Discrimination Guest Post

Guest Blog – The Invisible (Horrible, Lazy, Unattractive) Fat Person

Hello everyone! I am Alexa (I blog about weight, fitness & fat in the media at  The Curvy Nerd), and I am thrilled to be doing a guest post on All The Weigh!

When Kenlie asked me to write a guest post on one of my favorite topics — fat hate in society and the strong influence of media — I was honored and excited. Then I tried to write. Needless to say, this enormous, weighty (ha!) issue ballooned into a post of monstrous proportions. So, I shall preface the following by saying: I edited it down. A lot. I hope to expand on many of the topics I’ve merely touched on in future posts, and through discussion.

For many of you, especially if you’ve lived any portion of your life overweight, that society hates and discriminates against fat people may be horribly obvious and my statements redundant. However, I find that sometimes stating what seems blatantly obvious can set off light-bulbs for others, and yourself. It’s especially important to second-guess the media and how it portrays reality — is something so because the media reflects reality, or because it SHAPES how we perceive and create the world around us?

People like to associate a variety of negative words with "fat people." Most are not true. All of them are hurtful and cruel.

No one likes to talk about discrimination against fat people

We’re a progressive society, constantly making strides against disgusting and demoralizing practices such as racism and homophobia. Minority and underrepresented groups, including but certainly not limited to blacks, Hispanics, Asians and LGBTQ, are becoming increasingly (and rightfully) visible on TV, in film, in music, media and advertising.

Yet hatred continues to be spewed against fat people, in the most extreme incarnation (see: Internet comments). And, more subversively, poking fun at fat people (see: token fat character); making assertions about their bodies, eating, health and fitness habits (fatsplaining, “fat as a lifestyle choice”); and, simply, not including them AT ALL in media, rage in society and culture. Fat people are simultaneously invisible and derided for possessing a number of negative characteristics, thrust upon them by virtue of how they look on the outside.

Fat hate — so bad, we even hate ourselves

The hate that is lobbied against fat people is staggering, pervasive and subversive. It’s so omni-present in media and society that most people don’t notice it, or if they do, they explain it away. Like misogyny which is also so entrenched in society that women themselves don’t realize it most of the time, people tend to have a laundry list of excuses and reasons for why it’s “not that bad” or “you’re just whining” or “you’re too sensitive” when you call them out on fat hate. Fat hate is so pervasive, fat people hate fat people.

No, really. If you are now or have ever been fat, overweight, obese — whatever you want to call it — have a nice, honest think about your past interactions with other fat people. Do you see another fat person — usually one who is bigger than you are — and smugly think to yourself “well, I’d never let myself get that bad!” or “Ugh, they clearly don’t exercise or try to eat right. Put down the cheeseburger.” Or, the slightly more innocuous but just as damning “how did *she* get such a hot guy — she’s fatter than I am!”

Many of these Schadenfreude-esque thoughts are somewhat natural — everyone does it, to almost everyone else — but many people take it beyond the “fleeting, dark thoughts” territory. If a fat person speaks out about discrimination, you certainly do see other large people call that person out for being a whiner, or making waves. Fat people are just as likely to guilt and fat shame as thin people — they do it on The Biggest Loser!

It’s often the fat person who reinforces the fat = bad; thin = good trope, because all our lives, this is what we are taught. One of the best places for this in popular culture? Shows like The Biggest Loser do a lot of good, but next time you watch a season, look at the adjectives the contestants use at the beginning vs. the end, and the clips editors choose to use. I’m not saying obese people can’t be miserable, but the subtle language of weight loss makeover programs is beginning/fat = bad, bad, bad, MISERABLE, unhappy, alone, bad, bad, bad which slowly transitions to thin = I AM SO PRETTY AND HAPPY AND NOTHING IN MY LIFE COULD EVER BE BAD AGAIN.

This just isn’t true! It’s not that you can’t want to be thinner and healthier. But equating being thin with happiness is dangerous. You will have good and happy moments in your life when you are fat, and you will have good and happy moments in your life when you’re thin. Same can be said for misery and feeling rotten.

Why do we think this about ourselves and our lives?

We are taught through relentless skinny images & media messaging that fat = bad... and thin is never thin enough

Blame the media! (no, really, let’s blame the media)

This is because we are taught, through every minutiae of our interaction with each other, through media — TV, film, music, advertisements, magazines, newscasts, etc. — that fat is Ugly. Fat is Bad. Fat is Stupid. Fat is Lazy. Thin (and sexy) = GOOD, LOVELY, AWESOME, BETTER. Most of the time, fat people are invisible. We don’t see people like us in magazines (Plus Size models = size ten. SIZE TEN), or on TV, or in movies. There aren’t fat newscasters (even the friendly, rotund weather man Al Roker is now a Skinny Thing), fat book heroines are few and far between (though better than TV) and, generally, TV and film are a barren wasteland of fat people. We are sent a message every day by the absence of larger people in these positive, informative, fantasy and “beautiful” roles.

