I bet most of you have experienced this one:
You’re in a doctor’s office. You have a cold, or you’ve hurt yourself somehow, or perhaps you’ve got a rash. You tell the doctor about the owie or the icky, and he/she shakes her head and says in a stern, disapproving tone “Well, you do need to lose some weight, don’t you?”
Or what about this one:
You’re in a public place, say a restaurant or food court of a shopping centre. You’re having lunch, nothing special, just lunch. Someone passing by or at the nearest table says “Look at that fat pig. People like that shouldn’t eat, that’s disgusting.”
Maybe this one:
You’re watching the news. The newsreader comes on with an article about how fat people are costing the public health system lots and lots of money. Whoever you’re with turns to you and says “Don’t you ever feel guilty about that?”
Ever experienced anything like these situations? If you’re fat, I’m pretty sure you have, or something similar. These are all examples of fat shaming.
Fat shaming is a tactic that non-fats, the medical profession and the media have all been using for a long time. Because they all figure that if we’re ashamed of ourselves as fatties, that we will go on diets and lose the weight and then we’ll no longer have an OOGA-BOOGA-OBESITY-EPIDEMIC.
Here’s the thing. Fat shaming has been a tactic for a very, very long time. I’ve had it directed at me since I can remember, which is long before I was actually fat. Once I actually got fat, it was ramped up even higher. So if I can remember it from the 70’s, that means it’s been going on for over 30 years right?
Actually, I’ve seen examples of fat shaming in vintage ads from the 50’s. You know, the “Sally can’t get a date because she’s a big fat lardass.” kind of thing.
So if fat shaming has been out there for more than 50 years, and we’ve got a “growing OOGA-BOOGA-OBESITY-CRISIS” these days, as the media will have you believe, does this not tell us that fat shaming actually makes the problem worse?
When I look at it, it tells me that fat shaming does a whole bunch of things. It makes fat people embarrassed or intimidated about going to the doctor to get decent health care, which would lessen their risk of being of high cost to public health. It causes fat people to avoid being active in public because of the fear of ridicule that they not only “might” suffer, but actually do suffer. It forces many women and girls into the cycle of eating disorders and exercise obsessions that are a) not sustainable and b) do more long term damage to bodies than they do any good. It causes high levels of stress in fat people so that they are at more risk to things like high blood pressure and heart disease.
And these are just a few off the top of my head.
If fat shaming actually worked, wouldn’t we be finding that the rate of obesity in western culture was actually lower now than it used to be, because we’ve been sold the same line for a good 30+ years now? Surely if fat shaming was effective, the obesity rate would be decreasing, rather than increasing.
So here’s the thing. It’s a crock of shit. If you hear doctors, the media, and the general public (which includes your family, friends and colleagues) using fat shaming to try to guilt you/anyone/society in general into somehow miraculously making yourself thin, question it.
That goes for you too non-fatties who might be reading this blog.
Ask the questions about why they do it. Are they doing it because it is known that it actually works, or are they doing it because a) it’s so ingrained in our culture that fat people should be ashamed of themselves that it’s just what’s done, or b) because they’re projecting their own fear of being fat and self loathing onto the people who represent the things they are afraid of/most loathe about themselves?
If you’re a fatty that is on the receiving end of some fat shaming, maybe it’s worth thinking about the damage that actually accepting and carrying that shame is doing to you. Maybe it’s time to refuse to accept and carry that shame.
The little trick I’ve found is to think of that fat shame as a big steaming pile of shit. And don’t pick it up if it’s offered to you! When I am handed a stinky pile of fat shame shit, I think to myself “Ummm… that’s YOUR fat shame shit, not mine, I’m not going to carry it, thank you very much.” Where it’s possible, I challenge it to the person trying to hand it to me, but sometimes it’s not possible, so I just raise my chin a little, think to myself “No thanks” and move on, be it literally or figuratively.
Fat shame is pointless and there is no reason you have to accept it. It’s not even going to help you if you did.