Fat shaming is a concerning phenomenon that has become disturbingly popular. In general it is the shaming of people that are overweight. It is typically targeted at women, but it can occur to men as well. I know from personal experience the feeling of being shamed for being overweight. It has happened to me on multiple occasions. I am speaking out because it needs to stop! Fat shaming is cruel and can lead to depression and even in some cases suicide. It has become a joke to some people, but I guarantee you it is not funny to the people being targeted. I have observed fat shaming in two unique settings, both are equally detrimental.
1. Fat shaming often occurs in public spaces. The overweight person can be eating, exercising, or just going about their business. A person may approach the overweight person to inform them that they are fat and need to get thinner. This can be done in a mocking/attacking way, or the person may fake some kind of concern for their health. It is completely unsolicited and cruel.
2. Much of the fat shaming I see occurs online. I have several successful blogger friends that write wonderful pieces about life, parenting, politics and everything else under the sun. They have many readers and receive tons of positive feedback. These individuals have shared with me some of the horrid comments that people send them. These readers veiled behind internet anonymity verbally harass these women for being what they judged as overweight. They discount everything that the writer says simply because she is not the weight they feel is proper or beautiful. They reduce her entire identity to inches and pounds. I have also seen news anchors and actresses who receive similar emails from people who feel very strongly that their weight makes them unfit to be public figures in any capacity.
I remember one time in particular I was at the gym. I was working out hard on the elliptical. It had been a challenging workout physically and mentally. I had to keep changing the playlist on my ipod to keep motivated. My muscles burned and I was hot and breathless, but I kept running. When I hit my goal of 60 minutes I was excited and proud. I got off the machine and started to wipe it down, and then a woman came up to me. She was older, maybe in her 60’s but fit and trim. She wore cute tight fitting matching workout clothes, with a pink shirt and black yoga pants, and pink accented Nike shoes. She looked perfectly put together, no hair out of place and the make-up was precise. I on the other hand was wearing an over sized bleach stained black t-shirt with an old pair of sweat pants. I was covered in sweat, red as a tomato, and still panting from my workout. The women started talking to me like she knew me, and at first I thought she did. She said “You know that being overweight like you are is really bad for your joints and your heart. Your body really can’t take that much weight. You really need to lose weight”. She sounded so condescending and self-righteous. My adrenaline was still pumped up from the workout, so I fought back to the urge to slap her smug perfectly polished face, and instead engaged her in meaningful dialogue. I said “yeah I am aware of the negative ramifications on my health from being overweight, thus the reason I am at the gym, but it’s really none of your business. The fact that you’re commenting on my weight is really rude and inappropriate, you don’t know me! Obviously you’re suffering from some kind of serious self-confidence issue, and just because you don’t like what you see in the mirror, does not mean you need to tear me down. You could not tear me down even if you wanted to, but please don’t talk to me again, I don’t have time for your insecurities”. The women looked at me shocked, her mouth was hanging half open and she started to tear up. She said “you didn’t have to be rude I was just trying to help”, and I responded “No, YOU did not have so be so rude. You are a bully and I do not tolerate bullies!” I walked away to finish my workout as if nothing happened. I never saw the women at the gym again.
These fat shames are so uncomfortable looking at themselves in the mirror that they feel the overwhelming need to attack other people. This is especially true when they see overweight people that dare to be happy, confident, and shine with beauty inside and out. These curvy happy people completely destroy the shamer’s idea of what is beautiful. The shamers typically hold themselves to some extreme image of beauty that was probably imposed on them by someone else. They work hard trying to achieve this unrealistic model of beauty, which causes them resentment and frustration. When they see someone else who seems to be happy just as they are, they strike out trying to defend and protect the image of beauty that they have been working so hard to achieve. Curvy successful beautiful women are threatening to the fat shamer. It is as if they are saying “how dare you stand up in front of everyone and be so confident even though you are overweight! “. The men that participate in fat shaming are also striking out because these beautiful confident curvy women threaten the very power these men believe they hold and deserve. The power to decide what defines a beautiful woman. These chauvinists are angered and infuriated when they see a woman that is happy being fat and is not working to change their appearances to fit these men’s purely sexualized view of what a women should look like.
I know I am Fat! Yes I said that scary three letter word, which I have always avoided. I usually stick to terms like curvy, or thick, and maybe even the comical fluffy. The reality is I AM FAT! I am taking that power back! That term does not control me. I am Ok with being fat, for right now anyway. I am working on getting healthy. I want to be healthy. I want to fit into cute clothes like anyone else. But, I don’t have to explain this to anyone. Being overweight does not make less of a human being, or give someone the right to be rude. Being overweight does not detract from my other qualities. I can be beautiful and fat! I can be intelligent and fat! I can be caring and fat! I can even be sexy and FAT! I am fat, but fat does not define who I am! So to all those fat shamers out there, get over yourself! Your idea of beauty is not the only one that exists! For all those that are attacked, my advice is to just keep being the beauty that you are. You are obviously doing something right to arouse so much emotion in people. Keep breaking barriers, re-defining beauty, and doing what makes you happy! I am fat, I am confident, and I am proud! No one can bring me down!