Women, especially, rarely see representations of themselves. Teen comedies & dramas feature waif-thin beautiful people having Beautiful People Problems like juggling three boyfriends and finding the perfect dress for Prom. The intrepid, neurotic romantic heroines of rom coms are invariably a size 6 (whittled down the requisite size zero, nowadays), and even when they are meant to be “overweight,” they do it Bridget Jones style and have a size 2 actress “balloon up” to, what?, an eight? There being exceptions to every rule, I concede recent glimmers of hope: Drop Dead Diva & Huge (oh list, you are a short one. And also half cancelled).

In cases where we do see visible fat people, they only come in two “sizes”: trying to lose weight/makeover project and Negative Horrible Foil/Unloveable Sidekick. How many times have you seen the plump, dumpy sidekick crack jokes and end up alone? Invariably, either way, Token Fat Character eats. All the time. Whereas most characters on TV and in movies NEVER EAT (as in, actually chew food)… or use the bathroom (ever notice that?), we always see fat characters chowing down. On Glee, token fat girl Lauren DEMANDS A BRIBE of Cadbury Creme Eggs to join Glee Club. Fellow curvaceous character Mercedes was given an entire plot line about eating cafeteria tater tots. I mean… come on!

Probably the only positive plus size character I can think of from the last 27 years I’ve been on earth is Tracy Turnblad from Hairspray.

Fat girls = 1;Thin People: ELEVENTY-BILLION.

In the one arena where arguably Americans get to see overweight women in highly visible roles — daytime talk show hosts — we get a) Oprah (on a perpetual diet cycle) b) Ricki Lake (couldn’t get work post-Hairspray/fat; starved herself to get her show) c) Star Jones (evil wench who got gastric bypass) d) Rosie O’Donnell (ridiculed in pop-culture for being fat/unattractive when she came out as a lesbian). Yes, we all love Oprah (and her positive contributions to fat issues I think are notable), but she’s Oprah. Daytime TV’s Goddess can be any damn size she wants. Everyone else? Get skinny, then maybe you’ll get work.

I mean, REALLY?

In the end, the message that not only fat people, but thin people get is: fat people are invisible/bad, and only thin, beautiful people deserve happiness/love/positive attention. It trickles down and is pervasive (and equally tied to disturbing trends of misogyny in society), and leads to the real problem: the Othering of fat people, and the rise of flat-out hatred of them.

People are horrible; aka: the Internet kills the filter of basic human decency

You don’t have to go far to see this ugly, judgmental attitude in people — just read the comments on any mainstream article relating to weight loss topics. On my blog, The Curvy Nerd, rather than engage with asinine comments on blogs such as The Huffington Post, Gawker and The Daily Beast, I highlight and poke fun at the worst of the worst — feel free to browse through some of my finds, so far.

Generally, you see the same key phrases over and over again: “fat is a choice,” (aka: Fat As A Lifestyle Choice) “eat less, exercise more,” “I don’t want a fat person to infringe on MY space/life/whatever”.

It’s amazing how little empathy people have for overweight & obese people. They don’t hesitate to dehumanize, denigrate and attack fat people, usually with comments that draw the most outrageous conclusions about fat people in general as well as specific larger individuals (usually in response to commenters and/or public figures who appear to be or confess to be large). These things include, but are certainly not limited to: that you are unhealthy, lazy, ugly, miserable, stupid, entitled (no, really!), dirty, sexless, alone and undeserving of love. Many people will flat out say these things.

Then there are the “concern trolls.” These are people who Don’t Like Fat People, but they translate this into acceptable terms, ie: Fat Is Unhealthy. Then they fatsplain to you/fat people how being fat should make you feel, how it’s essential you Get Healthy and Stop Being Fat. Because they care about you, they do!

People we love can also communicate the message that fat = bad, though generally they do not hate fat people, or you, and will unconsciously say things that hurt you. My favorite is “you’re not fat, you’re beautiful!” Translation (on your end): you’re not fat! Fat is BAD, and you are NICE and I LIKE you… so let’s talk about how BEAUTIFUL you are (to me). I didn’t realize what an insidious phrase this was until recently. I do it too! We need to divorce the ideas that being fat = bad. But it’s a deeply ingrained thought within society (see; media).

Let’s get academic for a moment

Beyond the anecdotal evidence of people being hateful on the Internet, numerous studies have been done on the attitudes people hold towards the obese. One study found that children not only ascribed patently negative attributes to fat people (and positive ones to thin people), but that their views were reflective of their parents (who also participated in the study). An indicative pull-quote:

“Specifically, research shows that children are reluctant to play with overweight peers and are more likely to assign negative adjectives such as lonely, lazy, sad, stupid, ugly, and dirty to an overweight child than to an average weight or lean child.”

We pick up these attitudes young, and hold them for life.

