A Response to the Fat Shaming on the London Subway

NO Negative Body TalkIf you’ve not heard by now, someone on the subway in London was giving out fat shaming cards to women and then,  like the cowards these people always seem to be, running away off the train.

The cards said that they were made by a group called “Overweight Haters Ltd.” When the story first broke there was nothing online about the group and then, predictably, a member of a reddit fat-shaming group claimed responsibility.  Of course there’s no way to know if they really are the person who did it since those groups aren’t exactly chock full of honest, high-integrity people. Police are investigating and have asked that other victims come forward.

Today I’m not going to talk about the fact that this is the predictable consequence of governments waging war on fat people, though it is.  I’m not going to talk about the fact that it’s the natural next step to the cyberbullying that fat people face (and that those of us who speak out against it get told is “no big deal”)  I’m not going to talk about the likelihood that this will spiral into violence since many of us are all too horrifyingly aware of the ways that cyberbullying and cyberstalking turn into in-person bullying and in-person stalking.

What I want to talk about today is what fat people can do, knowing that we live in a world where disturbed people do this kind of thing to us.  (Just to make sure it’s clear, although I think that there’s obviously something wrong with people who would join a group dedicated to hating fat people, or pass out fat shaming cards on the subway, I would caution against the common mistake of calling them mentally ill. People who deal with mental illness also deal with a tremendous amount of stigma and oppression, and symptoms almost never include appearance-based bullying and harassment.)

Before I get into what we can do, I also want to be super clear that this is not fat people’s fault, even if it becomes fat people’s problem. and the idea that we should lose weight to stop fat shaming (basically giving our bullies our lunch money and hoping they stop beating us up) is total bullshit. We shouldn’t be talking about this because people shouldn’t harass us online and terrorize us on subways.  Each of us gets to deal with this in whatever way we want and any choice – including doing nothing and just trying to get through the day, is a totally valid choice.

Put the Problem Where it Belongs

Fat bodies are NOT the problem.  Fat people existing in public spaces are NOT the problem.  Fat people wearing clothing that other people don’t approve of are NOT the problem. Fat people accessing healthcare are NOT the problem.  Fat shaming IS the problem. Fat shamers ARE the problem. So whether you feel anger, pity, both, or something else toward these people, it’s important to remember that they are the only people in these situations who are doing anything to be ashamed of.


For me, the most important thing is to keep living my life, even though I know that it will result in continued (and possibly escalating) attempts at cyberbullying and harassment. There’s an old adage that “happiness is the best revenge” and for me it’s also the best response to fat hate.  Let them spend their lives yammering endlessly in their sad little online playgroups, writing about us, blogging about us, being pissed off and miserable and obsessed with us, while we live happy lives. I’m working to stop fat hate, but in the meantime I’m stopping it from ruining my life.


Name and Shame

Call out the bad behavior. Take their picture, post it on Facebook, or a Tumblr like Smile, Sizeist   Report them to whatever authorities you can – including their boss (who might love to know that they are spending their work hours cyberbullying people) and their mama. Yell “CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS JERK JUST TRIED TO FAT SHAME ME?!!” (Obviously please keep your own safety in mind)

Be Excellent to Each Other 

Post fat positive things in your online spaces. Make your online and real-life spaces fat positive. Support fat people’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (as a fellow fatty or in solidarity) Speak out for affirmation of the full diversity of body sizes.  Navabi Fashion is doing something super cool.  It turns out that the genius behind the fat shaming subway cards  failed to register the domain name and so navabi fashion registered it and created what I think is a really cool response.

If you have other ideas I would love for you to leave them in the comments! Regardless, I’m sorry we live in a world where this kind of bullshit happens, and I’m committed to continuing my work until every fat person knows that they don’t deserve this, that they aren’t the problem, and that – no matter why they are fat, what being fat means, or if they could become less fat or not fat – fat people have the right to exist, and be happy, and thrive, in the bodies that they have now without being shamed, bullied, harassed, or oppressed on the subway or anywhere else.

More Cool Stuff!

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Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

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18 thoughts on “A Response to the Fat Shaming on the London Subway

  1. Navabi is SUPER COOL! I love the idea of handing out positive cards.

    This jerk is getting away with it (ie the media isn’t in an uproar) because we still have the belief that it is okay to harass fat people. If he did this to any other group of people, it would be labeled what it is, a hate-crime, and the police would be called in.

    I sincerely hope someone hugged that young woman and helped her feel better after this nasty incident.

  2. Oh man, I wish I lived in London. SOOO many ways I could respond to some randomer handing me a card telling me something I’m already fully aware of.
    I might print out some of Navabi’s cards and just start spreading love around Glasgow. Pre-emptive love spreading.

