Have you ever looked at someone and felt a deep rush of inexpiable annoyance? There’s something about that person that just makes you angry, gets your blood boiling, and tempts you to take them down a peg? It could be the way they pronounce a word, or a certain look they give you, but for a lot of people, what really gets them riled, sometimes without them realising it, is when a person is fat.
There’s a certain subset of the internet, and the world in general, that can be sent into a tailspin of outraged indignation at the sight of a bit of extra weight. It can manifest itself in various ways, from faux concern – ‘it’s about health!’ – to complete dehumanization, a way of viewing fat people (particularly fat women) as less than human, as only their bodies. Just a cursory look online can produce countless examples of the everyday troubles that fat people face from ‘Flying while Fat’ – a website and animation has people recount their experiences of discrimination and discomfort on planes – to twitter threads such as @fatfeistyfemme’s recent account of how just walking down the street can bring violence from thin women.
It should be ‘obvious’ that fat people deserve to be treated like humans, but it is a shameful truth that this fact is not always obvious to our society. In just the past few days Eman Abdul Atti died due to complications with her heart and kidneys, previously dubbed the ‘World’s Heaviest Woman’ by the media, Doctors believe she suffered from a thyroid condition and a rare gene defect that contributed to her weight gain. But instead of sorrow surrounding the tragic death of a 37 year old, or even discussions about the little known ailments that Eman suffered from, there has been laughter and abuse. A look at any thread of tweets beneath an article covering her death reveals a range of people seeming to delight in something that should be mourned.
People make jokes.
I looked up to her, mainly because I couldn't look around her.
— arth (@ConnorWii) September 25, 2017
They assume that it’s her own fault that she was in this condition.
Some even go as far as celebrating her death, as if she was not human, as if she doesn’t have a family in mourning.
Good about time, wasting resources on someone who doesnt care about their own life
— Sourface (@TheRealGranDini) September 25, 2017
This kind of language, this reaction to a fat person, is clearly not isolated, but something embedded in our culture. It is hardly ever challenged and is pervasive in most forms of media, like films where fat people are the punchline – such as ‘Norbit’ – or in the ridiculous amount of reality TV shows focused on obesity (so many that there is an entire Reddit community dedicated to these sorts of shows.) And you may think that you are not someone who would engage in this behavior, that you would never rejoice in the death of a person simply due to their weight, but there are other ways in which you could be contributing to this ‘fatshaming’ or ‘fatphobia’. Maybe you don’t crash into fat people in the street, but you cringe away from them when they come to sit by you on a plane. Maybe you joined in with the sudden rush to hate and criticise internet personalities like Christine Sydelko, without stopping to think about how much of this hate rose from seeing a fat woman not apologizing for the way she looks.
It is not a hard concept to grasp. The world needs to be more careful with how it depicts fat people, it needs to listen, and it needs to never, ever try strip others of their humanity.