More gems to illustrate a wide-spread trend of discrimination and hatred held against fat people:

Where does all this leave us? Well, the current trend is Let’s Beat Everyone Over The Head With Obesity As A Health Epidemic and OMGSHITTONS of fat reality shows. Instead of approaching the core issue of people hating fat people, the cycle of negativity, issues of food/eating portrayal in advertising, and Healthy At Any Size, we are trying to SHAME fat people into being less fat. Oi vey. But that’s another topic for another (LONG) post. 🙂

So thank you for having me, and sorry for the essay! I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts — what has your personal experience been, with the media and with other people’s attitudes and expectations?

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45 Comments

  • Reply
    Alyssa
    June 16, 2011 at 12:38 am

    This is fascinating to me, as a participant in the media world. I have always been so interested in the portrayal of fat people in the media because I am fat and I’m IN the media. I definitely agree with many of the points you make, especially that we usually never see the fat character as the inspiring person or the success story. The fat person is often time the comedic relief, the person eating 9 roast chickens. It’s sad, but the media seems to portray many minorities in this way (not that you could consider obese a minority anymore). I kind of feel like a hypocrite too because my blog is called the Double Chin Diary and I DO poke fun at fat – but in some way, I somehow feel exempt because I AM fat, which is exactly the point you made above. Interesting!

    You should write a thesis paper on this and get it into some publications. You may have already – I’m going to go check out your blog!

    • Reply
      Alexa
      June 16, 2011 at 1:26 pm

      You’re absolutely right that in many ways the media treats obese individuals like minorities — even though we are not a minority! It’s a lot of broad stereotypes/comic relief type treatments. It’s not that there can’t be comedy in being fat, but it’s usually not individuals like you and me penning these scripts — it’s normative, straight, white men! Heck, a lot of the time it’s not even REAL fat people playing the parts — they put thin actors/actresses in fat suits! (Gwenyth Paltrow, I’m looking at you)

      As far as you or I are concerned, I think we have to be able to poke fun at fat/ourselves, or we’d go insane. What else do we have to choose from? Being the Unhappy Fat Person With No Life or being the Jolly Fat Person In the Background? I’ll take Sardonic Witty Fat Person Who Defies Stereotypes any day!

  • Reply
    Kris
    June 16, 2011 at 1:23 am

    What an excellent post. It’s true, fat people are ignored, mistreated, disrespected, and generally looked down on. I’ve reached my goal weight now, and try very hard to remember all the negative things I heard and felt when I was obese, so as to not hurt anyone else who is large.

    I do think, though, that we have to realize sometimes our concern/criticism isn’t about the weight, it really is about their health. I have friends who have developed conditions (Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, etc) that are either a condition of their weight, or aggravated by their weight. I try to support their weight loss efforts not because I don’t want them to be fat – I don’t want them to be sick.

    As for skinny = happy; I found it ironic that for me, at least, it was actually happy = skinny. I couldn’t lose the weight until I got my anxiety/depression symptoms under control, and fixed my emotional life. Once I was happy with my life, then I could focus on losing weight so I could be healthy and do the things in life that I wanted to do.

    Very thought provoking, thank you! 🙂

    • Reply
      Kenlie
      June 16, 2011 at 3:18 am

      GREAT point about happy = skinny as opposed to skinny = happy. We have to love ourselves and believe we’re worth the effort. So true..

    • Reply
      Alexa
      June 16, 2011 at 1:29 pm

      Thank you! You make a really excellent point — you definitely CAN be happy when you are skinny, but it’s more the expectation (set up for us in the media, I’d say!) that skinny = happy is the dangerous bit. I don’t know why people think that if you’re miserable fat that your entire disposition and life will magically turn around because you lose weight! If you’re happy and like yourself in general, you will still be happy and like yourself when you are thinner. It’s about attaching your happiness to more than your size, be it reaching goals, getting/being healthy or just liking your personality 🙂

    • Reply
      Emily
      June 16, 2011 at 1:55 pm

      Happy = skinny was exactly my experience! I lost all of my weight, not by trying to lose weight – I had no diet plan – but by finding what made me happy! I got a job I didn’t dread, I lost weight. Playing beach sports with my friends was a high priority so I started running (walking/jogging) to achieve that and weight came off.

      Granted, skinny = a lot of new battles but my weight loss journey was very surprising in how skinny = happy is not at all accurate.

  • Reply
    Kenlie
    June 16, 2011 at 2:44 am

    Wow Alexa,

    I love this post because it sheds light on what should already be obvious (IF we’re being honest with ourselves.)

    My big goal is to love myself, and I’m working on it. But I often wonder why I didn’t love myself in the first place. The media definitely plays a big role, as do people who are “close” to us who “mean well.”

    It’s not easy to change the records we play in our heads, but I believe we have to. And I’m trying – and succeeding at least a little so far.

    Thank you for you sharing your thoughts on this.

  • Reply
    Joanna
    June 16, 2011 at 8:22 am

    What an absolutely amazing post. I am also guilty of everything you mentioned above..hello, my blog is called Diary of a Mad, Fat Woman.

