The Freedom to Be Fat

Trigger warning: Body shaming, eating disorders, mental distress, self harm

I’m sure we’re all aware that body shaming exists (unless you’re Nicole Arbour, of course). In a world where same sex marriage is becoming the law of the land, being racist can get you fired from your job, and being sexist could make you the losing end of a lawsuit, why is it still seen as acceptable to critique other people’s bodies? The world is moving along at such a fast pace, and it seems as if we’re starting to realize that existing is not an excuse to hate others. Why is this courtesy not extended when it comes to keeping your opinions about other people’s bodies to yourself? This isn’t just applicable to overweight women, it applies to everyone because every single person on this planet has been body shamed in their lives. I’m personally discussing body shaming from the point of view of a fat woman because it’s the only type of body shaming I feel qualified to discuss.

Nicole Arbour is currently facing a lot of backlash for making a video insulting fat people.

Nicole Arbour is currently facing a lot of backlash for making a video insulting fat people.

I’m writing this post because I’ve been a victim of body shaming for the majority of my life (being overweight, busty, and not conventionally attractive can bite you in the ass) and I want to address why I think that the people who justify body shaming are essentially saying it’s okay to disrespect the people you find unattractive. They always find some way to make excuses for it like saying that they’re:

“Just concerned about their health”

First of all, my health is not your business, nor is it your concern. I did not ask you to perform an evaluation of my health. Second of all, I’m tired of hearing people justify hatred with a petty excuse. You can’t assume anything about someone’s health simply by looking at their body. I’m willing to bet than an overweight person who doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke and eats a healthy and clean diet is healthier than a thin person who smokes, drinks to excess, tans and eats junk food constantly just because their metabolism can process it faster. Saying you’re insulting a person to improve their health has always been humorous to me. It’s basically saying that someone’s mental health doesn’t matter, as long as they’re more pleasing to you. Above all, body shaming is not an effective way to convince someone to lose weight. It actually inspires the opposite. I wrote a blog post detailing how body shaming impacted me.

If you’re familiar with the website reddit, it recently became famous in the media after it banned the community, r/FatPeopleHate. Here’s a link explaining the drama. FPH existed for the sole purpose of insulting fat people, and stole the majority of their content from overweight people all over the internet. Their reasoning for targeting fat people was that “being fat is unhealthy, and we’re trying to encourage them to lose weight”. Posting pictures of somebody for the purpose of ridicule is not “encouraging better habits”. If they truly wanted to encourage better habits, they’d go down to a gym and encourage the overweight people who may be struggling with working out, or volunteer at a group centered around weight loss. Make no mistake, these people do not care about the health and well being of fat people.

The magazine cover that angered thousands.

The magazine cover that angered thousands.

I was posted on FatPeopleHate in April of this year. I was a frequent user of the subreddits r/ABraThatFits and r/BigBoobProblems, and photos of me from these subreddits were posted after I made a supportive comment towards another user of BBP in regards to her weight (I committed the mortal sin of mentioning Tess Munster/Holliday in a positive light). I woke up to a message in my inbox telling me that I wasn’t human, that I wasn’t “curvy” because I’m fat (I didn’t realize these were mutually exclusive), that my boobs were “small and disgusting”, that my boyfriend was only with me because “fat chicks are easy”, and was told that I’d be better off committing suicide so that the world wouldn’t have to look at me anymore. They included a link to the post. It was absolutely horrific to see so many people gathered to pick apart every aspect of my being for one simple thing: my weight. My entire post and comment history on reddit was downvoted. Posts that had a decent amount of comment karma were downvoted to the negatives. I kept receiving messages in my inbox from other FPH members insulting me and telling me to kill myself.

I contacted the moderators of BBP and ABTF, and was told that there was nothing they could do about it because it didn’t occur on their subreddit.

I had a huge mental breakdown when this happened and had feelings of wanting to harm myself. I felt absolutely useless, disgusting, and inhuman. My boyfriend calmed me down enough to convince me to go through my whole account and delete every post, every photo, and then delete my account. I did not visit reddit once in two months because I felt like it would hurt my mental health too severely. I only rejoined reddit when FPH was finally banned in June.

