I am really over men who respond to being checked on their fat hating behavior with, "I'm only talking about myself!" It happens all the time. It needs to stop.
It is especially egregious among so-called liberal/progressive men. These guys seem to at least understand that fat shaming is bad, but don't seem to have any kind of handle on why what they are doing IS fat shaming.
So let's dive into why this is a problem.
Example- Wil Wheaton, of Star Trek and general nerd fame.
Wil Wheaton decided that he would like to 'get healthy' and referred to it as “Project Fat Piece of Crap Don’t Be One Anymore”. When he was gently checked on this fat hating behavior, proceeded to throw a huge manbaby tantrum all over the internet.
Check out my friend Elizabeth Hawksworth's blog post about this incident.
Let's break this down. Why is this such a problem and not, as Wil would have you believe, ok because he was only referring to himself.
No one reacts more like a toddler being told no for the first time than a white guy who is asked to stop doing something to hurt other people in a group he is not in.
"Hey, this thing you could easy stop doing really hurts a group of people who get hurt all the time, and it would be really easy for you to not do that, so could you please stop?"
Manbaby reply- "WAH NOOOO! FREE SPEECH! You're censoring me! My right to free speech is more important than the lives of people who aren't me!! Fuck those people! They aren't white men, so who gives a shit about them? NOT ME!"
Fatphobia hurts women more than it does men. At the end of the day, a fat man is still a man. And he still has all the power of male privilege (which is A LOT of fucking power). If we are to judge by representation in media- fat men can still expect to find an attractive mate.
Examples include- The Honeymooners, The Simpsons, Family Guy, King of Queens, The Flintstones, The Sopranos, and on and on.
The stereotype of a fat woman who is too disgusting to be loved really doesn't seem to apply to men. I see plenty of heavy guys in movies and on TV. They have jobs. They have kids and wives. Yes, they are often the 'funny guy' who makes the jokes. Or is the butt of the joke. But their mere existence is not held up to ridicule and horror.
They're men! Men (especially white men) don't have to justify their existence. White men just get to exist and be the default. White maleness get to be defined as "normal". And the rest of the non-white and non-male world has to justify our abnormal existences.
When women are treated as only existing as the extension of a man, with her main function to be a sex object- and since fat women by definition are sexually disgusting- fat women are worthless to a misogynistic society since they can't fulfill their socially ordained role of sex object.
When someone like Wil Wheaton calls himself a "fat piece of crap", it doesn't exist in a vacuum. Wil is famous. When he associates being fat with being a piece of crap, this reinforces the fat hatred in our culture and a lot of people hear what he says.
Wil is not fat. We have really confused the notion of feeling fat with BEING fat, and they are two different things. Why does it feel so bad to 'feel fat'? Because we associate fatness with being bad. With being lazy, smelly, morally wrong. Fat people are out of control. They're dirty and objects of disgust.
When you say, 'I feel fat', what people often mean is- 'I feel bad'. We all do this. I have been reading about fat acceptance for a long time, and I still do this sometimes in my private life. I feel fat = I feel bad. Because fat is bad.
So when someone like Wil Wheaton says 'fat is bad', the question is will this idea rebound onto Wil Wheaton and effect his life in a negative way?
Nope. Not really. Which is why it means nothing for him to say it.
"Fat sack of crap" in the mouth of a man is a joke. When a women says it, it is self punishment and a request for reassurance.
I'll give you another example- Patton Oswalt.
I had to stop watching the most recent comedy special that Patton did. He opened with a very long bit about how fat he is. How he is going to die. How he is going to need a mobility scooter to get around. He used the phrase 'swabbing the folds' to describe his fat body.
He's only talking about himself. Does that make this level of fat hatred ok?
Patton still has access to all the privileges of being a white man. He can expect an attractive wife, a career (in entertainment, no less), and a child. Love and success are not supposed to be automatically denied to him because of his weight.
When anyone increases the amount of fat hatred in the world by speaking their hatred, that is a bad thing. When someone with a huge platform does it, that is a very bad thing. And self-hatred is still hatred.
Does the fatphobic self-hatred of Patton Oswalt rebound to hurt him? I'm sure it doesn't make him feel very good. But he does seem to be making money off of it. We have a long tradition of fat male comics and comic actors making money out of being the so-called 'fat sack of crap' for money.
The rhetoric Patton uses- the elaborate description of a fat body as disgusting- this is the same language fat women are attacked with. When I was the subject of Reddit harassment, the attackers went out of their way to describe in minute detail how revolting they thought my body is.
The most frequent subject matter of these attacks on fat women-
- How much they imagine we eat and what types of food. Example- you must eat for every meal 3 pizzas and a gallon of ice cream
- What they imagine our hygiene practices to consist of- often the 'rag on the stick' or conjecture that we can't wipe ourselves properly after using the bathroom
- That we're breaking furniture
And many more-- These are all the subject matter of male comics, especially fat male comics like Patton. These ideas that they keep spreading into the world are making the actual lives of fat women harder.
You don't get to get out of responsibility for that by disingenuously claiming that your fat hatred is directed only at yourself.