“Fat” is one of the most common words in the English language. It’s used mostly-negatively to describe, ridicule, shame, preach and value-judge. Being overweight myself, it seems fat people get more than their share of bullying.
In college special education classes, we discussed the danger of labeling kids. It pigeon holes them and sets up unhealthy behavioral expectations. Kids get trapped in the parameters superimposed by labels. That concern about labeling doesn’t carry over to fat people. Being tagged fat is inescapable, like wearing a brand name or badge you can’t take off. Even if we lose weight, if society deems us still-too-fat, the persona follows us.
It’s social taboo to reference people by physical attribute. It’s sometimes considered bullying, even neutral or positive references. Indicating someone by skin color, handicap, disability, prominent body feature, gender identity, sexuality is tacky. I don’t even identify people by self-imposed physical features: piercings, non-traditional hairstyle, tattooes, unusual clothes. It’s their right to self-expression. Identifying them by style only misses the person underneath. Obesity seems to be the one physical attribute even supposedly-intelligent people have no qualms highlighting.
We avoid mentioning physical appearance because it may hurt the person’s feelings. I would no more say “that guy with the big nose” than I would call him a hate name. He’s aware of his nose size and may be sensitive about it. He doesn’t need people calling attention to it. We consider calling out body features ignorant and rude. Except for fat people.
Some people take it beyond description. They attach stigma to the fat descriptor. They say, in effect, “fat is bad so you must be bad.” Or “you’re fat, ergo you’re ugly.” Sometimes, people treat fat people like we’re stupid or useless. Fat people are sometimes ostracized. Fatness blinds many people to other characteristics. I’m a well-read online writer. Sometimes, comments say on my articles–“go lose weight.” Because that has what to do with what I wrote? Fat doesn’t cause incompetence and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In some cultures, having avoir du pois is considered sexy and being skinny is ugly.
Being fat may be unhealthy. But so is being ultra-skinny or ultra-muscled–the body size we’re all supposed to strive for. Some fat naysayers preach against obesity health while smoking, drinking alcohol, using drugs or doing other unhealthy things. I doubt hecklers care much about a fat person’s health. If they did, they’d consider mental health. They’d encourage instead of shame. We know we’re fat. It’s kinda obvious. Rubbing it in does no more good than telling a drunk not to drink. I think bullies like schadenfreude. They feel bad about themselves and pick on others to compensate. They like to hear themselves talk. Some are even fat themselves (this kind often lurk on the internet where no one can see their hypocrisy). Bullies know fat people feel vulnerable; that makes them happy. I say they should go pick on someone their own size.
Are you fat? Whether you’re dieting or not, look in the mirror and say, “Hello, Beautiful.” Because I said so.