There has been alot of chatter about body shaming in the media these past couple of weeks.
It all started when personal trainer Ashy Bines took to her Instagram and posted this:
The woman on the right is Tess Holliday, a plus-size model who is famous for embracing her larger body type.
Ash went on to write that “thin women are shamed ALOT these days but females who are carrying more weight than what they should for their bodies…are now inspirations because they’re confident in a swim suit.”
Now I am not here to advocate or endorse obesity but I disagree strongly with the basis of her statement. See, I don’t think thin women are shamed alot for the way they look. In fact, it’s often quite the opposite.
As a society we still value the “thin” and “slim” ideal over any other body type. The “fat” body image has, paticularly in recent years, been scrutinised, judged and shamed in a way that thinness never has.
We’re bombarded with messages that we need to “battle the bulge” and “fight fat”. That “fat” is bad and “thin” is good. This fear of “fat” is undeniably contributing to the rise in eating disorders worldwide. We are so frightened of gaining weight we will do almost anything to avoid it.
You don’t have to scroll down far into the comments before you realise that most people are commenting on Tess Holliday. The commenters are quick to attack Tess’s lifestyle (which they know nothing about) and comment on the health issues she must be experiencing (which are also unproven).
One word pops up every few comments. And that word makes me sick to my stomach.
I don’t believe that it’s ever acceptable to call someone “fat.” Ever. Not if you’re a friend. Not if you’re a partner. Not if you’re a family member. Not even if you’re a doctor. Never, ever. Because what is using that word supposed to achieve?
Are you hoping to shame that person into “reality”? Are you hoping that your criticism will automatically shift their lifestyle or spark in them some resolve?
Do you think that by telling someone they’re “fat” they’ll thank you for caring so very much about their health?
Shame doesn’t work. Telling a person that they’re “fat” will not motivate them to change. It’s more likely to have the oppositive effect. It will encourage that person to withdraw more and more into themselves. To become more self-conscious and isolated.
There is a huge difference between expressing your concern about someone’s health and criticising their weight. I don’t have a problem with respectfully telling someone close to you that you’re worried about their health. For example, my grandfather is a smoker and every time I see him I tell him that I’m scared he will get sick but I don’t ever shame him for doing so. It is his body and it is his right. Shaming him would impact our relationship and would certainly not contribute to any change.
I want to make it clear that I don’t condone body shaming of any form. If someone’s health is at risk you are well within your right to express your concern. But you are not within your right to impose your criticism and judgement on someone else.
I guess this issue hits pretty close to home because I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’ve been on the “fat shaming” side and that led to years of distress, fear and discomfort. Without a doubt that contributed to me developing anxiety and depression. I’ve also been on the “thin shaming” side and it still hurts. It hurts to have your looks commented on in a negative way. In saying that, I can tell you which side of the fence was much more damaging.
There is one moment that is ingrained in my brain. I was in primary school. Just a kindy kid. I was in the playground, innocently running around the mulberry tree, when one of the girls we played with who was two years older called out to me, “Hey, WARTHOG.”
I will never forget the shame I felt in that moment.
I will never forget being in the first year of highschool and being told I had a “fat ass.”
You never know what damage you will do to someone when you say that word.