Body Shaming 101

Body Shaming 101

I’ll reprint the tiny text to avoid exploding your eyeballs (although it might still explode your brain).

Disgusting fantasy of a lazy, good for nothing, entitled “creep”.

Probably made by a virgin lol!

Not a real man.

Maybe he should put down the McDonalds and pick up some weights!

I can’t see any muscle on him, he must be as weak as a jellyfish!

You go girl! No one should have to settle for someone compatible with their health habits and lifestyle! You don’t need to lose a pound, but men everywhere need to man up, get fit, get fashionable hairstyles that bar them from most jobs, make 100k a year, and not be “chubby chasers” but love you for who you are (that is, human embodiment of sloth).

Tone is so important when writing. If you’re going to set a sarcastic tone, you should make that abundantly clear from the start, so your readers won’t make it halfway through before becoming intensely confused about your actual intent. Take this meme: if you read the left column and examine the accompanying image without paying any mind to the right, you’ll get the impression that the memer is engaging in some serious fat man body shaming. Look at this disgusting slob, the memer almost says. How disgraceful that a fat sack like him would imagine himself dating a slender attractive underwear model!

But then you shift to the right column, where the memer has become more committed to his sarcastic tone. The memer offers mock praise to the zaftig woman for hooking up with a skinnier man (although he also implicitly shames the man for having an unorthodox haircut – a haircut that simultaneously hinders his employment prospects while allowing him to make six figures). By the time you finish reading this train wreck of a meme, you’re left to wonder exactly what the memer’s issue is.

This memer is operating under some sort of delusion about how society’s prejudices are organized regarding overweight people and their prescribed love lives. If we assume that the memer intended to be sarcastic in both panels, then he really seems to believe that fat men are disproportionately shamed for their body shape and for pursuing romantic relationships with slim women, while fat women are praised beyond measure, encouraged to stay the way they are, and given carte blanche to love whomever they want. According to the memer (as I understand him), men are now being held to unreasonable standards of physical attractiveness in order to be acceptable to women.

What planet is this memer from, anyway?

In case you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid television, radio, and print advertisements for the past five decades or so, here’s the message the rest of us are being bombarded with on an hourly basis:

  • All fat people are disgusting, and if you’re fat then you have no business at all being truly happy; however
  • Fat women are more disgusting than fat men, therefore
  • It’s more socially acceptable for a fat man to pursue a skinny woman than it is for a fat woman to pursue a skinny man.

Regarding the third postulate, this memer asserts that the polar opposite is true. What are we to make of that? I’m going to call it Perceived Reverse Victimization. Perceived Reverse Victimization is a phenomenon that occurs when jerks are suddenly asked to stop being such jerks. Instead of responding in a reasonable manner (“I never thought of it that way. You’re right…let’s all be good to each other from now on.”) the former and current tormentors immediately go into defense mode; they imagine some Bizarro opposite world in which being asked to play nice is just as oppressive as anything of which they have been accused. You see this with racists, sexists, and now with…obesists? I’m not sure what the proper word is, but you get my point.

In years gone by it was acceptable for the man of a relationship to be as fat as he wanted to be, but the woman was required to remain svelte and sexy even into her post-menopausal years. You only need to examine popular media over the past couple of decades to see that this is true. How many sitcoms can you name in which the husband was obese (and usually stupid) while the wife is thin, smart, and attractive? Here’s a list to help you out.

Now name all the shows you can think of in which the husband is thin and the wife is fat, regardless of their respective intelligence levels. I’ll give you a minute.

I’m going to assume that you had a hard time coming up with any titles to populate the second list, and I’ll tell you why. Show creators, like advertisers, know that our society is invested in the idea that it’s okay for a man to be fat as long as he’s funny, but that his wife should bring socially-approved physical beauty as well as comedic timing. If you ever see a fat woman paired with a thin man in TV shows or movies it’s being played for laughs, as if the writers are saying “Look how absurd this situation is: as if a thin, reasonably attractive male would ever fall in love with a whale like her!”

So I’m sorry, Mr Memer, but you’ve got it exactly backwards. Society’s first and most common reaction to the picture on the right is not going to be acceptance, nor will society persecute the man on the left for being romantically interested in a skinny woman. If you claim that the opposite is true, I can only assume you’re reeling and rebelling from the notion that people should be accepted and loved for who they are, even if they don’t meet your personal standards of beauty.