This week in fat hatred

A few delightful little examples of just how fat-phobic our culture is have cropped up this week and I’m the sharing type, so here they are: (if you’ve had a gutful of hatefulness lately, you might want to skip this post and go look at kittehs instead!).

Exhibit A: Jane Kennedy on ABC Radio talking about her new diet recipe book OMG I Can Eat That? Indulgent Food Minus The Boombah. You can listen to her interview with Fran Kelly here, or read my transcript of the pertinent section below.

Fran: It’s so hard to separate yourself from the foods that you just love.
Jane: It seriously is and it’s just one of the things that we find so difficult… look at people round the world. Look at Oprah Winfrey, she’s the richest woman in the world and she can have everything but she can’t have her figure back.
Fran: I bet she can never go out to eat!
Jane: (laughs) No! Exactly. I just say lock her up on an island without food and she’ll lose weight!
Fran: But she’s a great example because her weight fluctuates so much and…
Jane: … absolutely…
Fran: …presumably, with bouts of, she can’t resist anything.
Jane: That’s right, and I honestly think, particularly with women as well, there is a comfort reward system and I used to do it myself and I still do it, when I feel like celebrating or when I feel like commiserating I turn to food. And I’ve just got to adjust my brain. I think we need to start thinking of some foods and the way we’re eating just like we used to think about smoking…I mean, smoking used to look glamorous and fabulous but big whopping plates of fish and chips now, we just shouldn’t be looking at is as a treat.

Thanks Jane. Now I know that the way to deal with my incredibly offensive fatness is just to move to a desert island! Why has no one thought of this hilarious and ingenious solution before?! Oh wait… they have. Kyle Sandilands said something remarkably similar (although even more offensive) about Magda Szubanski and a concentration camp. I’m sure Jane Kennedy, accomplished writer and performer that she is, would be thrilled to be keeping pace with the kind of “humour” that has made Sandilands infamous. Because what it boils down to, clearly, is that fat people don’t deserve to eat. Fat people have forfeited our right not only to take pleasure in our food but to have any at all. Starving us out of existence is practically a public service: just like an anti-smoking campaign. That’s obviously what I’ve been missing all this time — I just need to QUIT EATING! Can you get a skin patch to help with that?

(h/t Melinda Tankard Reist)

Exhibit B: Bill Clinton diet book titles.

Lenore Skenazy of FreeRangeKids tweeted this link the other day: presumably because she found it amusing. I found it horrifying. Apparently Bill Clinton’s lost some weight, and we know that any public figure’s weight fluctuations are fair game for comment. Naturally, out come the fat=gluttony tropes and out comes the conflation of fatness with laziness and lack of restraint in all areas of life. And for good measure, a couple of entrants served up their fat-shaming with a huge side of misogyny. My personal ‘favourite’ takes a dig at Hillary Clinton whilst simultaneously making a joke about fatties and baked goods.

It’s Easy When Your Wife Doesn’t Bake Cookies

Exhibit C: Google shows it like it really is.

I’m often fascinated by the suggested search terms google throws up – you know that each suggestion means that many others have searched for that term in the past. Sometimes I find it weirdly predictive, other times I find it deeply disturbing. This post highlights the disturbing side.

If you ever doubt that fat stigma is a problem, if you ever think it’s hyperbole when a fat person tells you that there are people out there who hate us, who literally want us to suffer and even die for the crime of our fatness, you need to take a look at this. You need to type ‘fat people are’ or ‘fat people should’ into google.

Insert infinite number of exhibits here: because, y’all, fat hatred is everywhere.

Whilst this level of stigma exists in the community, body image problems and eating disorders and the fall-out of weight-based discrimination will always be with us. So this is a call out to those of my readers who aren’t fat, who aren’t currently active advocates for size acceptance: I want you to join in. I want you to ask your friends and your family and your colleagues to stop when they make unthinking fat-phobic comments. I want you to remember that if you laugh at fat jokes, you are laughing at the expense of human beings like me. I want you to complain to media outlets for allowing fat hatred when other types of vilification would not be tolerated. I want you to say to fat kids and teens who are bullied (and the majority of them are, in fact, bullied) not only that it gets better but that you will make it better. Because you can.

