Updated Fri, Oct 11, 2013 10:11 am
A photograph of a Chauncey woman wearing a costume of Lara Croft from Tomb Raider for Halloween went viral on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, but the sentiment turned into depression and sadness when the woman in the photo — 24-year-old Caitlin Seida — realized people weren’t just lightly poking fun at her anymore regarding her weight.
Seida wrote in a blog about the experience that even though she eats right and exercises, her polycystic ovarian syndrome and failing thyroid gland contribute to weight gain.
“I’m strong, I’m flexible and my doctor assures me my health is good, but the fact remains: I’m larger than someone my height should be,” she wrote.
“They were saying things like, ‘Your friend should kill herself,’ or ‘Your friend made me blind,’” explained Seida’s friend and Nelsonville photographer, Terri Jean.
That’s when Seida and Jean decided to team up and fight back. They wrote a copyright notice and started contacting the websites and people who re-posted the photo and told them to stop.
“I request that you immediately remove my image. If you do not remove the image I will request your service provider to ‘expeditiously remove or disable access to the infringing photographs upon receiving this,’” Seida’s notice stated.
Although a good majority of the websites agreed to take down the picture, two more websites were discovered Wednesday evening.
And to about 300 people who commented on the picture, Jean and Seida sent a picture with the following message: “Congratulations! You are an online (expletive). And this is your award and public notification! Your name will be added to the list of other (expletives) who came before you! This is in response to your involvement in the criticism, belittling, sneering, slamming, disrespect and humiliation of another human being on a public forum… and then sharing it with others.”
Despite the message, not one person apologized, Seida noted.
The comments that accompanied her photograph started out witty and humorous at first, but Seida said they soon took a turn for the worse.
“When I saw the photo itself, I laughed because it was funny to see my image captured like that,” she said, explaining that she was on the
Public Square in Nelsonville handing out fliers for Jean’s Eye Candy Girl photography event when the photo was snapped.
Jean’s Eye Candy project encourages women of all shapes and sizes to feel confident and beautiful during photo shoots.
“We go around to local events and have a presence in the community and our goal is to make people realize you can be beautiful no matter your age, shape, size, and you’re beautiful and you can have fun doing it,” Seida said.
The group’s ideology was soon tested, though, when the photograph of her wearing a costume of Lara Croft from Tomb Raider went viral, and the comments started.
The initial image received a few thousand shares, while an article Sieda wrote on the topic has received an additional 34,000 views.
“At first I thought the comments were kind of witty and just Internet humor, but it stopped being funny when I started reading comments like, ‘People like her should be put down to spare everybody’s eyes.’ It just got worse and worse,” Sieda said.
She became depressed about her appearance, despite knowing that it shouldn’t matter what random people on the Internet say. Trusting Jean and formulating a plan to fight back and reclaim her photo, though, empowered her to speak out about the experience and ultimately overcome her depression.
“She contacted me immediately and said this is going on, what do I do, and she’s a writer so you have to kind of calm her down, and I wanted to direct her focus so it didn’t destroy her, so that was my first goal,” explained Jean, her close friend and confidant. In fact, Seida even refers to Jean as her “Ohio mom,” since her own mom lives in Philadelphia.
“I needed to turn a horrible, devastating negative somehow into a positive for her so she could work her way through it, and I just kept saying we have to have a plan and action,” Jean explained.
What shocked Jean more than anything, she said, was of all the Eye Candy girls in the photography group, Seida is the one who has the most body acceptance and the highest self-esteem, yet this experience nearly destroyed her.
“In front of a giant group of people, for her to wear that outfit, she knew it was too little, but she didn’t care,” Jean explained. “She has a husband and friends who accept her no matter what, and has no reason to be ashamed of herself, but yet here she is not ashamed and being shamed. And it was mind-blowing for the work we were doing to promote body confidence. In the end, she swung it back around and is the old Caitlin again.”
“I want people to know that there is someone behind every image that you see online, and it’s OK to laugh at them, but when you start leaving comments, those comments are out there forever,” Sieda explained. “And I want subjects of bullying to know you don’t have to take this, you’re not alone, you don’t have to go through this alone, people understand what you’re going through, and other people’s words and actions are the product of thoughtless and hurtful people who are probably having issues themselves.”