It’s cruel to humiliate someone’s misery and judge a person without knowing the whole story. That’s why when netizens poked fun at an embarrassing photo of this obese woman, she bravely stepped forward and shared her side of the story that wasn’t captured in the picture.
Several years ago around 2012, 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.” Apparently, they thought the snap was funny. The humiliating photo was later shared on People of Walmart, a page ridiculing shoppers at the supermarket.
— The Sun (@TheSun) January 20, 2017
For a few years, many netizens ridiculed 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 late 2016.
Though Wilkinson, a mother of two, has been accustomed 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. “I am also very obese which does not help the situation in my back.”
And the day the photo was taken, Wilkinson was experiencing intense pain.
To make matters worse, she also suffers from major depressive disorder, PTSD, and avoidant personality disorder. “I have learned that due to my mental illness—I have used eating as a way to cope. I fight my weight daily and have recently joined a gym. But my weight is still a battle,” she explained.
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 30, 2017
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. “I am not asking people to accept or condone obesity,” she wrote. “I also am not asking people to pity or feel sorry for me.”
But rather, what she wants is “compassion, understanding, and respect as a fellow human being.” She said: “I am a person please treat me like one!”
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.”
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