A few days ago, former Playmate of the year, Dani Mathers, took to Snapchat to fat/body shame a woman who was naked in an LA Fitness locker room. The photo shows her covering her mouth and laughing, while an unsuspecting woman in the background is naked by the showers.
The caption says: "If I can't unsee this, then you can't either."
LA Fitness has launched a police investigation, as well as taking to Facebook to publicy address what has taken place:
A few tweets sum is perfectly how we, at Project LETS, feel about this appalling behavior:
And our personal favorite:
There are so many things wrong with this situation, it's a bit difficult to begin framing our opinions. One of our internet inspirations/heroes, Curvy Girl Lingerie, hits some excellent points:
1. Gross. Creepy. Consent. Ew.
In what world is this okay? Thin, fat, whatever. It is not okay to take photos of other folx in vulnerable situations, like a gym locker room. There is an inherent trust placed in individuals who are, for example, changing in a gym locker room. As LA Fitness stated in their reaction post, "It's not just our role, it's common decency"
2. And we worry about trans folx in bathrooms.
Nothing more to say, here.
3. Fat shaming
As Curvy Girl states, "I feel so sad for you. It's a shame that you can't see beauty in everything. But like, where is your humanity?"
Seriously, Dani, where? Could you have been negatively influenced by the culture and community you surround yourself with? Possibly. Is that an excuse? Hell no.
You claim you do this work because you love the female body, but does that statement come with conditions? Does it only apply to thin women, who fit our ill-conceived Western notions of beauty?
For whatever it's worth, you are in the limelight. Your Facebook has over 1,000,000 followers. For whatever it's worth, people listen to your opinion. People care what you have to say. For whatever it's worth, your words have weight and privilege.
For the community at large, this has real effects. It reinforces false body ideals, promotes disordered eating and eating disorder behaviors, and contributes to an environment of myopic judgment and public viewing.
For fat women and folx alike, this has even more damaging effects. It reinforces the mocking, fat shaming, and discrimination that occurs on a much larger, wider scale in our society. You, Dani, are just one small piece of that. You are a reflection of our larger society. One that does not value fat women and folx. One that thinks there is something 'wrong', or 'disgusting', or 'un-seeable', about fat bodies. What are you so afraid of, Dani?
In order for a true apology to occur, you would need to come to understand, recognize, and acknowledge how you and your industry are complicit in replicating and reinforcing toxic body image ideals for all types of folx; of all ages and sizes. But we don't see this happening anytime soon.
4. "If you really hate fat folx so much ...
"Why are you mad at a fat person WHO IS AT THE GYM?" states Curvy Girl, in her reaction video.
We find this point particularly ironic, considering most "well-intentioned" fat shaming folx will "Oh, I'm just worried about their health." "Oh, I just want them to be healthy." Let's give y'all the benefit of the doubt for a moment, and pretend this were true. Why on Earth are you shaming someone who is at the gym to a) get healthier, b) get stronger and/or more fit, c) feel good about themselves, d) release some endorphins, e) lose weight or f) whatever fucking reason they want?
It is absolutely backwards logic. Many of the fat folx we work with at LETS, and fat folx I know personally, claim the gym is an unsafe place for them to be; and they avoid it at all costs, even if they do want to lose weight, get stronger, etc. They are stared at, mocked, make fun of, and now, have photos taken of them without their consent. As Curvy Girl states in her video, friends have told her directly, "Well, I go to the gym and people treat me like crap."
5. Thin Privilege
Thin privilege is real, and here is yet another example. Ask yourself: Can I go the gym without the fear of being mocked, humiliated, or photographed for my size? If the answer is yes, you hold privilege, and this means something. It means something important about the way we value bodies in our society. And this matters. We are all complicit in the building of and complying to these ideals, unless we are actively deconstructing them in our daily lives; and calling out those individuals, like Dani Mathers, who grossly violate them.
6. "It was an accident."
Her apology? Essentially, "Sorry I got caught."
The video states:
I just wanted to acknowledge the photo I accidentially posted on Snapchat earlier today, and let you guys know that that was absolutely wrong, and not what I meant to do. I have chosen to do what I do for a living because I love the female body, and I know that body shaming is wrong; and that's not what I'm about. That's not the type of person that I am. That photo was taken to be part of a personal conversation with a girlfriend, and because I am new to Snapchat, I really didn't realize that I had posted it, and that was a huge mistake. I know that I have upset a lot of people out there, but please, please believe me. This is not the type of person that I am. I have never done this before, and I will never do this again. You have my word.
Do we have your word, Dani? Because it seems like you're only apologizing that this Snapchat went public. Not that you took it in the first place. And certainly not to the woman's whose body, space, and personal privacy you invaded.
The fact that you only meant to send this photo to your friend does not address the fundamental issues with you taking this image in the first place. It does not address the thought process behind your actions; or why you were so affected by seeing a woman who is not stick-thin changing in a locker room.
We are sad for you, as well, Dani Mathers. Sad that so many folx look up to you as a beautiful person, without ever interrogating the human being underneath. We hope that changes today. We hope you interrogate yourself, what you have done, and why you thought this image was 'funny', 'acceptable', or something you couldn't 'unsee'.
So, Dani Mathers, where's your real apology?
Stëfanie Lyn is a student at Brown University, and the Executive Director/Founder of Project LETS, Inc.
Stëfanie Lyn lives with Major Depressive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and BPD — even though her doctor told her not to share the last one with anyone else unless it was an emergency. She doesn’t really like hypocrisy, so here it is. The good, bad, and ugly.
Contact Stefanie at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter, @stefkaufman.