Fat stigma is so passé

I’m pretty aware that there’s been a lack of Serious Content on this blog for a while. The month long (or more) hiatuses punctuated by the odd outfit post have not been intentional. I haven’t run out of opinions and the world certainly hasn’t run out of fat stigma. I just get so bored of it, you know?

Today I read an opinion piece by satirist/writer/radio host Dominic Knight talking about fatness and happiness and how it doesn’t matter how happy we are because we’re too fat… or something. I started picking it apart and refuting his arguments before thinking to myself, “HOLY CRAP, THIS IS SO BORING.”

The same dull statements about how fat Australia is. The same tired old fat jokes (sumo wrestlers! LOL!). The same predictable conclusions about eating well and exercising more.

AnnaNicole

I’m at the point now where I don’t really get angry when I see yet another anti-fat article. I’ve been in fat activism for so long, and have so many friends with rad body positive attitudes, that the only reaction I’m capable of is “Really…? Are we still talking about calories in/calories out like no one’s ever thought of it before?! REALLY?!”

It bores me. But since the same arguments keep coming up, I guess the same rebuttals need to be made. Second verse same as the first…

BUSTED: SUPER ULTRA MEGA BORING OBESITY CLICHES

I’m positive that this list is not exhaustive. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Australia/New Zealand/America/UK/[insert developed, English-speaking nation here] is the fattest nation in the world.
Nope. When a country is breathlessly declared by journalists as being THE FATTEST NATION IN THE WORLDDDDDD, what they actually mean is “The fattest nation out of a list of approximately 30 nations that make up the wealthiest countries in the world”.

According to this 2010 list (with data sourced from the International Obesity Taskforce), USA is 18th, Scotland is 32nd, New Zealand is 35th, England is 38th and Australia is 47th. So there.

But HEALTH!!!!!!!!!
1) Health is determined by a set of behaviours, not a set of body shapes. Moving regularly, eating well, getting enough sleep, not smoking, drinking in moderation, maintaining a work/life balance… they improve health outcomes for people of all sizes. And here’s the rub: You don’t know a person’s healthy, or unhealthy, behaviours just by looking at them.

2) Health is a privilege. People who treat eating well and exercising regularly as things that are easily achieved are putting their ableism on blast. Those behaviours aren’t possible, or are only possible to a certain extent, for some people with physical, mental and/or psychological disabilities.

3) Fat stigma is more pervasive than you think. It’s pretty challenging for a fat person to go to a gym when they know that judgemental eyes will be watching their every move. It’s intimidating for a fat person to go for a run when they’ve had insults, or even rubbish, thrown at them from passing cars. (If you can’t imagine such things ever happening to anyone, that’s your thin privilege in action.)

4) Diets don’t work long term and may cause more harm than good.

5) People are able to prioritise health for themselves. That means they can choose to not prioritise it. That means they can be the Bad Kind of Fatty. And if someone chooses that lifestyle for themselves, they still deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

There’s overweight, and then there’s obese
OR I’m talking about people who are fat because of their lifestyle

No, you don’t get to be a jerk to anyone. There is no level of fatness, or pathway to fatness, that justifies arseholish behaviour.

No one enjoys being fat
First of all, if people don’t enjoy being fat, I’d wager that a good deal of that is due to the stigma they experience and the stigma they have internalised. For most people, having a fat body is not a barrier to anything.

Second of all, there is a great number of us who are happy with our bodies, thank you very much, and do not take kindly to people making gross assumptions about our happiness.

There were no fat people in concentration camps.
This argument is beyond vulgar and yet it is trotted out all the time.

People in concentration camps were starved and tortured. Their suffering is not a motivational “See? You can do it too!”-style example of thinness.

“There were no fat people in concentration camps” is a longer way of announcing “I am a massive tool”.

Fat people are ugly.
No one’s forcing you to enter a marriage with a fat person; your long years of passionless misery broken only by gin-fuelled screaming matches, torrid affairs in dingy motel rooms, and enduring the spiteful tongues of your resentful children over the dinner table at their annual Christmas visit. We don’t want that life either.

Find someone you do find attractive and try to have sex with them. Fatties will do the same. Everyone wins.

[Insert fat joke here]
Making a joke at the expense of any socially and culturally stigmatised group of people is lazy comedy. Do better.

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28 Responses to “Fat stigma is so passé”


  1. 1 ellymc 31 May, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    All kinds of yes!
    But why you pick on lovely gin?

  2. 3 cynnthiapickles 31 May, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    This is EXACTLY how I feel. It’s like they’re still on the Ice Age or something. It’s like they’re saying the Earth is flat.

  3. 5 Shelly 31 May, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    Oh my God, do people actually say “there were no fat people in concentration camps” in an argument? That is despicable.

