Ohio U. student: Facebook’s ‘feeling fat’ emoticon encourages girls' negative body image

A graduate student at Ohio University in Athens is petitioning Facebook to remove the “feeling fat” option from its status.

Catherine Weingarten, a 24-year-old, play-writing MFA candidate student at OU, created a Change.org petition during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week at the end of February to tell Facebook that “fat is not a feeling.”

Among other feelings such as happy, lazy, loved, annoyed, and proud, Facebook allows users to let their friends know that they are “feeling fat.” This particular “feeling” is accompanied by a smiling emoticon with chubby, ruddy cheeks.

“When Facebook users set their status to ‘feeling fat,’ they are making fun of people who consider themselves to be overweight, which can include many people with eating disorders,” said Weingarten in her petition to Facebook, where she also included her personal testament of struggling with and overcoming eating disorders.

This petition—which has since been sponsored by Endangered Bodies, a non-profit organization that promotes the fostering of positive body image—is demanding that Facebook remove the “fat” emoticon from its status options to “stop encouraging negative body image among girls.”

As of Monday, the petition has garnered over 15,000 signatures. The campaign surrounding the petition has also accumulated support from Twitter using the hashtag: #FatIsNotAFeeling.

Other Facebook “feelings” include: low, blessed, hungry, depressed, cold, beautiful, and stuffed, among several others. The emoticon for “stuffed” is the same as the one for “fat.”

According to the Washington Post, Facebook has responded to the activists’ concerns about the emotion options, but the popular social networking site currently does not have any plans to make any changes.

“People use Facebook to share their feelings with friends and support each other,” a Facebook spokeswoman told the newspaper. “One option we give people to express themselves is to add a feeling to their posts. You can choose from over 100 feelings we offer based on people’s input or create your own.”

While Weingarten envisions that someday Facebook will “actively encourage body positivity and self-esteem among its users,” she is currently petitioning the social media platform to “stop endorsing self-destructive thoughts through seemingly harmless emojis.”

Suzann Prushinski, Beach Body Fitness Coach and sophomore at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, who has also overcome an eating disorder, agreed with Weingarten.

“It's obvious we live in a messed up society that idolizes the ‘perfect body’ where anything less than that is wrong and needs changing,” Prushinski told Campus Reform. “This is where the ‘feeling fat’ comes to have the connotation as ‘bad’ or ‘wrong.’

“Loving ourselves also means loving our bodies since we are body and soul together,” she continued. “And this means treating your body right, not striving for the ‘beauty’ standards set by modern social media...As soon as we call ourselves ‘fat’ or harbor any negative thoughts we stop treating ourselves with respect and begin to tear ourselves down.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Lauren_Ramseyer