In response to reactions to my post yesterday about Ariana Grande’s #DonutGate, I wanted to revisit a post I wrote a few years ago about the double standards we have around eating in our culture when it comes to fat and thin people.
I’m watching the show Friday Night Lights, it’s the episode where one of the tall thin beautiful female characters decides that she is hungry, she asks her boyfriend for a long list of junk food from the convenience store, and reminds him that she was going to eat all of it (so he better get other food if he wanted something.) He smiles at her. You can see this repeated all over the place in pop culture. This is iconic – she is a hot chick who is “one of the guys”, she can eat her body weight in wings, she orders beer and not wine, she orders her hot dog with chili and extra cheese and in the event of a break-up she eats a gallon of mint chocolate chip punctuated with sprays of whipped topping directly from the can into her mouth. She looks like a model but eats like a linebacker. She’s cute, adorable, hot, sexy, quirky.
But what about this girl: She’s fat, she can eat her body weight in wings, she orders beer and not wine, she orders her hot dog with chili and extra cheese and in the event of a break-up she eats a gallon of mint chocolate chip punctuated with sprays of whipped topping directly from the can into her mouth. She is a fat woman who eats like a linebacker. She is the subject of shame, stigma, humiliation and ridicule by everyone from random strangers on the internet to her doctor. She is disgusting, she is everything that’s wrong with the world.
Why if someone is thin are these behaviors considered some combination of hot, sexy, adorable, and quirky, but if she’s fat the exact same behaviors are irresponsible, disgusting, creating diseases that she “deserves”, costing tax dollars etc.?
I was going to give a hint, but let me just take a stab at the answer – it’s because it isn’t about health, it’s about our cultural bias against fat people and all the ways that people find to perpetuate it. It’s about the way that fat people are used as a target – including and especially by the government – for people looking to blame their misfortune on someone.
I’m kind of surprised it isn’t already a Twitter hashtag. Healthcare costs too high? Blame fat people (even if the evidence doesn’t support it.) Taxes too high? #blamefatpeople (even if it makes no sense) Licked some donuts and getting (rightly) eviscerated in the media? #blamefatpeople
There is an answer. It’s not to stop “condoning” these behaviors in thin women or to start “condoning” them in fat women. The answer is for each of us to realize that, just like our personal choices aren’t other people’s business, their personal choices aren’t our business. Other people’s food choices are not really ours to condone. The answer is to learn the ancient art of minding our own damn business.
We are allowed to have all kinds of opinions, but nobody else has an obligation to care about what we think. If we start to insist that they do, i think we’ll soon find that this slope is very slippery – whose behavior do we get to choose and who gets to choose our behavior for us? It’s a lot less fun when someone gets to tell us how to live.
While we’re at it, let’s stop making assumptions. Let’s not assume that the way someone is eating tonight out at dinner is the way that they eat all the time. Let’s not assume that we can look at someone and know what they eat. Let’s not assume that it’s any of our business what people eat. Let’s stop creating a culture of guilt and shame around food, and we can also stop creating a culture of guilt and shame around bodies, mind our own business, make our own choices, and live happier ever after.
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