The thing is that if someone is being shamed, stigmatized, bullied etc. for being fat, and we say “they aren’t fat” or “they aren’t even that fat” in their defense, what we are also saying is that there is a size at which they would deserve that treatment, and that’s just not true.
Countering fat shaming by denying fatness says that the person doesn’t deserve poor treatment (which is true) but at the expense of reinforcing the incorrect idea that they would deserve it if they were fat (or some greater degree of fat), or that being called fat is an insult. There is no size at which people deserve to be treated poorly.
Just last week, a 7th grader with a curvy build came home upset about this. She had worn an outfit with a skirt and leggings, and in the morning, a teacher had said to her, “Cute outfit.” But then her homeroom teacher pulled her aside at the end of the day and said, “You know, another girl could get away with that outfit, but you should not be wearing that. I’m going to dress code you.” Juliet Bond and the child’s mom were discussing the incident, not certain if the message to the child was ‘you’re too sexy’ or ‘you’re too fat.’
The kids also report that the teachers have been discussing ‘appropriate body types for leggings and yoga pants and inappropriate body types for yoga pants and leggings.’
Bond says, “This is concerning because it is both slut shaming and fat shaming. If a girl is heavy or developed, the message is that she cannot wear certain clothes.” Neither is acceptable. We should not be sexualizing kids, nor should we be making them feel that they can wear leggings as long as they remain stick thin. Bond asks, “Why are the girls being pulled out of class to have assemblies on whether they are wearing the right clothes, while the boys remain in class, learning and studying?”
I don’t have a problem with a school having a dress code; in fact, I attended a school that didn’t allow jeans or shorts or shirts without collars, but I do have a problem when the dress code is discriminately based on gender and body type. There is a big difference between telling all students to dress respectfully and telling curvy girls to dress in a way that doesn’t distract boys.
As a Black girl who was a C cup by 7th grade, I definitely identify with the girl this article references. I can’t tell you how many times a teacher would pull me aside to tell me that, while whatever I was wearing was technically in line with the dress code, didn’t I think that top was a bit too revealing “on me” or “for a girl with your body type”?
Fuck alla dem.
In body-positive news, I recently bought my first ever crop-top, so I’ma need this random snow that fell afternoon to get the fuck outta here so spring can settle in nice and good. I have cuteness to embody.
I dislike commercials all the time. In fact, I think it’s safe to say I dislike most of the commercials that are on television. Sometimes I even dislike them enough to talk with other people about disliking them. But I’ve never gone so far as to look up the video on YouTube so that I can 1) dislike it, and 2) rant about it here.
But while weight loss commercials–well, really, weight-obsessive American culture, but that’s a whole different ballgame–generally don’t sit well with me, with all the implicit criticisms of people’s “Before” selves and the tiny print at the bottom of the screen that reads “Results Not Typical”. I have gotten used to be annoyed by these things.
This new Jennifer Hudson and Weight Watchers commercial takes it a little too far, though.
I won’t even start by mentioning that no one will ever win my favor by singing Whitney’s song from The Preacher’s Wife. That’s beside the point.
The ENTIRETY of the problem is that heavier Jennifer from the past sings “I was looooooost,” and then thinner Jennifer sings, “and now I’m freeeeeeeee.” That’s it! That’s all I’m taking issue with. But my issue with it is huge.
Now, let me come out and say that I am NOT by any means hating on Jennifer Hudson for losing weight. She looks GOOD. In fact, let me further say that I’m not hating on Jennifer Hudson for anything, because she didn’t design the damn commercial.
But I want to be really articulate about what I’m upset about. This commercial isn’t just your average run-of-the-mill hey, look, I lost a lot of weight and I’m happy about that; watch skinny me talk about how my whole life changed. Those commercials imply some negative emotions or understandings of having been overweight, but oftentimes shift the blame for that negativity to other people and in a small sense could be interpreted as advocating for the rights of heavy people by drawing attention to how others demean them. (Don’t worry, I’m not foolish enough to believe that actually happens, but hey, a girl can dream.)
But this commercial takes it a step further. By heavy Jennifer singing her line, “I was lost,” it’s like Weight Watchers is trying to shame heavy people. They’re suggesting that people who don’t have flat abs or could stand to lose a little arm flab have “lost their way,” have made bad decisions, are bad people. And then new skinny Jennifer is “free,” having found the path to enlightenment in a size whatever. That’s the message I’m supposed to be getting, right? There is an academic term for what they’re doing: fat-shaming. And it’s not okay, not even a little bit.
Depending on where I’m shopping, I’m sometimes a plus-sized woman (because society keeps trying to convince women that smaller and smaller sizes are the norm), and no matter what I’m a large-structured curvy woman. My skeleton probably weighs more than most fashion models whole bodies. And I’m fine with that. I am not lost, and I don’t like Weight Watchers insinuating that I am just because I don’t count calories and obsess about being toned and defined. I refuse to let them shame me into thinking there’s something wrong with me, my body, or my mind.