    Everything you said is so true – and has really left some thinking going on in my brain. I’m going to piggy back off your post today and write about it on my own blog…and I’m also going to be a new follower of your blog.

    Such truth – so right!!

    • Reply
      Alexa
      June 16, 2011 at 1:31 pm

      I’m so glad you liked it! As I commented on your post, I LOVED what you were inspired to write.

      And, hey, I think we are entitled to being a little mad sometimes, not only as fat people, but as women — we are given a ridiculous set of expectations! I like the title of your blog – also love the layout! 🙂

  • Reply
    Jules Big Girl Bombshell
    June 16, 2011 at 9:21 am

    What an awesome post! How you hit almost every nail on the head to build an essay of such truth! But my question lately has been do we EVER truly love and accept ourselves? Isn’t there always a part of us that use certain products to “enhance” our beauty? (hair color, nail polish, makeup, clothes) We make our daily lives about the presentation. Not that there is anything wrong with that..just a question of beauty and acceptance…. Heading over to your blog now…(thanks Kenlie for the introduction!)

    • Reply
      Alexa
      June 16, 2011 at 1:34 pm

      Very good point. I think that as women, we are really screwed over in society and media. We are told constantly that we are Not Good Enough, and that we should strive to be pleasing to the Male Gaze. It’s maddening! You really have to take a cold, hard look at the media/adverts, etc. and strip it down to come to place where you can be happy with yourself – relatively speaking. I have constant moments of doubt when I see adverts, TV shows, movies, can’t fit into the clothes I want, have trouble dating, etc. etc. etc. — it takes a lot of self-affirmation to not feel weighted down by everything!

  • Reply
    Patty (135 by 2012)
    June 16, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Wow, Alexa, you have a new fan! I will be seriously checking out your blog. I have to say I am super jealous you, Heidi and Kenz get to hang out on the West Side. I am stuck in Pasadena stickville! LOL! I might have to start referring you three as my new favorite blog trinity.

    • Reply
      Alexa
      June 16, 2011 at 1:36 pm

      Awwwww! You should come down from Pasadena! (or we should go up, lol). Kenlie will actually be moving out here sometime next month. I want to do a Fitblog meet-up or something to celebrate!

      • Reply
        Kenlie
        June 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm

        Your favorite blog trinity? I’m digging that Patty! What do you think Alexa? Of course, we’re willing to welcome a fourth….we should definitely partner up for the greater good of Los Angeles. =)

        • Reply
          Alexa
          June 16, 2011 at 2:13 pm

          L.A. needs a FitBlog chapter! With meet-ups! OMG WE CAN DO A HEALTHY PICNIC. #wheelsturning

          • Patty (135by2012)
            June 16, 2011 at 5:03 pm

            I would totally be in!

          • Kenlie
            June 16, 2011 at 8:27 pm

            Can we please do a picnic on the beach? Thanks..

          • Heidi @ Finishing the Hat
            June 17, 2011 at 3:39 am

            IN LIKE FLYNN.

    • Reply
      Heidi @ Finishing the Hat
      June 17, 2011 at 3:39 am

      Patty! You’re so sweet. You should definitely come on out and hang.

      And K/A, I think I’m going to have to start referring to us as the trinity. Patty, you’ve created a three-headed monster! (A pretty cool one. And it needs a fourth head.)

  • Reply
    Emily
    June 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Yay Alexa! You managed the topic very well!!!

    What’s interesting for me as well, is that the cases in the media when it’s okay to show a bigger person is when they’re black! And it’s somewhat true, whatever this society falls under, “white American?” is really into not eating but minority groups in the US love them some curves/weight and over in Africa they have billboards advertising ways you can get fat! And yet, even if a show has an all black cast, it’s always thin people except for maybe the loud, raucous, gospel singing aunt. This isn’t to say that minorities can’t be thin or thin on TV but that it shows that lack of diversity in the decision-making jobs and if the higher-ups really wanted to market to America – especially American guys – it would include women with weight across the board. It’s funny to me even working in TV how my coworkers will call an actress hot, see her on the street and be skeeved out by how sick she looks, and then will go on and on about how they like “bigger” girls not realizing that bigger girl is average-sized and getting cast as “the fat friend.”

    It’s a really fascinating discord.

    • Reply
      Emily
      June 16, 2011 at 2:33 pm

      I just realized how that sounds and I don’t mean they should be marketing women to men at ALL but since that’s their MO, I’m just saying it doesn’t even make sense the way they are doing it.

      Sorry about that. Just read it over.

    • Reply
      Alexa
      June 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm

      Hahahaha, YES. Oh, the raucous, gospel singing aunt. Or, don’t forget, also the “Martin Lawrence/Eddie Murphy in drag as the raucous, obese woman.”

      This idea came up on the thread of my “Token Fat Characters” post — that you are more likely to see curvy/overweight female characters who are black BUT they tend to have a pretty limited set of character attributes (sassy, loud, funny). It’s a topic worth an entire post of it’s own. (hint, hint Emily!!!)

