Facebook rejected a feminist group's body positive event ad on 'health and fitness' grounds

The "offending" image of model Tess Holliday.

The "offending" image of model Tess Holliday.

Organisers of a Melbourne-based feminist event have been shocked by a decision by Facebook to decline their request to boost an event post on "health and fitness" grounds. 

Cherchez la Femme is a monthly live feminist talkshow that will be targeting the issue of "feminism and fat" at its next event. They'll be discussing fat acceptence, fat activism and fatshion, from a feminist, body-positive perspective.

And who better to illustrate such a talk than Tess Holliday, the outspoken feminist and glamorous, self-loving plus-size model?

Unfortunately for Cherchez la Femme and anyone else who'd like to promote body-positivity and fat acceptance, Facebook didn't agree.

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It rejected the group's request to boost their post because, apparently, it didn't comply with the company's health and fitness policy. 

Angered by the decision, the group posted up a screen shot of the message they received from the Facebook ads team after emailing them to query the initial rejection. 

"The image depicts a body or body parts in an undesirable manner," the ad team explains in its rejection message.

"Ads like these are not allowed since they make viewers feel bad about themselves. Instead, we recommend using an image of a relevant activity, such as running or riding a bike."

Huh? How would such an image be relevant to an event in which women discuss fat and body positivity, exactly?

Ads showing "muffin top" close-ups, women wearing too-tight clothes or pinching cellulite will also be rejected, Facebook said.  

The message appears to suggest Facebook has put a blanket ban on showing images of fat women, ostensibly to avoid fat-shaming posts. But if telling a feminist group to replace an image of a plus-size model with someone riding a bike isn't fat shaming, what is? Surely the powers-at-be at Facebook can tell the difference between posts that are actually fat-shaming and those that simply depict fat women.

In its post to fans, Cherchez la Femme producer Jessamy Gleeson expressed the group's anger over such an arbitrary and destructive policy on images of fat women. 

"Facebook has ignored the fact that our event is going to be discussing body positivity (which comes in all shapes and sizes, but in the particular case of our event, fat bodies), and has instead come to the conclusion that we've set out to make women feel bad about themselves by posting an image of a wonderful plus sized woman," she wrote. 

"We're raging pretty hard over here - both because Facebook seemingly has no idea that plus sized, self describing fat women can feel great about themselves, and also because we haven't been able to boost the original damn post."

It's yet another example of Facebook's ham-fisted approach to restricting "offensive" content that, like its ban on Celeste Liddle for posting images of bare-chested Indigenous women, seems to punish those with legitimate content while actual racist, sexist and bullying posts and pages appear to go unchecked.