BY GIANNA STANLEY
Over the years, society and the media have created unrealistic expectations for what the desired body should look like. In turn, this has resulted in an increase of eating disorders, which has a direct correlation to media exposure. We have also created an extremely toxic diet culture which is indoctrinating young people into thinking that they cannot enjoy food; it is a chore not a pleasure. Of course, all these ideas are rooted in the false belief that ‘fat bodies are undesirable’, and that people would rather starve than have a bigger body. At the end of the day, fat is not the problem, but fatphobia is.
Tess Holliday, 36 year old plus-size model, was recently voted to have the ‘worst bikini body’ by the National Enquirer, with the tabloid writing that she “doesn’t shy from having a whale of a time”. Luckily, Tess is used to receiving these sorts of comments – which is quite disturbing that this is something normal for her – so she was able to brush it off by posting a photo of herself, proving her worth.
However, the most damaging thing is the vulnerable people who read these comments. Body dysmorphia is a very real and dangerous disorder, and a vast percent of the population suffer from this. After reading this comment, they might think that the negative connotation of looking like a ‘whale’ affects them too, so they will damage their health to live up to societal expectations. Arguably, these villainous ideas not only affect fat people, but thin people too, because the fear of becoming fat is so inherent that they would rather hurt themselves than become fat.
At the end of the day, fat is not the problem, but fatphobia is.
Now, this hierarchy of bodies is nothing new, but it is alarming to see that fat people are sometimes less likely to get promotions, get a job, most likely to be bullied and targeted, but most of all, receive biased medical treatment. If a fat person goes to the doctor for a mental health issue, their problems are more often than not disregarded and blamed on their body. Fatness is not a scapegoat. You cannot create a war against ‘obesity’ without affecting the people who live in those bodies, and this is something that most people don’t realise.
BMI, which is the most typical way of calculating a person’s fitness, does not actually measure how fit you are. It measures physical appearance, not health, and was never intended to be used as a way to calculate health. In fact, it was created based on a sample of white men, so it is time we stopped using BMI to discriminate against people when it never took ethnic backgrounds, previous health, or gender into account.
If you don’t believe that being fat puts you at a disadvantage with employers, let me give you examples of this discrimination from a big scale. Plus size actresses are often not taken seriously and only fit into the same categories of roles – the funny, fat, friend. A famous example of this is actress Rebel Wilson, who is obviously known for her comedy roles. However, she felt like she could never be taken seriously in the industry because of her size, which is absurd. Everyone deserves representation. Because of this, she has decided to lose weight, which is great, had it not been for the pressure and negative comments she received from the media.
Another example is with pop-star Lizzo. She is known by the public for sharing body-positivity and self-love, however, she has never actively expressed body positivity. She is just a fat person existing in the public eye, wearing the same clothes as thin people do, which makes society think that she is confident just for doing that. Is that not a double standard? Critics even question her when she mentions her clean, vegan diet, because of course, fat people cannot eat healthy!
You cannot create a war against ‘obesity’ without affecting the people who live in those bodies
What is interesting to see is that this mostly affects women, because fatphobia stems from what the heterosexual male gaze desires, which is a woman who fits into the Western beauty standard. The truth is, most women don’t. This is why we rarely get to see plus-size women star as the ‘love-interest’ or the protagonist of books, film and TV, unless written and directed by women.
It is imperative that young girls get to see every type of body in the media growing up, to learn that every body is beautiful and okay. However, sadly, we still live in a world where women are changing just because society tells them they are not good enough. The fact of the matter is that the only body you should care about is your own. Feed it, nourish it, and love it.