Women who exist on the internet frequently find themselves on the receiving end of unsolicited opinions about myriad things, including their appearance.
The comments, often hateful, are delivered from the privacy of behind a man’s one’s computer screen, where they are less likely to be held accountable for their actions.
Sex educator and writer Laura Delarato doesn’t have time for that bullshit.
Over the past two years, Delarto has taken comments that trolls have made about the way she looks and turned them into artwork, digitally plastering them over her naked body and sharing them on Instagram. Dubbed the Comments Project, the idea came about through her less than stellar experience using dating apps.
“It started around 2016, when I was using Tinder and other apps to date,” she told HuffPost. “I started to recognize that I wasn’t necessarily getting the ‘Hey, how are you? I like true crime too,’ regular comments and questions. It was more like, ‘I’ve always wanted to fuck a fat girl,’ or like, ‘You probably wouldn’t expect that I would find you attractive,’ and I was like, ‘What is going on?’”
Delarato began to ponder the fact that men online who are strangers feel as though they have the power to make women feel bad or attempt to dictate how we feel about our bodies. That notion, she felt, had become all too commonplace.
“I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ My small slice of the universe should see this is a thing I get on the regular, and here’s the reason why, and this is a problem,” she said. “That turned into just me being a woman on the internet with an opinion, and then the DMs started, which was just all about people’s anger toward the fact that I was not going to be unhappy in my body.”
It’s a daunting thought to put naked photos of yourself on the internet, even for someone like Delarato, who appears to ooze with confidence. But she believed the importance of spreading this message trumped any feelings of vulnerability and insecurity, and that allowed her to realize the impact she could have on others.
She suffered from bulimia as a kid and continues to work through recovery every day. Posting images of herself acted as a way for her to connect not only with others but also with herself.
“I felt really good in my recovery. I feel like I’ve done a lot of positive things for myself,” Delarato said. “I feel like in seeing another person who happens to look like me, happens to have my body size, I’m being a good representation of what life is like after recovery, what life is like as a plus-size woman who doesn’t hate themselves. Maybe then someone in the world will feel the same way and pull themselves up from whatever feelings they’re having about their own body image.”
She took that feeling, along with the thought that putting this message out there and talking about it might help in her own journey, and posted.
“I was in this space where I was like, ‘You know what? I could probably find some solace and confidence in myself by opening up this story and actually talking about these insecurities,’” Delarato said. “I tried posting and was like, ‘Oh, OK, I didn’t die from that. It’s all going to be OK.’”
She grapples with impostor syndrome just as much as the next person, but her impact, however small she thinks it may be (it’s not small), isn’t lost on her. For its merits and progress, the body positive movement has its flaws. To date, there are still few reflections in media of what a normal person without perfect celebrity proportions looks like. In putting herself out there and simply existing as a person in the world, she is radically changing how her followers and hopefully others think.
“On this small scale, it’s important, both on Instagram and in the world, to be a person who is a good outward representation for plus women,” she said. “When I walk down the street and see another plus-size woman who is looking good, feeling herself and is super confident, I’m like, ‘Hell, yes. I see you, and the world sees you.’”
And why is that? Because it pushes forward the notion that regardless of our size, regardless of what our bodies look like, we are all human beings dealing with the ups and downs of the human experience. And we should be treated as such.
“I’m super-hyper-aware of who I am in the world, because everyone needs a good representation of a plus woman who is like, ‘I’m going to have this matcha latte and date normally. I’m going to wear what I want to wear, have a bad body-image day like you have a bad body-image day, because we are human beings and it has nothing to do with my size,’” she said. “I’m going to go to the gym or run outside, and tomorrow I’m not, because I’m hung over, you know? Just act like I am a normal person, because I am a normal person. That’s the biggest disconnect — the thought that plus-size people are not normal, that we’re a failed attempt at having a skinny body — and I’m over that.”