Recently, Playboy model Dani Mathers took and posted a nonconsensual photo of a naked woman changing in a gym locker room on her Snapchat in order to fatshame her. She wrote, “If I can’t unsee this, then you can’t either.”
Fatphobia is violence. Fat folks, but specifically fat women and femmes (those who do not identify with femininity in their gender expansiveness and are policed for it), are shamed, assaulted, preyed upon, spied on, sexually exploited, interrogated and denied humanity in structural and interpersonal ways. The ways in which strangers and those close to us — often folks who are thin and have acceptable body types — shame us includes taking pictures/videos of us without consent to ridicule and mock our bodies. The perpetrators of this violence are not exclusive to certain types of people; all non-fat folks participate in and benefit from fatphobia.
The woman who was minding her business while she is changing in a locker room at the gym was sexually harassed and assaulted. Dani Mathers is a sexual predator. If anyone who was not a thin, white, able bodied, socially/sexually acceptable cisgender straight woman was caught in an act of sexual voyeurism in which they were filming people in a locker room while they were exposed, we wouldn’t have as hard of a time questioning if this was sexual violence. And in many ways, this everyday sexual violence is protected within the culture we live in.
This particular situation reveals the deep-rooted reality that many fatphobic people operate as sexual predators. The interrogation around fat bodies, particularly fat bodies of color, is often to understand how we navigate the world, how we have sex, how we are loved or ever valued, how we access joy, how we are ever comfortable enough to exist. Watching, recording, and degrading someone while they’re naked because you think they’re ugly and unworthy of privacy and humanity is disgusting. But it’s also common as fuck to see fat bodies — and all beauty-deviant bodies — as public property.
We live in a world where rape culture, body terrorism, beauty standard hierarchies, and white supremacist patriarchy operate together to destroy consent and humanity to deviant bodies in any capacity. These sociopolitical contexts shape an environment in which deviancy in beauty and humanity — bodies of color, fat bodies, disabled bodies, dark skin bodies, gender nonconforming bodies, trans bodies, etc. — allows for the violent mindset that those bodies should be publicly and privately mocked, interrogated to the point of physical assault, stared at and investigated and sexually assaulted because they’re not seen as human. If we are not fitting within society’s beauty and humanity standards, we don’t count as people, we are pieces of property in white supremacist patriarchy. Robbing us of privacy and safety is never seen as an offense. Sexually harassing us in a locker room is not a big deal because being fat is really the ultimate crime.
Mathers deserves to be punished and listed as a sex offender. But also, we need to push for consent culture and an end to body shaming to construct a world in which challenges Dani’s protection and comfort in committing sexual violence. Even Dani’s commentary, “If I can’t unsee this, then you can’t either,” speaks volumes to the fact that fat-shaming is a community sport. It is the knowing that other people feel uncomfortable and disgusted by fat bodies as much as you do that makes the world feel empowered to shame and commiserate through oppressive behavior. This issue doesn’t begin with and end with Mathers. The violence of fatphobia and body policing is deeply rooted within our society’s core and it is long overdue that we put an end to it.