In the past week I’ve received questions from several readers asking about articles they had seen that said research shows that fat shaming is linked to increased weight and asking me if I think it’s true, and what I think of it as an argument against fat shaming.
As far as veracity, there are some studies that show a correlation between body shaming and becoming larger. (You can find one here, but content warning for all the things I’m about to talk about, as well as the utterly ridiculous, profit-driven notion of using person first language and calling fat people “people with obesity.”) Remember also that this is correlation, with all of its inherent limitations, and not causation.
The larger problem with this can be clearly seen in what I encountered when I started researching for this blog post. I found tons of articles with titles like “Fat Shaming Just Increases Obesity” or “Fat Shaming Makes the Problem Worse!”
The idea here is that fat shaming is bad because fat people are bad, and fat shaming makes people fat/fatter. This information might be used to convince a weight bigot to stop fat shaming (or not, the comment sections of these articles feature weight bigots doing Cirque du Soleil level contortion to justify their past and future fat shaming.) Still, it may work, and getting that bigot to keep their BS to themselves may be your goal. Just be aware that you are making a major trade-off, especially if you are making this argument publicly rather than in a one-on-one situation.
You see, the message that something is bad because it may create more fat people or fatter fat people is, in and of itself, a fat shaming message. Calling fat people a “problem” and suggesting that more fat people existing “makes the problem worse” is fat shaming. Saying that we want to prevent fat people from existing is fat shaming. The message “I don’t want you to be stigmatized, I just want a world where no one who looks like you exists” is absolutely stigmatizing, and adds to the waging of the War on Obesity in which they want fat people to be thin or dead and they don’t really seem to care which.
At the end of the day, I think the fact that some studies suggest that fat shaming may be linked to people becoming larger is not actually a good reason to suggest that people shouldn’t engage in fat shaming – since the idea that fat people should be prevented from existing is fat shaming in and of itself. People (including, and perhaps especially, Presidential candidates) shouldn’t engage in size-based shaming, bullying, stereotyping, stigmatizing, and oppression because it’s wrong, period. It has actually nothing to do with the current or potential future size of their victims.
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