The Whitney Museum chooses silence in an effort to displace, downplay, and negate valid public outrage regarding their policies, ethics and leadership. By Jamara Wakefield May 17th marked the start of the 79th Whitney Biennial. The Biennial is a contemporary art exhibition, featuring typically young and lesser-known artists, at the Whitney Museum of American Art […]
The Problem With Huffington Post’s Fat Shaming Article
Recently, my Editor shared with me the Huffington Post article: The Fat and Fabulous Farce. If the author’s titling didn’t tip you off enough, there’s nothing body positive about the piece, which is indeed written from the perspective of a fat bodied womyn. Surprisingly (or not), the author spends the majority of the time essentially calling out all her fellow fatties in a way that mirrors the same stereotypes, marginalization, and downright Fat Phobia of society. While it may be received more disappointingly to some to come from a fat womyn herself, it was made evident to me upon further dissection, that the author had already internalized society’s Fat Phobia so deeply that she was claiming it as her own. And I don’t say this from some pedestal perspective, I say it from a very personal, in-the-trenches, knowing from having lived there the majority of my life myself. In order to better digest all that didn’t sit well with me throughout the reading of this article, I have formulated the subsequent framework of sorts to address the author, exploring point-by-point where I think she could expand upon her own lens and personal experience.
“If there are opportunities in life that I have missed based on some nefarious, behind-the-scenes fat bias, I am happy to miss them. There are plenty of others in spaces and places where I’d likely better belong if my dress size counts me out.”
There are so many things this sentence elicits – and the first I feel is sadness. I would never want to miss life opportunities based upon someone else’s Fat Phobia – and yet I know so many fat bodied people experience this daily. I also wouldn’t call “fat bias,” or again as I call it, Fat Phobia, at all nefarious or behind-the-scenes, although it can often be as covert as a classroom not having size inclusive desks or a doctor’s office not having a large size blood pressure cuff. Following the author’s equation would mean that one should be “happy” (yes, these quotation marks are well-intention to questions the author’s definition of true happiness) to not get an education or participate in the healthcare system on any level. Does this mean that fat bodied people should just choose other places they “belong?” Where is this place of belonging experienced in a society so deeply entrenched in Fat Phobic behaviors, thoughts, and biases that it infiltrates even the closest knit of intimate relationships?
“The spotlight is often placed on the same people of size who inadvertently helped plug the spotlight in. They spend as much time taking a stand for “fat acceptance” as their healthier counterparts do in the gym. The subject continues to abound with every support group, blog, article and reality show lauding “fat and fabulousness”; magazines with near-naked women flaunting their curves as a big “F-YOU” to their purported haters. Those women are all beautiful, but isn’t the energy wasted? Who is the target audience? Why does anyone care?”
The spotlight is often placed on the same people of size who inadvertently helped plugged the spotlight in. Yes, please take a moment to read this sentence again – and as many times as you may need to, however, no matter how many times you may read it like I did, you will come to find it actually makes no sense. Firstly the “people of size” the author is noting, did not inadvertently do anything. They are calling attention to this matter intentionally. Just in case anyone is wondering inadvertently means “without intention,” and I’m fairly certain that every single support group, blog, and article are doing so with very clear intentions – even the entities of reality tv and magazine ads, while having the intention to capitalize on body positivity, are real components and shaping forces of today’s cultural climate in America (and subsequently worldwide).
Isn’t the energy wasted? As a deeply passionate writer, activist, Intersectional Feminist, and Somatic Psychotherapist, I would have to say that I sincerely hope not. And beyond hope, I have seen the proof from the work our Wear Your Voice team has created and the passion shared in those receiving it and having very healing and validating experiences by having their experiences actually reflected in tangible and accessible form. Who is the target audience? EVERY SINGLE MARGINALIZED HUMYN, who has ever felt isolated from greater society just because of the way they look, or for any detectable difference. Why does anyone care? I can tell you very honestly why I care so deeply: because I am deeply committed to creating a more loving, connected, and sustainable world for my children and the future generations carrying on the torch. Because no one deserves to be marginalized and stereotyped – and everyone deserves to love and be loved and to live free from oppression.
“There are some average-weighters who have concerns that may be worth a listen. A lady in coach may find the duration of a flight challenging when my thigh spread creeps over to her side of the seating. A fellow employee may be concerned when your fifth trip to the cardiologist drives his healthcare premiums up. These seem like valid concerns. Plus-sized folks are conditioned to avoid these topics, and any conversation related to their own wellness.”
