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Fatphobia Isn’t Natural, It’s Classist


The other day as I scrolled through social media, a video of a plus-sized social media influencer sharing her workout routine appeared on my feed. Naturally, the comment section was spewing hate – judging her appearance and arguing that fatphobia is ingrained in us through evolution. So many people are under the impression that pathologically fearing weight gain and not being attracted to overweight/plus-sized people is normal and justifiable. Yet with this thought pattern, they are completely disregarding that it wasn’t too long ago when fat was the beauty standard.

Fatness used to be a sign of health, affluence, and fertility since fat people were usually the only ones who could afford a life of food and leisure. This is shown historically in art and literature, as well as in the way ancient societies conceived of their gods. Beauty standards altered once late-stage capitalism set in and industries were able to influence beauty standards for profit. Being slim is now a commodity that can be purchased by wealthy individuals in Western culture. It has become the new emblem of money and power, whereas being overweight has become a sign of poverty due to food deserts and other factors.

When society and the medical community continuously promote the concept that “obesity” must be eradicated, it is the overweight individuals who bear the brunt of the stigma. This body hierarchy has its roots in racism, slavery, and any other attempt to classify bodies. We can no longer claim that making people less likely to be employed or promoted, getting paid less, having biased medical care, being socially ostracized, and being harassed are all measures to help them “be healthy.” These are the direct results of living in a culture that demonizes and hates obese bodies, and regards those who inhabit them as morally sub-human creatures.

We not only link being overweight with being poor, but we also tend to assess and value the aesthetics of poverty, fatness, and disability morally. Numerous people have tried to justify making fun of overweight people because they “appear racist,” and I’m left wondering how people can become so “woke” that they return to bigotry. People are continuously brainwashed into labelling others, especially those in the south as poor, obese, ugly, conservative, racist, and so on. Anti-obesity efforts have become so prevalent and accepted in recent years that some people may dismiss this issue as absurd. Consider that stigmatizing and putting shame on bodies, whether individually or collectively, does harm to both the hated fat individuals and the thinner people who are taught size bias and dread of becoming fat.

The emphasis on weight — or health behaviors — places the responsibility on the person, diverting attention away from the more insidious issue of structural inequality. Health outcomes are influenced far more by the environment in which individuals live, work, and play than their health habits. While health behavior modification is important, we can do more to build an inclusive society where everyone feels valued and has the chance to live a fulfilling life. Fatphobia must be addressed as part of that agenda.

I want to reassure individuals who are stigmatized or fearful of being fat that it is not their fault; it is our culture that is failing them. It’s difficult to respect your body in a culture that demonizes it. By robbing us of our sense of belonging, oppression leaves its mark on our bodies.


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