I’m a Celebrity… give me a break!

Lucy Drewery asks why mocking a person’s appearance is still just seen as ‘banter’.

Gemma Collins, star of ITV’s The Only Way is Essex and, now (albeit briefly), I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! has been receiving some negative attention on Twitter this week.

Gemma is a larger woman. I’d say she’s only a bit bigger than me, which may be why I feel so affected by this. Or perhaps I’ve just not been carried away with the anonymous hype that is trolling online.

Urban dictionary defines trolling as:

Typically unleashing one or more cynical or sarcastic remarks on an innocent by-stander, because it’s the internet and, hey, you can.

Which basically sums up what I’ve seen on twitter lately.

I logged on after Gemma’s entry last Sunday and all I saw were people commenting on how she looks. All week, I’ve seen men and women alike retweeting these hateful comments, saying they’re hilarious but they feel bad for laughing. If you feel bad for laughing, why share the content? Surely if you understand it’s hurtful, you won’t want to spread it?

If Gemma Collins were a man, would this still be happening?

I believe not. For some reason, everyone seems to expect women to come into the show looking gorgeous in a small white bikini underneath a waterfall. And kudos to the women who do. I have no problem with this happening, but there is more to those women than how good they look under a waterfall. Just like there is more to Gemma than her size.

Yes, she’s big compared to the other girls on I’m a Celeb and TOWIE. I’m sure with all the media attention her fame has brought her, she’s aware of this fact. This doesn’t mean the tweets mocking her size are okay. They certainly aren’t funny. As I scroll down my timeline, a girl I went to school with retweets a hateful comment. This girl used to confide in me about her own body issues. I was there when she called herself fat and vowed to lose weight because she thought boys wouldn’t like her. Now here she is, five years later, fat shaming an innocent woman she doesn’t even know.

So why is it that, even with our own insecurities, mocking a person’s appearance is still just seen as ‘banter’? Does this make us feel better about ourselves? If we call this woman who is bigger than me fat, will we seem skinnier? When these comments are read and laughed at, they become normal. It starts off with anonymous trolling. We hide behind our computer screens, safe in the knowledge that our anonymity will lessen the consequences of our actions. Then the comments become accepted and, before you know it, are being related to people you know; people who can hear them.

I’ve had my share of comments about my weight. It took a long time to come to terms with being bigger than others and, as much as I’d like to enforce the idea that body confidence comes completely from within, I have to admit a lot of mine was prompted by other people: guys I’ve been with who told me I looked good, my friends reassuring me and seeing women of my size or bigger standing up to society and saying “I look good!”. In my opinion, that’s what Gemma is doing.

One of the pictures being mocked shows Gemma in a swimming costume. I understand the sheer dread of buying such an item and this woman will be wearing it in front of millions on national TV! I look at that picture and all I can focus on is that it’s a nice swimming costume that suits her figure and I can tell she just doesn’t care what people think of her. Surely we should admire that? We should respect a person’s ability to stand up to hateful comments and say “this is who I am, I look good and I don’t care what you think.” Unfortunately, regardless of whether Gemma can brush all this off, there will be probably be girls and women seeing them and subsequently finding new body insecurities.

I want to say I don’t think everyone who has taken part in all this mocking is a bad person. It’s so easy to get caught up in hype. However, this makes it even more important for us to stand up to it. Let’s stop making women feel terrible about their bodies and implying their looks are the only thing about them worth commenting on. Think before you speak, before you tweet and before you hurt someone. Gemma Collins is a human being. She is funny and entertaining. Let’s focus on those aspects about her! She doesn’t need to see your petty comments and young girls who are dealing with bodily insecurities don’t need them either.

Lucy Drewery is a 19 year old originally from Plymouth. She studies Primary Education with English at the University of Reading.

Image description:

The I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! logo. This shows green jungle-covered hills, with the show title in diamond lettering with a gold outline (similar in style to the classic Hollywood sign, albeit not in colour), against a blue sky.