Fat Shaming

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couldn’t resist…too cute

While doing some research for ANOTHER idea for a post, I came across an article that stirred up some feelings. If you haven’t read this one, you’ve probably read something with a similar theme.

This one’s called Fat Shaming Doesn’t Work – Here’s Why.

The author, Brittany Gibbons, feels jilted by a phenomenon that we’re all unfortunately familiar with: fat shaming. She references pictures of people walking down the streets with their heads blocked off and their skin bulging out. Blurs placed strategically in front of faces so that you can’t see their eyes, but CAN see that greasy animal carcass they’re about to consume. Looking like the editor invented a new type of light so unforgiving that it’d put fluorescents to shame.

I’ve had mixed feelings about fat shaming. When this blog was originally created, the first post was written out of frustration that one of my favorite local bloggers seemed to have a knee-jerk reaction to a state health initiative. After months of loving her posts about gender inequality and witty legislation analysis, I was shocked to see a long, ranting post about how the Tennessee Obesity Taskforce, a community group focused on policy solutions to childhood obesity, was really just a fat-shaming machine. Her angry reaction had a domino effect on me. I promptly judged her and created a health blog.

Almost one year later, I can see that neither of us were really to blame. Out of all oppression, there is a natural reaction to stand in angry opposition. Believe me, I know this feeling. (Once, in high school, a girl made fun of me by pointing out that the polish on my fingernails and toenails didn’t match. I went to school the next day with every nail painted a different color, sat down next to her, not saying a word, and relished in her speechless fury. Seems I was destined to be a community advocate.)

As a thin person (who takes an active role in her own body maintenance, but that’s a different story) it’s hard for me to see the line between actual fat shaming and fat power. I simply don’t live in that world. Certainly I can see the cruel, downward spiral that plagues many Americans (feel miserable and fat>decide to diet>fail>feel miserable and fat) but I haven’t felt it myself for a long time.

The best piece of advice I ever got regarding other’s feelings was this:

“When someone tells you that they’re offended, trust that they’re not saying it for a lark. You need to listen.”

I say it to myself often, especially when reading things like Brittany’s post. I can still hear the voice of the girl who said it to me, and it always changes everything.

When people degrade other people because of their weight, they’re really playing to an unfair advantage. After all, the failures of the overweight are visible failures, and the failures of the former are not. Everyone has an image of who they’d like to be, and everyone falls terribly, laughably, pathetically short of that image. The difference is that some people are reminded of their failure on a daily basis with fantasy-inspired media, an image-obsessed culture, and, most unjustly of all, judgment by their peers.

Just as firmly as I believe that the “thinspiration” craze is bad for everyone and does nothing for me and others like me but stir feelings of inadequacy, (and often, hilarity – “I’m supposed to look like this by doing that?!”) I can see that fat-shaming is equally ludicrous. If you’re blurring faces of fat people and publishing them, how are those blurred faces supposed to fight back? And if they found a way, when would it end?

Personally, I like the yoga approach: I’m on my mat, you’re on yours. I recognize and respect your light, but sister, I’ve got my own house to worry about. Judgment is simply not productive, and the only way to coexist peacefully is with imagination, empathy, encouragement, and compassion. 

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