    • 6 Frances 31 May, 2012 at 6:38 pm

      Yep, surprisingly often. It’s offered up as ‘proof’ that dieting works or something.

    • 7 lilacsigil 1 June, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      Yes, and it was said about Magda Szubanski whose father was a Polish resistance fighter who was sent to one (he escaped).

      • 8 Frances 1 June, 2012 at 2:15 pm

        That’s right. “You put her in a concentration camp and you watch the weight fall, like she could be skinny.”

        (For any non-Aussies reading, Magda Szubanski is a comedian and the above was said by Kyle Sandilands, a particularly repellant radio host.)

  4. 9 M 31 May, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    Bravo. That’s the only response I can give you. :)

  5. 10 James 31 May, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    I don’t even get what Dominic is trying to say in that article? He even bothered to close with something along the lines of “I got nothing”. Good job there buddy. I also love the “I’m fat so I can…” line. I’m fat so I can what? Be a massive nutsack?

    • 11 Frances 31 May, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      I know, it was a really confused/confusing article. Like, the happiness survey is recent, so I get why that got a mention, but why equate it with fat? And then talk about ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’? And then talk about fatties having no willpower or something…? It was weird.

      “I’m fat so I can what? Be a massive nutsack?” – NAILED IT.

  6. 14 clarabee 31 May, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Oh my goodness, thank you. I’m at the point where, when a co-worker says something fatphobic in front of me, I’m just like “REALLY GUYS? IN FRONT OF THE FAT GIRL?”
    I’ve also made up some small “call-out cards” to give to people who say/do fatphobic shit, because I’m super bored of/tired of educating their ignorant butts.

  7. 16 Rachel George 1 June, 2012 at 2:53 am

    GREAT blogging thar. Have you noticed that recently there seems to be two measures emerging on “your ideal weight” generators? In the results, there’s a “long life” target and an “ideal” target. The “long life” target is a higher weight… example: http://web4health.info/en/answers/ed-dia-weight-ideal.htm

    • 17 Frances 1 June, 2012 at 9:17 am

      How strange! I wonder what they consider the difference between ‘Ideal weight’ and ‘Ideal weight, longest life’… unless ‘Ideal weight’ doesn’t actually have much to do with health?

  8. 18 Amelia 1 June, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Jeezlouize! I usually enjoy his articles and look forward to reading them, but that was definitely an exception. I couldn’t even muster the energy to form an opinion, let alone get offended, because it was so freakin’ boring. Your response however, is gold :)

  9. 20 fatfairy 1 June, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    For some reason, all fat men are named John? WTF?! John has been the most common man’s name in the English-speaking world for centuries. There are a lot of men of all descriptions named John. Has this Knight fellow only recently arrived on this planet?

    • 21 Frances 1 June, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      That sentence – “They’re generally called John, for some reason, and bring joy to millions before, in many cases, dying a premature death” – annoyed me too. Mainly because, of his three examples of fat funny Johns:
      – John Candy died of a heart attack (which supports his argument)
      – John Belushi died of a drug overdose (which doesn’t support his argument)
      – John Goodman IS ALIVE

      Dom Knight is usually fun to read; I just think he was clutching at straws in this aricle.

  10. 22 Rubyfruit 1 June, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    I agree with you on how boring and repetitive opinion pieces on fat are. The only time I ever read them is for the occasional spelling or grammatical error that reveals that it was, in fact, a human being who wrote the article as opposed to a robot somewhere that sources them all from five or so articles (and uses the same five or six stock photos of any or all of the following: Headless Fatties, Empty Playgrounds if it’s an article on fat children, “bad foods”, people in labcoats who may or may not be medical doctors).

  11. 23 amy 1 June, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    You guys made my day :) Thank you for being here and blogging about important things like this (even if we as a species should be over it by now!) – you have made one chubby girl much happier.

  12. 24 VickiR 7 June, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    So brilliant! Concise, witty and above all, factually correct, which will do doubt fall on deaf ears with the bigots because, hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good ole sesh of fatty-bashing.

    BTW, my favourite fat-phobic comment from a colleague, on learning that a colleague was pregnant rather than gaining weight, was: “[said in a tone of deep relief], oh, thank God, I didn’t think she’d let herself GET LIKE THAT”. I’m like, dude, can’t you see you’re talking to a fatty?

  13. 25 Cat 16 July, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Thank you for this blog. Like I cannot even tell you how much it meant to me reading it. It’s true when you say that health is a privilege. I live in San Luis Obispo, CA in the US. If you don’t know (not that you should living in Australia) but years ago Oprah declared San Luis Obispo the “Happiest Place in the USA”. The rub is, it’s the happiest place in the USA if you’re rich, skinny and look like Barbie. I moved here from Seattle for a job, and my employer is nice enough to pay for our gym memberships. So I took them up on their offer and have been going for months now. And it’s really hard. I’m not talking about the workouts either. It’s hard because most of the time when I am minding my own business on the elliptical machine listening to my tunes, inevitably a woman will walk in, give me a dirty look, look me up and down and then walk off with a horrid look on her face. To say it’s crushing to experience that is an understatement. Especially from another female. It’s also hard because you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. All of society shakes it’s finger at you if you’re overweight, but when you try and do something about it, you’re still being judged.

