Back in April, 33-year-old plus-size fashion blogger Anna O’Brien made headlines when she publicly complained about security at a Las Vegas hotel. According to O’Brien, she was asked to cover up as she posed for a photo shoot in the hotel’s lobby in her bikini. O’Brien says she had previously obtained permission to do the shoot and that it was her size that caused hotel security to respond the way they did. “Other women were walking around with as much coverage as me and no one said anything to them,” O’Brien said at the time.
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I find it ironic that I’ve taken photos in swimsuits all over the world and the one place I was told to cover up was Las Vegas. Sure, thin girls in thongs and pasties are A OK but a plus girl in a full coverage suit, trying to take an epic editorial shot- now that’s just too much. Jokes on them though, I’d already gotten the perfect photo. They can’t erase this happened. I’m learning as I push myself to do more editorial type concepts, the push back is greater. But that’s why I push. It’s more than just a girl in the city of sin in a bikini, It’s a statement. We will be seen. We’re not hiding anymore. And we’re going to wear whatever we want, wherever we want. Not just in Vegas. EVERYWHERE. Change is coming; the question is are you going to stand in the way or help us push through? Bikini by @curvybeach #lasvegas #plussize #fashion #bodypositive #confidence #idowhatiwant 📸 @larabellenewyork
Now, O’Brien is at it again, posing in her bikini in New York’s Times Square as part of a “documentary-style shoot” about life after her experience in Las Vegas went viral. But this time, O’Brien wasn’t asked to cover up. In fact, it was quite the opposite. “I was prepared to be pointed at, shamed, and called fat. I didn’t expect to be fetishized,” O’Brien laments in an article for Cosmopolitan. That’s right, folks, according to O’Brien fat shaming is perfectly acceptable. It’s the fact that anyone saw an obese woman standing in Times Square in her underwear as sexual that really offends her.
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Yesterday I did the scariest thing I have done in my 30+ years… I stood in times square in a bikini and posed for a photo shoot. In the beginning I felt really overwhelmed. Not because I was mocked, but because I was so extremely sexualized by a few men who were watching. What was so ironic to me was that to the right of me were two nearly nude women covered only with body paint and no one felt the need to yell or scream what they wanted to do to their bodies. But to me, a plus woman in a swimsuit, the things that were said were so graphic it made me sick to my stomach. One man said he felt justified in saying what he did- because “plus women don’t know they’re ****able.” Let me be very clear here: a plus size woman’s worth, or any one woman’s worth for that matter, is not contingent on someone wanting to have sex with them. You don’t exist to pleasure someone else… you exist to change the world. #plussize #timessquare #selflove #selfworth #brave #fearless 📸 @larabellenewyork
O’Brien explains, of her intention to do the photo shoot in Times Square, “I wanted to make a statement and I wanted to be seen.” She just wanted to control what people thought when they saw her. On Instagram, O’Brien frequently poses in revealing outfits as a way to normalize plus-size body types and show that real plus-size women are not “perfected and somewhat vanilla.” All this indicates a desire for plus-size women to be treated equally to average-size women and not discriminated against because of their size. Well, O’Brien getting catcalled in Times Square is about as ubiquitous as you can get.
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Golden. Fearless. Heavily covered in sunblock. Still burnt. [Anna wears a gold lamé bikini top, pink bikini bottoms, and rose gold metallic sunglasses in front of a wall of palm leafed plants. Her legs are crossed and her left arm reaches up to hold a palm leaf. She looks off into the distance fiercely.] #nature #effyourbeautystandards #wanderlust #puntacana #golden
O’Brien describes seeing “two thin, large-busted women, wearing only g-strings and some body paint” who weren’t getting “yelled at.” But surely the fact that they were making “a few dollars selling photos with eager tourists” implies that they, too, were being judged on their sex appeal. I mean, had they not been nearly naked, no one would be approaching them for photos. So, in essence, O’Brien’s experience of being told to “twerk for the camera” (and other lewd remarks) is not much different than the men lining up to put their hands on those topless women.
Now, obviously, making lewd remarks about a woman’s body and what you’d like to do to it — even if she’s standing around in her bikini in Times Square — is a pretty slimy thing to do. But the idea that fat shaming is somehow better than, for lack of a better word, “fat-philia” is insane. As is the idea that average-size (or below-average-size) women don’t get catcalled in Times Square (or all kinds of places). It’s also pretty irrational to assume that the comments made to a hugely overweight woman standing in a public place in her bikini wouldn’t be about her size. O’Brien even acknowledges this, since she was expecting fat shaming. I guess she just finds the idea of someone being sexually attracted to an obese person kind of icky.
Sure, in an ideal world, people wouldn’t make sexual comments about strangers. And, no matter what O’Brien was wearing, had anyone put their hands on her without her permission, they would have been committing a crime. But if you choose to stand around in a very public place with your body exposed, it would be a good idea to have a realistic idea of what might happen. We can’t control other people’s thoughts.
O’Brien says, “I’m more than my body and I deserve respect and human decency.” And this is unequivocally true. But she chose to do something that was about her body and nothing more. Getting upset that people looked at her exposed body and had thoughts about her exposed body is a pretty irrational reaction. You can’t have it both ways. Either the Times Square stunt was about her body, or it wasn’t. O’Brien has got to choose.