Jeopardy Category – What is Fat Shaming?

You Cannot Be SeriousIf you’re not familiar with the popular game show Jeopardy! the premise is that they have two rounds, each of which have six categories of questions with five questions per category, and then a final round with one question. Last night one of the categories was “These Words Could Go on a Diet” and it was a category of…wait for it… slang terms for fat bodies.  And it includes a reference to pigs.  Charming.

The answers included husky, portly, corpulent, paunch, and porcine. I have no idea what it was like for the fat contestant who was on the show to have to participate in this absolute tribute to fat shaming,


To me this speaks to how normalized fat bashing and diet culture is in our society. I typically don’t compare oppression among different groups – there are definitely differences – as I write this blog I am acutely aware that I will be criticized for being “oversensitive” or, ridiculously, that I’m asking people to be “too PC. So as a queer woman, I wonder what the reaction would be if they had a category “These terms just haven’t found the right man yet” that was comprised of slang terms for lesbians.

We have to speak up when we see this kind of casual fat shaming, especially on a national stage. Jeopardy! can ask questions about literally anything in the world and they decided to create an entire category dedicated to negative terms for a group of people who already face tons of stigma, harassment, bullying, and oppression.  I’m calling bullshit. They can do better, and they should.

Activism Opportunity

Tell them how you feel:

Contact them directly (thanks Diane!)


Twitter: (@Jeopardy)

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17 thoughts on “Jeopardy Category – What is Fat Shaming?

  1. I was cringing when this category came up. I’m kind of glad I’m not the only fat person who found it to be incredibly awful.

  2. Ugh, I come from a family of Jeopardy! watchers and have fond feelings for the show, so this just makes me really sad. The whole “could go on a diet/needs a diet” is the worst part to me. If they had just called the category Fat Words or whatever I would be much less offended.

    1. Even “could go on a diet” would be less offensive than that they actually said which was “needs a diet”. Ugh.

  3. I’m not a jeopardy viewer, so I don’t know what the standard is, but those clues seem stupid, as if someone didn’t construct this for the purpose of the show but the main reason was to fat-bash.

  4. I’ve tweeted at them and facebooked them – but on MY page so it can’t be deleted by their folks. I tagged Alex Trebek in it, too, but I will also be writing a letter. Thank you for the contact info, Diane.

    1. My letter:

      I have loved and watched Jeopardy for most of my life. I have always found it both entertaining and educational, and I’ve always thought of Alex Trebek as a fair and learned man. One of this week’s categories, however, has left me enraged and humiliated.

      I am stunned and spectacularly disappointed in both the writers and in Mr. Trebek for the category of “These Words Should Go on a Diet.” What on earth were you thinking? Fat shaming on national television – and with a larger sized contestant in the mix! What must they have thought about this? As a fat person with an eating disorder, I can tell you just how horrible and humiliating it is to be called ***every single one*** of the names in that list. It leaves one feeling dehumanized, impotent, degraded, and despised for something over which we have very little control. I have lived with the stigma, shame, and bullying that goes along with all of those words for at least 40 of my 45 years.

      Consider this: would you allow a category called, “These Words Should Go Back Home” that called for racist responses? What about a category called, “We Can Put a Man on You!” that included despicable names for sexual orientation?

      Derogatory terms like these and the ones you included have absolutely no place on your show. I’m truly aghast that this passed both your censors and Mr. Trebek’s sensibilities. I guess it just goes to show how ingrained fat hatred is in our society that not one person thought to call this out or question the category. I had much higher expectations of you than this. I am furious, and I am disappointed.

  5. I have never watched Jeopardy and I rarely watch television. I personally feel that fat bigotry in all its crummy forms appears there because of the beautiful people standard and its twin , thin is in.These are the “ideal” standards, and pushed by most actors(male and female) and many directors and other auxillary personal used in producing a show.In film, before tv was in most homes when the star system came into effect most leading roles were filled by younger beautiful people who were usually thin..The few fat major actors were ridiculed on set.There were a few ordinary looking actors but not enough to stop many ordinary looking people from feeling something was wrong with them physically when what was wrong was the projection of abusive unreal standards on an unwitting population. A fat women in a bathing suit was considered “disgusting” and they were subjected to ridicule.So they were never seen.With the advent of tv in the 1950’s when the numbers reached a critical threshold many people became desperate to lose weight and the diet industry was born. As best I can find it began with OA founded in 1960 in California. In 1963 Weight Watches was invented in Brooklyn by Jean Niditch.A flood of diet books and systems to ;lose weight flourished Very big money began to be made by putting fat people down inevery way possible.
    By understanding what came first, even if crudely it changes the focus of attack. It is not some unexplainable behavior although it is on the surface irrational. Advertizers are paying for this show. Who are they? Write them and tell them just what you said in these blogs and that you will not buy their lousy products and will tell whoever will listen how bad your product is.and get rid of the actors and writers who dared to do this sort of thing Enough people complain and see how fast it will change.

  6. Looks like my letter content might have gotten accidentally excluded. Here it is again.

    — As a regular Jeopardy watcher, I cringed, and almost turned off the show, when I saw the ugly category “These Words Should Go On a Diet,” and I was even more appalled when I read the hints in that category. This kind of fat shaming is as bad as racism or sexism. Whoever came up with this should be embarrassed and ashamed. —

  7. This is what I wrote:
    The “These Words Could Go On A Diet” category on your recent show was extremely offensive and encourages bullying of larger people. Big people face bullying, stigma and ostracizing on a daily basis, being portrayed as unhealthy, lazy, gluttonous, ugly, and even stupid.
    These assertions are cruel and unfair. There are healthy and unhealthy people in a range of sizes. There are active and inactive people in a range of sizes. Not all fat people are lazy, not all thin people are motivated.
    There are a myriad of factors involved in a person’s body type. The strongest factor in determining what kind of body a person will have is genetics. Other factors include endocrine function and medications the person may be taken. A person’s body type isn’t all about what food or the amount thereof is consumed. To believe that this is the case is an unfair oversimplification.
    It is tragic that hatred of larger people is so commonplace that you would think nothing of having such an abusive category on your program, believing it to be “humorous” or “witty.”

  8. One thing I want to point out is that there was an overweight contestant on that same show. Do you think it was a coincidence that they put in a fat-shaming category? He was facing off against the “celebrity” Matt Jackson, who is driving ratings up. He did well during the first round, too, tying Jackson at $8.000.

    Point is, do you think the writers made the category to rattle him, so he wouldn’t win and Jackson could continue his run(and continue to make Jeopardy money by driving up ratings). Sounds outlandish, but I really think its strange that they had the category when a very overweight contestant was playing on the show. At the least, maybe the writers were just pulling some kind of sadistic prank. Plus, one of the categories in the second round was “The IT guy”, and the overweight contestant said during his personal comments that he worked in IT.

  9. also, I just want to thank you so much for making this blog post. It bothered me incredibly when Jeopardy made that category, especially considering there was a heavy contestant actually on the show, but I didn’t know what to do about it.

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