Calling a Fat Girl a Fat Girl; or, Why Don’t You Come Over Here and Say That?
Is that headline a tad too aggressive?
Screw it. Let’s do this.
A week or so ago, the Daily Mail published another of their regular “Let’s Give an Offensive Person a Platform for their Horrible Opinion” piece – this time by a woman I hadn’t encountered before, called Linda Kelsey, who proudly took the opportunity to display her credentials (?) with the passion and vigour of someone who’s just realised how ridiculously fun being a troll can be.
The piece was entitled “Why are today’s young women so unashamed about being fat? Horrified by the rolls of flesh she’s witnessed on show this summer, Linda Kelsey takes no prisoners.”
She’s horrified. Poor Linda.
In short, her piece was about obesity, and the fact that if you’re fat, you should probably be miserable. She pointed out an example of a bunch of young girls heading on holiday, who had the audacity to be having fun, despite being – brace yourselves – a bit fat.
Linda, understandably, was shocked at what she saw – presumably, she’d been under the impression that fat people a) don’t have fun, except when they’re a token fat caricature on TV, and b) shouldn’t have fun in summer, because it’s inconsiderate to those who have to witness such a display.
I hate to break it to you, Linda – but the internet thinks you’re an asshat.
While my Twitter timeline seemed to erupt into endless comments about her own appearance – I’m not going to go down that road, tempting as it may be. I mean, I think her opinions are hideous, and wrong – but I don’t believe two wrongs make a right. I don’t believe tearing her apart because she, also, doesn’t look like the media ideal, will do anyone any good here.
(That said, Linda – if you’d like to see what I do think of people like you, please click here for an example from last year. Although be warned – my body’s on there, and you’re likely to find it horrifying. And so we’re clear, although I’m not going to say anything about your appearance, I reserve every right to pull out any other insult I choose, because I can.)
Anyway – Linda is a gross example of body shaming in the media – but to her credit, at least she’s up front about the fact that she’s a fat-shaming turd trumpet. What you see is what you get, with Linda – and from reading her article, I see a click-baiting grinch with a chip on her shoulder and an axe to grind.
Anyway, what with it being summer time, the backing band to Linda’s up-front body shaming comes in the form of the usual suspects – the vile, fundamentally offensive women’s magazines like Reveal, Now, and Heat – who spend every summer comparing ‘beach bodies,’ using words like ‘thinspiration,’ and (I kid you not) ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ to describe women who are just trying to have a nice time on their jollies. Women who, I might add, have the ‘enviable’ bodies that they’re supposed to ‘flaunt provocatively’ on the beach, according to the aforementioned source of all that is shaming, the Daily Mail.
Turns out, as women – we can’t win.
There is no perfect body, because some asshat with a long-lens camera and a poor grasp of the concept of proof-reading may be lurking in the bushes, waiting for you to bend in an unflattering way – and there’s no acceptable way to have fun if you’re overweight, because there’s always the risk of a nearby columnist with a stick up her arse waiting for something new to be offended by.
But why? Why is this kind of stranger-shaming acceptable, even in magazines and newspapers with circulation figures in the millions?
I mean – I’m a fat girl. And I’ve met, spoken to, and had genuinely a-ok conversations with journalists from across the board, both online and face-to-face – and as far as I’m aware, nobody’s yet come out and called me a repulsive fatty with a hideous bikini body. Yet.
(Just so we’re clear – I don’t think that about myself. I don’t own a bikini, but hell, if I did – Beyoncé’d rapidly be outta business through my booty confidence alone.)
So if it’s not a conversation they’d have with someone face-to-face – what makes it OK to put it on paper?
Why is it acceptable to say cruel, offensive things about people you don’t know, just for clicks? And at what point do you start putting one of these articles together without thinking ‘wait a minute – is this hurtful?’ Because hell, if you’re putting things out there without considering the implications – particularly if you’re doing it in the faux-concerned sneering way so common in discussions around obesity and women’s bodies – then you’re not a journalist. You’re a troll.
And nowhere is that clearer than in Linda Kelsey’s Daily Mail piece, in which she couches being downright offensive with a sprinkling of facts.
“The proportion of overweight and obese women has increased by 10 per cent in less than a decade,” she writes, alongside “bulging bellies and billowing pillows of back and shoulder stuffing, punctured by flabby arms and lardy legs that no amount of fake-tan could disguise.”
“Type 2 diabetes, linked to being overweight, is on the increase and more children are suffering from it,” she says, a couple of paragraphs after her nasty-ass descriptions of “young fatties confidently flashing their flesh.”
According to Linda, there isn’t a cross-over with women struggling with ‘real’ eating disorders like anorexia, and women who engage in disordered eating habits which cause them to be overweight. By the same token, being both fat and happy is a crime – and presumably, that one time when Linda saw them in the airport is wholly representative of the way these women feel about themselves all the time, making them serial offenders against the Fat Girl Acceptability Code.
It’s just opinion dressed up as journalism – and it’s a big, ugly example of what’s become acceptable in a world of body shaming that completely misunderstands what the human body does.
Because it changes. Bodies fluctuate between different weights, and how you feel about your body will change from day to day. Saying that fat people are all the same, all the time, is like saying blondes are dumb, buying into bullshit stereotypes that get nobody anywhere.
And not only that – but it shows a god damned lack of empathy and human understanding, which – in a world where that’s sorely lacking anyway, given the amount of times I’ve seen dead children on the news over the last few weeks – means you need to do some thinking about what’s really worth writing about.
It seems to me that one of the great truths of life is thus: be kind to people, even if you don’t know them.
You’ve only got so much time on this planet to do something worthwhile – and if the sum of your achievements is getting a rise out of someone like me, or a stranger you’ll never get to meet, by writing hurtful, nasty diatribes that stereotype and shame – then I’d say your time’s been sorely wasted. If you’ve got the capacity to do good, and make positive things happen, even if that’s just paying someone a compliment, or opening a door, or just plain being patient – why would you do anything else?
In other words: stop shaming. Be nice. Do good things, and leave the world a lil’ nicer than you found it.
‘Cause I can absolutely guarantee you’ll feel better for it. Even you, Linda.