I’ve always been someone who wasn’t scared to share pics of myself online or to post a profile picture. In fact, I always enjoyed sharing pictures of myself with friends or in the Facebook pages I helped run for different groups I am involved with at my university.
That was until I received an awkward, random message on OkCupid as I was going to sleep a couple of nights ago:
“…I am messaging because I saw meme with your photo earlier tonight. … I hate to be the one to let you know that. Hopefully they get flagged and its [sic] taken down.”
At first, I wasn’t sure if I believed him. See, when you are openly fat and feminist on a dating site, it isn’t uncommon for randoms to harass you. For whatever reason I felt like he was sincere, so I messaged him back and tried to figure out what page he saw it on. I looked on anti-feminist subreddits, I checked the Facebook page he thought it was on, and I couldn’t find anything. I chalked it up to exactly what I thought it was, another OkCupid douche canoe messing with me.
But when I got up the next morning he had sent me the link. It had over 2000 shares, almost 10,000 likes, and almost 1000 comments. Overnight, I had become an Internet meme.
The picture was from a “This is what a feminist looks like” campaign my university feminist group did this past spring semester. It is one of my favorite pictures and has been my profile picture at a number of different sites. There is no telling where they stole it from, it could have been Facebook or it could have been OKCupid.
At first, I was in shock. I was upset. I posted it in a closed Facebook group and asked folks to help me report it. About a dozen or so folks reported it, I reported it and waited for Facebook to take it away. When I finally got a response, they told me it didn’t violate their Community Standards. I requested another review and received this reply:
“We remove content if it’s required by relevant privacy laws in the country you’re writing from. Since you’re an adult writing in the US, we won’t be able to remove this content for violating your privacy.”
Good to know Facebook doesn’t care about people stealing your photos and turning them into mean-spirited memes.
At this point, I started to get really angry. I’d also received messages from friends who had seen it show up in their Facebook threads and a phone call from my boss concerned that she had to break the news to me. What she did end up telling me was that the picture was also on Tumblr. I found at least two people on Tumblr who originally posted it, one of them was reblogged around 200 times.
By the time I found out about the Tumblr, I had already emailed Lesley. I knew I didn’t want to just sit back and let someone steal my picture. If I am not able to get it removed, I will at least do something to respond. I took control and posted the image on my own Facebook, primarily to avoid having friends worried they had found it and were now responsible for telling me.
Once I had “exposed” what happened, I started working on my actual response. The biggest miss the creator of my meme made was not realizing the point of the This is What a Feminist Looks Like campaigns; the point is to draw attention to the fact that feminists are not all the same. We are all different.
So in response, I am starting a tumblr, We Are What Feminists Look Like. A few friends have already submitted pictures and I hope many more of you folks will submit pictures or thoughts. This experience has taught me that while one cruel person can ruin my morning, I have an entire community of friends, family, and feminists to back me up.
Feminists are not a monolith. We are diverse and unique. We don’t fit into every stereotype.
Kelly Martin Broderick is a political nerd and feminist activist. This piece was originally published on xoJane.