  • Reply
    aggie in illinois
    June 16, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Very fascinating post/topic. Aside from Tracy Turnblad, I think Camryn Mannheim’s character, Eleanor Frutt, on The Practice was good example of a plus-sized character, where her weight wasn’t the topic of the show. She was just a lawyer, there wasn’t any talk of her weight, etc. Movies/TV blow in this category. I also have this problem with the portrayal of people with disabilities in movies and TV. But that’s a story for another day. 🙂

    • Reply
      Alexa
      June 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm

      Hi Aggie! You’re absolutely right — Hollywood is generally shitty when it comes to portraying *any* “marginalized” group. I took a Women’s Studies class in college, focusing on media, and the portrayal of people with disabilities was a topic (as well as Asian-Americans, African Americans, LGBTQ and, of course, women) and it was a real eye opener for me. It’s amazing how only hetero-normative, “able-bodied,” white, middle/upper class white men & women have a wide range of characteristics & problems (particularly men).

  • Reply
    Cathy
    June 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    I think the thing that bothers me the most is the assumption that an overweight person is overweight due to eating like a pig. Many overweight people are dealing with health issues, genetic factors, and circumstantial weight gain that is now nearly impossible to shed. They may eat quite healthily, even exercise, and still find it next to impossible to shed those pounds without extreme measures.

    It is curious that just as someone might treat a handicap person in a patronizing way, an overweight person experiences similar treatment…as if she is less intelligent, a small child, or not able to hear very well. One day, I was walking in a store with my friend, and a lady came up from behind wishing to pass me and said, “Move it, fatso!” I remember thinking, “Did she just tell me to move it? Did she really just call me ‘fatso’?” Of course, I did NOT “move it”, and kept walking. Then she literally gave me a little shove as she passed by. How rude. Another odd instance was while standing in line at a grocery store. A little boy was pointing to a magazine and asking his mom why that man on the cover was so fat. The mother raised her voice just loud enough to make sure I heard her and said, “He’s fat because he eats too much food.” I guess she wanted to make sure I got the help I needed. My conclusion is that thin people do not think that overweight people are aware of their situation.

    “Back in the day” when I was still small enough to wear a bikini in public and only a few pounds overweight, the criticism was still there. The thought was expressed to me more than once, that I would be “perfect” if I would just lose some weight. I don’t know how anyone ever has peace in this world with standards so high.

    • Reply
      Alexa
      June 16, 2011 at 4:33 pm

      Your stories break my heart, especially the kid in the grocery store one. That mothers teach their children such haughty, simplistic ideas of body size cause & effect? Such a negative feedback cycle.

      I really hate “concern trolls”/fatsplaining, whether it’s online or in person, even when people are trying to be “helpful.” You’re absolutely right that people talk to overweight people like they are small children, and completely unaware of their own situation. Like we’re not reminded EVERY SINGLE DAY by TV and the way people look/talk to us that fat is unacceptable?

      There are so many factors to weight struggles, and people are so short-sighted and single minded about it. It’s almost never as simple as “calories in/calories out” as people like to suggest. Perhaps for someone who has had short term weight gain (and a lot of men, usually the ones “mansplaining” about weight loss), but anyone with deep set behavioral issues/disordered eating and/or underlying genetic and/or medical issues has a much more complex and complicated set of problems to deal with.

  • Reply
    Heidi @ Finishing the Hat
    June 17, 2011 at 3:45 am

    Alexa… have I told you lately that I love you? Because… I do.

    In terms of characters, I am kind of fascinated by the trajectory of Melissa McCarthy. She started as the “fat best friend” on Gilmore Girls, progressed to the surprisingly class “fat leading lady” on Mike & Molly (which I wish were more clever and less dependent upon fat jokes.) Her role in Bridesmaids was surprisingly complex and not all reliant on fat humor, mostly character humor. And I was stunned to hear the recent news that Apatow/Feig are currently developing a film about a man who is obsessed with a woman… starring McCarthy and none other than Jon Hamm. JON HAMM. I bet there would be more fat jokes in an Apatow-penned script than a Wiig script, but let’s just deal with the fact that they are pairing McCarthy and Hamm romantically. Has anything happened like this before? I’m kind of thrilled… and kind of terrified.

    • Reply
      Alexa
      June 17, 2011 at 1:39 pm

      You’re absolutely right — the trajectory of her career is very interesting! I would love to interview her – and hopefully she doesn’t pull a Sara Rue and do a weight loss commercial about skinny = happy LOL.

      Have you seen Pretty Ugly People? I watched it on Hulu Plus and blogged about it. Melissa McCarthy plays the formerly thin, hot friend who has put on a lot of baby weight… but the refreshing part is, other than her douche husband mentioning her baby weight, the bulk of her characterization is NOT about her size. Very interesting considering the plot of the movie is that the former fat friend is now skinny! I love McCarthy and am super thrilled for her solo movie. But yes — terrified of weight jokes. But… Jon Hamm!!!!!

