I just need to get this out of my system.
Whether you know why body shaming is in the spotlight recently or not doesn’t matter, because the instigator does not deserve more attention than she’s gotten thus far. But what does deserve attention is the way people feel entitled to police other individuals’ bodies.
First of all, let me start with this: everyone has a right to their own opinion, and thanks to the country we live in, everyone has a right to voice their opinion. Even if it’s unpopular, bigoted, prejudice, or rooted in hate. In fact, hate speech is protected by the first amendment, the exception being fighting words that can instigate immediate violence, usually directed at a specific individual. But that only means that they aren’t going to get arrested. Whomever spews hateful ideas still has to deal with social consequences, whatever they may be. Your audience also doesn’t have to put up with it, and you should be ready for backlash.
Another thing to consider is that, contrary to popular belief, the Internet is not the public sphere. When you agree to the terms and conditions of using a website (you know, that checkbox you blindly click), you’re agreeing to follow their rules or risk getting censored/banned/penalized.
With that said, I do believe people have an obligation to consider the social consequences before using a platform to spread potentially harmful ideas. Such as with body shaming.
Our bodies are policed from early in our youth. Images of and messages about what is considered an acceptable body, how to display it, and how to feel about it are unavoidable in mainstream media. And the thing is, fat people aren’t made the butts of jokes because of their health. They’re not depicted as smelly because of their health (sorry, since when is smelling like sausages a symptom of weight related issues? Oh right, never). They’re not depicted as lonely or stupid because of their health. These stigmas are based in the standard of what has been deemed aesthetically pleasing to the masses, which has been perpetuated by media for years.
So veiling hurtful comments as genuine concern is, quite frankly, bull. Because one, why do you think anyone else’s, let alone a stranger’s, health is any of your concern? And two, if you were actually concerned with the obesity rate in our country, you would know that making people feel bad about their bodies is actually the worst and most ineffective way to make them change. Anyone who loses weight because they were shamed into it most likely has an unhealthy relationship with their body, and may have more of a chance to develop eating disorders or other dangerous habits to feel better about themselves.
There are so many causes of being overweight or obese that cannot be fixed by simply “putting down the fries.” First off, there are those who have medical issues that cause weight gain or inhibit weight loss. And, what do you know, you’re not going to be able to tell if they have such a condition by just looking at them. Some people turn to food as a means of coping with serious trauma in their lives. Still can’t tell by looking at them. Some overweight people may even be at their healthiest after making some life changes, or they were healthy from the get go! Can’t tell by looking at them. Some thin people suffer from body dysmorphia and are engaging in an eating disorder to be thin. Nope, can’t tell from looking at them. Cheap and quick food is often unhealthy, and that’s all some people can afford. Still. Can’t. Tell. From. Looking. At. Them.
In short, not only do you have no idea what’s going on with someone’s health from their outer appearance, but it’s also not any of your business and just plain rude to address it without being invited to the conversation. For better or for worse, you have no authority over someone else’s body.
Overweight people are systematically oppressed. Our society promotes recklessly that thinness equates to happiness. An overweight individual could literally go their whole life without someone telling them directly that they are lesser because of their body type, and chances are they will have already felt that way anyway just by existing among the rigid standards of our society. But, as it is, most overweight people will be ridiculed in person for their bodies. I was laughed at by my peers throughout my youth for being overweight. They didn’t give two shits about my health.
I’m not mad at a woman for sharing her opinion. Who is she to tell me what to do with my body, or how I should feel? But, I’m disappointed in a woman who thought it was okay to tear people down for her own benefit ($$$). I’m disappointed in a woman who addresses her audience, made up of people of all ages, and perpetuates negative self esteem and body image. I’m disappointed that she did not consider the fact that younger media consumers can either take this to heart, or use it to keep others down. I’m disappointed that while traditional media already instills these beliefs in people, a digital content creator chose to still conform to the “here’s what’s wrong with you” perspective of content. Because while she’s recording her message looking at a camera, her words will sting and be taken personally by many. I pity the fact that she had to resort to least-common-denominator, effortless “humor” to earn her fifteen minutes of fame that she’s so desperate to have (who’s lazy, again?). Also, satire isn’t spewing hurtful comments for six minutes. Bye, Felicia.
Your body is your own. It is a vessel that carries you through life. Its shape and size does not dictate the amount happiness, success, or love you deserve. Its shape and size does not dictate whether or not it is up for public discussion. You are the boss of your own body.