It’s just not acceptable to humiliate someone’s misery and judge a person without knowing the story. That’s why when netizens poked fun at an embarrassing photo of this obese woman, she courageously stepped forward and shared her side of the story that wasn’t captured in the picture.
About six years ago, Jennifer Knapp Wilkinson was riding a motorized scooter while shopping for her family in Walmart. Just as she was trying to pick up a case of soda, she lost her balance and fell off the scooter, tipping over in the aisle. This embarrassing moment was captured by “some young girls” who were “giggling.”
The humiliating photo was later shared on People of Walmart, a page mocking shoppers at the supermarket.
For a few years, many netizens mocked the woman in the viral photo for her weight. They turned her misery into a joke, without knowing the story behind the picture, until Wilkinson, who eventually saw the photo, spoke out publicly in an article titled “15 minutes of fame” on quora.com in early 2017.
Though Wilkinson, a 39-year-old mother of two, has been used to to “hearing people make fun” of her, she nevertheless hopes people will realize “fat people are people too.”
“The worst thing about this photo is that people think a fat woman tipped over a cart because she was too lazy to get out,” she wrote.
However, in truth, she has spondylolisthesis, a spinal condition in which one of the bones (vertebrae) in her spine slips forward and is out of place. This condition can cause pain and stiffness in the back and legs.
“In my case, the longer I stand the more numb and weak my legs become. I have been known to fall because of this condition,” she said. And the day the photo was taken, Wilkinson was experiencing intense pain.
“I am also very obese which does not help the situation in my back,” she said.
She also suffers from major depressive disorder, PTSD, and avoidant personality disorder, and has “used eating as a way to cope” with her mental illnesses. Till today, her “weight is still a battle.”
Wilkinson shared her story “because people think it is funny to laugh at people with disabilities.” She stressed she wasn’t writing the post to evoke sympathy, but rather, what she wants is “compassion, understanding, and respect as a fellow human being.”
“I am a person please treat me like one!” she said.
Hearing Wilkinson’s story, maybe we all must give it a thought the next time we see photos that make fun of people, remembering that we actually know “nothing about these people or the struggles they face everyday.”
Let’s think twice before shaming anyone on social media. As Wilkinson wrote, “it is never just harmless fun to laugh at someone.”