Teens on TikTok are fighting fatphobia one video at a time

Gen Zers turned a body-shaming trend on its head.

Still from a TikTok video by @soulmori
Shame on the Body Shamers

This story includes discussions about food and weight. If you or a loved one are struggling with disordered eating, contact the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline.

Being a teenage girl in America is a special kind of hell. The bodies of girls are subject to so much intense scrutiny and social policing, that literally millions end up with eating disorders and body dysmorphia. While size representation and inclusivity have improved over the last several years, our culture is still thin-obsessed — and young women who don’t fit into traditional beauty standards of weight and size are still subjected to body-shaming by peers and even some adults. Social media is notorious for being a safe space for fatphobia, but some teens and young adults are fighting back against body shaming one TikTok at a time.

In case you aren’t an obsessive TikToker, here’s the backstory: A few months ago, (mostly white) young women on the app started posting videos of themselves in baggy clothes nodding along to Lil Wayne’s “Love Me,” their duckfaces overlaid with text that read something like, “I bet she’s fat under those baggy clothes.” The girls would then pull their oversized hoodies or tees tight to reveal that they were actually hiding a thin body.

Thankfully, not all TikTokers are compassionless douchebags scrapping for likes. Since the terrible trend started, thousands of people have turned the same song into an anthem for body positivity, as Glamour UK reported. The new, improved, more feminist version of the trend again begins with, “I bet she’s fat under all those baggy clothes,” but the big reveal these teens make is their opinion on fat shaming. “I’d rather be fat than body shaming other people to boost your own ego,” @soulmori wrote. Amen.

A TikTok by @spookigio26 reads, “This trend is offensive and disgusting to our beautiful plus sized women.” Unlike the OG fat-shaming versions that garnered proportionally fewer views, @spookigio26’s video has gone legitimately viral and now has close to four million views and more than half a million likes. Clapping back, apparently, is more attractive than bullying. And it seems to be catching on around the world, because these satirical plays are now in dozens of languages.

Look, mean girls are children, too, and we really do need to talk about the insecurity that often motivates young bullies to resort to this kind of crowd-pandering — and we need to continue to push against our society’s systemic fatphobia. No one should have to stand up to body-shamers, especially not in a public forum, but it is truly heartening that, if you look closely at the young people doing so, you see both vulnerability and bravery. They are subject to the same beauty standards as the bullies — and the rest of us — and they’re still not choosing violence. Let’s make that courage a trend.