Reddit-ban-fatpeoplehate

Reddit was pissed off when FPH was banned, even going so far as to say it was “illegally violating their right to free speech”, and seriously tried to see if they’d be able to sue reddit so that they’d be able to make fun of fat people on the internet. They sent death threats to Ellen Pao, the CEO at the time of the ban. They criticized her gender, her race, and labelled her an SJW. They petitioned for her resignation from her position, and when she did, they celebrated it as if throwing a temper tantrum is a good thing. The discussion about “free speech” was thrown about so many times that it got me thinking. Why should people be given the right to tear others apart, when fat people don’t even have the right to exist? Why does being fat inspire so much vitriol? Why is being “healthy” a prerequisite to being treated like a human being? Shouldn’t you just be nice to people regardless of how you feel about their bodies?

Here’s another excuse:

Fat people are a drain on the healthcare system”

There’s a few reasons this excuse falls apart. You could say the same thing about elderly people, premature babies, cancer patients, people who tan, people who drink alcohol to excess, and even pregnant women. I don’t see any subreddits called r/OldPeopleHate, or r/CancerPatientHate. They argue that fat people deserve to be hated because they did it to themselves. In that case, why isn’t there the same amount of hatred for anorexics and bulimics? Why are eating disorders only taken seriously when the person with the disorder is thin? I’m not saying that anorexics and bulimics (or any of the above groups) SHOULD be made fun of, but as someone who’s suffered with an eating disorder I know how hard it can be to break the pattern of disordered eating. Binge eating disorder is even more common than anorexia nervosa (at least 3 times more common, at most 8 times more common), but only one is considered a serious illness. Once again, I am not saying that anorexics and bulimics deserve to be insulted. I’m just trying to understand the logic (of which there is none.)

the-endless-binge-restrict-cycle-infographic-by-body-love-wellness-light-background

I’ve noticed that the reaction to fat shaming has caused a lot of overweight women to make excuses for being fat. I take issue with this because it sends the message that being fat is something to be ashamed of. I am overweight, and while I suffered from binge eating disorder in the past, it is not the reason I am still fat today. I am fat because I eat a lot of unhealthy foods out of convenience (not as unhealthy as I used to, mind you) and don’t exercise as much as I should. The people who insult me don’t need to know that I put on 60 pounds from birth control pills, PCOS, and hormonal fluctuations, or that I have scoliosis and asthma that make it difficult to exercise. It doesn’t matter to them. In their eyes, once you’ve “allowed” yourself to become fat you’ve turned in your humanity and deserve to be treated like garbage. If you try to justify yourself in the slightest, even if the justifications are legitimate, they think it’s hilarious and tell you to “put down the burger and run on a treadmill”.

In short, I think the body positive movement has a lot of work to do before fat people are given the same courtesy as other people. If you don’t think this is a serious issue, consider that overweight people are paid less than average weight people. These negative stereotypes (lazy, worthless, etc) are so prevalent that someone’s paycheck could be determined by their weight. When’s the last time you’ve seen a woman who was even slightly overweight portrayed as a love interest in a movie that’s not a comedy? Now when’s the last time you’ve heard a fat joke about a woman? Everyone has the freedom to exist in any state they’re in. You deserve to be loved and respected regardless of what the world may think. The next time you think something negative about someone, think of how it may affect them before you say it or type it. You are not being constructive when you tear someone down for having a body type you don’t like.

bikini_body

-Danielle

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4 thoughts on “The Freedom to Be Fat

  1. kerniss May 31, 2016 at 6:07 pm Reply

    I’M LATE ON THIS but I just wanted to add my support to your post. I was elated when FPH was taken down. It was not a community created to better any person’s help, but was created to destroy egos and humiliate people. The excuse of “being concerned for their health” has always been a lie (it’s never that – it’s harassment). The backlash against women in particular is disgusting at best, and really demonstrates just how entitled people feel to women’s bodies – so entitled that they’ll humiliate it into withering away, just to make it more pleasing to them. What a woman feels doesn’t even factor in. This speaks more to the revolting attitudes of fat-shamers than it does to the fat people they mock.
    FPH’s argument that “freedom of speech” is being prohibited makes me think of groups that are 100% convinced that the “PC police” are trying to stop them from speaking. People mistake “freedom of speech” for “freedom of hate” too often…
    As a final thought, Tess Holliday is GORGEOUS (um, her eyebrows are enchanting me). I also wish I could at least TP the people’s houses who hurt you so badly. Thank you for this write up – you have my support!

