Getting told to eat a burger is nothing compared to the systemic nature of fatphobia.
Thinness has long been the standard of beauty in American society. Gone are the days of the Victorian hoop skirts accentuating women’s hips and corsets sinching their waists to create an exaggerated hourglass physique. The standard of skinny has created an ugly cycle of fatphobia in American healthcare, media and society.
Fatphobia does not explicitly mean the fear of fat people the same way that homophobia does not mean the fear of gay people. Fatphobia is the intolerance or aversion of fat people. This means that in a world where diet culture makes millions off society’s worry of putting on pounds, fat people are at a disadvantage.
A skinny person will never be denied proper treatment because of their weight, but one repercussion of fatphobia is being overlooked in health care. Every ache, pain and discomfort are somehow always tied back to fatness and not the underlying problems at play. The patient is often sent home without the proper treatment and instead a piece of paper detailing a healthy meal plan and advice to work out more.
“When I go to my [general practitioner], they often tell me that while my heart is healthy, my cholesterol is perfect, and my risk for diabetes is low, any health complaint I have is due solely to being fat,” Kitty Stryker, a former HuffPost contributor said in an article regarding her treatment in health care. “I have never gotten treatment for severe back pain or my knee ligament injury.”
Fatness is also one of the easiest targets of bullying especially in school-aged children. Kids are terrorized and outcasted by their peers for their size. Those same bullies grow up to continue the cycle in adulthood. Fat people are attacked for just existing. Casually scrolling through social media, you are sure to find a “joke,” or critique rooted in fatphobia.
“Disgusting. The morbidly obese (like this woman) should never have been seen as attractive because death and disease isn’t attractive full stop. Irresponsibility isn’t attractive,” Xiaxue, a YouTuber and beauty influencer said about body positive model La’Shaunae Steward in a since deleted Instagram post.
Skinny people do face criticism. They are told to eat more or compared to objects like pencils or sticks. Thin people who suffer from eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia are frowned upon and chastised. Body shaming of any kind is wrong and should never be justified. However, being told to put some more meat on one’s bones is incomparable to the suffering and threats that comes with fatness.
People need to learn to be more tolerant of those who do not look like them. Although that’s easier said than done, it’s the only way for fatphobia (and any phobia for that matter) to be eradicated. Health care professionals need to go through required training to learn that not every issue is weight related. People are dying because their concerns are not taken seriously, so no, being called “thin as paper” will never be as harmful as the neglect and ignorance fat people face every day.