This is the reality for many fat content creators. “Over time, you develop a thick skin, and the comments start to affect you less and less — but it doesn’t stop them from coming in,” says Carina Shero, a plus-size content creator, model, and burlesque dancer who’s been active for nearly 16 years. She’s amassed around 700,000 followers across platforms, but building such a large community hasn’t been an easy road. She’s created beautiful images that are similar to those of her straight-sized peers in the burlesque community but has noticed major differences in how her content is perceived — especially on Instagram, her most-followed social media account.
There, her posts have been removed by the platform for allegedly going against community guidelines. Those Community Guidelines state that Instagram does not allow nudity, which the platform defines as including “content that shows sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples.” None of this applies to Shero’s posts that were removed. In one post, Shero wore a button-up shirt, jean shorts, and a cowboy hat — there was no nudity involved. In another, she lay in a bed with her breasts, the front of her stomach, and her genitals all covered (her backside was not visible). According to Shero, she has even had entire Instagram accounts suspended or deleted with little explanation as to why.
This is a very common experience among many plus-size creators, including myself, but appears to be less common for thin creators, even when they post similar content.
Allure reached out to Meta, Instagram’s parent company, for comment on why these images of Shero’s were removed compared to similar posts from thin creators that weren’t. A response from a Meta spokesperson notes that the company’s artificial intelligence is trained to remove content that violates its policies and that it is not trained to remove content based on body size. They also state that because the Instagram platform houses over a billion users that content moderation is imperfect and mistakes do happen. In the case of Shero’s content, the two posts were incorrectly removed and have since been restored, according to the Meta spokesperson, who added that Instagram offers the option to appeal any post removal or account takedown. Instagram’s statement to Allure also highlighted an example of how the company is working to make its policies more inclusive: It recently updated its policy regarding breast squeezing, which was reportedly affecting plus-size users disproportionately, to allow for content where someone is just hugging or holding their breasts.
Hurtful comments are all too commonplace for fat people online
Just existing on the internet as a fat person is so offensive to some people that they take the time not just to leave hurtful comments but to create video responses that take our content completely out of context. “When my content stays within my community, it does great and we have some cool conversations. But when it’s pushed out to a random audience, that’s when I start to see a lot of hate,” says Victoria Abraham, a fat activist and content creator who has built a following of over 200,000 people across Instagram and TikTok. In 2021, a TikTok video of Abraham walking proudly down the streets of New York City in a leather jacket with a lace top underneath and a plaid skirt was viewed nearly 15 million times. In the video, another woman out of frame compliments the look.