    Liked by 1 person

    • RollsAndCurves June 1, 2016 at 12:11 am Reply

      Thank you for your support!

      I agree with everything you said, especially the part about how it shows their perceived entitlement to women’s bodies. The men that would post there are the same ones who post in Men’s Rights threads sobbing because a woman turned him down for his height. The amount of cognitive dissonance astounds me. It’s obviously not okay to criticize someone’s body or make comments about their height, but it’s stupid to be upset when other people do to you what you’re doing to other people.

      I firmly believe that insecurity is at the root of all body shaming, and that someone who body shames others only does so to make other people feel the way they do about their bodies. It’s like they view body confidence as a points system, where one point is awarded for every socially acceptable part of your body and you can only feel good about yourself if you’ve reached a certain amount of points. When they see happy fat people, it makes them feel personally slighted because they have more “points” than the happy fat person but don’t feel good about themselves.

      People really don’t understand freedom of speech at all. Freedom of speech protects you from the government. It doesn’t apply to public places and forums. Even though you have freedom of speech, you can’t work as a teacher and curse at the students. You can’t go into a crowded room and yell “FIRE” when there’s no fire. Websites are not required to give you a place to hate other people. Websites are allowed to set rules and guidelines in order to moderate public forums.

      The most ironic part of the “free speech” cries from FPH supporters is that these are the same people who constantly report feminist thinking and try to get subreddits like r/ShitRedditSays removed, when all SRS is doing is holding up a mirror to the shitty way they treat people. They assume free speech is only protected when it applies to the things they want. Posting pictures of people with identifying information and saying shitty things in the comments, then harassing the person and making sure they see the comments is hurtful. Reposting anonymous comments from around a website and using them to show how toxic a website is should not be considered hurtful.

      Edit: Sorry for the rant, by the way!

      Like

      • kerniss June 1, 2016 at 6:02 am

        Not a rant at all! You are speaking to the choir here with everything you wrote. I also wrote help instead of health up there, which goes to show you that coffee doesn’t always make you more alert LOL.
        Your “points system” idea seems particularly accurate, here. It’s the same sort of thing where people go “well (x) has a partner, and I don’t?!” and feel slighted by the happiness of others they think don’t deserve happiness. It makes me want to bang my head against a wall. It is also hypocritical, like you mentioned. Feminism for life ❤
        YES, YES, YES, about your freedom of speech thoughts. It's like – yes, you are "free" to say what you want, but people are free to penalize you for saying horrible things. People perceive the internet as a free-for-all zone, but websites absolutely don't have to put up with behaviors and hive minds that are hurtful at best. People are fired and arrested for expressing these things in real life, but what occurs on the internet is also just as real.

        Liked by 1 person

    • RollsAndCurves June 1, 2016 at 6:25 am Reply

      I think people are finally starting to come around and realize that the things you put on the internet are read by other human beings. Unfortunately, other people haven’t gotten the picture and think the internet is their stomping ground to let out all their frustrations on the world. They get turned down by a woman in real life, go home, and find a fat woman to verbally abuse to make themselves feel superior.

      One day I went through the profiles of some FPH submitters (before it got deleted) and an overwhelming amount of them had posts about eating disorders, drug use, sexual abuse, and other subjects on their reddit pages. A lot of them also posted to places like r/SuicideWatch and had big long stories about why they hated themselves and wanted to die. It was never about fat people. It was always about finding an easy target to unload your bad feelings on.

      It’s the exact same mentality that leads to plus sized women criticizing thinner women. The idea that you can only gain happiness and self acceptance when you make others feel inferior.

      Like

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