New Posts / Social Issues

Fat shaming doesn’t work and nor does it need to

16-Sean-O'Brien-AP

The F word has been in the news a lot again and recently someone told me that maybe fat shaming someone might be a good way to help them lose weight. And this isn’t the first time I’d heard this either. In a culture that often confuses expressing opinion with bulling, I think this is a bias that is well over its expiry date. This idea that people need to be ‘fixed’ through shaming is just cruel.

By now most people will have heard about Sean O’Brien the Dancing Man. A British man who was photographed in a night club dancing by some anonymous bullies who shared the photo on 4Chan with these cruel words “Spotted this specimen trying to dance the other week. He stopped when he saw us laughing”. These pictures where shared widely throughout the internet before a group of women in LA arranged to fly him out for a party held in his honour. What is great about Sean is his ability to see the good in everything, throughout this campaign he’s been so determined to only talk about the positive and focus on anti-bullying.

Super model Tess Halliday is another shining example of someone shaking off bullies and not letting fat shamers win. You only need to take a look at her Instagram feed to see the sorts of abuse she gets online daily. Notice how I didn’t use the phrase ‘plus-size’ before super model, I’ll be honest I typed it but then realised that a supermodel is a supermodel and why use a phrase that categorises her differently from Cara Delavigne et al? As Tess says “Everyone has their vices but mine are visible. Life is shitty, so why would you judge somebody for dealing with it in the best way they can?” She is someone who exercises for her health and understands her size but isn’t going to be ashamed about her body and stop it from people seeing her as a whole person.

But let’s be honest you have to wade through a lot of cruelness and vulgarity across many different online platforms before you get to these two amazing stories. On Loose Women over the last month during a discussion about high street stores catering to bigger sizes, Jamelia stated that “I do not think it’s right to facilitate people living an unhealthy lifestyle.” This comment hit the headlines and created some criticism but her comments didn’t surprise me. This is a sentiment I’ve heard people say before. The idea that being overweight means that you shouldn’t be able to enjoy or participate in fashion is absurd. That the embarrassment of having to wear things that make you feel uncomfortable will shame you into losing weight. It just isn’t true. And if we’re talking about health here, this seems like an extremely unhealthy attitude to take. Damaging people to try and make them fit your ideal just doesn’t make any sense to me.

Whilst the internet has given us a new platform to educate ourselves and communicate with each other it’s also given us a whole new platform to bully on. The phrase fat shaming has only been coined recently. But let’s be honest fat shaming isn’t new, it’s been going on in school playgrounds and on the streets for a long time. But now we have a phrase for the special type of bullying that applies to people’s weight. Often in the UK people talk about the strain on the NHS. That people wilfully want to have health problems because of their laziness. I have never met anyone who wants to be unhealthily overweight, in the same way that I’ve never met anyone who fraudulently claims benefits. But this narrative continues to circulate in the media when if it is true then only of a tiny proportion of people. People want to be healthy and feel good. You have to accept that some people feel healthy at a bigger size than you.

Soon the documentary FATITIUDE will be released. This film examines how deep our prejudices towards bigger people are. From the roles in films to representation in public life. I urge everyone to watch it to understand this issues in greater detail because this isn’t just about being healthy or unhealthy. Fat shaming is a much deeper issues than calling someone names in the hope that they become thinner. I think they make some pretty good points.

Here is the Fatitiude trailer

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