Fat-shaming – It Needs to Stop!

Melinda Watman

In the late ‘90s the female lead character in the sitcom “Hearts Afire” was asked by Cosmo to do an article on what it was like to be fat. The character put on a fat suit to experience how fat people were treated and as you might guess, it was not pretty. The character was appalled by how total strangers reacted toward her. Moving forward many years, we have Monica from “Friends” wearing a fat suit for the “Fat Monica” flashbacks. Each of these episodes bring with it “jokes” that are nothing short of cruel and overwhelmingly degrading. They were tossed off without any thought to their affect. The fat suit itself became a parody with not even a remote intent of eliciting a sense of understanding of what it meant to be fat as a young person.

So why do I bring these examples of the “Fat Suit” up and how do they relate to apps such as “Fatify”? Read on and hopefully the explanation will motivate you to support the OAC’s petition calling for the end to such apps.

The fat suit examples as well as the apps being contested have something very important in common – the fat comes off, beauty emerges and everyone breathes a sigh of relief because it was just a joke and nobody was really fat or stayed fat. Everyone walks away intact, thin and accepted. The horror, shame, disbelief and loss of self-esteem vanish into thin air the second the fat melts away. But, as we know, this particular fiction leaves a hard and painful message – being fat is unacceptable and you better get rid of the fat if you want to be treated like we (thin people) are.

“Fatify” (and others like it) is social media’s answer to the fat suit, making it possible for the world to don a virtual fat suit and “play” at being fat – anywhere, anytime. The problem is, playing at being fat isn’t funny and it simply perpetuates the notion that being fat is a joke deserving of disrespectful treatment. Imagine a group of kids in a schoolyard using Fatify to create their “fat self.” Now imagine a couple of other kids – heavy kids – standing near the first group. The fat-shaming is unmistakable. The detrimental emotional impact is unavoidable and the cycle of unacceptable behavior is perpetuated by a simple swipe of a finger.

The OAC believes all people should be treated with equal respect and the organization works exhaustively to ensure those affected by obesity receive that very respect. Putting an end to apps such as “Fatify” is the latest initiative to further the public’s understanding of how detrimental weight bias and fat-shaming are. Please help the OAC and those affected by obesity, weight bias and fat-shaming by signing the petition.

About the Author:
Melinda J. Watman, BSN, MSN, CNM, MBA, spent years in clinical practice and recently founded “THE F WORD FAT tiny word, BIG impact,” a company that provides educational seminars to organizations on understanding, managing and eliminating weight bias and discrimination. She is a member of the OAC National Board of Directors and chair of the OAC Weight Bias Committee.

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