Berea, Kentucky is a small town that most people would never even have heard of had it not been for the fact that people are awful on Facebook.
Thanks to trolls, the town—and Councilwoman Emily LaDouceur—are finding themselves in the spotlight.
Things started when LaDouceur, knowing she would be giving a tour to elementary school students that day, opted to wear something easy and comfortable to work. By all accounts the childrens' tour of city hall went off without a hitch.
Photos were posted to the city's social media page in a post that garnered a lot of attention. But not for the right reasons.
Here's the Facebook post:
Rather than address anything the Councilwoman did as part of her job, ask about what the children learned, or anything constructive like that, Facebook users began attacking Councilwoman LaDouceur for her weight and the fact that she wore leggings.
One person in particular—a man who has run for city council twice and lost both times—jabbed at her asking:
"Why does a big girl think she can wear leggings?"
Another person referred to her clothing as lazy while totally ignoring that most of the other members of the city council show up to work wearing t-shirts that are stained or covered in holes and jeans in much the same condition.
Berea, Kentucky is not exactly a fashion metropolis, the town is casual, and the council members make per month what many people do in a week.
The person who runs the city's social media accounts has done a wonderful job of removing the offensive comments, but that doesn't mean they didn't make their way back to Councilwoman LaDouceur. They absolutely did.
LaDouceur wasn't exactly surprised, she explained in an interview that this was part of a larger trend of online trolling, hatred and negativity that the city has been seeing lately.
Most of the comments came from a particular group of conservative people who have been harassing her online for weeks.
That doesn't mean they didn't sting or that the uproar didn't take away from the issues she believes she should really be judged on.
"It's not a good feeling, walking into a space where you've earned your seat at the table and what people are thinking about is what you're wearing and not what's in your heart and mind and what you have to put on the table."
LaDouceur's initial response showcases her resilience and sense of humor.
Since her leggings were such a big deal, she figured she would go ahead and tell people exactly where she got them.
You can get the leggings here.
As things began to build, the community—and eventually social media at large—rallied around Councilwoman LaDouceur. Her bullies attempts at shaming and silencing her backfired spectacularly.
She gained attention on a national scale, the city enacted an annual leggings day and Twitter lit up with hashtags supporting her.
Check this out:
After the outpouring of support, Councilwoman LaDoucer posted a thank-you:
As well as a post that shed some light on what she plans to do with this moment:
"Never did I imagine that my body and my leggings would make national news as opposed to the great ideas and work I put forth in my community, but I'm choosing to absorb this moment because it has introduced people to my platform...a platform of inclusion and equity."
"I've only been at this for 4 months and I've already seen how difficult it is to get people engaged in the nitty gritty of local government."
"But there is SO much we can do with this energy. We can teach children that bullying and body-shaming is not okay. We can show people that you can love your body while working to prioritize your health."
"We can engage in the hard conversations about racism, homophobia, sexism, ableism, sizism, etc while still maintaining a beloved community. It's about discerning where productive discourse can thrive and releasing ourselves of unhealthy debate."
"The high road doesn't have to look like toxic positivity... it looks like engaging where bridges can be built and removing ourselves from spaces and people who are not able to manage their pain enough to see us."
"Thank you for all the messages of love and support, y'all. It's been everything!"
You can watch a brief interview with Councilwoman LaDouceur here.
Following a Viral Sensation: #BereaWearsLeggings Moving Forward www.youtube.com