Project Harpoon and Lack of Body Diversity

Today on Facebook, someone shared an article by People on a friend’s wall. I want to say up front that I have so many feelings and thoughts about this, as a plus-sized woman and scholar who studies hegemony and gender in online spaces, that it’s difficult for me to put all of them into a nice tidy package. Especially right now since I’m mostly just overcome with rage at the sheer amount of privilege and ignorance shown by Baskins and Project Harpoon. But I digress.

This article talked about Project Harpoon, and the guy who runs it: Nick Baskins. His goal was basically to try and reverse some of the body positivity out there to insist that fat people are unhealthy, and show exactly what those fat people would look like if they were skinny. Baskins claims he wants to motivate people to be healthy.


Project Harpoon, Body positivity, HAES

She used to look like a school bus, do you not feel motivated to be healthy now? I know I do… not.

Nothing in the captions or in the photoshopping job that Project Harpoon did indicates any kind of regard for that girl’s health. It completely centers around how the creator wants her to display a certain aesthetic and to not take up more room than he thinks she could. The guise of just wanting fat people to be healthy has been called “concern trolling” within the body positivity community for years. It is common knowledge that it is nearly impossible to tell the state of a person’s health by looking at them. Someone who is “skinny” by society’s standards might be just as unhealthy as someone who is overweight, or even moreso. Especially depending on diet, metabolism, and family history of various hereditary diseases. Weight is not always an indicator of health, and might even be the symptom of a health concern such as hypothyroidism, which means that a person has an extremely difficult time maintaining or losing a certain weight no matter how much they eat a “healthy diet” or exercising.

So let’s get down to it, shall we? If you take a quick stroll through the photos that Project Harpoon has photoshopped, you’ll find a common thread in the “after” photos. Namely, that they all sport more-or-less the same hour glass, Barbie-esque type of body type. Baskins says that he’s trying to promote “skinny acceptance,”– which honestly is not a thing, because our culture is founded on the kind of “skinny acceptance” that he is promoting– however, he doesn’t show a diverse range of skinny bodies either. Skinny women might have small breasts and narrow hips, or large breasts and a flat ass. Maybe they’re thin with average breasts and wide hips. Whatever the range of skinny body types, it seems that the only one Project Harpoon is concerned with is the ever-idealized 36″-22″-35″ thin, yet curvy body type.

If you look at some of the work he’s done, you’ll see that while the face and stomach have been thinned, considerably has been done to the breasts except to make them look more perky. Take, for example, this one of Rebel Wilson:

Project Harpoon

She has robust breasts and rounded hips with comically thin arms and legs. Her arms and legs look like that of an anorexic woman, and somehow Baskins is trying to portray this as healthy? No, this is again hegemonic beauty standards being force-fed to women.

People reports that “Baskins declined to name the others involved in the group and would not reveal his age, where he is from, or release a photo of himself.”

Baskins is concerned that  “There are many people who will try to send me death threats.”

No, Baskins. Didn’t you know that only happens to women who try to break out of the hegemonic patriarchal discourse?


One response to “Project Harpoon and Lack of Body Diversity

  1. Of course he doesn’t want to release a photo of himself, people might be mean to someone putting a photo of themselves online! You know… exactly what he is doing.
    “Hit the gym”… but don’t build any muscle while you are at it, because the “healthy” look you are supposed to be aiming for is bone thin limbs.


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