I’m a fatty. There I said it. I’m a 5 foot 1 chubster and, despite numerous attempts to get fit and lose weight, in times of stress and sadness I turn to food to make me feel better. Some people drink wine – I can take it or leave it. Some people smoke – I did that for about twenty years and successfully managed to quit. Some people take drugs – I worked for a long time with drug addicts and I am so grateful that it is cake I am addicted to and not crack. You wouldn’t believe some of the stories I could tell.
I have written before about my struggles with my health, specifically my weight, and the reason I feel compelled to revisit this topic now is because of the furor surrounding the Dear Fat People video made by Canadian YouTuber Nicole Arbour. Arbour is, rather shockingly, 30, not 13, and is old enough to know better. The 6 minute tirade contains such gems as ‘they [fat people] smell like sausages even though they didn’t eat sausages’, tired old tropes about blonde girls (which is funny as she has roots dirtier than the toilets on a Monday at Glastonbury), and the fantastically ludicrous line ‘fat shaming. Shame people who have bad habits until they fucking stop.’ A statement so simultaneously arrogant and simplistic it makes me want to eat my own ears just for having heard it, but then being a fatty I do want to eat everything.
The video concludes with Arbour declaring ‘I’m not saying all this to be an asshole… but I really hope this bomb of truth exploding into your face will act as shrapnel that seeps into your soul and makes you want to be healthier so that we can enjoy you as human beings longer on this planet.’ So which bit of me do you want to enjoy longer Nicole? The lingering smell of sausages? The zombie like appearance? The bit where I sweat oil even when I’m standing still? This woman clearly feels as though she is some kind of caped crusader, fighting the good fight to help save people around the world from their sweaty, sausagey selves. What she fails to take into account in any way is the incredibly complex reasons why people get fat, and stay fat. She is right in some ways – obesity is a very serious problem – but being ranted at by a vacuous bint on YouTube is not going to stop anyone from feeling bad about themselves. Shaming people doesn’t make them want to change, it makes them feel even sadder, more worthless, less empowered and consequently less able to address their problems.
Anyone who has worked with young people knows the myriad of difficulties involved in tackling bullying in schools on a daily basis. It is insidious and all prevailing, and people like this – privileged teenagers in adult bodies – simply contribute to a society that is entirely lacking in love and compassion. Yesterday was World Suicide Prevention Day 2015. By talking about fat people in these terms Arbour dehumanises us, allowing her to mock and shame us with no guilt or conscience. Unfortunately for Arbour the tide is beginning to turn and the body positivity movement that she so readily mocks has gained huge support around the world in recent years (as discussed here). Despite the video having 2 million views in less than a week, she is now facing a backlash and has reportedly been fired from a role as choreographer on a forthcoming body positivity video.
If you’re really serious about helping people live a healthier, more fulfilling, and longer life try having a bit of compassion and understanding instead of resorting to cliches, stereotypes and downright nastiness poorly disguised as humour.