In many ways, Alvena Little-Wolf Ear is a typical 9-year-old living in B.C. She goes to school, likes swimming, computers, painting her nails, and like so many other children her age, was the subject of bullying. For over 2 years, other kids at her school bullied her about her weight. It was so bad that she would often cry in the bathroom and miss meals.
But Alvena is also extraordinary. At the start of Grade 4, Alvena decided to take a stand against her bullies in one of the bravest and most inspiring ways. We all know it can be hard to put yourself out there, knowing others can judge (just see any YouTube comment if you want to see what I mean). Yet Alvena, a member of the Ahousaht First Nation, decided that the best way she could fight back against the bullies was to make her experience public.
She posted a picture of herself, in sports gear and ready to exercise, to the Facebook group Healthy Active Natives. The 9 year old then told her mother:
“I want you to tell everyone I get bullied about my weight and I want you to show everybody what I look like. I want you to show everybody that I am going to change because I want to start exercising, I want to start eating better.”
The photo, along with a chart keeping track of Alvena’s exercise work out, went viral almost overnight. The pair received hundreds of positive comments, thousands of likes, and even some donations, with well-wishers sending handy items like new shoes and store cards.
Annette, Alvena’s mother, told the Huffington Post “As I was reading [the comments to Alvena] I started crying because she was crying. I hugged her and asked if she wanted me to stop and she said, ‘No. I just can’t believe how many people care.'”
Annette has now started a new Facebook group called Team Avena so their many supporters have somewhere to channel their good vibes and supportive comments. As it stands Team Avena has over 1000 members, and is steadily growing.
As positive as all of this is, it also comes with a troubling undertone—something that Alvena’s mother Annette touches on in one of her comments to Nainaimo Daily News. Annette tells that paper that someone as young as Alvena shouldn’t have to worry about how much she eats or her exercise, but is supporting her 100 percent regardless.
And indeed, the focus of this story has very much been on Alvena changing herself to better fit in, rather than addressing the horrible attitudes around fat, and fat-shaming that played such a huge part in the attacks. With shows like America’s Biggest Loser becoming increasingly more pervasive in modern day society, and a growing acceptance of fat-shaming and the so-called “War on Fat,” people with different body types are facing more and more discrimination.
Thankfully, there many, many people fighting back. One website to check out is Militant Baker, and its many, awesome campaigns addressing existing prejudices on body types. One in particular, Bodies aren’t ugly, bullying is, compiles photos of people with a variety of body types juxtaposed against hateful messages formed from the auto-complete function on Google—capturing just how widespread body-shaming is for men and women of all ages. Each photo also features a defiant declarations against such shaming.
It seems that kids at Alvena’s new school, where she recently started, also have the right idea. Annette told the Huffington “It was a really good feeling for me to pick her up today and have her say, ‘Kids are telling me I’m pretty, mom.’ She’s never had that. She’s never had friends like that.”