What a cute idea for Snap Inc. the creators of Snapchat to connect to another app that allows you to create a cartoon avatar of yourself that you can share with your friends. Described as “your own personal emoji” (Bitstrips, Inc. 2018) Bitstrips Inc, created Bitmoji which provides a wide variety of stickers for the emoji avatar that you can access and share on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) or anywhere you can chat and have access to the Bitmoji Keyboard.
I don’t think I am being petty or that I am wrong for saying that “I want a Bitmoji avatar body that looks like my body.” If thin women and men have that opportunity, so should my fat ass.
Although I only use Snapchat for the filters, I definitely have a Bitmoji account that I use and update all the time. When creating or updating your cartoon emoji, the app allows you to choose your facial features which includes things like skin tone, hair style + color, eye color, jaw line, lip size and more. Then there are a variety of accessories like sunglasses, hats, hair accessories, and even makeup options to choose from.
After you have completed the face of your avatar you then choose your personal emojis body type. There are five options for body-types on the Bitmoji app. The first four options available are all thin avatars.
Each option has slight differences in their leg shape, broadness of shoulders, and waist size but are all have what we would consider a skinny or thin in body type. As a body-positive advocate and fat woman, seeing this made me furious and also disappointed that the world we live in is still exclusive when it comes to being plus-size.
Does the body of your Bitmoji avatar actually look like your body?
I have to admit that it was difficult for me to choose the plus-size Bitmoji, even though I am a plus-size woman. For a few years, I was using one of the thin Bitmoji body types because the plus-size option did not depict what my body looks like, and I know that I am not alone. With so little options for plus-size individuals, I have seen many plus-size and fat individuals using the thin body-type options on the Bitmoji app as well.
Bitstrips Inc. and Snap Inc. are your corporations considering the messages you are sending to plus-size and fat individuals, especially the messages to teenage girls and women? When choosing the body type for my avatar, the message that I received is that my body is not deserving of options and that I am not included in the majority when it comes to bodies that are considered acceptable.
BITMOJI IS SENDING THE MESSAGE THAT ONLY ONE BODY-TYPE IS ACCEPTABLE AND THAT IS UNACCEPTABLE.
Reality check Bitstrips Inc. and Snap Inc., according to Taylor & Francis (an online journal publication), “the average American woman’s (AAW’s) clothing size is larger than anticipated. The AAW wears between a Misses size 16–18, which corresponds to a Women’s Plus size 20W,” which in the U.S. is considered plus-size. In considering this, it would make more sense if there was more variety in body type options for plus-size women since fat women are the majority. But, that would be too much like right…
If the average woman is considered plus-size or fat, corporations and organizations like Snap Inc. and Bitstrips Inc. need to be more mindful on who is at the table making decisions for the Bitmoji app and more aware of who they are influencing when creating ideas for the avatars. Here are five reasons why I am campaigning for Bitmoji to add more body type selections that would be more body-positive and represent the majority of women:
The lack of variety in the body type options for the Bitmoji avatar is an absolute disgrace. Although there are five options, there is no variety for plus-size women. Seeing four thin body type options and having no option as a plus-size woman adds to the shaming we already experience everyday in the real world.
There are two significant differences between the four thin body options and the one plus-size option. The first difference is that there is no gradual progression in weight gain from the thin body to the fat body type. The second way that the plus-size body type is unrealistic is the actual shape of the body. It is almost cartoon-like while the thin body types are more realistic when it comes to the unique curves and lines of the body.
EVERY BODY DESERVES TO FEEL ACCEPTED. THIS DEPICTION OF WHAT A PLUS-SIZE BODY LOOKS LIKE IS SO DRASTIC IT FEELS OBSURD.
If you are going to have four options for thin women there needs to be four options for plus-size women. Period.
4. TEENS + YOUNG ADULTS
The majority of the individuals who use Snapchat and Bitmoji are between the ages of 13-19. I work as a Youth Development Speialist at Gwen’s Girls, a local non-profit in Pittsburhg, PA for girls ages 8-18 and most of them are on Snapchat and have a Bitmoji. According to Statista, in 2016 of those participating in the study for Snapchat usage, there were 23% of teens ages 13-17 and 37% of teens and young adults ages 18-24 that had downloaded Snapchat.
At age 12, any teen can have full access to Snapchat and all the app provides including the Bitmoji avatar. Teens are heavily influenced by everything they see and Bitstrips Inc. and Snap Inc. need to be responsible for their role in the influence about plus-size and fat bodies.
5. FEMME + GIRLS + WOMEN
Diet culture has put a ton of pressure on women and girls to look a certain way. Although diet culture impacts males as well, studies show women and girls are more likely have lower self-esteem than boys. According to Heart of Leadership, “98%of girls feel there is an immense pressure from external sources to look a certain way (National Report on Self Esteem) and 92% of teen girls would like to change something about the way they look, with body weight ranking the highest (Dove campaign).”
There are more girls and women using Snapchat compared to boys and men. According to Statista, of the total individuals who identified as female being surveyed as possible users, 72% of them used Snapchat with only 63% of the males surveyed actually used the app. If more girls are using Snapchat than boys, there are more girls using Bitmoji. Bitstrips Inc. has a direct influence on teenage girls and young women on how they should feel about their bodies and the message being shared is not body positive.
BITMOJI’S CALL TO ACTION
The option that Bitmoji provides to plus-size girls and women puts them in a position to choose a body-type that body-shames. I am guilty of choosing the “biggest” thin emoji because I hated the plus-size option. I shouldnt be put in a position where I am boxed in to choosing a body type option that looks nothing like my own just because it falls in the same weight cohort that I do.
IT’S TIME FOR BITMOJI TO BE CALLED OUT FOR HAVING AVATAR BODY TYPES THAT ARE BODY SHAMING.
Bitstrips Inc. and Snap Inc. need to take responsibility for the messages that are being sent about plus-size + fat bodies on the Bitmoji app. If the goal for the app is to create a personalized emoji that looks like the individual using the app, then there should be a more realistic representation of body-type options for plus-size and fat bodies. No longer will Bitmoji users accept the lack of inclusivity of the cartoon emoji available to us.
If you agree that Bitmoji needs to add 3 more options plus-size body types that are realisitc to what fat bodies look like, please click the button below and sign my petition. There are over 4 million people who have downloaded Bitmoji since urits release. Our goal is to reach 10,000 signatures for the Bitmoji Body-Shaming Petition. Join us in this body-positive movement and let’s see if we can make a change to the app and bring some body-positivity to Bitmoji.
Please use the hashtag #bitmojibodyshaming on social media and please share this petition provided by and created using Change.org with your followers, family, and friends. Help The Heart Advocate put an end to body-shaming on the Bitmoji app.