  3. this would have literally made me suicidal even up to maybe two years ago. and i don’t mean suicidal for, like, fifteen minutes, i mean it would have made me want to kill myself BADLY for weeks, then it would have settled into a kind of malaise where i’d sort of have forgotten the words but not the way the words made me feel, and that would go on not for months but years. i never forget this stuff, even now, and i am always an easy mark for it—it obviously bothers me, i’m fancy looking, about the size of nicki minaj, it’s clear that i spend way too much time and money on my appearance, and that regardless i feel bad about it constantly—oh forkitty fork fork, these forks with their cruelty cards would’ve drowned me in them. i could have weighed eighty pounds and they would have known precisely who to hit—me—anyway.

    because that’s what this stuff is about. ALL of it. unbelievably, it has nothing to do with weight, nothing to do with appearance, nothing really to do with anything other than making a bunch of EXTREMELY limited people feel good about themselves in a particularly odious manner, and at the expense of people more sensitive than are they. they look for that sensitivity, they look for people who try to make themselves small in a way, because they feel bad, and they try to stuff them into their cowardly crap trap, built of crawling cards, these days, apparently.

    DO NOT LET THEM DO IT. remember that they know very little, which is true, and one of the things they both have no knowledge of and are clearly incapable of comprehending is that what they consider their clever, considered, and ‘clearly evolutionary’ taste is constructed entirely of their own susceptibility to advertising. it’s cheap, also contrived, is what i’m saying, and has nought to do with any sort of natural selection whatever. it’s as forced as is their desire for fritos, or anti-fritos, or whatever they buy, and of equal worth.

    none of us are that, none of us need build our self-worth from unconscionable powerless power-parading. be grateful and proud, at the very least, of that.

    1. I would have been like you, stewing about it, and feeling like killing myself. I already did that for decades, and it didn’t make me alright in the end.

  4. I agree thast the haters who do this shit may or may not have mental illness – no way to really know. They most certainly have spiritual deficits, lacking soul, empathy and probably love of any kind.

    1. Which is why that as a compassionate, kind and empathetic person, I know i’m worth more than these people. On hearing that these people were dishing out such unpleasantness and hate, it actually boosted my self-esteem because I have a good heart, fat or not.

  5. I don’t understand the bullies. I mean, seriously, what do they actually hope to accomplish by giving these cards and running away? If they meant to bathe in the tears of fat people, you’d think they’d stay there, to soak them up, after the attacks. But they run away.

    It’s like the ding-dong-ditch prank, only more hurtful. Makes no sense, and you just get some giggles out of how you IMAGINE the person will respond. But what if the person looks at that and just laughs? Or shakes their head and tosses it, without another thought? Or takes it home to frame it and add it to their collection? These people will never know.

    One thing I do know: They do NOT intend to make their targets actually become “acceptable” in their eyes. You know how I know? People who want to change a person into being “acceptable” stick around to make sure it happens, to continue the abuse until it happens, and then if it ever should happen, to loudly congratulate the person on finally being “acceptable,” and then find something else to carp about.

    Also, on gluttony – plenty of fat people eat the same or even less than most thin people, and stay fat. Plenty of thin people eat way more than most fat people, and stay thin. There are thin gluttons and fat anorexics. You can’t tell a thing about a person’s health/fitness/eating habits just by looking at them riding the train.

    1. ‘That’s in for them: The bullies can brag in front of their peers and get social status among them. It’s all their little games, and other people are nothing but tokens to collect. It’s without risk, as they are targeting the “enemy” in some phoney “war” — can expect to be tolerated, if not cheered on by anyone but their victims. (And still they run away, because any reply might taint their victory. Also, maybe, an instinct for self-preservation.)

  6. This was on the evening TV news. A nice young woman was interviewed, was mystified by the possible reasons behind being given such a vile card, and (I didn’t actually see the whole item) seemed to be puzzled rather than desperately hurt. If someone gave me a ‘fat’ card, they’d find themselves under the bloody train.

    1. i AM PROUD OF YOU. i WISH i could do that. i don’t have it in me. i did it precisely once, when some schmuck came up to me at the UCLA salad bar, when i was about twenty years old, my mother had been just [slightly mis-]diagnosed with terminal cancer and i had simultaneously gone through my first divorce, after my first exhusband tried to kill himself, all of this based on a marriage that was more or less the punk rock equivalent of the book/movie, “endless love” [eg: where he sets her house on fire].

      at that point some idiot, some piece of completely worthless lack of worth, decided it was VERY IMPORTANT to tell me i was EATING TOO MUCH SALAD. i’m not making this up, and i didnt have the energy that day to take it. were there a train, bloody or not, to push him under, there would have been blood on that train that day & a field of cops interviewing a generally entirely too law-abiding citizen. never before, though, and never again.

