I don’t think I realized the dichotomy of my existence in my body until I first downloaded Tinder in 2014.
I was 24 years old, freshly out of a five-year relationship that basically defined my young adolescence and sexual history. Oh, and I was fat.
No one could have prepared me for that first day on Tinder. The swiping, the options, the faces, just the sheer amount of people who kept popping up on my screen. Within an hour on the app, I had received 100 “likes.”
They tell you there are millions of fish in the sea, but what they don’t tell you is that 95% of those fish are just waiting to insult or fetishize your entire existence in a single sentence.
“Babe you have a body waiting to be fucked.”
“Love your fat tits.”
“I matched with you for your face, and then went to unmatch once I saw your body.”
“I would say let’s go out to dinner but it appears you already ate.”
And the classic: “I don’t date fat chicks, but I’ll come over to fuck you.”
I wish I could say these were isolated events, or that it’s a better world eight years later, but for the most part, it really hasn’t changed. Dating apps have become a destination for fat people to be open to constant humiliation and hurtful messages and a place for us to be boiled down to a single identity: our fatness.
As someone who has spent nearly their entire adult life swiping, liking and flirting on almost every mainstream dating app, I feel like I have earned the right to say: People love to hate fat people, even when they are trying to sleep with them.
And is anyone surprised? We live in a world in which we equate thinness to godliness, so why would our romantic lives look any different? When it’s still OK to hate fat people openly, why would I think random strangers would treat me with respect, especially when there are no consequences beyond a block and delete? Why would I expect to be accepted when fat people aren’t even reflected in the images these platforms use to promote their apps?
Of course, this experience isn’t limited to those of us in bigger bodies.These issues may be even worse for those in other marginalized identities, especially women of color, who are also likely to experience discrimination, fetishization and, to put it simply, hate, when trying to use dating apps.
More than 60% of U.S. women are considered plus-size, or “fat,” individuals, yet when I’m looking at the promotional media, commercials, online dating shows, or Instagram feeds of these businesses, I don’t see even a hint of body diversity. I don’t see myself reflected in a place that should be focusing on attracting all singles just looking for love (or the next one-night stand).
Out of curiosity, I pulled up Tinder’s Instagram feed. After 25 minutes and viewing 154 individual feed posts, I found a singular reel of a visibly plus-size body. One out of 154 posts on what could be deemed the most popular and most used dating site in the country.
The message is clear: You’re not welcome here. Or perhaps more accurately: We do not care for the safety, promotion, or acceptance on our dating app of anyone who doesn’t fit into Eurocentric, fatphobic ideologies of beauty … but yes, we will happily take your $39.99 for a monthly subscription.
So when FeeldCo, a dating site I actually use and like, asked me to collaborate and be a face in their newest campaign around “Radical Honesty” by starring in a reel for social media, the importance wasn’t lost on me.
To me, this was a chance to create positive change in the communities I care about, and to be a face of an industry I have felt left out of my entire life. The reaction to the social media campaign was almost entirely positive, giving me hope that the world is ready to see fat people not only as the best friend, but as the main character going on dates, making out with random cuties, and living an authentically real life.
“Fat” is just one of the amazing adjectives I would use to describe myself. Being allowed full autonomy while not having my fatness either scrutinized or tokenized is the exact place I want to be within my work, my platform and my dating life.
Am I saying Feeld is a safe haven for all those within marginalized bodies? No. Sadly, at this point, I can’t name a singular place in which I feel perfectly safe or allowed to fully exist within my identities.
But a dating app focusing on highlighting all of the wonderful people actually using their product and in their community is a huge milestone toward inclusion. I am very happy my face will be a part of that.
Because, after six-plus years of verbal and emotional abuse simply for looking for a date on Friday night as a fat woman, I want to support companies that support me. I want to feel safe and secure, and most of all, I want to be allowed to have my body be the least interesting thing about me.
You can follow Megan Ixim on Instagram.