Cheap Fat Jokes Are Not Political Commentary

Talking NonsenseOn Saturday millions of people around the world marched in solidarity for progressive, feminist goals*. Enter Mike from Mike’s corner who decided that the best thing that he could contribute was a crappy fat joke:

Facebook post from “Mike’s Corner” It’s a picture of a protest march that says “IN ONE DAY, TRUMP GOT MORE FAT WOMEN OUT WALKING, THAN MICHELLE OBAMA DID IN 8 YEARS

This is obviously crap, and I’ve been asked to talk about why so that we can decide how best to respond.  There are several things happening here.

First it’s an attempt at humor based on stereotypes “ha ha fat women don’t usually walk ha ha” Just like people of all sizes, there are fat women who walk (and roll) and fat women who don’t but people who would make this joke are not likely to let the facts get in the way of their bigoted humor. There’s not much to unpack here other than to say that if someone thinks this is funny, they could maybe try to be less of a bigoted piece of shit moving forward.

There’s the issue of this being factually incorrect. Michelle Obama focused on kids (sometimes in ways that were horribly ill-advised) and didn’t have any programs about women walking.  I guess Mike is a fan of “alternative facts?”

The most dangerous takeaway that I’ve seen size bigots suggest is the idea that fat women delegitimize a protest simply by being there – as if the marches would have somehow been more legitimate had all the participants met Mike’s definition of “thin.” This isn’t original, the brain trust who created this meme was beaten to the punch by Ann Coulter (which is to say that this dude is getting his ass kicked by women from every direction.)

The size of the women (or people of any gender) who participated in the marches has nothing to do with anything, and yet fat phobia is so powerful in our culture that the first thing this guy decided to do was try to make a fat joke.  (I will say that I couldn’t find a single march whose platform included anything about size discrimination and so perhaps this will help us explain to organizers of future events why that’s important.)

When we respond to things like this, the most important thing is that we not reinforce the prejudices upon which they are built, or create more bigotry in the process. For this reason we want to avoid the mistake of responding about how fat the attendees were or weren’t, or using comebacks that are healthist and/or ableist.

If this appears in a space that you manage, I would suggest either simply deleting it or pointing out the issues as I have here. (If you’re interested in a discussion of moderating comments in personal online spaces as well as groups we manage online, I  recently wrote a piece for Ravishly about just that!)

If you see it in another space, you might leave a comment pointing out how widespread sizeism is, how messed up it is that women’s worth is judged by how closely we are able to approximate a stereotype of beauty, and how this meme proves the need for such marches.  You could also suggest that the person who posted it try to be less of a bigoted piece of shit moving forward.

If you have other suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments. Also, you may notice that the meme above was shared by Jack E. Sandlin.  What you might not know is that he is a Republican state senator. His office number is 317-232-9414 or 317-232-9400.

*They are many things to talk about when it comes to these marches and how we can do better moving forward including how they could have been more inclusive of groups like People of Color, Trans and Non-Binary people, Fat Acceptance as a platform and more. These are important discussions that are worth having – cheap fat jokes parading as political commentary are not.

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15 thoughts on “Cheap Fat Jokes Are Not Political Commentary

  1. It isn’t fat related, but I noticed how often ‘tiny hands’ or appearance were mentioned in criticism of Trump.

    All of this type of thinking has got to go.

  2. It’s also coming from the premise that the only women who are unhappy – the only ones marching – are the ones who “can’t get a man.” Or are unfeminine. Or lesbian. Or “wish they were men.”

    I saw a concerted troll attack on a FB Page for one march (a friend had attended and Liked a picture) and that was a recurring theme – that every woman there either wanted or wanted to be a man, so they were all just jealous. (Since every woman with a man is happy and content…) As it happens, my happily married and downright stereotypically feminine friend was there with her husband and the eldest of her five children – but whatever… It’s really not about that.

    It is about making women like her who didn’t go, and didn’t see who was really there, believe they should not get involved with the “wrong kind.” What if it is all women who want your husband? Who are really just jealous of you? What if you’d really better play it safe?

    I told her that when the trolls come out in force, it means they’re running scared… And we do need to guard against them.

  3. Fatphobes, fatphobes, in my sight
    on the left and on the right
    Scandalized by Donald’s ass
    Search protests for that one fat lass
    with cries of “Trump, lose weight, you’re fat!”
    and “Birth control? YOU won’t need that!”
    As if these lines aren’t old and stale
    as dino shit preserved in shale
    The memes fly out and join the queue
    A JPEG clash of pundits who
    Once voted for the lesser sinner
    Now only want the one who’s thinner
    “You’re fat!” “No, YOU’RE fat!” hear them cry
    while taxes climb into the sky
    tuition puts our kids in debt
    and health care most still cannot get
    But why concern yourself with crime
    or whether the water is full of lyme
    when you can make a statue nude
    or play Where’s Fat Waldo in crowds
    If this is is your priority
    in who should lead the Land of the Free
    One day you will vote someone in
    Who’ll be a tyrant
    but he’ll be thin

  4. Small point of clarification: Jack Sandlin is a *state* senator, in Indiana. That doesn’t make it any less reprehensible or stupid that he posted it. But people may wonder who/where he is.

  5. The first time I saw that snarky meme, I wondered also when it became the responsibility of the FLOTUS to get anyone, male or female, fit or not, out walking.

    I’m getting really tired of the insults and fabrications floating around. If people cannot discuss their positions in a rational, intelligent manner, regardless of what side they are on, they need to just keep quiet.

  6. Marching in Madison I met and talked to several women with size acceptance signs or t shirts. It wasn’t on our official platform but the message was out there!

  7. You nailed it with delegitimaize. It is meant to make the marches seem less potent. Like when a woman complains about myopic beauty standards, ala Naomi Wolfe, she had better be beautiful or it is sour grapes. In advertising/movies a fat woman is a lesser then and counter-point. Successful men get thin hot women, unsuccessful men get fat shrews. Period. The appeal to ridicule is not new in the political environment, and it won’t go away. Maybe fifty percent of people really want to discuss politics and facts and issues, but there is a large bloc that would just assume let it be a verbal brawl and a smart-assy oh look how cleaver I am sham.
    It is pure fear. big fat bitches out there telling you in no uncertain terms “NO MORE BULLSHIT FROM YOU!!!” All they got is snide. They probably hope there are rallies filled with fat women, that way they never really mean anything do they? Just a bunch of fat bitches complaining. If they stopped eatin’ so damn much maybe a guy would fuck em and then they’d shut up. Or to quote Shadows on a Tightrope: “We are a threat, choose to be a threat when ever possible.”
    So all ya got from the march was fat broads. Maybe you should just stay home sweetheart.

  8. This was one of the reasons I recently got rid of my newsfeed on Facebook. I am just sick of all the bs and cannot seem to unfriend, block, or unfollow fast enough. I use my messenger app, group app, and page app to keep connected to what I need. I just feel the ugliness is only beginning.

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