      i am REALLY AMAZED by this movement, and the people who have taken to it so strongly, so astonishingly well, that they don’t feel like crawling under mountains of dirt the way i do when i get this stuff [i dont much any more; i did like crazy when i weighed more than i do. i am ALWAYS a natural target for it, & it is true that i’d get it if i weighed eighty, sixty, NINE pounds].

      these fukcers look for whoever they guess will be most upset, they can pick us out—that’s also why they don’t need to stick around, they can run away. they KNOW who’s gonna react, that what they are really gloating over is their own cruelty is absolute, and belongs nowhere near the news—and even moreso, nowhere near honorable human beings—than do any of the horrible violent outrages we have seen so much on the news this past year. these minor mothraforkers outrages are smaller, true, but almost as cruel. and cruelty has NO BUSINESS in a decent world.

  7. My part-time job is as a Security officer at a local mall. A good many of my colleagues there happen to be fat (not unlike the general populace). From time to time I hear comments about fatness from the mouths of folks who are plainly bigoted and mightily misinformed. I am, myself, a genetic heritage fat person. My present scrawniness is a sort of disguise which I never sought to attain. It’s a sort of gift, though, to have been granted Thin Privilege. I’ve been unexpectedly given a new pulpit from which to advance Size Acceptance (which I celebrate, proposing that fat people be revered rather than reviled). A time will come when Fatness is correctly regarded as a quite positive and beneficial thing. Those who have been harshly judgmental will then grasp the extent of their folly.

    1. Thank you, Harry Minot!

      “A positive and beneficial thing” – as in, certain diseases have a better survival rate, if you’re fat, because they make the body waste away, so being bigger to start with, you have more time, and thus more opportunity for treatment, or the fact that fat people have really strong legs and core muscles, because we carry weight with us all day long. Thin people, even the most hard-core exercisers who will put a backpack with 20 or 40 or even 60 pounds on their back for a more challenging hike, would never DREAM of carrying around the weight we carry ALL DAY LONG. They’ll do it for the duration of the exercise, and no longer, and then brag about how much weight they carried. And yet, they call us weak and lazy, for doing it 24/7.

      Also, fat keeps you warmer in cold environments.

      Also, fat helps you survive during a famine, or when you’re living in a food desert, or when some jackass thinks he’s doing you a favor, by taking your plate away, or giving you lunchtime detention, because “you could stand to skip a few meals.” Sure, your blood sugar can tank and send you into a diabetic coma, IF you have blood sugar issues. But if you’re blood sugar is fine (fat DOES NOT EQUAL diabetic, doctors!), then you’ll be able to outlast any thin person in a starvation situation.

      I rather liked, when reading “The Hunger Games,” that Katniss was glad to gain a bit of fat before the challenge, because she realized, right off, that it would help her survive better. She didn’t think for one moment that those extra pounds would make it harder for her, because “I’ll have to schlep around this extra weight, and that will make me weaker.” Nope. She saw the benefit, from the get-go. Spoken like a woman who had starved. Oh, yeah. She had.

      You’re right. Fat really is a positive and beneficial thing, under certain circumstances. And since you can’t positively predict or accurately avoid those circumstances, the Army brat in me says, “Be prepared!”

      I won’t pry and ask why you are currently wearing your disguise you never sought. I’m sorry you have to wear it. At the same time, I’m grateful for the truly knowledgeable ally/advocate. Heck, if you were fat, to begin with, I’m not sure “ally” is the proper term. Maybe “secret agent” would be a better title for you. YEAH! You’re a SA secret agent! May I call you XX7? Licensed to grill?

      Internet hugs, if you want them!

      1. I don’t know about the keeping warm in the cold. I tend to freeze in anything less than 20C. My mom also can’t tolerate cold, but that may also be a result of one of the world’s most severe cases of hypothyroid. And since my dad came home from hospital, he’s been cold, even though he essentially weighs the same as before the hospital.

        1. Hey Mich,

          Is your dad sleeping more than usual? If so, it is possible the surgery set off his thyroid. That happened to my dad after a surgery. Just thought I would throw it out there.

        2. Everyone is different, of course. However, anorexics will often report that they are cold, even in a hot room. That may have more to do with a lack of energy in their bodies than fat acting as “insulation,” though. Still, there are benefits. The so-called “obesity paradox” is real, proven, and something I like to throw at trolls, on the rare occasions that I engage with them.

  8. When these bullies die, they’re going to look back with A LOT of regret at having made the world a worse place instead of a better one. Sucks to be them.

    1. Sometimes I wonder when they get to heaven (or hell), and Peter/Satan/someone asks them what they did with their lives to help others, and they’re going to look stone faced when hearing about “fat cards” and dieters obsession with losing weight.

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