  • Reply
    Weekly Links – Vacation Edition! | Trying To Tri
    June 17, 2011 at 10:41 am

    […] at All the Weigh, Kenlie featured a guest post by Alexa from the Curvy Nerd. In a post titled The Invisible (Horrible, Lazy, Unattractive) Fat Person, Alexa looks at how fat people are treated in the media specifically, and society in general. […]

  • Reply
    Amber
    June 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    I think this is a brilliant post. I did my thesis for my sociology degree on negative body image messages in the media, particularly pertaining to young girls and adolescents. Sometimes I had to walk away from my research: it was incredibly depressing to read that 4-year-old girls prefer to play with under-weight or average-weight girls and think the over-weight girls shouldn’t have friends.

    Part of my capstone was to present my thesis to a Sociology 101 course. I was astounded by some of the questions they asked after my presentation, and they seemed even more surprised by my evidence. One girl tried to tell me that my research was basically bunk because “look at Mo’Nique!” I had to explain to her that Mo’Nique was actually in the process of losing quite a bit of weight, so she won’t be a Big Beautiful Woman for much longer. The girl had no idea. Look at the flack that Kirstie Alley took when she gained weight and how people mocked Kate Winslet during production of Titanic, at which point she was under 150 pounds (well within the BMI limits of “normal” weight).

    Fortunately, there are several organizations trying to combat these negative images. http://www.about-face.org/ is one of my favorite sites. It has a “gallery of winners” and a “gallery of offenders” to highlights ads or companies that are helping or hurting the issue.

    I worked with a personal trainer in the spring, and she hates Jillian Michaels. She thinsk her tactics are rude and cruel. My trainer never commented on my body size, and she encouraged us to get healthy and strong; losing weight was a secondary benefit of exercise.

    I suppose that’s my very long-winded way of saying that I enjoyed this post and agree with it strongly!

    • Reply
      Alexa
      June 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm

      Stop tempting me, Amber — I have totally thought about going to grad school just to write a thesis on something like this LOL.

      I would be really interested to read your thesis, actually — I love this kind of stuff 🙂 Do you have any of it on your blog? (which I shall be checking out XD)

      I didn’t even know that Mo’Nique was losing weight! Doesn’t surprise me though — the “token fat actress gets success and then drops her weight” is sooooo frustratingly common. (Sara Rue Jenny Craig commercial, I am glaring at you) Of course, can you blame them? Hollywood is relentless when it comes to mocking “bigger” actresses.

      I am on the fence when it comes to Jillian Michaels. For one thing, she was overweight at one point, so she has slightly more street cred than some. But also, a friend of mine tells me The Biggest Loser cuts out all the parts where she is quiet and nice to the contestants (my friend has worked on the show) — so she does have quieter moments. That said, I also had a normal, non-body shaming trainer and they really are the best. You should neither be shamed for being “fat” or praised for getting skinny — it should be about health!

      I really enjoyed your comment! I can’t wait to check out your blog 🙂 Sociology nerds have to stick together! XD

      • Reply
        sorryaboutyourweight
        June 19, 2011 at 11:43 am

        Oops, I didn’t notice that you’d responded to this. I don’t have my thesis (which was for my BA) on my blog, but I might put it up in five or six segments. I didn’t consider that anyone might be interested in reading it. Still, I spent several weeks on it, so it’s be nice to know that someone out there wants to read it. =) Alternatively, I could send you the entire piece via email. It’s about twenty pages long.

        HuffPo did a piece last year on celebrity weight loss (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/01/celebrity-weight-loss-who_n_665582.html), and the NY Daily News did one just this month (http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/health/galleries/stars_weight_loss_ups_and_downs/stars_weight_loss_ups_and_downs.html). It’s astounding to me that a number of the celebrities don’t appear to be overweight to begin with!

        This comment from the NY Daily News horrifies me: “Kendra Wilkinson may not have made it as far into the ‘Dancing with the Stars’ competition as she had hoped, but she has something else to be proud of. The 25-year-old blond beauty lasted seven weeks on ABC’s dance competition show and got her old body back along the way. ‘I was size 2 or 4 before ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and now I’m a size 0,’ she revealed to Life and Style.” My brain refuses to process that.

        • Reply
          Alexa
          June 20, 2011 at 6:07 pm

          I would love to read your thesis, either via email or your blog. I really enjoy that sort of thing. I discovered women’s studies far too late in my college career, otherwise I would have enjoyed doing a minor in it and writing lots of papers LOL.

  • Reply
    Moira Nash
    June 17, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    I really loved your post as well and could relate to all of it. I know that being overweight for most of my life has held me back as well. I’m currently a Theatre Director (headed to grad school) with about 20 years performing experience, some professional. My primary talent is singing and although I am considered a ‘diva’ (meaning I’m damn good) I got the message that I was too fat to pursue this as a career, so I pretty much sabotaged myself. When that period ended, I decided to pursue community theatre so I could perform again and fell in love with it! However, I was always the go to girl when the show needed a fat, black, sassy women with the killer voice.
    When I directed my first show, I actually fell in love with that and realized that was my calling; and I think I would have discovered this even if I had pursued a singing career.

