I was recently disturbed and disappointed that a local plus size feminist sex worker I admired decided to tweet about how she wanted to lose some weight. That part is not what disturbs or offends me. She has had many health issues relating to her weight, so I’m happy for her that she is making the changes she feels are necessary to improve her own health.
However, her posts quickly changed to a rhetoric we all see too often: fat shaming and body policing. Here are some of the posts:
After I pointed out that the above comments were offensive, the back peddling started quickly. She posted new comments defensively explaining the previous ones where regarding ‘health concerns’ and that I shouldn’t tell her she shouldn’t lose weight or do what she wanted with her own body. (Which is of course something I never said, and never would.) After personally attacking me she then went on to say that the things she was posting were about her and her choices only, which as you can see from the above quotes is clearly not the case.
Those posts are not about personal choices. Nor are they facts: they are sweeping generalizations and offensive ones at that. They are not about her personal health concerns, or her life decisions. These comments are straight up insulting, degrading and ignorant.
The posts blatantly insult people who follow a HAES (Health at every size) lifestyle which is about self-acceptance, physical activity, normalized eating and realistic goals for those wishing to improve their health or happiness, instead of those who choose weight loss dieting. (You can read about HAES here.) Not only that, but she accuses people who live a HAES lifestyle of being deluded and lying to themselves. I’d just like to say: your personal views simply don’t apply to everyone else.
You do not know about everyone else’s health based on their appearance. You aren’t the standing expert in the field of dieting, health or obesity. In fact, current research is challenging the supposed consensus that merely being obese, in and of itself, has any significant health implications. (link) And yet other scientific studies show that the HAES approach is superior to intentional weight loss when it comes to improving cholesterol, blood pressure and other health metrics (link(link)
Clearly, your experiences are not everyone else’s experiences, and being a fat person yourself doesn’t mean you get a free pass to judge others who are overweight. Even if the conversation was about health instead of judgement (which is clearly not how the comments read); other people’s health has still got nothing to do with you. These comments are still fat shaming and body policing.
“People who go off on fat shaming will always claim that it’s about health. The medical community is finding that weight is not an indication of health. Doctor after doctor report that fitness exists independent of weight. Articles are being written about the findings that an active lifestyle is more important than how much you weigh. Weight is not fitness. One has nothing to do with the other. A “fat” person who exercises does not have a statistically significant increase in mortality than an active person of any other weight.
Fat shaming is about aesthetics, not health. It’s about someone finding fat disgusting, and wanting to make it clear to fat people that they’re gross. There are tons of things we do every day that are dangerous to our health, but fat shamers won’t target those things. They don’t tell people who drink regularly that they’re gross and disgusting. They don’t tell people who smoke that they’re awful people and could change if they wanted to. They don’t tell people who go out tanning- which is much more dangerous than being fat- that they’re disgusting and nasty.” –Roy (Nocookiesforme)
If you feel that you have a ‘disease’ because you are fat, if you think that you’ve been deluding yourself by living normally as a fat person, if you think that starving yourself or dieting will make you ‘prettier’, and if you blame all your problems - health or otherwise - on your weight: that is your choice. You know yourself better than I do inside and out and you can do whatever you choose with your own body and mind.
But you must extend this same courtesy to others. Even if being overweight were proven to be a health hazard (like suntanning and boxing) it doesn’t give you a free pass to heap shame and mockery on others for the way their bodies appear to you and the way they report their lived experiences. Your comments hurt real people and benefit nobody. Maybe you can’t get on board with health at every size for yourself, but you should still show respect for everyone else, regardless of size.
Don’t you realize fat is unhealthy? - Kate Harding
Vague Future Health Threat- Ragen Chaistan
But you’re going to die! - Sleepydumpling
The science behind HAES - Alberta Edmonton