“Fat shaming is not a thing. Fat people made that up. That’s the race card with no race.”
YouTuber Nicole Arbour openly claims that “fat shaming” is nothing more than a myth in her amply titled video, “Dear Fat People.” Arbour rejects the notion that body criticism is a pervasive form of bullying and instead instructs the obese population to simply “toughen up” and make a lifestyle change.
According to the viral video, fat shaming is a misnomer that misplaces blame for the obesity epidemic on our thin-centric culture. Arbour highlights the body-positive movement as a misguided contributor to this effect, stating that creating a hashtag (#bodyconfidence) on Twitter is not an effective route to eliminating obesity.
Predictably, the six-minute monologue has invited a wave of backlash from millions of YouTube viewers since its posting earlier this week. Celebrities such as Whitney Way Thore from TLC’s “My Big Fat Fabulous Life” have condemned Arbour’s words as offensive, hateful and empty.
Arbour’s satirical approach to a national epidemic and lack of political correctness has warranted close scrutiny. However, “Dear Fat People” is not the first piece of media to take an issue with the perceived obesity epidemic. Bioethicist Daniel Callahan made the case for fat shaming in a 2013 article published by The Atlantic.
Though his work stirred considerably less controversy than Arbour’s video, Callahan’s sentiment is no less shocking. Callahan articulates that by imposing social pressures, a society can combat what they believe is unacceptable behavior. He cites his own battle with smoking as an example of this power because only the “force of being shamed and beat upon socially was persuasive” enough to stop his unhealthy habit.
Despite Callahan’s personal success with this technique, a fat shaming campaign as supported by Arbour could cause a dangerous shift in the public discourse of body image. Disordered eating populations are especially susceptible to this influence and may be triggered to extreme dieting tactics proposed by thin-spiration blogs.
While the idealized body shape in mass media has continuously shifted from thin to curvy back to thin, an emphasis on weight control is always present. Whether the label is fat shaming or thin shaming, the only way to solve body shaming is by taking a deeper look at the impact of viral hits like “Dear Fat People.”
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