    However, I know that skinny does not equal happy. About 15 years ago, for the first time in my life I lost alot of weight and was down to a normal (?) size. The attention I received from people of both sexes scared me (I had people running up to me on the street wanting my phone # I didn’t know how to handle that!), then I got involved with someone and it turned into a scary fatal attraction kind of thing that really scared me. I can distinctly remember saying to myself that if I got fat again, then no one would pay attention to me and I proceeded to do exactly that! Putting back on the weight plus!

    Currently, I on the weight loss track again, however, this time I’m doing it sensibly and for health issues. I have several weight related health problems and I realized that if I don’t take care of myself, I may die before I can do all the things I know I’ve been put on the earth to do. This time though, I’m trying to work on the emotional part: basically realizing I don’t need to be obese to protect myself from the crazy people in this world who want to take advantage of a beautiful woman, which I am, fat or skinny. My Lord is my protector and my shield and strength. That has made me the strong woman I am today and I don’t need to be afraid.

    There’s so much more I could say, but I will end this now. Thanks for your post. This hidden discrimination against fat people won’t stop until we acknowledge it exists. And we have to acknowledge our own prejudices when it comes to this in order for us to overcome them.

    Moira
    DivaDirector

    • Reply
      Alexa
      June 20, 2011 at 6:18 pm

      Thank you so much for your long comment! A lot what you wrote really rang true for me. I’m not a great singer or actress (though I enjoy both!), but I got a similar message, and decided not to bother – at 15, I was cast the the matronly character and it was really frustrating (that said, I rocked it). I realized I would never play the ingenue (both b/c of height, weight and having “distinguished” features), and that to pursue an industry where looks are key I’d have to make significant sacrifices in terms of my body and self-esteem. I’m so glad you found your passion in directing! (I directed my energies towards writing, personally — you can wear jeans & a t-shirt every day!!!)

      What you mentioned about not being able to handle the attention you got when you lost weight — I’m afraid of that, and I’m pretty sure it’s why I stayed “chunky” for so long. I loathe being treated like a sexual object (not a person), and when I was a bit thinner, I did deal with cat-calling and grabby hands (London clubs, you suck) and just hated every second of it. So even when you remove the fat discrimination, there is still general misogyny and disrespect towards women, their autonomy and bodies. Sigh.

  • Reply
    katie
    June 19, 2011 at 10:25 am

    Excellent post.
    In regards to friends/family saying things that are unintentionally hurtful — how many times, in normal conversation about whatever topic, has one of your friends or family members said, “She’s fat, but she’s a nice person” or “She’s fat, but she’s pretty”.
    Those two statements irk me to no end. Like fat people are inherently NOT nice or pretty. They don’t say it to be mean, and the one or two times I’ve called people out on it, they just look at me funny and are like, “oh, um, yeah.” Then it doesn’t change.
    I think that people are “brought up this way” (to hate fat people) BUT – aren’t we all free thinkers? Don’t we all have brains? Why is it so hard/unbelievable that people might actually THINK and see that they are hurting people?

    I could also go on and on on the subject of fat hate. It enrages me and it hurts me unbelievably.

    -Katie

    • Reply
      Alexa
      June 20, 2011 at 6:36 pm

      Yeah the conditional statements about weight vs. other positive attributes really bugs me. People do it all the time and don’t even realize it.

      I think it’s difficult for people to break out of what they’ve been fed and are continuing to be fed, especially in light of the current “concern troll” health angle. No one wants to think they are a “bad person” or “mean,” so even if you tell them frankly how they are being insensitive, hurtful or myopic, they’ll resist. They’re trying to help, or they paid you a compliment (a back-handed one!), etc. There’s free will… but it has severe limits with many people, who just can’t be deprogrammed easily.

  • Reply
    Fat hate & body image – get ‘em young! | The Curvy Nerd
    June 20, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    […] healthy at any size, obesity, obesity epidemic In my guest post on All The Weigh last week (The Invisible [Horrible, Lazy, Unattractive] Fat Person), I talked about how pervasive fat hate — and self hate — is, and that it starts young. […]

  • Reply
    » The Invisible (Horrible, Lazy, Unattractive) Fat Person » The Curvy Nerd
    July 16, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    […] on tv, fat shaming, fat visibility, fatsplaining, glee, hairspray, token fat character This post originally was posted on All The Weigh on June 16, 2011. I am reposting it here for posterity If this is new to you, please comment! But […]

  • Reply
    Malena
    August 5, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    I believe putting extra weight on is a psychological form of protection. It is unnatural to be either underweight or overweight. You don’t see that in animals, at least not to the extremes we do these days… So, in my opinion, it’s something one does to oneself ‘unconsciously. It’s common to hear overweight people speaking like victims. Half people in my family are overweight half are not, and in my experience, the fat ones take everything personal. I think they suffered a lack of love, and that led them to believe they weren’t worth loving, not even by themselves… Lots of issues around that… Does that ring a bell? Anyone? As for the media… I think it’s like any other business. If it sells, it sells, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t, and it doesn’t! What do you think? Am I right?