You can make it better by not being complicit in the stigmatisation of fat bodies.

We’ve got work to do.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “This week in fat hatred

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  2. I did the Google proof and I got some pretty horrifying answers, the least of which is that fat people should be sent to concentration camps.

    I wonder how Jewish fat people feel about that? (Hell, how does any decent person, fat or thin, feel about that?)

  3. It’s unfortunate but there are still so many fat haters. I have been trying to introduce some people to fat acceptance and all I ever get is, “I don’t care what those blogs say. Being a little overweight is one thing, but being morbidly obese is a whole other story.” They just don’t get it.

    • Maybe some day they will. It’s hard to be an alternative voice when the anti-obesity tide is so strong but I have to believe that incrementally we can all make a difference when we speak up against fat hatred. Thanks for doing it.

    • I remember how about ten years ago basketball was an empty-stadium sport in Aus. As a marketing person I was so interested to see how they just kept on and on and on and on and in just a couple of years the stadiums were full. I’m optimistic this bigotry will turn around, the more people who call it out for what it is!

    • Alexa

      That’s exactly what I would have said until about a year ago, and I honestly thought this was a true and unquestionable fact. This is all you hear in the media, read in the news, etc. and you just assume that so many public figures/articles/what-have-you can’t all be wrong.
      Couple this with the endless ‘success stories’ from various diet programs where formerly obese people tell again and again how losing weight made their lives so much better and made all their health problems vanish and all they had to do was ‘eat less and exercise more’, and you have what sounds to the average person like incontrovertible proof.
      I think the only way to get someone to listen to you about this is to be really direct. When I think about what would have made me take notice back when I believed in this, it would be if someone said “All that fat=unhealthy stuff is a bunch of distorted lies. It is absolutely not true, and here are places where you can find numerous reliable, evidence based studies to support that position. Studies that weren’t funded by diet companies.”

  4. OMG – I like Fran Kelly, she’s one of our best journos. But clearly she’s been educated about “the obesity crisis” by press releases. This makes me feel ill.

    • Yes, I was surprised that she just laughed along about the Oprah stuff. Since when is it good journalism for intelligent women to publicly deride other women’s bodies? So counter productive in so many ways.

    • Yeh not intelligent, just automatic :( I might go find that interview on the ABC site and comment….

    • Stacey

      In her defence, FA has not yet touched the sides of public debate. We all have assumptions we’ve never questioned. A large percentage of those we encounter day to day have heard of the ‘obesity crisis’ and have grown up listening to fat hatred but have never heard the alternative side of the debate. I’ve started to ask questions such as ‘what makes you say that?’ and ‘but why?’ or make statements such as ‘I don’t moralise food/ weight’ when I encounter fat hatred/ body shaming and I’m amazed by the number of people who become thoughtful rather then defensive.

      This is why we all have a responsibility to do our bit to not so much inform others but to encourage them to question their unconscious assumptions. Once the FA message does touch the sides and people acknowledge the fat hatred they have the power to make a choice. You can’t blame somebody for being uninformed. An informed person who makes the choice to perpetuate prejudice on the other hand…

    • Thanks for your perspective Stacey. You’re right, obesity panic is so pervasive it’s just ‘normal’. Still, it seems common sense to me that tearing other women down about their appearance (whether you are worried about obesity + health or not) is pretty poor form.
      I hope you’re right, that the message is gradually getting out there and people are open to questioning their assumptions. I also find that most people are quite interested in some of these ideas, although others find them too confronting to really entertain. I wonder if it depends on who the messenger is: when people know it is a fat person speaking they sometimes take it as ‘oh, she’s just trying to justify herself’ and tune out. Thus, the opinions of people who aren’t fat themselves are sometimes given more weight (no pun intended :P) on these issues – hence why it’s great having people of all shapes and sizes prepared to think a little differently about some of these assumptions.

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  7. Claire

    There was some appalling fat hatred in articles about Geoff Huegill’s gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.

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