The internet is chock full of fat jokes so they can be difficult to avoid, but it’s always extra upsetting when someone we think of as a friend posts one of them. I’ve talked about those terrible “People of Walmart” pictures before, today I’m talking about something more subtle – jokes that suggest, for example, that just existing as a fat person is somehow hilarious, or cheap jokes based on lazy stereotypes.
Like all oppressive BS, we get to choose how to deal with this. The choices we make might change from day to day, or even hour to hour based on the situation, our relationships with the people involved, and how we feel on any given day (maybe we feel like doing some activism, or maybe we need a break from standing up to bullshit behavior,) and all choices are valid. Here are some options:
Yup, just ignoring this is an option.
Depending on the platform where this is happening, it may be an option to hide this particular post, all future posts, or to unfriend the person.
You can send them a message and say something like “You may not be aware, but the post you made earlier was really hurtful in the way that it [insert issue here]
- stereotypes people like me
- uses people like me as the butt of a joke
- tries to make appearance-based bigotry funny
We are [friends/family/etc.] and I know that you didn’t mean to post something hurtful, but you did and I’d really appreciate it if you take it down.
Can we talk about that joke that you posted earlier, it really hurt my feelings that you would post a joke that is based on stereotyping people like me.
Be Prepared! They may refuse to take it down and/or attack you. When people are confronted with their inappropriate behavior they often try to make the person who confronts them the problem – be prepared to be called “oversensitive,” to be accused of having no sense of humor, of not being able to take a joke etc. At that point you’ll need to decide what to do moving forward and the options range from doing nothing, to trying to continue the conversation, to ending the friendship.
Leave a reply explaining exactly why this “joke” isn’t funny, or cool to post. Again, be prepared for people to try to make you the problem. Remember that you get to decide how to reply, how long to involve yourself in the conversation and you can opt out at any time.
It can be incredibly hurtful when a good friend posts a fat joke, to me the most important thing to remember is that your feelings are totally valid, and while you may be able to control your reactions, you can’t control their actions. If things get bad you can use a three-step boundary setting process:
- Explain what you would like.
- Explain the (realistic) consequence, if you don’t get it.
- Follow through.
Make sure to choose a consequence that you can truly follow through with. So maybe you say:
- I need my facebook wall to be free from fat jokes
- If you insist on posting fat jokes I’ll need to unfriend you.
- If they post another fat joke, unfriend and let them know why.
or maybe something like this:
- I’m not willing to be friends with someone who engages in weight bigotry
- If you continue to engage in weight bigotry then we can’t be friends.
- If they continue to engage in weight bigotry then, in the words of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, if they were laughing you don’t need ’em cause they’re not good friends.
Remember that this is not an argument about whether or not their behavior constitutes weight bigotry, you get to determine what you feel is offensive and you get to set boundaries based on that.
For more support around this check out
It’s not you, it’s them. Bullying, stigma, and oppression are the problem, fat people are not, and we get to choose how we deal with it and whatever choices we make are valid.
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