“I’m sorry but it just sounds like you’re fat and jealous of those women because they aren’t.”
This is part of a recent comment posted on a not-so-recent story I once wrote for FemiNoshing called “Why can’t even female TV cooks be fat?” While I agree that the story was written with a pretty heavy dose of snark, I’m not interested in rehashing that argument here. Rather, the comment, which devolved all too quickly into a personal attack, made me wonder why often the best way to knock a woman down, the best way to put her in her place and dismiss her, is to call her fat?
And it’s not just women doing this to each other. When men want to make a woman feel bad, whether it’s because she dared have an opinion, or because she rejected him in some way, they will point out that she’s fat. Sure, the words “ugly,” “bitch” and “slut” get bandied about too, but “fat” brings with it its own particular tinge of disgust and contempt.
Why is calling someone fat considered so effective? Oh, right — because being fat is not healthy! (My commenter talked about health, too, but I digress.) I’m not getting into arguments about health at every size here. Nor will I disagree with the concept that being morbidly obese often leads to health problems (and yes, note I pointed to the most extreme example here, because most fat people are not morbidly obese).
But there are lots of things people do that are not healthy. Smoking is not healthy. Drinking hard alcohol (wine, in moderation, is actually recommended) is not healthy. In fact, drinking and driving is downright dangerous. When was the last time being fat and driving caused a pile-up on the highway?
And finally, recreational drugs are usually not just illegal, but also unhealthy — crystal meth-mouth, anyone?
And yet, when was the last time the words, “well, you’re a smoker” was leveled at someone as an insult? When was the last time someone accused a stranger on the Internet of being an alcoholic, merely because they wrote about the subject in a blog?
Let’s cut the shit — “health” has nothing to do with it. This society deems fat people unattractive, and calling someone “fat” is like calling them ugly. Actually, it’s worse, because being ugly could just be the result of losing the genetic lottery, while being fat is something that you did to yourself, and how dare you let yourself go like that? It’s not just about aesthetics, it’s about moral failure. And it’s particularly bad for a woman to get fat, because we are still the ornaments of society, and required to make everyone’s landscape as pretty as possible. Even gorgeous, tiny celebrities — Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Love Hewitt, anyone who dared have a baby — can’t live up to this impossible standard.
Hating fat people is about the only acceptable prejudice left. Being racist, ableist, homophobic and sexist is frowned upon in polite society. (Please note I don’t include the Web, here, where anonymity lets bigots run rampant.) Treating a fat person like shit? Not so much. After all, they deserve it. They couldn’t possibly be good people, right?
That’s is why being called “fat” is such a good way to put a woman down. It relegates her to the group that society has deemed deserves contempt and ill-treatment. Who wants to be in that group?
So here’s the thing — if you’ve ever considered yourself a feminist, or a womanist, or even a humanist, don’t use a woman’s weight (real or perceived) against her. Realize that your concerns about her supposed health are bullshit. Don’t use “fat” as an insult. It’s too easy. Then again, being an asshole is often easy. Being kind is way harder.