What exactly is behind the social media's bizarre "health and fitness policy"?

By Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Updated: May 23, 2016

Many things have been said about Tess Holliday's body. As the size-22 model becomes more and more popular, breaking barriers in both plus-size and mainstream modeling, people have plenty of opinions. (And throwing around labels like "fat" and "plus-size" are doing serious damage to people's self-esteem.) Personally, we think she's stunning, talented, and a great example of body confidence and being true to yourself-and we're definitely not alone in this opinion. One group that isn't so positive? Facebook. The site recently banned an ad using an image of her on the grounds that it violates their "health and fitness policy." Say what?!

An Australian feminist group, Cherchez la Femme, put up an announcement on their Facebook page last week to promote their latest body positive event, called Feminism and Fat, using an image of Holliday in a bikini as the header. But when the group tried to "bump" the announcement up (on Facebook, you can pay a small fee to have your post treated like an ad and prioritized higher in people's newsfeeds), Facebook refused their request saying the post "violates Facebook's Ad Guideline's by promoting an idealized physical image."

The social media giant cited their health and fitness policy as proof. It reads, in part, "Ads may not contain "before and after" images or images of unexpected or unlikely results. Ads may not depict a state of health or body weight as being perfect or extremely undesirable (ex: you cannot use an image showing a person measuring his/her waist or an image focused solely on a person's abs)."

So was the pic the problem? Or was it the word "fat" they objected to? The policy further states "Ads may not call attention to perceived imperfections through the use of language such as, "Are you fat?" or "Balding?". Instead, text must present realistic and accurate information about a state of health in a neutral or positive way (e.g. 'Lose weight safely and effectively' or 'Best Hair Renewal Product')."

So which is it: Is Facebook saying the feminist group is trying to hold up Holliday's body as an unrealistic definition of "perfect"? Or are they saying the women are calling Holliday "fat" in a destructive and demeaning way?

Or...are they biased against the event because it features a larger woman in an unapologetically beautiful way? It seems possible this is yet another instance of the fat-shaming and fat-phobic attitudes that permeate our society. (See how Fat Shaming Could Be Destroying Your Body.) Why else would anyone flag such a benign event?

In a response to the group, Facebook stuck to their guns, writing, "The image depicts a body or body parts in a undesirable manner." They added that images that fell under this rule included photos showing muffin tops, people wearing clothes that are too tight, and images that show conditions like eating disorders in a negative light. They then suggested that the group use "an image of a relevant activity, such as running or riding a bike."

Really, Facebook? A plus-sized woman is "undesirable" and should only be shown running instead of in a bikini? Honestly, we can think of a million other pictures on your site every day that would fit that vague definition better than Holliday's curvy bod. Let the ladies post what they want! (Make sure to read Why America Hates Fat Women, the Feminist Take.)



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