When Not to Make Fun of Fat People

Recently a number of people sent me an internet meme.  It shows a fat person, shot from the back on a machine at the gym with the caption “Making fun of a fat person at the gym is like making fun of a homeless person at a job fair.”

So obviously my first response was “WT Actual F?” That was not lessened when I saw the comment that came along with the post (by a thin person) which said  “I hate the word fat, but I’m re-posting this because it’s important.”

Dude.  So you’re concerned about the use of an adjective that accurately describes my body, but not concerned with the idea that we need to be specific about when you should make fun of fat (or homeless) people, as if there are times when it’s fine and dandy to make fun of them?  No.  Just no.

This smacks of “Good Fatty/Bad Fatty” thinking – the massively misinformed idea that fat people who participate in behaviors that are judged as “good” or “healthy” (by the person who is operating under the delusion that they have the right to judge us,) deserve to be treated better than those who aren’t doing the “good” or “healthy” thing.

Because I have been involved in athletics I am sometimes privileged by people who think this way and so I want to be crystal clear that the Good Fatty Bad Fatty Dichotomy is complete bullshit, and it needs to die. Nobody is obligated to participate in movement or to eat a certain way or to perform “health” by any definition, doing so does not make someone better or worse that people who don’t do so, and fat people deserve basic human respect because we are human.

The fact that a body is fat does not indicate that that body is public property, or that the fat people should be ready and willing to accept the stereotypes and preconceived notions of others, or that fat people should be appreciative of backhanded compliments. To help make this clear, I fixed that meme:

making fun of fat people


Picture Description:  Original pictures is a fat person on a machine at the gym, photographed from behind with the caption “Making fun of a fat person at the gym is like making fun of a homeless person at a job fair.”  This image and caption are crossed out, the image is copied on the right with the new caption “Making fun of a fat person or a homeless person is a shitty thing to do no matter where they are.  Don’t be an asshole.”

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22 thoughts on “When Not to Make Fun of Fat People

  1. When not to make fun of anyone, regardless of whatever trait might strike you as “mock-worthy,” is whenever you have more than two active brain cells to rub together…

  2. And fat people all love it when you watch them work out and let them know you approve of their behavior, especially when it ends up on the Internet without their permission. Not creepy or anything, right?

  3. THANK YOU. I got into it with a friend who not only posted this meme but added, “Don’t make fun of fat people who are trying to *better themselves*.” I was like, “BETTER THEMSELVES? Can you not see how fucked up this is?” Spoiler: She couldn’t.

  4. Of course also based on the faulty assumptions that working out for a fat person or going to a job fair for a homeless person is a “step in the right direction”. Assuming both that fat people do not typically work out and that working out will make someone not fat in time, and likewise that homeless people must be unemployed and that gaining employment will necessarily lead to not being homeless anymore. Also the moral argument that one should workout, particularly if fat, and should be employed, particularly if poor or homeless. All of which is wrong.
    I think most readers here would be well aware of the fallacies regarding fat people and working out, but a lot of people are not so aware that many homeless people do maintain employment, and for people who are homeless and unemployed the solution to their homelessness is often not as simple as “get a job” (for some folks that might be what they need when homeless for a period after losing employment. For many people who are homeless, especially those who are chronically homeless, the issues are much more complex.) And many people who are homeless are unable to maintain employment due to disabilities, and there is nothing immoral about not being able to maintain full time/steady employment.

    1. I volunteer at a food bank, and frequently the semi-homeless are working 2-3 jobs, or doing contract work. So their income is pretty iffy if there will be a job tomorrow or not. Others live at the Y or Salvation Army, so they are in dire straits already. The true homeless are served by the Drop In Centre.

      1. Yeah, I work with both homeless clients and formerly homeless clients (and non-homeless clients… my clients area all across the board right now actually). I’ve known many people living in shelters or their cars while still maintaining employment because something happened in their life that resulted in losing housing suddenly and they didn’t have the resources to move immediately. This is especially true as well for ex-cons who even when they are employed will face more barriers in being approved for leases.
        And that’s speaking of regular full time employment. Many people who are homeless do under the table work here and there, so they do not have steady employment, but they are still doing some work.

  5. Earlier today, I had a serving of ice cream, because it is delicious.

    Later today, I am going to eat salad, because it is delicious.

    Newsflash! Fat people eat and enjoy “good” foods, as well as “bad” foods, just like thin people do! Fat people eat their vegetables! We enjoy nutrition. We like getting our vitamins and minerals in a source that our bodies can actually absorb.

    Cheering us on for being “good fatty,” and “trying to lose weight” just makes us angry. Maybe we just enjoy the vegetables, when the fat-stigma is taken from them.

    When I was dieting, I hated celery. Now I love it. Taking away the association with dieting makes all the difference. Same with exercise. Exercising just to lose weight is a torture. Exercising because you simply want to exercise, can be bliss.

    Maybe that fat person at the gym just wants to get stronger, or build up stamina, or is in training for a friggin’ marathon! That may be a fat athlete! Or maybe it’s someone doing physical therapy. Or maybe they just really enjoy the movement. Some people like to take walks, and if they can’t do it outside, due to weather, then they hit the treadmill, because it’s a very peaceful time, when they can be at one with their mind and body, away from all the stresses of the world. Walking is a great way to meditate, for some people. The rhythm of breathing and moving, in synch, can be a perfect mantra to raise them to a higher level, or just to cast away their cares for a little while.

