Matt Gaetz Body-Shamed a Teen—Who Then Launched a Fundraiser for Abortion Rights

Olivia Julianna has raised over $150,000 for abortion funds.
Matt Gaetz BodyShamed a Teen—Who Then Launched a Fundraiser for Abortion Rights

According to Representative Matt Gaetz, body-shaming a teenager to his 1.4 million Twitter followers is behavior befitting a congressman. According to Olivia Julianna, the best way to respond is to use the opportunity to raise $168,000 (and counting) in donations for abortion funds.

At a Turning Point USA Student Action Summit over the weekend, Gaetz questioned, “Why is it that the women with the least likelihood of getting pregnant are the ones most worried about abortions? Nobody wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb.” But he didn’t stop there: “These people are odious from the inside out. They’re like 5'2", 350 pounds, and they’re like, ‘Give me my abortions or I’ll get up and march and protest.’”

When Julianna saw his fatphobic, misogynistic comments, the Gen-Z for Change abortion-rights activist felt compelled to respond. “I’m actually 5’11. 6’4 in heels,” she tweeted to her almost 190,000 Twitter followers. “I wear them so small men like you are reminded of your place.” Gaetz responded by quote-tweeting an article about his comments “raising the dander of his opponents” with a photo of Olivia along with the words “Dander raised.”

The 19-year-old decided to “flip the script” on the congressman’s “hateful comments,” urging her followers to donate to abortion funds. As of Wednesday, July 27, she’s raised more than $168,000 for abortion funds and gained thousands of new followers across her social accounts. Teen Vogue caught up with Julianna to see what inspired her—and who could be her next target.

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Teen Vogue: What was your gut reaction when you saw that a congressman had shared a picture of you in that context?

Olivia Julianna: Honestly, I know it might sound kinda crazy, but I laughed. I was like, This is gonna be good. I knew I would be able to make the best out of the situation because that’s what I do. It’s my job. People hate me because I’m 19 and think I’m a doe-eyed kid, but I’m a political strategist for one of the biggest youth organizations in the country. This was almost like a gift from Matt Gaetz.

Did the congressman sharing your photo lead to harassment?

I’ve gotten body-shaming comments. I got a really nasty email calling me homopobic and racial slurs and the subject line of the email was “MATT.” So I received hateful comments about my body, being like nobody would ever want to sleep with you, you would never need an abortion, but they don’t really bother me. I know that the people out there who hate me are trying their hardest to get me to be insecure about myself and it’s not working.

How did you get the confidence to shut down elected officials publicly?

I don't think I’ve ever said this in an interview, but I grew up obsessed with professional wrestling and WWE, and I truly believe that my comeback ability and my confidence in times of arguments or attacks 100% comes from years of watching WWE and scripted conflict. In wrestling it’s called “mic work,” where pro wrestlers will get on the mic and will be the villain or they’ll be the face, which is the good guy. I had years of watching storylines taking on authority figures or “bad guys.” It made me develop a quick wit to respond in this situation. I mean, I was obsessed. I had posters of John Cena. My nana got me into it. She developed Alzheimer’s when she was young, but she always remembered how much she loved watching WWE. When I was four or five visiting her house, wrestling was always on the TV. The love for it got instilled in me a young age. I was really into it as a kid.

How did you make the jump from “Okay, I just got publicly body-shamed by a congressman” to “I’m going to use this to make positive change”?

I had an opportunity to have more attention. Matt had put a spotlight on me; he had given me a chance to rebut publicly, and I think what he was expecting was for me to fall into an outrage cycle and he wanted me to be like, “This is horrendous, you’re evil, you should be canceled.” He wants people to label him as a monster and free-speech absolutist, and I don’t think he expected for me to respond in the way that I did—to fundraise for abortions. And he also didn’t expect me to bring up his criminal investigation. What a weirdo to talk about another teenager. (Editor’s note: Gaetz is currently under investigation for whether he had sex with a minor and violated sexual trafficking laws. The congressman has denied the allegations and has not been charged with any crime.)

Where are the funds going?

Gen-Z for Change started this ActBlue fund right after Roe fell, and so it’s an ActBlue link and the donations are split among 50 funds. If you go to the link, you can see what the funds are. Gen-Z for Change doesn’t get any of that money.

What do you make of his nonresponse?

I think he’s scared. I honestly think he’s terrified. I would be if I tried to go after someone and their response was to raise $168,000 in less than 48 hours. Raising donations is one aspect of it, but this has [also] dramatically increased my following across social media platforms. I’ve gained over 75,000 on Twitter, 30,000 on TikTok, 8,000 on Instagram. It has catapulted me to an entirely new level of social media status. He expected me to cower and hide, but that’s not how it played out.

Is there anything you want to add about men like Gaetz, who resort to misogyny and body-shaming to shame women fighting for their bodily autonomy?

Whenever someone resorts to body-shaming in an argument, it's because they can’t intellectually and factually get their point across. He can claim he’s pro-life, pro-family, pro-child, but the reality is this is a sitting congressman who voted against increased funding for baby formula during a shortage. When it comes down to helping families, it’s not Matt Gaetz. It’s me.

This post originally appeared on Teen Vogue.