    • Reply
      Runaway Star
      January 3, 2012 at 3:25 am

      Uh, no, you’re not right. Not even close.

      What you’re doing, Malena, is victim blaming. You’re the concern-troll equivalent to the bully who overpowers you, grabs your fist, makes you punch yourself in the face with it while yelling “Don’t hit yourself! Don’t hit yourself!”

      Fat haters love to pretend that fat people bring the hatred onto themselves. They love this idea, that fat people are fat because they have Deep Psychological Problems which make them gain weight on purpose because they WANT to be shunned, insulted, neglected and discriminated against. They love the idea because it absolves the fat haters of all responsibility and makes everything the victim’s fault.

      In reality, fat haters project in the same way rapists do: they pretend that their victims really desire cruel and violent things done to them, because that’s what the perpetrator wants. So when the violence happens, the perpetrator can rationalize it by claiming it is what the victim wanted all along.

      Then, if the victim shows any emotional damage as a result of this mindfuck, it can be ascribed to the Deep Psychological Problems which made her fat in the first place. Double mindfuck!

      A helpful rule to remember:

      Marginalized people don’t like being marginalized. They don’t ask for it, they don’t deserve it, and they’re not responsible for it. Responsibility always belongs to people in power, though they always try to dodge it.

  • Reply
    scribner
    October 30, 2012 at 8:07 am

    It is unfortunate that the standard of beauty is borderline anorexia. This standard is set by gay fashion designers who like their models to look like their gay lovers. This is unrealistic since 95% of women have breasts, hips, and a tummy. Nothing wrong with that at all in my book. The skinny model look began in the 1960’s with Twiggy. Before her, models looked like real women. An overweight women, who has the ability to make who she’s with feel like they are the most important person in the world, is very desirable.

  • Reply
    scribner
    March 31, 2013 at 7:58 am

    The standard of beauty has been set by gay fashion designers who want their women models to look like the men they sleep with. This isn’t fair to most women who have breasts, hips, bottoms, and tummies. I have been told by some of the most facinating women that they are invisable because of their weight. I’m married to a curvy but overweight woman yet she is such a joy and delight I couldn’t imagine not being with her because she has gained weight over the years. If any woman finds a man who wont have her because she has extra weight, why, they shouldn’t let em into their house!

  • Reply
    Sharon
    July 31, 2013 at 11:15 am

    As a fat person myself, I realize that “being fat” is an expression of feeling unloveable. This is MY understanding so I’m not saying its true for everyone.

    A vicious circle really. The fatter I feel, the more unloveable I feel. The more unloveable I feel, the fatter I feel.
    And society reflects that back to me in spades.
    And feeling unloveable or unacceptable in some way is pretty common too.

    I want to be thin. After all, what advantages are there to being fat?
    And is carrying an extra 30, 50, 100 pounds around with you EVERYWHERE really worth any possible advantage?

    So if you are fat and don’t want to be I say this to you;
    You are FREAKING ADORABLE!!!!!

  • Reply
    Mandi
    August 2, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    It’s terrible because if you think about it, most of us are fat and have no choice in the matter. We’re the victims in this. If a person gets raped do you blame the rapist, or the victim? Fat people are not fat because they’re “lazy”,”stupid”, or “unwilling to change”. The real rapist in this scenario is the processed food companies! Many overweight people simply do not have the money to buy expensive 100% organic food. And so many of those processed food companies serve us up a cocktail of carcinogenic, HIGHLY ADDICTIVE compounds. Chemicals are found in our food that aren’t even LEGAL in other countries. All the growth hormones they stuck in our meat all those years have had a negative affect. They are finding sugar is EIGHT TIMES more addictive than COCAINE! And they add forty something teaspoons of it in your coke. And it causes a person to gain weight. Also they include in our high fat, high calorie food chemicals which trick the brain into not understanding that the stomach is full. It’s all about money and businesses wanting to addict customers. If the skinny people want to complain they should go after the DRUG DEALERS (the processed food companies), not the poor hapless people who happen to be addicted. It’s terrible that fat people are looked down on. Many of us have had this bad diet foistered off on us by parents who didn’t know any better or couldn’t afford better. And just look at school lunches! According to a documentary I recently saw there is over 1,000 calories in just one of those lunches! Children aren’t supposed to be eating like that. No wonder children are getting obese, no wonder I was always obese. My family was poor, we couldn’t afford better. It’s just another way to shun people who are different. I have tried for YEARS to lose weight. The “diet” foods are also full of the bad addictive chemicals too. And once you do lose weight unless it’s a SHOCKING TRANSFORMATION (50+ pounds) most people don’t seem to care and you’re still labeled the fat, and unloveable kid.

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