    Add some “Good for you, you’re being a good fatty and trying to get rid of that excess part of you that I find unacceptable,” is just going to spoil all the zen they just achieved.


    1. I’d like to give that fat person a shirt with Jayne Cobb on the front, saying “You’re damaging my calm.”

      Because seriously, this is maddening.

      Cheering someone on at the gym is fine, if you’re cheering them right. “Yay, you’re building stamina. Yay, you’re getting stronger. Yay, you’re doing more than you did before.” or even “Yay, your form is improving,” or “Yay, you look so much more relaxed now.”

      There are ALL kinds of reasons to work out, and if you only focus on the weight, you just take all the joy out of it, and turn it into a lousy chore.

      1. Myself, all I want from people I only see at the gym is maybe a warm smile of recognition, or a friendly “hello” or “good workout today?” I don’t want to be cheered on and I DON’T want my work commented on, being both self-conscious and an introvert. Of course it’s different if it’s a friend or a trainer.

        1. Yeah, with me it was OK to chat with friends, and we would cheer each other on. But you know, it’s all how you’re cheering each other on. It’s nice to have someone you can say “I improved” to, and get some positive feedback, and give them positive feedback, as well. There are so many different reasons to exercise, after all. I was so chuffed to be able to do a 5K walk, thanks to preparing at the gym. I was fortunate not to have a lot of fat-shaming there. At another gym I attended for a while, nobody spoke to anyone (well, it was 5 in the morning, but still NO ON spoke – eerie).

          And I liked meeting people at the gym or a dance class, usually talking about something completely unrelated, like knitting, or something like that.

  6. I’m currently under some stress right now. I just got back from grocery shopping, and a rude comment from a family that I had previously blown off came back to make me extra irritated (it had to do with the cheap bread I can afford -the evil kind with preservatives that doesn’t go bad if it sits around for more than two days).

    It occurred to me that this meme could do that to somebody, make an already annoying time worse by reminding them of jerks in the world.

    This is why it is important to battle this kinds of things (according to your personal ability to do so) because it is another little jab on top of all the other little (and big) jabs that life throws at us. And this is one that DOES NOT have to happen.

    I wish more people understood that it is ALWAYS rude to pass judgement on someone else. I also wish that they understood that the corollary to judging other people is that you wind up judging yourself, and often unkindly. Be good to others. Be good to yourself.

    1. I’m so sorry you’re stressed, and I hope it gets better for you soon.

      You’re right – there is no need for people to post these cruel memes and hurt others. They usually even target people they don’t even know, so it’s not like it’s revenge for something these people deserved, is it? It’s just people being jerks, and that is NOT OK.

      In the spirit of being good to others, and not judging people, I’m going to hope that these things are done sporadically, and are not, in fact, their everyday, normal behavior. I do think that most people are basically good, and that if they knew just how much they are hurting and damaging other people, they’d stop. Mostly, though, I think they don’t really know, because most victims are either too afraid, too wounded, or too powerless to speak up and tell them. That’s why we need to speak up for each other, so that when we are unable to speak up for ourselves, someone else can have our backs, and vice versa.

  7. I had the same reaction to this when I saw someone post it on Facebook, and I’m sure it’s as a result of reading your blog (not because I would have been ok with making fun of people otherwise, but that now I can see how comments like this are harmful in their own way). I was like, Of course you shouldn’t make fun of fat people at the gym. Or elsewhere. Or anyone else at the gym. Just don’t make fun of people. Problem solved.

    1. “Just don’t make fun of people. Problem solved.”

      Simple right? Something everyone should have learned in kindergarten. Yet the adults in our society still have trouble with this.

  8. On a recent trip, I was at the hotel gym and a woman came in with her 2 kids. She worked out while directing them to safe activities. I wanted to say something to her, because I know how hard it is to 1) get a workout in with squirmy kids AND 2)work out while traveling. But I didn’t say anything to her, because I didn’t want her to think I was being patronizing, or commenting as per above.

    But anyone who works out at a hotel while on a trip is a freaking warrior, in my eyes. Because (for me) working out – and having the discipline to do so – is HARD! 🙂

    1. Perhaps complimenting her children on being so well-behaved would come across well. It opens a dialogue, so you can say how impressed you are with her skills at child-rearing, and from that you can segue into your OWN challenges on getting in a work-out while traveling, and basically, you’re impressed at her management skills.

      Nothing patronizing there, but so many parents struggle, just trying to get through their basic lives, and adding in an extra challenge like traveling, and yeah, it’s TOUGH. But most people just don’t recognize it, or say, “Well, you CHOSE to have kids, so you just have to deal with the extra challenges they bring.” Yes, they did, and yes they do, but that doesn’t mean that a bit of recognition for the fact that they are dealing well with those extra challenges wouldn’t be heart-warming and uplifting for someone who is dealing with a lot of challenges at the same time.

      A boost like that can go a long way.

      No need to mention weight at all.

      Of course, unless The Doctor comes along with his T.A.R.D.I.S., you won’t be able to go back there and say that. But maybe it will come up again sometime.

  9. Wow! I saw that meme recently and didn’t even realize what was wrong with it until I read this post. But when I read this post, I could suddenly see how horribly messed up that meme is. I’ve been working on my own body positivity for a while, but it’s hard to put aside the soundtrack I’ve been listening to my whole life about fat bodies and to listen to a new one instead. This is why this blog is SO IMPORTANT and why I keep coming back here, so that you can keep remind me of what’s harmful BS and what’s really true. Thank you.

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