Last April, Laura Delarato received an objectifying message on OKCupid. The stranger told Delarato he wanted to perform sex acts on her body. It wasn't the first sexist message the 30-year-old received. In fact, as a plus-size woman who creates body-positive videos, Delarato has experienced her fair share of internet trolls.
However, that particular message crossed a line for her. She decided to superimpose that message and a slew of others over her photos. It evolved into the "Comments Project."
"Nothing I was going to say back was going to make this guy feel bad or want to apologize," she told Revelist. "Instead of internalizing my feelings, I thought it would be a cathartic to paste the captions over my body. It forced me to face those words and show followers how unacceptable it really is."
Recently, Delarato reinvigorated the "Comments Project" after she experienced a new wave of shaming.
Delarato is a video producer for Refinery29 who creates body-positive content. In one particular video, Delarato argued that mainstream media must include sexy and confident fat women.
"Studies suggest that seeing body diversity more often can actually make people more likely to consider larger bodies more aspirational and attractive," she wrote in an accompany story. "So I created a photo project to show New Yorkers how sexy plus-size women can be — by presenting them with steamy, intimate scenarios featuring one sexy plus-size woman: me. The project was dedicated to tackling misconceptions around fat bodies and sex, like fat people only have sex with other fat people, plus-size women don't look good in lingerie, and the idea that fat is a derogatory word."
Delarato's been navigating unrelenting fat-shaming ever since.
She told Revelist that she's not surprised the trolling has increased.
"That's clearly privilege generated by the understanding that you can say and do whatever you want without consequence," she said. "Comments on my projects are always concern-based trolling around my health and size, which is odd because it doesn't take a lot of digging to know that I'm a pretty big fitness-for-all and at any size advocate."
Through the "Comments Project," Delarato aims to empower fellow plus-size women to speak up about online and dating app harassment.
"The micro-aggressions are staggering, but the blatant viciousness is even worse," she said. "I shouldn't have to go about this alone and neither should anyone else. Nonetheless, this project is solely from my point-of-view and that is a very privileged one. I'd like to see other people, if they are comfortable, join in!"
Unfortunately, many women endure online harassment.
A 2014 Pew Research Center study found that 26% of women between the ages of 18 and 24 have experienced severe harassment. However, there are no definitive statistics about the amount of harassment plus-size women face.
What is clear though is that fatphobia is at the root of the online harassment Delarato and other plus-size women are experiencing. She recognizes that as well, and hopes the "Comments Project" undoes some of that weight-based stigma.
"The saddest and most heartbreaking comment I hear from people all the time is that they would kill themselves or hate themselves if they ever gained weight," she said. "The reason they say that is because they know how badly society treats plus size people. Plus-size women are the ultimate superheroes."