Monday, 13 July 2020

The Problem With A Fat Person Saying That Fat Jokes Are Hilarious

being fat doesn't justify fatphobiaI was asked to comment on a conversation on social media where someone had posted a fat-shaming meme. By the time I got there, the comment section was an absolute cesspool of fatphobia. So I commented:

Imagine having a picture taken to commemorate a lovely day of existing in the world, only to have a bunch of randos on [social media] decide to use it as an excuse to be rude and make sure that every fat person who sees this knows that they view our bodies as punchlines. Fat people have the right to exist in the world – yes, even in pictures while standing beside horses – without shame, stigma, bullying, or oppression. Shame on everyone who is using this picture as an excuse to engage in fat-shaming.

Almost immediately, I received this response:

I’m a fat guy, and I think it’s hilarious. Shame me all you want, but acknowledging yourself as you are and accepting it is telling the rest to eff off. If you are offended then you haven’t accepted yourself for who you are, or you worry too much about what other’s think.

Let’s take this in two parts:

“I’m a fat guy, and I think it’s hilarious.”

It is incredibly common for fat people to jump in and support fat-shaming. This can happen for a lot of reasons – their own internalized fatphobia, their desire to get some approval (and possibly better treatment) from thin people by participating in their own oppression, because their various privileges protect them from a lot of the harm of fatphobia etc. How offended someone is personally by fatphobia is their business, but the reaction they have doesn’t happen in a vacuum and people need to take responsibility for supporting harmful, stigmatizing ideas.

“Shame me all you want, but acknowledging yourself as you are and accepting it is telling the rest to eff off. If you are offended then you haven’t accepted yourself for who you are, or you worry too much about what other’s think.”

This is the part where people suggest that if you’re ok with yourself, regardless of how oppressed you are in the world, you will cheerfully accept additional oppression. This is particularly common if the oppression is in the form of a “joke.”

Except no, that’s not how self-acceptance works. I know that fat-shaming is the problem and not my body.  That doesn’t make it ok to stigmatize me or people who look like me. I think it’s a bigger problem that we as a society are comfortable telling groups of people they need to “toughen up” and become better at being stigmatized and made fun of without complaint so that other people can laugh at our expense without having to feel bad or have their bullying behavior pointed out.

Regardless of how one person’s level of indifference, internalized oppression and/or privilege allows them to tolerate stigma against a group that they are in, justifying and defending the behaviors that harm people (especially people with less privilege) in the group is not an appropriate response.

Being fat does not justify perpetuating fatphobia.

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