What does ‘Project Harpoon’ say about our perception of beauty?

Written by May Loonam

Social media accounts posting original images of “plus-sized models” alongside photo shopped alternatives, where they had been noticeably slimmed down, were taken down last week after a mass media backlash. 

The official ‘Project Harpoon’ accounts have now been removed by Facebook and Instagram after users and members of the body positive community commented on, shared and reported the sites. However, the 'project' which originated on 4chan and reddit, still remains with similar accounts posting and sharing images on a regular basis, using the controversial hashtag #ThInnerBeauty.

May Loonam, Kettle Mag, Tess Holliday Project Harpoon, Image: E Online

Images of American Plus Sized model Tess Holliday appeared on the page multiple times without her permission. Not only were these images being used illegally, but they were noticeably manipulated to spread the message that 'thin is beautiful'. Holliday, who actively speaks out against body shamers by creating her own hashtag #EffYourBeautyStandards, was first to publicly call for a boycott of the site. She told E! Online:

"It's abominable that this [Facebook page] is using my image without permission to promote themselves."

“I am asking my followers to boycott this [page] and any others like it. Loving yourself is the most powerful message we all need to stand behind.”

Those behind 'Project Harpoon' claim that it was meant to promote healthy living and stand against promoting obesity. One of the people behind the project, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke to BuzzFeed News:

“We were promoting a healthy lifestyle and simply showing how great people could look if they trimmed a few pounds. This was simply meant to raise awareness that accepting and promoting obesity is not okay.”

Promoting a healthier lifestyle whilst using words such as “depressed chub” scream ‘hateful’ rather than ‘helpful’. Adding 'no hate speech' alongside a photo which is clearly favoring a certain body shape over another, doesn't make it any less hurtful. 

What does this say about our standards of beauty? 

Although many fought against these hateful accounts, the fact that they existed in the first place, with over 10,000 followers surely says something about our views on body image. The similar accounts still in existence, which are clearly listed on reddit, show that there is clearly a massive pressure on both men and women to look a certain way, despite the existence of body positive communities.

A healthy body starts with a healthy mindset. Reveal your #ThInnerBeauty today!Original model: Tess Holliday

Posted by Thinnerbeauty on Friday, 28 August 2015

Photoshopping celebrities for the covers of magazines has always been a controversial issue, with many of us now knowing you can't always believe what you're seeing. You have to question why the need to alter someones appearance is there in the first place? Where has this unobtainable standard for beauty come from?

The response on social media

You only need to take a look at the #ThinnerBeauty hashtag on Twitter to see how so many users feel about 'Project Harpoon' and its supporting pages. The difference in opinion may surprise you…

It needs to be pointed out that “skinny shaming” also does exist, and it seems that ‘projects’ and posts such as these are much more about hate and shaming rather than actually being concerned with the health of others, as they often claim.

Deleting 'Project Harpoon' pages may make it seem like we’ve made a step forward, but there is still a long way to go. Obesity and poorer standards of health should not be promoted, but neither should body shaming. Be it ‘fat shaming’ OR ‘skinny shaming’, hateful campaigns like these certainly do more harm than good. 

What do you think? Where have our standards of beauty come from? Let me know in the comments below.