Fat Shaming is Real and We've Got to Stop it

By Gina Torres

Nicole Arbour’s unfortunate and unfunny viral video Dear Fat People has angered the Gods of the Interwebs. In the video she makes fun of overweight people. She taunts them, convinced that she is immune to repercussions. After all they can’t catch her...right? Sigh. I am certain the dragging she has endured on social media wasn’t worth it.

Throughout the video she claims her intention is altruistic. In fact in her mind it is supposed to be a PSA of sorts, a bullying, petty, nasty PSA that apparently doesn’t do what PSA’s do. That would be to inform and affect change. Of course she excuses fat people with medical issues from her tirade. But a pox on the other 99.9% of the swollen lazy masses.

Lucky for us, she apparently loves singing Black church ladies. Because singing Black ladies are sassy, spiritual, magical negress mammies. Arbour did wonder at the correlation between calorie consumption and Black lady singing ability. Really? She even mentioned that her “pretty, blonde (from a bottle), thin” status qualifies her as a minority. You know because she is always targeted by TSA to get felt up at the airport. She is Black like us. Are you feeling the connection?

The absolute arrogance is reminiscent of Jen “Caron” Polachek. She was the self-described “skinny white girl” blogger that projected all of her insecurities onto a “fat” African-American newbie yoga student. This was in the form of the assumption that the unsuspecting lady was jealous of her thin white girlness. These ladies have the freedom to be disconnected from those unlike them. They are choking on the haze of imaginary persecution from those they think covet their status. By extension, these women act is if it is their right, nay obligation, to give social commentary on what they do not comprehend.

Arbour goes on to state fat shaming isn’t really “a thing.” It was created by the corpulent masses. She called it the race card minus the race part. Shaming seems like the latest overused buzzword. To be clear, shaming is a time honored albeit ineffective way to make someone change a behavior. Whether it is shaming a small child for having a potty training accident or Grandma for refusing to give up smoking Kools or anyone for having that plate of wings, attacking self-worth usually has the exact opposite effect as results from a University College London study shows. In fact berating someone says more about the person who is spewing the negative commentary than the victim.

In this case Arbour most certainly assumes a lot. She didn’t truly take into consideration the multilayered reasons for obesity. There are a host of illnesses that can add unexpected weight: polycystic ovary syndrome, fibroids, diabetes, injury and hypothyroidism for example. Then there are medicines like steroids and antidepressants that can pack on the pounds. Combine that with preservative-, salt-, and sugar-packed convenience foods, the average American diet in general, a sedentary lifestyle of lots of computer work and high commute times. Of course there are things that most individuals can control. The point is that there are many factors involved in weight. You cannot look at an individual and know their personal health struggles. Nor should you try to.

Thin doesn’t equal pretty or healthy. There are thin people who proudly proclaim their vegan status but live on french fries and candy. Overweight doesn’t equal ugly or unhealthy. Some of the voluptuous models in magazines like King would be considered overweight in some circles.

Nicole Arbour’s video is just a symptom of a society comfortable with bullying certain segments of society. Is obesity a real concern in western society? Absolutely. But shaming, insulting and bullying is not the way to address the problem. Addressing the problem involves making a concerted effort to require companies to stop filling food with chemicals, salt, and sugar. And to educate people from birth to make wise food choices. Most of all, fat shamers should stop making assumptions.

Photo: D Dipasupil/Getty Images

Gina Torres is a regular contributor to For Harriet. Gina’s short story, “The ‘What If?’ Game” appears in The Dating Game: Short stories about the Search for Mr. Right, nominated for an African American Literary Award. Follow her on Twitter @geeshouse.

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