So, in March, someone posted a fake OKCupid profile using my picture (one from the hat series), then linked to it on Reddit. The profile was, of course, full of fat jokes, but it was also deeply racist: The entire premise of the "hilarious" profile was that I desperately want to have sex with black men, and there were all kinds of plays on the stereotype of fat white women and black men, and the objectification of black men as sexual studs.
Stealing my picture to make fat jokes is so routine that I don't even give a shit anymore. Stealing my picture to set up a fake dating profile is an issue: I don't want people who might recognize me thinking I'm cheating on Iain. But stealing my picture in order to perpetuate racism is a serious fucking concern.
I contacted OKCupid, who evidently have no quality control that prevents people using their property to promote rank racism and fat hatred, and they eventually removed the profile. I did, however, have to sign up to OKCupid in order to confirm that, because, despite requesting confirmation of removal, I received none, and, once the profile was taken down, the message served indicated the profile was merely "private" and visible only to OKCupid members. Only once I signed up could I confirm it was actually gone (and it was), but OKCupid essentially used the exploitation of my image and complaint about bigotry to oblige me to sign up to their service. Gross.
That was not the end of the story. Now the image, tagged with text from the profile, is going around Tumblr:
I'm getting emails about it from people who recognize me, so part of the reason for this post is just to publicly say: Yes, I know about it.
Another part is to acknowledge that my image is being used in a racist meme, which is upsetting.
I'm pissed to have been put in a position where some people will misconstrue my objection to the meme as embarrassment (or some other negative reaction) to the suggestion I'd be sexually intimate with a black man, as opposed to being angry my image is being used to perpetuate oppressive stereotypes of black men as: 1. A Mandingo monolith; and 2. Consolation prizes for white women considered undesirable by white men.
That is not how I think of black men, and I am unthrilled, to put it mildly, to see those narratives being promulgated in the year of our lord Jesus Jones two thousand and twelve, no less that my image is being used in the process.
Finally, I'm writing about this to underscore, once again, the cost of being a fat woman who has the unmitigated temerity to put her picture on the internet. My picture has been used in all sorts of violent and pornographic imagery; it's been used to mock me specifically, and to mock fat women generally; it's been appropriated as "the face of morbid obesity"; and now it's been used in a racist meme. I'm sure pictures of me have been used in ways of which I'm not even aware.
The only option is to not post pictures of myself. But the reason I post pictures of myself in the first place is because there is a dearth of imagery of fat women, especially fat happy women enjoying their lives. That's partly because of media that disappears fat people unless it's to shame us, and partly because fat women know that their images will be abused. Oh the irony, etc.
I'm not going to stop posting my picture. That's a calculated risk. Pictures of me are going to be stolen, appropriated, exploited, abused. When they're used in a way that demeans other people, I will have to write posts like this one.