Fat shaming: The judgment’s in the jargon
Fat-shaming, like sexism, takes many different forms. Rarely do we hear blatant declarations that “fat people are ugly/lazy/etc.” With the dialogue of “health” currently trending in pop culture, it becomes easier for advertisers, writers, and producers to integrate the language of fat shaming into their finished products under the guise of appropriate diet and fitness.
That’s right people — I’m talking semantics. Those nitty-gritty, linguistically frustrating particles of speech that nearly everyone says not to bother with.
In the fights against sexism and fat-shaming, however, semantics are everything. In these realms, the way you say something, and the specific words you use to say it, paint you as an advocate or an enemy. Unfortunately, there is many a fat-shamer within our midst — Kathleen Parker in particular.
Ms. Parker is an opinion writer for The Washington Post, and on May 8 she released an article that discreetly, yet deliberately, fat-shames men and women across the nation. Entitled “The Sweet Tooth That Spawned An Epidemic,” the article contends that fatness is essentially a self-perpetuating problem, and that fat individuals have only themselves, and their lack of self-control, to blame for their size. Here are some of the real gems I pulled out:
“Close your eyes and picture 110 million obese people waddling around America’s sidewalks. You’ll probably want to keep your eyes closed.”
Silly me, I forgot — fat people are incapable of walking. They waddle, duh! Not to mention the mere sight of a fat person makes me want to close my eyes, obviously (please note my dripping sarcasm).
“42 percent of American adults will be obese by 2030… Of course, they probably won’t be waddling. They’ll be in their cars in the fast-food lane, as they are now.”
This statement is so flawed, it makes my head spin. Somehow Ms. Parker feels justified in contending that all cases of obesity are direct results of fast food consumption, never considering the role of other extenuating circumstances like a low Basal metabolic rate (BMR), having hypothyroidism, or taking certain antidepressants or corticosteroids. Can fast food play an instrumental role in weight gain? Sure. But using such a sardonic tone to openly criticize fat individuals does nothing but distribute shame and blame unnecessarily.
“No one wants to make overweight people feel worse then they do.”
Sorry, but I missed the memo stating that all overweight individuals must hate themselves and shame their bodies. In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of men and women across the world loving their bodies and making their voices heard in the fight for fat acceptance (check out an awesome fat-loving feminist Tumblr here).
“Fat is indeed a plague, and most of us struggle to varying degrees.”
Let me take a look in my pocket dictionary. Plague: a contagious bacterial disease characterized by fever and delirium, typically with the formation of buboes. Interesting… I didn’t realize fat was a contagious bacterial disease! Using such an explosive, negative term simultaneously targets and stigmatizes fat individuals.
“At this point, we make the necessary disclaimer that some people are blessed with hummingbird metabolisms (and we hate them).”
A statement like this only serves to further the fat/bad skinny/good dichotomy, asserting that all fat people are definitely jealous of all skinny people. Which is, um, totally untrue.
Overall, the goal of Kathleen Parker’s article is to educate individuals about high fructose corn syrup, and the role in plays in the modern American diet. But somehow the medical message gets lost in translation amidst the crude diction, broad stereotypes, and blatant stigmatization of fat individuals. So listen up, Ms. Parker. If you’re going to write about health and fitness, write about health and fitness — and leave the judgment out. Being fat isn’t a disease. It isn’t a plague, nor is it a sentence to unhappiness or low self-esteem. Being fat is just another way of being — and it doesn’t take a medical professional to see that.