized, and want to open a magazine and see somebody that looks just as beautiful as they do.”

This situation highlights a greater misunderstanding of body types, according to Sweetland — and resulted in an opportunity to constructively address the problem.

It also serves as an example of the startling reality of body shaming for women, especially teenagers like Sweetland: 94 percent of American teenage girls have been body shamed for how they look. Body shaming as a tactic doesn't work either, because a person’s health gets much worse as body shaming often pushes them toward negative behaviors.

The situation with Sweetland and her classmate is an unfortunately perfect example of this problem.

"When he made claims like 'nobody wants to look at an obese model,' that really just irritated me," Sweetland tells ATTN:. "That's when I wrote my comment and I just wanted to tell him that, despite what he may think, plus size models really do have a positive impact on our society in general, and they help so many women."

"I think if I hadn't of made my comment," she continues. "He, as well as the other kids in my class, might've not seen the error in his words."

Views like Sweetland’s classmate’s highlight how society constantly polices people for being bigger.

With a near majority of teens constantly online and adults spending nearly half of their day consuming media, it’s unsurprising how media can influence how society forces people to look a certain way.

The direct result of the relationship between media and body policing manifests in six out of ten girls comparing themselves to models. Media consumption as such begins as early as nine years old for girls and leads to increased dissatisfaction as a result of media’s heavy focus on the importance and value of appearance.

While this problem isn’t unique to girls (a third of boys, ages 6 through 8, believe their ideal body image is thinner), media literacy can help young people understand the fabricated nature of images—and that helps curb feelings of dissatisfaction.

As someone like Sweetland shows, the problem of body shaming can be remedied with a little information.

While the assignment Sweetland and her classmate were given may not have been to directly address the effects of media on young people, it evolved into a necessary lesson in body shaming and representation. As obvious as it sounds, a little empathy goes a long way: it’s a matter of understanding the problem.

"Body shaming is a huge issue, especially in schools because teenagers are still developing and we are so impressionable," Sweetland says. "We just want to be accepted and we are trying to grasp what this world is like, and how we are supposed to be independent in it."

"I want everyone to know that plus-size models, and overall equal representation in media, is one of best things that's going on in our society right now," Sweetland adds. "It's important for everyone to remember these good things that are going on, and encourage them to continue. "