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Fat-shaming and the Stigma Surrounding Fat

“You’re never going to get a husband if you keep eating like that”, “Are you sure you want that brownie?”, and “You may want to lay off the chips” are common phrases young women hear. Girls rarely hear that they have potential, that they are critical and analytical thinkers, or that we have great spatial reasoning skills. Our current Western culture socializes girls to strive to be attractive; in other words, girls are taught to value their appearance more than other qualities. As soon as we are born, we hear phrases like, “Wow! You are so pretty!”, “I love your hair”, or “Your clothes are so cute!”. Girls grow up placing importance on their appearance and continuously search for ways to improve their beauty, or to solidify their value. 

In addition to common remarks, the media teaches girls what we should strive to look like. The media says that Jennifer Lawrence is too fat for Hollywood. In reality, J. Law has a healthy BMI of 20.5. Popular magazines, such as Cosmo and Elle, throw pictures of underweight and photoshopped supermodels at readers, and tells us that these bodies are the only beautiful ones. The healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) ranges from 18.5-25, but most of the models on covers of magazines have BMIs under 18. For example, Kate Moss had a BMI of 16, Twiggy had a BMI of 15, Tyra Banks had a BMI of 14.6, and Heidi Klum had a BMI of 17. These brand-name iconic models, that women are told to strive to look like, had unhealthy bodies in their prime. They were underweight had probably had health issues. Some health issues that come along with being underweight are increased risks for osteoporosis, an increased risk for anaemia, a poor immune system, and fertility problems. Despite the health problems that come along with looking like a model, bigger women are told that they are not beautiful and should take action to “become more beautiful”. As our article on Brandy Melville and one size fits all clothing stores shows, society encourages skinny bodies; the stores imply that if you do not fit into a size 00-6, you do not deserve to wear our clothes.

(Balenciaga Runway 2013)

(Twiggy)

A critique that caught my attention was from Katie Hopkins, a British TV personality and journalist. She recently fat shamed Kelly Clarkson by remarking, “Look chubsters, Kelly Clarkson had a baby a year ago. That is no longer baby weight. That is carrot cake weight. Get over yourselves”. 

This tweet really rubbed me the wrong way, so I decided to look through Hopkins’ twitter to see if she apoligized for the offensive tweet or explained herself. Nope, she didn’t. Rather, I found other offensive and hateful fat-shaming comments. She had no remorse and did not see that her statements were ignorant and hurtful. In one interview, she went so far as to call being fat wrong.

 

Let’s stop and talk about her for a second. First, the Kelly Clarkson comment. Hopkins is implying that Clarkson’s weight gain is a result of lazyness and indulgence. Yes, Hopkins is a mother to four, so she has been through pregnancy; and yes, she is a thin woman. However, Hopkins needs to realize that everybody’s life is different. Not everybody has the time, money, and support that she may have had to burn off her baby weight. There are personal aspects to weight gain. For example, it could be genetic. There have been studies that discovered genetic mutations in cells that prevented people from burning fat calories. Some people also have faster metabolisms than others. In addition to genetics, the familial situation influences body mass. A lot of parents do not have the luxury of time and money to take care of their own weight when a baby is born. Some motheres also place value on issues other than their recent weight gain. They could be busy taking care of the family, swamped with work, or simply enjoying the new family member’s company. Clarkson also may not be as shallow as Hopkins and not value her appearance as much as Hopkins does. There are so many personal reasons as to why some women keep weight on longer than others. Second, Mothers have so much to take care of when a baby is born, on top of her regular duties, and it is ridiculous to fat shame a parent who is constantly taking care of her family. Her weight gain probably has nothing to do with lazyness. Rather, it is probably a result of having so much to do, which could add to irregular meals, stress weight, love-happiness weight, and irregular exercise. Lastly, when did being fat become a crime? Her argument is that people could be proactive about weight gain, and if they have a little extra weight, that they don’t have a grip of their lives. When did weight constitute success and productivity? I can think of plenty of successful women who have heavier body masses and have a full grip on their lives. In fact, most of the most powerful women on Forbes do not wear size 2 dresses, or pant suits. Weight has nothing to do with “having a grip on life”. Hopkins states “Eat less and live more”, as if people who enjoy their food are not living life to the fullest. I personally think people who are enjoying food are the ones who are living. People who starve themselves, calorie count, and refuse their cravings are the ones who are stressed and not enjoying life. Hopkins places too much importance on weight; it seems to constitute her life.

