Responses to COVID-19 Fatphobia

You know what sucks - learning that we're in the middle of a deadly pandemic and your biggest worry is that you might end up looking more like me.Sorry to have been away, I have a recurring neck issue that… recurred. Usually I knock it down with ice/traction/anti-inflammatories/PT. The physical therapy is a super important part of that and isn’t an option right now. Unfortunately, typing for an extended period of time really exacerbates it, hence the lack of blog posts. But I’m doing everything I can at home and it’s starting to feel better and so I’m back! Thanks to all the readers who checked up on me, I can’t tell you what it meant to me!

The anti-fat posts and memes that are going around (often under the guise of a “joke”) are absolutely ridiculous. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to deal with them and so I thought I’d put together some responses that you can cut and paste.

Before we get to that I want to be clear that this is absolute horseshit. When you point this out, people are likely to get defensive and double down on the harm by trying to victim blame you. That’s also horseshit. And, of course  Someone saying that it’s a joke doesn’t make the situation any more acceptable, since we shouldn’t be expected to be ok with “jokes” made at our expense.

You aren’t obligated to educate people and you aren’t obligated to keep educating them while they keep harming you. So you can choose just to ignore stuff, you can also choose to leave the first comment and then disengage at any time. You are not the problem – fatphobia is.

As always, feel free to reword, mix and match etc.

Educational Options

If it’s happening on social media, one option is just to leave a reaction/emoji that captures your feeling – crying, rage, etc. It’s subtle and doesn’t leave room for much pushback.

This post is harmful. It’s fatphobic and also harmful to people who are trying to deal with eating disorders on top of the rest of the stress.

I wish that we could find ways to support each other that aren’t fat-shaming and triggering for people with eating disorders. This situation is difficult enough!

Pointed Response

Honestly, fat-shaming/food-shaming like this is really hurtful. I wish people wouldn’t do this.

You may not be thinking about it, but things like this are really hurtful. I know that everyone is trying to deal with their stress, but it would be great if you could find a way to do it that isn’t fatphobic.

Full On Snark 

You know what sucks – being in the middle of a deadly pandemic and learning that your biggest worry is that you might end up looking more like me.

Fuck this fat-shaming bullshit.

I hope everyone who is reading this is doing as well as possible and I hope that you don’t come across too much fat-shaming bullshit as you deal with everything else that’s going on!

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13 thoughts on “Responses to COVID-19 Fatphobia

  1. I posted this on my facebook with a picture of me “Hey Folks! I’ve been seeing jokes about how fat people are going to be when quarantine is over.
    This is the hill I have decided to die on. Being fat is not horrible. It is not a punishment. It is hurtful to me in a tangible way when fat phobia is enabled in our society. Fat people get worse healthcare, less pay and are considered moral less and lacking in basic will power. Please do not post things that make the world a worse place for me to live.
    You friendly neighborhood fat person”

  2. I am so glad you are starting to feel better! Is home PT available? My husband just returned from a skilled nursing facility and a physical therapist is coming to our home. Thanks for this blog. Received a request from a women’s leader exchange to send along some words of wisdom. Your blog post has inspired me, thanks!

  3. Ragen, I was starting to worry about you, yes thinking the worst as is my want. I am glad you are doing better, if rest and slow movement helps, definitely do that! Don’t over-do!
    I knew this blow back was coming. The poor minorities of the world are still the poor minorities of the world so the we can all agree on who to blame/target/hate/expose so we can feel safe/superior/better/less afraid/immortal has settled in.
    Guess what people, Fat does not Equal diabetes, heart disease, hypertension… no matter what they think.
    Caught a blip on gossip sight, so no guarantee it was true. 50 Cent was worried in avoiding COVID-19 all of us ‘just staying home were gonna get fat.’ If that’s true, your worried not about people losing their jobs, businesses’, homes not to mention loved ones and their own health or life, no, his biggest worry is folks gonna get fat. Is that all you’ve got? My condolences…
    Ah for the early days of AIDS/HIV when religious types and bog- standard bigots could feel safe simply by not being homosexuals or IV drug abusers’…Till it hit blood donations and “innocent victims” started testing positive.

    Stay well everyone.

  4. “No, no, no, you don’t understand, I’m only SELF-depreciating! I’m depreciating myself by suggesting I’ve been so greedy and lazy lately that if I keep going the way I’m going, I might turn into you!”

    Again: You cannot SELF-depreciate with someone else’s body.