That lady in coach has every right to ask to change her seat if she needs to, just like the author has the right to feel comfortable in her seat, just like fat bodies have the right to feel marginalized by the small size of airline seating in general. Now the discussion about the fellow employee is gross stereotyping in my opinion – it almost feels like when the bullied child in the playground starts to side with their bullies to avoid any harm. I mean the author disproves her very next sentence that fat people are conditioned to avoid these topics – quite the contrary, we are conditioned to have to discuss them and defend our wellness with anyone from our moms to our mail carriers at any moment every day. Apparently, from what I’m also witnessing in this author’s article, some fat people have been conditioned to side with the Fat Phobic misjudgments of society – and I have no doubt that it serves as a wonderful defense mechanism, and armoring strategy to survive the reality of the world we live in every day so I honestly hold no judgement about the author or her personal experience (my intention is to state my own opinions on and interpretations of the matter).
Not everyone who is fat suffers from diabetes, heart and blood pressure problems. I don’t. But I will without a change. A high BMI indisputably causes medical melee on a body. In spite of what we hear repeatedly by naysayers, if you are obese, you are not healthy.
I need not re-iterate the many ways myself and many medical researchers and scholars have already disproved the concept of BMI’s being universal as well as the term “obese” being completely inaccurate to describe larger bodies as it automatically links fat and food. Please check out my article “The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Fat Phobia,” to learn more.
“Most of us in the fat-body club are here because we choose to be here. We don’t make good food choices; we don’t move our bodies the way we could. The majority of us make excuses to the tune of: “I have tried every diet… They don’t work!” and “I have a thyroid problem.”
- We cannot choose our genetic predispositions, our actual DNA.
- We cannot choose the fact that evolutionarily speaking ALL BODIES ARE NOT supposed to look the same.
- Not making good food choices and making ableist assumptions about all bodies are gross generalizations. And it’s surely a proven fact by now that “diets” don’t actually work (although just, generally speaking, lifestyle changes do).
“A person who educates himself in the science of nutrition, who eats whole (unprocessed, unrefined) foods consistently and proportionately, with regular cardio/fat-burning exercise, is not likely going to be or remain fat. It is conceptually that simple. I know all of this. I know what I’m supposed to be doing. I am not currently doing it. I chose this for now, so this is where I am.”
- A person who can afford said whole foods is already quite privileged in the schema of today’s economy.
- THIS EQUATION JUST ISN’T TRUE – and this type of ignorance truly isn’t that simple.
- Again, I feel deep compassion here that this author is calling herself out in a way here. I deeply know there are whole systems of oppression at play here working against her – it’s not that she’s just not doing the work. There’s an entire emotional landscape behind that experience – at least from a therapeutic framework.
“Fat-shaming” is a media trend on an annoying upswing, fueled by fat people who keep it alive like a stoked fire. This is not a crusade in which we should want to be included. We’re losing the points we’re trying to nail down under the guise of self-love and acceptance. The world can’t give that to us. We take that for our ourselves. When we do, the right ones will follow along.
Fat shaming is the original “Fat and Fabulous Farce” article to begin with. It is one fat white womyn trying to project all of her feelings, internal and externalizations onto an entire audience of readers, and a group of people as a whole. In turn, she is reinforcing many of the negative stereotypes that society has already placed upon fat bodies to begin with. I think this author’s article hinders any the of self-love and acceptance, whereas the majority of the body positive articles at Wear Your Voice are under no guise at all – just pure authenticity. It’s what we pride our publication on – it’s what fuels our entire team – of all sizes, shapes, and colors, to action. By creating media that reflects everyone in society, we are taking that for ourselves, but we are taking it for society at large too. We are taking it for all the little fat girls too scared to take it for themselves, who have turned into traumatized womyn too silenced to speak. We are all the world – we all need to contribute to it in order to effect change – but the author had something so very right: the right ones always follow along, in fact, we like to think of them as joining our mission, co-creating in it, and being inspired to created their own.
Last thought: I just realized I completed this entire article without ever address the term “FABULOUS” in connection with the word “FAT.” I wondered why for a second and then realized it’s an association I personally hate – it reminds me of having that term thrown on me just because of my body size. Fabulousness is nothing I’ve ever necessarily claimed or even thought too much on, even though I do certainly advocate for the rights of fat people. I do claim many other qualities and am leery of words that feel tokenizing to me. I’m loving, caring, compassionate, and kind to myself and others – and it is in that spirit and the art of processing that this article was written. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.