Vancouver model takes on fat-shaming social media trolls

Digitally altered photo of Ruby Roxx (Project Harpoon)

It’s called Project Harpoon and it’s a social media campaign to fat-shame plus-sized women by digitally altering their images into thinner versions of themselves.

But a Vancouver model targeted by the website is fighting back and has successfully had the group’s original Facebook page taken down.

Ruby Roxx was alerted by a follower of her blog that a photo of her had been Photoshopped and posted by the group.

And it wasn’t just the poorly done digital slimming that was upsetting. Roxx, whose real name is Jenn Palsenbarg, says the images are accompanied by comments.

“The comments about myself and other women were atrocious,” she tells Yahoo Canada News. “I’m a confident person and I can handle it, but it made me angry for the women reading these comments, who might be triggered emotionally by them.”

Roxx, a model and founder of Beauty Mark magazine, wrote an open letter to the group on her blog.

“Thank you for showing me that I have the drive and determination to fight bullies like you,” she writes.

“How DARE you bring someone down, simply because she is not YOUR immature, close minded ideal! It’s ok to have preferences, but it is NOT ok to make people feel bad because they aren’t yours. Guess what, bullies and jerks are NEVER anyone’s preference.”

Roxx says she’s been amazed and humbled by the support she’s received for fighting back.

“At first the page started posting me more frequently, and even made me their profile picture, which felt like a bit of a dig. There have been a few people who’ve implied I should ignore the bullies and that I’m simply soaking up publicity…but that’s just not the case,” she says.

“Cyber bullying will never stop unfortunately, but what I’m trying to do with my blog is help those affected by it. Ignoring the bullies won’t do anything, but we can at least try to call them out, try to help them see what they are doing is wrong and help the victims.”

Roxx has been interviewed by ABC News and her blog post has been shared hundreds of times.

She contacted the social media outlets giving voice to Project Harpoon, reporting the content and the violation of images posted by private individuals.

Facebook’s initial response was unsatisfactory so she contacted its legal team about copyright infringement.

“That got the image initially taken down. Once the media got a hold of the story, Facebook was much quicker to remove the page,” she says.

But Project Harpoon has simply renamed itself ThinnerBeauty, and popped back up on Reddit, Facebook and other sites.

“Do not let the anti-health bullies win! Stop encouraging obesity,” says the Facebook page, which has 174 Likes.

It takes aim specifically at Roxx for “promoting harmful obesity-glorifying ideals.”

“Obesity is not healthy! Fat is not beautiful!” it says.

In an interview with People magazine, a group leader identified as Nick Baskins says the group’s founders met through a video game group.

Dismayed by the transformation of the impossibly configured female game characters to realistic body sizes, the group members began Photoshopping images to protest the “Healthy At Every Size” movement.

While celebrities like Melissa McCarthy and Meghan Trainor are popular targets, the group members also take photos posted on social media by everyday women, posting them alongside the altered images with comments such as: “Wow, from a depressed chub to an elegant fox” and “from blocking the view to enhancing it.”

Yet it appears some women are posting their own photos on Facebook and Reddit, asking group members to digitally slim them.

Roxx says she doesn’t understand why anyone would do that.

“All it does is encourage the page and feed the issue,” she says.

“If someone wants to be healthier, having a horrid page like this Photoshop you is not a good way to go about it. Work hard, love yourself, be positive and spread love.”