Last week I saw this article about a group of people on twitter who decided that it was going to be “fat-shaming” week. There is so much wrong with this that I don’t even know where to begin.
Firstly, why the hell are we shaming anyone for what they look like? We shouldn’t be fat-shaming or skinny-shaming. In general, people cannot help their overall physical appearance, and even if they can who are you to say their choice is wrong?
This problem with “fat-shaming” is made worse by the fact that the media – and even public health scientists – are endorsing and even encouraging such behavior. We are being taught that being fat is bad and as such we should not only keep our own weight down, we must also do others the favor of “helping” them realize their problem and encourage them to fix it.
Some people are overweight and unhappy with their size. If these people want to lose weight or change their diet or lifestyle it is their choice and if they ask for advice on how to do so then it should be given to them, but I see no reason to be going around telling people how they should and shouldn’t live their lives.
If a person is 200 pounds and the government guidelines say their obese this doesn’t mean they cannot be perfectly healthy and lead a healthy lifestyle. We cannot make assumptions about people based on how they look or what size they are. I know people who are overweight who are perfectly healthy (blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc) and I know “normal” sized people who are incredibly unhealthy.
A persons’ size does not dictate how lazy they are or how healthy they are or what types of food they eat, and we have no right to make these assumptions or “shame” them for how they look. In fact, there is nothing to shame them about. I don’t understand why we–as a culture–have developed a sudden need to shame people we think are doing something wrong or unhealthy.
Personally, I think this shame phenomenon is encouraged by the public health scientists who can use it to change personal opinion and peoples’ behaviors. Think about smoking. Smoking used to be normal, acceptable, and sometimes even “cool”. Nowadays it is shameful to smoke. It is perfectly acceptable for someone to go up to a smoker on the street and berate them for their bad habit. More and more frequently smokers are sneaking out of their place of work and hiding in alleys to smoke to avoid being “caught”. Creating a stigma of shame around smoking really did help to reduce smokers. Those who were not encouraged to quit for health reasons alone were encouraged to do so, or at least cut down, because of the stigma associated with smoking.
This same stigmatization is being created around weight and people who are deemed overweight. The problem is that weight is not much of an indicator. Yes, there are correlations between weight and health problems, but these tend to not factor in diet and exercise. If one were to examine people who are deemed overweight who eat healthily (whatever the hell that means today) and exercise regularly you are likely to find little difference between them and their “healthy weight” counterparts.
Shame is a horrible thing to feel and an even worse thing to create in someone else. I would never want to cause another person shame for something that is either beyond their control or that they are happy about. We should not be encouraging body-shaming in any way even for the supposed greater good of helping a person.
If someone is unhappy with their body it is their place to try and change it and ask you for advice. It is never, ever your place to suggest that there is something wrong with the way they look. If you are worried about a persons health due to diet or a lack of exercise then that is the way it should be brought up. Weight is something that is so incredibly variable among people that it shouldn’t be used as an indicator of health and especially not as an indicator of the worth of a person.
While this post turned into a slight rant (the weight obsession that everyone has really bothers me) I hope my point. Shaming a person because of the way they look is never okay.