In a social media conversation, a fat person posted about fatphobia and received this response from a thin person:
I’ve never really heard of fatphobia to be honest.
I can tell you from the other side of the fence is pretty awful. When you’re thin (in my case underweight) people just randomly ask me awful questions….
OMG, you’re so skinny! Do you eat?
You should gain weight. You’d look better
Sigh, I would never talk about a person’s body like that.
So is fatphobia like the opposite of me?
I’m sure this person was not ill-intentioned, but this is an excellent example of harmful behavior that is driven by privilege (in this case thin privilege.) This person has never heard of fatphobia (despite living in a world that is literally built on it) and instead of, say, Googling to learn more about the oppression they had not previously been aware of, or even asking for education, they’ve decided their best move is to try to shift the conversation to their experience as a thin person, and reframe the concept of fatphobia as something that happens in relation to them. I’m sure that this person didn’t mean to be harmful, but one of the ways that we can become more competent in dismantling oppression is to realize that centering ourselves in the discussion of other people’s oppression is wrong, and that working to educate ourselves is the way to go.
Now to answer the question Is fatphobia the opposite of thin-shaming? No, it’s not.
While thin-shaming is wrong, and harmful, fat-shaming (including being asked rude questions) is just one component of fatphobia/weight stigma (which includes the shame, stigma, bullying, and systemic oppression that fat people experience.) Our society is not built to accommodate fat people, meaning that fat people literally live in a different world than thin people – with greater oppression happening to those with larger bodies and those with multiple oppressions.
Fat people have many fewer options when it comes to clothes, and our options are often more expensive (including because they aren’t sold in stores so we have to pay for shipping both ways to try them on.) This affects not just our ability to develop a personal style, but our ability to dress appropriately for situations from job interviews to red carpets.
Thin people have an expectation that they will be given accommodated by seats wherever they go – whether it’s at a restaurant, on a rollercoaster, at a wedding or funeral
, on a plane
etc. Not only do businesses often fail to accommodate fat people, but they often then blame fat people and force us to pay twice as much for the same service (for example, a trip from point A to point B in a seat that accommodates us.)
Fat people are hired less and paid less than our thin counterparts. A study by Jennifer Shinall, at Vanderbilt found that heavy women earned $9,000 less than their average-weight counterparts; very heavy women earned $19,000 less, Very thin women, on the other hand, earned $22,000 more than those who were merely average.
And that’s just the tip of a very large, very harmful iceberg. I’ll mention that weight stigma harms people of all sizes since it drives unhealthy thoughts and behaviors around the fear of becoming fat, though the harm it does to fat people would be enough to dedicate resources to dismantle it. Fatphobia is real and it deserves entire conversations that are not diluted or derailed by the experiences of thin people.
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ONLINE WORKSHOP: Talking Back To Fatphobia
We’ll discuss options for dealing with the fatphobia that we face as we navigate the world – from responses that encourage a dialog, to responses that encourage people to leave us TF alone, with lots of time for Q&A and a pay-what-you-can option.
Details and Registration: https://danceswithfat.org/workshop-talking-back-to-fatphobia/
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