Now, I talked a lot about how it is okay to be chubby and how it is unhealthy to be underweight. However, I did not mean to “slate the skinnies”. I personally have a BMI of 19, which is closer to the skinny side of BMIs, so I have been called skinny on many occasions. I do not think it is okay to discriminate against skinny people; they may also have conditions that prevent them from gaining weight. However, as a psychology major, I know that one of the biggest psychological problems for women is bulimia and/or anorexia. Currently, 23% of models report anorexia; there are probably more models who go unreported. To put this into perspective, around 1 in 4 models are anorexic, and we are told to be like them. Girls constantly throw up food, refuse to eat, and starve themselves in hopes of reaching that size 2. Many bulemic women live in delusions in which they believe that they are overweight; a statement such as “You’re too skinny” comes across as a compliment to them. Women should be active in promoting healthy and fit lifestyles, and not be busy shaming different body types. 

 

I also advise you all not to take Katie Hopkins too seriously because she has some other serious issues. I sense a bit of narcissistic personality disorder in her. The characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder is an excessive obsession with appearance and no feelings of remorse. Not that I want to self diagnose her, but I think she should stop by a clinic. 

Luckily, there have been strides at improving body image that came along with our recent feminist movement. Healthier bodies, such as that of Katy Perry and Eva Mendes, are praised. We also see curvier and thick bodies in Hollywood, such as that of Nicki Minaj and Kim Kardashian. Plus sized models, like Tess Holiday, and bodies are slowly being praised. The feminist movement is helping all body types become the perfect body type.

There are also many ways in which we could help shape our future generation to appreciate character traits rather than their looks. For example, instead of complimenting them on their bouncy hair, remind them of their kindness. If young girls become dependent on beauty compliments, their self esteem can plummet when they hit puberty. The pimples, weight gain, and other hormonal traits that come along with puberty can cause insecurities and feelings of worthlessless. It is crucial to tell the younger children that they are beautiful on the outside, but their pride should not come from their beauty. Emphasize their personality traits and encourage them to be successful in ways that do not concern their looks. If your daughter or friend struggles with weight, encourage her to exercise moderately and eat heathily. Do not fat shame or make a woman feel less beautiful than she already feels.Fat-shaming does nothing but hurt feelings. It does not encourage healthy lifestyles, but rather can lead to damaging fad diets and unhealthy eating/exercise habits.

As Beyonce says, “Pretty hurts”when it should feel good. All women should feel beautiful, and hurtful comments should not be the motivation behind weight loss. Rather than shaming others, the goal should be for women should feel comfortable in their bodies. All bodies are beautiful because the woman inside it is beautiful. Kate Moss’ famous quote states, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”; I can think of thousands of things that taste better than skinny feels. Sushi, ice cream, pizza, salads, and tacos are all foods that taste better than skinny feels. Eat healthily and enjoy yourself; your body is beautiful and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Jasmine is currently a senior at the University of California, San Diego. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a minor in Education Studies. Jasmine is the Co-Campus Correspondent for Her Campus UCSD, along with the amazing Taylor Zepeda. Jasmine spends most of her time volunteering at low socioeconomic status elementary schools across the San Diego county and grading papers for classes she is a Teacher's Assistant in. Novel wise, she is an avid fan of Edith Wharton and the Lord of the Rings series. She also loves comedic shows like New Girl and The Big Bang Theory, but also enjoys thrillers like Criminal Minds. One of Jasmine's favorite hobbies is trying foods of different cultures; she loves visiting cultural nights and community festivals. Above all, Jasmine worships Beyonce (a.k.a. Beysus, Queen Bee, Baeyonce, etc). Her future aspiration in life is to become the Secretary of Education and have the Hov and B over for dinners.
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