Stop trying to justify fat shaming
My name is Laura Shortridge, and I used to advocate fat shaming.
It was a trip to America that first made me believe that fat shaming was justified.
You’d think, as a less-than-stick-like child myself, that I wouldn't become part of the problem that caused me to agonize over the shape of my bum and the fact that my thighs would touch before I was even old enough to understand what sexual attraction was really all about, but there you are.
Obesity is a problem in America. It’s hard to miss.
What was the cause of this problem? The fact that it’s cheaper and easier by far to eat fast food there than it is to eat healthily at home? The over abundance of processed foods?
13 year old me in all my 13 year old wisdom decided that no, it was the tendency to accept fat as OK.
In a world where a politician’s decision to wear a dress not deemed “appropriate” to her size caused The Internet to have a self-righteous fit, where thigh gap is Photoshopped (badly) onto everything from plus sized jeans to teenage models, where Jennifer Lawrence is considered a “fat” actress, there are those who think obesity exists because the world is too OK with fat people.
And obesity is unhealthy, we all know this, so that gives us a reason to fat shame? Right? Because we need to remind the world that it’s not OK to be fat so that everyone stops doing it and then everyone will be thin and healthy? Right?
Um. Wrong. Thirteen year old me was an idiot.
First of all, fat is not the same thing as unhealthy and thin is not the same thing as healthy.
This is something that should be obvious, considering the fact that there are such things as thin people who die young and fat people who live to a ripe old age, but somewhere along the line I seemed to have joined the ranks who incorrectly believe, at least subconsciously, that thinner = healthier.
Of course, this belief takes a knock when you meet enough people who prove you wrong.
I know women who are stronger than me, have more stamina than I do, exercise more than I even can, and yet who are larger than me. They’re healthier than I am, but they’re also bigger. It’s just how they are.
In the same breath, I think we all know people, especially women, who have taken unhealthy measures to stay or become thin.
From crash diets and slimming pills to bulimia and surgery, the quest to become thin often disregards health concerns completely. Hells, if you’re determined enough, it can even cause permanent damage to your health.
Health is complicated. Chances are, many who fat shame in the name of “health” aren’t that healthy themselves. I would even go as far as to suggest that many are less healthy that some of the people they shame.
Do not tell me the steroid-popping iron-pumping dudebro who hates “fatties”, or the chain-smoking elitist model who’s cut entire food groups out of her diet are shining examples of health.
Second, fat shaming isn’t going to help anyone change their lifestyle in a positive way.
Fat people know they’re fat. They really don’t need you to point it out. They have mirrors. Telling them they’re fat isn’t telling them anything they don’t know. It’s not like they’re walking around oblivious to their own damn size.
They also know that other people have nasty opinions about them. They’re acutely aware of it. They know what size the world expects them to be and they know they’re not that size, and it can affect every damn area of their life.
What they don’t need is some idiot who never has to think about his or her weight coming along and mentioning it again as if it’s somehow News.
If losing weight was as easy as wanting to lose weight, people wouldn’t struggle with it. Telling someone they’re fat, or making a nasty comment about it, is not going to help someone with that struggle.
What it can do is send someone on a downward spiral, resulting in bulimia, anorexia, suicide or similar less-than-healthy reactions to constant bullying and fat shaming.
In fact, studies have shown it can even lead to weight gain.
Third, fat shaming in the name of “health” really is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to excuse being an asshole.
Do you regale random people with a lecture on the dangers of alcohol every time you see someone has more than two drinks? Are you one to wave your finger at anyone who doesn’t choose abstinence, technically the safest approach to sex?
Do you walk up to people who are sitting at their desks in office jobs and let them know how disgusted you are at them for their unhealthy lifestyle choice?
If yes... well then I’m sorry for those around you.
If no, why not? Surely these people are unhealthy and it’s up to you to shame them into being healthy?
I’ll tell you why not. Because it would make you an insufferable busybody butting your nose in constantly where it’s not needed or wanted.
Because the choices of others, especially strangers, are none of your damn business.
Because you can’t actually possibly know whether or not they’re really unhealthy or you’re just making that rash judgement based on your own limited knowledge.
So here’s a thought: Stop trying to defend fat shaming by claiming it has anything to do with health. That’s 13 year-old logic, and if you’re using 13 year-old logic, you should consider attending to your mind before voicing an opinion on someone else’s body.
Follow Laura on Twitter or visit her blog.
Follow Women24 on Twitter and like us on Facebook.