Monday, July 1, 2013

Hey Fat Face. I'm Talkin' To You

That's right. Those are the words Will Ferrell shouted at the audience from the movie screen tonight in the preview for his latest movie.

This was followed by a movie in which Max Minghella's character continuously derided another for, you guessed it, being fat.

Here's what I've been taught growing up and living in both a thin woman's and a fat woman's body:

Fat.  A character defect.

Fat.  A trait for which a person is belittled, treated as an "other", ostracized, put to the side, in the corner, swept under the carpet.

Fat.  Your fault.

Fat.  You deserve to be treated differently because you aren't "normal."

It seems to be a favorite past-time of society and entertainers to make jokes about being fat.

MatchGame circa 1970:

"Large Marge is so big, when she sits around the house, she sits, aaaaaaaroooouuuunnnndd the house."

Junior High circa 1980:

"Best" friends sing about you to  Devo's "Whip It" but substitute the words "bubble butt".  Go ahead and sing it in your head.  You can hear it.  That's pretty funny, right?

Grown up life, 2012:

One of my dear friends picks her small child up and says, "Ugh!  You are so fat!  You must weight 237 pounds!" They giggle.  I die. Her child does not weight 237 pounds, but I weighed that much.  I've weighed more than that.

Even I --the woman who has lost and gained a cumulative 1,000 pounds in her life -- even I joke about it, because, you know, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right?  I refer to my maximum weight as my Oprah weight.  "Ha, ha, ha, Lee!  You are so funny."

Maybe I am, but at what expense?

My own?  Oprah's?  The person who is crying on the inside because they are thought of us unattractive, unworthy, less-than?


I don't want to talk about people's feelings being hurt when we make fun of them.  (I'm guessing if you're reading this blog, you're not in elementary school, so hurt feelings be damned.)

By creating an "other" in society, we create a hierarchy of those who are better than and those who are less than.

It is not the "other's" job to stop being an "other".

Can the black woman stop being black in order to eradicate your prejudice against the color of her skin?  If she could, SHOULD she?

Can the persecuted Jew of the Holocaust remove the thousands of years of tradition that make them who they are in order to bend to the demands of a crazed dictator?  SHOULD they?

Can the gay man stop sharing his life with his partner because a crazy church sect protested their wedding? SHOULD he?

The first question is CAN the person do something about stopping the abuse and treatment as "other".  In the case of a fat person, for the most part, yes, of course a fat person CAN lose weight.  But the real question when facing prejudice is SHOULD they lose weight in order to be treated justly and kindly?

It is no more the fat person's job to change themselves to fit in than it is the job of the victim of any other form of persecution.

So I'm calling you to action people, writers, entertainers, and perpetuators of paradigms.

Think about your use of language, think about who you are targeting.  Can your words be changed to something that does not separate, or belittle?  What is the point of targeting one group and mocking them?

Is it really important to make people laugh at the expense of someone else?

It's no easy task. I am not perfect, but I am aware.  And I'm asking you to be too.  Awareness leads to action.

I'll be there to call you on it when I hear you talking trash about anyone because of their "otherly" qualities.  Don't do it.  Period.

Prejudice is an ugly thing.

Fat is not.

Ever vigilant, ever sad to know that the fight must always be fought.


  1. For an interesting (possibly) alternate perspective, during my teens and through much of my twenties, I could not get a date or maintain relationships with girls because they would be concerned that they looked "too fat" next too me(!). Of course, it was a relative thing, with "too this" or "too that" just a matter of whom they were relating the concern to: "Joe was too skinny", "Joe was too short" was more likely how they explained the incompatibility to their friends. In my case, there was a tacit understanding that my diminutive size made me undesirable as a future mate. So I guess my point is that sometimes people's reactions to us are reflection of how they see themselves.

  2. I agree that people's reactions are reflections of how they see themselves. I would say also that it becomes circular, for how we see ourselves is often how society has taught us to see ourselves.