    And no matter how bad things are, persecuting someone else never made them any better.

  5. I’m getting really tired of the media parroting the fat haters, and giving them a forum. I really am. This morning, on NPR, they had a segment with someone (didn’t catch her name) talking about how the obese have a harder time with COVID, etc. Some interesting points from the segment:

    1) The speaker kept talking about people “having obesity” – I hate that phrase. I really do.
    2) The speaker (and a clip from another person) referred to how when people become “obese”, their metabolism slows down (erm… There is a whole bunch of fail right there in and of itself)
    3) Zero reference to proportion of fat people vs. skinny people becoming ill and ending up hospitalized. Reference made to obesity being a “marker” of diabetes ,and hypertension etc. That is, no clinical data to back up who actually might be hypertensive or diabetic while fat or not-fat.
    4) Talking about the impact of COVID on People of Color with more emphasis on “obesity”, and less on other factors (inequality, discrimination, etc.). They DID bring up the fact that People of Color more often hold jobs that cannot be done from home — that was the one good part.
    5) Claims that the COVID vaccine probably wouldn’t work as well on fat people, because the ‘flu vaccine doesn’t work as well on fat people. Ummm…. How about making fat people a part of the testing and working to get a vaccine that DOES
    6) Lots of “we need to learn more” – as lawsuit avoidance, I guess. Yes. They need to learn more. They need to learn statistics, causality chains, and a whole bunch of science.

    In general — a manure pile of fail. It didn’t need to be so. It really didn’t. Fat people, once again, are made the poster child in this whole mess while they needn’t be. I guess the fat haters don’t want a pandemic to go to waste as an opportunity to oppress fat people.

    1. That, definitely, Andy Jo. They didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to lambast fat people. It was a given, any hint of correlation, or whiff, or lingering, faint scent of “OBESITY” and they come runnin. Don’t know who is worse, the genuinely hate you ers, or the really want to help you ers. Both end up in the same place eventually. You people need to go!
      I’m rubber, you’re glue, in the age of COVID-19…
      Wonder how long it takes ’em to see (and dismiss/minimize) the connection between stress, exclusion, poverty, racism, sexism and general societal hatred of a people and these so called obesity caused illnesses?

      1. “Don’t know who is worse, the genuinely hate you ers, or the really want to help you ers. Both end up in the same place eventually. You people need to go!”

        Depends on your definition of “worse.” They’re equally bad for any fat individual unfortunate enough to wind up in their line of sight (heaven knows I learned that the hard way), but for fat people as a whole, Good Cops are definitely more likely to have the power to do widespread damage than Bad Cops. Good Cops are going on NPR to tell everyone how to talk, think, and feel about us; they’ve got billion-with-a-b-dollar campaigns to spread their version of our life story; they’ve got presidents and first ladies doing their gopher work. Your average Bad Cop won’t be in the same room with that kind of money and influence unless it’s to deliver a pizza and get stiffed on the tip.

        1. Uber scary!

          “If you’re not AT the table, you’re On the table.” all too clear…

          Bad Cops yell “Hey Fat Ass!” out their car window. Good Cops have the ears of legislators all to ready for an injection of financially lubricated fix ’ems poured in their ear canals and down our throats. About the only thing they want us to swallow, bullshit, lies, advertising, self loathing and “We’re here to help you/kill you.” motivational programs. We have not quite reached the point of Fatty Lockdown. Too many laws in the way, at the moment.

    2. “This morning, on NPR, they had a segment with someone (didn’t catch her name) talking about how the obese have a harder time with COVID, etc.”

      *Innocent blinking* You mean she was talking about how pandemics have an extra angle of danger for any marginalized group because of panicked citizens’ tendency to scapegoat, and because medical professionals resent “wasting” resources on marginalized people that they could stockpile like especially life-saving packs of toilet paper in case some hypothetical future non-marginalized person comes along “deserving” them more?

      “2) The speaker (and a clip from another person) referred to how when people become “obese”, their metabolism slows down […] Zero reference to proportion of fat people vs. skinny people becoming ill and ending up hospitalized. Reference made to obesity being a “marker” of diabetes ,and hypertension etc. That is, no clinical data to back up who actually might be hypertensive or diabetic while fat or not-fat.”

      Oh, I see you meant she WAS one of the panicked citizens engaging in scapegoating/professionals who “resent” having to “waste” resources on us they could save for hypothetical future thin people. On a platform the size of NPR.