    Anyways… sorry to rant. But thanks for your article, it’s refreshing to have one’s feelings justified, and quasi-comforting to know that it’s just not happening to me.

  14. 27 eternalspring8 19 July, 2012 at 3:24 am

    All right Frances, I know that this comment will be “preaching to the choir” but I don’t have a blog dedicated to acceptance of larger body sizes, so I’m going to leave this comment here for possible trolls to read. I’m hoping that will be all right.

    To say “there were no fat people in concentration camps” is one of the most disgusting uses of hate speech which I can imagine.

    Firstly, this statement is beyond disrespectful to the groups of European Jewish people and their descendants. The Nazis were led by at least one megalomaniac and a group of demented, evil people who purposefully rounded up people who were considered undesirables. Not just Jews, but also homosexuals, gypsies, the mentally ill, resistance fighters, anyone with anti-Nazi sentiment, even people whose physical features might be deemed too dark for “Aryan” purity.

    In fact, it is quite possible that Kyle Sandilands himself might have been placed in such a camp because the inflammatory diarrhea that he can’t help from spewing might have been considered counterproductive to the Nazi regime.

    I digress.

    People placed in concentration camps were literally starving to death. Anyone will lose weight if they are not eating anything. If a human being was fortunate enough to survive one of those evil genocidal filth holes, rarely did they come out a model of sparkling health. In fact, many camp survivors experienced long-term physical health issues from starvation that took a long time to correct, and some survivors’ bodies bore (and still bear) physical scars from their time in the camps, internally and externally.

    http://www.livestrong.com/article/494138-explanation-of-bodys-reaction-to-rapid-weight-loss/

    If anyone questions the organ damage done to the body by anorexia, forced or intentional, there’s a “nice” beginner primer. I know that many who spew fat hate are some awfully sensitive people when you expose the glaring holes, not to mention the gross hatred of their “logic.” Don’t worry, reading the Live Strong article above won’t make you feel bad. *laughs derisively*

    Back to my point: everyone loses weight through absolute starvation. However, there’s that pesky organ damage again. I would like to know what the cost of organ damage done through starvation and dieting has been to the health care system, actually. Suppose we’re not going to hear about that any time soon, though.

    Given the above points, it seems that anyone cruel and disgusting enough to make that kind of comment or any hate comment directed towards those of larger body type are operating from two platforms:

    1) They think fat looks disgusting.
    2) Since the worst hate usually comes from people who are not fat — I said USUALLY — then they see fat people as an “other.” The Nazis saw Jewish people as an “other”, the Hutus saw the Tutsis as other, straight young males see transgendered people as other. Do you see where I am going with this?

    The solution to the fact that they do not want to look at someone or be near them is “starve yourself to death.” It does not come from a place of care at all. They are suggesting damage and possible suicide by denial of food. They don’t care if we murder ourselves or maim our bodies internally, irreparably, just as long as they don’t have to be confronted with an “other” they don’t like.

    Again, the word “fat” as a descriptive adjective is so vague, using it to describe a person is purely opinion in the first place. Many anorexic people think they are fat at 85 pounds. Some people who really enjoy larger bodies might not think someone looks very large until they are over 350 pounds.

    For such a vague, completely subjective quantifier, we — yes, our WHOLE global society — are allowing this one little 3 letter word and all the hate jokes associated with body mass ruin so much for so many people. Including the fat haters themselves… think about what that amount of hate does to their psyches. Many of them could probably easily murder one of us if it were legal, just so they would no longer have to look at us. This is not just a fat person’s problem. This is everyone’s problem.

    Fat stigma ought to be passe. Sadly, it’s not. One of the honest reasons I believe it is not is because many people have a need to hate an “other” in order to relieve the pain of their own insecurities and to redirect focus from their own shortcomings to perceived shortcomings of… the “other.” When racial and religious discrimination became unlawful in many Western nations, then people turned more to sexism, hatred of the mentally different and hatred of people with large bodies.
    Instead of being mature and dealing with their own internal conflicts, projecting their problems and self-hate outwards is something they do to “feel better.” They don’t care who it hurts or the detriment it has to society as a whole.

    Hopefully, people of all sizes will work together towards all body acceptance. 90 pounds or 900 pounds. If it’s not your body, you need to shut up and cope with your prejudice.


  1. 1 NotBlueAtAll » Blog Archive » Cool Stuff & Update Trackback on 8 June, 2012 at 5:19 am
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