3 Commandments to End Fat Shaming

Fat shaming is nothing new, but it was a trending topic this week, due to eternal trendsetter Lady Gaga and an unsuspecting journalist in the Midwest named Jennifer Livingston.  By way of a quick update, both women were recently criticized for their weight—the uber celebrity by the media for gaining a few pounds and the TV reporter by a callous viewer for being “obese.”

Gaga responded as Gaga does: unapologetically and publicly, with a photo shoot in her underwear and an invitation for her little monsters (legions of fans) to post photos of their own imperfections.  The goal being to illuminate vibrantly and proudly flaws others may view as ugly as sources of strength instead.  That’s ideally what happened, but it also left a lot of people simply scratching their heads and remarking, “She is so not fat.” This isn’t a bad thing, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t move the conversation beyond the realm of objectifying women.  Whether we’re talking about her looking heavy or slammin’ sans Photoshop, we’re still, in that moment, emphasizing her looks as being most central to the discussion of her relevance and worth.

Jennifer Livingston responded this way—with intelligence, grace, and a fair bit of grit.  I don’t know about you, but if you’ve ever responded to a bully, you likely know all too well the lower lip’s tendency to quiver, voice to crack, and urge of the hands to break shit.  Nevermind doing it on LIVE television.  Not Ms. Livingston.

Again, none of this bullying and body snarking is new or going anywhere until we all decide that fat shaming is shameful, and observe the following 3 commandments:

  1. I shall not fat shame myself. It’s pretty simple: if you regularly degrade yourself for not looking a certain way, you send yourself and others the message that it’s OK to disrespect people based on physical appearance.  Sure, we all have bad days, fat days, days in which we look at our skinny jeans and want to flip them the bird.  It happens, and it’s OK to lament–but, dear god, keep it brief and limit it to a very select few of your closest friends.  Spare the other women in the dressing room, locker room, at the brunch table, and on the beach.  In particular, spare younger ears who hear every dig directed at your thighs, butt, or belly, and accept it as standard operating procedure for being a gal.  It is not.  Most of all, spare yourself.
  2. I shall not fat shame (or thin snark) others.  It seems obvious that we shouldn’t deride someone for being too heavy, but some women think it’s funny to do the opposite by saying things to each other like, “Ohhh, you are so thin and beautiful…I hate you.”  Isn’t that hysterical?  Ummm, not really.  Harsh judgment on one side of the scale or the other (even if meant to be funny) only perpetuates the problem of defining someone’s worth (or lack thereof) by their physical shapeliness (or lack thereof).  As best we can and with as much compassion as we can, we should steer of clear of cutting anyone down to size due to size.
  3. When fat shaming occurs, I will choose a compassionate response.  Use Gaga or Jennifer Livingston as inspirations, or choose your own response.  Laugh it off; sharpen your tongue, or silently send a blessing that we all do better next time.
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