Karan Johar recently admitted his complicity in the perpetuation of fatphobia in an interview, where he recounts how he coerced Alia into losing weight for Student of The Year and considers himself responsible for her current unhealthy relationship with her body. He recounted how she has started fearing excessive body mass to the point of absurdity.
Around a year ago in an interview with The Guardian, singer Robbie Williams said he would wear anything over being fat because he wouldn’t be able to bring himself to live with the shame, because of the social ostracization that fat people have to endure. Robbie Williams’ admission might certainly sound like an exaggeration, yet it’s not a Herculean task to deconstruct the sentiment behind it.
Fat bodies are stigmatized to an extent they are considered an aberration, and as a society, we all have collectively contributed to fatphobia and have normalized body-shaming. The social ostracization of fat bodies is both figurative and literal. As I write this, I am aware some people who might read this might rationalize the ostracization, though I hope most would rather choose allyship.
Johar offered Alia an apology citing the reason he could not imagine doing that to his daughter because apparently, the only way you can empathize with a woman is if she is related to you. He admitted his complicity in body-shaming, and though the candour can be appreciated, it’s not nearly adequate enough to address what victims of body-shaming have to endure.
The ubiquity of body-shaming is quite appalling.
as a society, we all have collectively contributed to fatphobia and have normalized body-shaming.
As a fat person, I am culpable of internalizing fat oppression too, because several times in my thought processes I have equated one body type to be morally superior to the other. Most of us are culpable of associating moral superiority with thinner bodies and weakness with fatter bodies.
Most of us are also culpable of believing pseudo-scientific discourses that establish fat bodies more at risk with certain diseases, even though they only establish correlation and not causality and are more than often misleading as they are sponsored by weight-loss companies. The social ostracization of fat bodies reflects poorly on the collective conscience of society. The question is – how do we address it?
Identify Fatphobic language
Does the word ‘fat’ make you uncomfortable? Do you often feel the need to replace the word with other adjectives? Why?
The active practice of disassociation with the word, which is only a body descriptor, contributes to the process of erasure and further ostracization of fat people. When someone says they look fat, your instinctive reaction should not be to tell them they look beautiful, both those adjectives don’t need to be mutually exclusive. The word ‘fat’ does not have any negative connotations within itself.
Once I was told by a random person I used to know that even though he could see I have ‘extra’ body mass, I could pass off for a thin person. It was supposed to be a compliment. That statement put thin bodies as the norm and demonized fatness simultaneously.
As a society, we actively reward one body type and demonize the other despite the fact beauty is a social and cultural construct with variance in how it has been perceived over the centuries. Use the word fat as a descriptor, and reject all the negative connotations to it. Do not contribute to the marginalization of a body-type with language.
Feigning concern for fat people’s health is the most often used excuse to perpetuate fatphobia. The concern for health is selective, with generally not much but pseudoscience, suspiciously sponsored by weight loss companies to substantiate their claim. In this particular case, one should identify the source of discomfort.
Is it because we have been fed a singular idea of beauty over the years – the idea that is adopted from the west and also possibly has racial undertones? The conflation of health with a particular body type is not only irresponsible – it is dangerous.
Unfortunately, this is the most often bought and sold narrative around fat bodies. The definition of health has been limited to thinner bodies in modern times, despite the contradiction in historical evidence. Health is not limited to a body type, and guess what – neither is disease.
No, fat-shaming is not ‘good’ for fat people
Constantly being told something is wrong with you is akin to being subjected to emotional abuse. Threatening someone with ostracization when they do not conform to singular beauty standards is bullying, and participating in the act is anything but noble. People not only participate in fat-oppression, they actively rationalize it.
As a society, we actively reward one body type and demonize the other.
And what is wrong with that? Everything.
And even though we cannot draw a causation between fatness and diseases, we can draw a causation between fatphobia and mental illness in those of a fatter disposition. Bullying and emotional abuse not only result in internalized fat shaming and guilt, they make a fat person extremely stressed. Mental health is also health.
What happens when we perpetuate fatphobia?
Let me state some common everyday examples of fat oppression. When I am online shopping, all the models on the website are generally of a thinner disposition. I am much more likely to be misdiagnosed by a doctor – it has happened. It is less likely that I will get matches on Tinder as compared to someone who is slimmer. Most fat people on screen are presented for comic relief and are caricatures.
I can go on, but you get the point.
Isn’t it time we revise this active complicity in perpetuating fat-shaming?
Featured Image Credit: India Today