Fat Shaming: Could we just not?

When I was in high school, I remember lying on the couch on my side. I was lighter than I am now, but not skinny by any stretch of the imagination. My mother came over to me, put her hand on my stomach, and grimly intoned three words that would stick in my brain for years to come.

“You look pregnant.”

That comment, along with a litany of others, rings in my head at my most vulnerable moments. When I’m standing in a store dressing room. When I’m deciding what to wear for the day. When I catch a glimpse of myself naked in a mirror. I am always hearing the voice of my mother in that moment. But I’m also hearing other people. I’m hearing my friends as well as strangers and the comments they make about women they see on the street.

“What business does she have wearing that?”

“Look at those thighs! They’re huge!”

“Why is she eating that? Isn’t she fat enough?”

“What a fat slob.”

Those voices and comments have stuck in my head to the point where they even make my efforts to lose weight difficult. When I go to the gym, for example, I feel the weight of the eyes of everyone around me. I have failed to go to the gym so many times for that reason. And I have one one occasion actually left the gym in the middle of workouts, near crying, because of the imagined gaze of fellow gym-goers.

The judgment that we aim at fat bodies is something we do so easily. It’s effortless. And it doesn’t get noticed by most people. It certainly doesn’t get called out most of the time. And while we are criticizing fat people as a society, we are making judgments about them, their lifestyles, and their bodies that we have no right whatsoever to make. Whether someone is fat because they eat a lot or fat because they have a medical condition, the bottom line is that it’s none of our business one way or the other. And judging them for their bodies is discriminatory and shitty.

The fact of the matter is that you can be an active person without being razor thin. You can also be thin and grossly unhealthy. Fatness and fitness are not mutually exclusive things. Just like thinness and health are not always concurrent bodily states.

I have been making an active effort in my life to criticize the people around me less. And not just when it comes to their size. The fact of the matter is that criticism and negativity have been truly damaging to me with regard to my body as well as to my sense of self in more ways than one. I encourage all of you to do the same. Fat shaming and other forms of unasked-for criticism don’t help anyone, but they do cause wholly unnecessary pain.


Featured image found here.

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10 thoughts on “Fat Shaming: Could we just not?

  1. I am an avid hiker and backpacker who also happens to be quite round. I feel the eyes. Sometimes it energizes me defiantly, other times it shuts me down. Usually, I can forgive them for their snap judgments and remind myself that I am so much stronger- I am heavier and less athletic than them- yet look at me accomplishing the same hard, sweaty, thigh burning, climbing-up-the-mountain shit they are doing. Great essay!

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  2. I can’t recall the name of a teen movie o saw recently (yes, I watch anything that plays on the tele when I get a chance) and one of the supporting actress called herself Fat Amy when she joined an all skinny girls choir group. She reasoned, if she didn’t call herself that the girls would have behind her back. Sometimes confidence can overcome all our shortfalls. I truly understand how you feel. I too have such problems. Being hairy and not removing the facial or body hair is not something you’d see on magazines.

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  3. I live in a too-large body, but I have stopped trying to be someone I am clearly unable to be. Chances are that most people are too busy looking at themselves (especially at the gym) to notice you. Stop letting these people get in your way!!

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  4. This is a great post. I love the idea of making a conscious effort to criticize others less. I also think that along with that, it’s important to try to be less critical of ourselves.

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  5. You hit the nail on your head with the last paragraph. We are all far too mean to each other and it needs to stop.

    I hope you don’t mind me saying either, but I find too many mothers criticising their daughter’s weight. I know sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind, but it should be a last resort when it comes to a relationship as special as that.

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  6. Yes to all of this. I was watching an episode of the Brain on PBS last night and one of the topics regarded how we slip from being kind to unkind, largely from propaganda — what we hear about others and how we accept it as truth, especially when it is about people who are unlike ourselves. This is how the Nazis slaughtered the Jews without much protest from non-Jews. What we hear in the media and in our families colors how we perceive others. The way out of this is to refuse to allow propaganda to dehumanize others. I think your post is the kind of information we need to absorb and echo.

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