      Well, that’s… *encouraging.*

  6. Ragen, I’m so sorry your neck has been bothering you. Due to my own attempts at mental health, I’ve been trying to avoid upsetting things, and while your posts are valuable, to be sure, they are by nature upsetting, because they are addressing problems, and problems are upsetting. In short, I’m sorry I didn’t reach out sooner, and check on you, because I simply didn’t notice you were gone, because I was gone.
    But now I’m back, and so are you! YAAAY!

    I, too, have noticed the “COVID-19 hits fat people harder” posts, and frankly, I just saw the headline and skipped right over it. Because you know what? EVEN IF being fat were an actual risk factor, that does not in any way mitigate our right to life and proper medical care.
    I know that in some places, doctors are having to make hard choices about who to save. I don’t know what criteria they use, but I DO hope that they’re not using size as one criteria. How about “Do people rely on this person for their survival? Would this person’s death affect a lot of other people, or not?” Sad to say, but if you have no one who needs you, you’re simply less likely to be picked to survive, if saving one key person can lead to saving many others. Right now, a scientist or doctor would be highest on the list of those to save, because they can, in turn, save so many others. And they may just do it while being fat. Fat scientists, doctors, care-givers, food providers, and other essential people exist. Not to mention some people are the rocks of their families and communities, without whom, the rest would collapse, even if they have no paid jobs. My heart breaks for those who have to make that kind of choice.

    Now, to convince the world that most fat people DO have people who need them, rely on them, depend on them, and yes, love them.

    I’m in an odd position – physically disabled (actually on disability!) which makes me somewhat privileged, for once, because I’m not forced to go out and endanger myself, as an essential worker, nor am I in danger of becoming unemployed, because I’m already not employed, because I am not employable. At the same time, I am VITAL in my household. Without me, my sister would have to go to a permanent nursing home situation, and we all know that’s not a good place to be right now. So, I have no “bottom line” to prove my value, but at least three people would be screwed without me here.

    Take care, everyone. Exercise if you want to (It’s good stress relief, if you’re doing movement you enjoy, simply because you enjoy it), and eat healthy (if you want to and if you actually can), because these two things will help you get through. Or curl up in bed with a good book and escape from the world. Whatever you need to get through this.
    Just know that you may be physically alone, but you’re not spiritually alone.

    I, for one, am very grateful for online communities, such as this one. It’s already isolating, in our culture, being fat. Now, with the pandemic, we’re even more isolated. Thank you, Ragen, for having this well-run, well-moderated, and above all, SAFE space for us.

    Thank you for not linking and giving traffic to (and tempting me to click and be hurt by) the haters. I can search for them, myself, if I’m spoiling for a fight. But lately, I’ve been mostly looking at posts about my favorite games, and cute animals.

    Stay safe and take care of yourselves, please, people! You ALL have value.

    Sorry. I’m rambling. I just want to reach out and say all my stuff now, because I’m going to have to get offline again, soon (or just get back to watching cute and funny animals). Virtual hugs to all who need it! And remember, we WILL survive, as a society. We will be changed, but we will survive.

    You know, the rise of the lower and middle classes into more power in Western culture (such as workers unions and having more power in government, rather than monarchs having absolute power) can actually be traced back to the Black Death. Workers were scarce, and as such, they were able to claim better treatment, better wages, and power to negotiate. And that changed the world.
    That thought, alone, gives me some hope for the future. For one thing, I HOPE that we will manage to convince the powers that be that universal healthcare is a GOOD and necessary thing, and even the universal basic income, that has proves successful in many countries. If people have their basic needs met, they can soar, *and* keep the economy strong, because with their basic needs met, they can keep going. What’s more, without the stress of basic survival, they can expand their minds and create new things to improve their own lives and the lives of those around them. They can invent and innovate. They can change the world for the better. You can’t pull yourself up by the bootstraps if you’re barefoot. But even if all you have are sandals, you can carry your brother down the long and winding road.

  7. I’m in that same odd position. On SSI, not out working. If it get COVID-19, as a indigent, mentally ill fat woman, I am pretty sure I’d be last on anyone’s list. Kind of depressing and leveling to think people who hate you have control over your life or death.

    Best not to get sick. That and not turn into the kind of people who look at others and say ‘No.’ and point them to the gallows.

    You can’t pull your self up by your boot straps anyway. Its a physical impossibility. Just another way for the haves to say the have nots earned their lesser status…

    Don’t let anyone else tell you how to value YOUR LIFE or YOUR SELF! Just keep going forward.:)

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