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.
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.
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 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.)
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.