A recently published YouTube video entitled “Dear Fat People” has sparked feminist discussions about body image and its impact in social and institutional settings. The video features Nicole Arbour, a young, white, blonde—and most importantly thin—woman ranting about the “myth” of fat-shaming. What ensued is a rapid series of highly condensed, ill-informed jokes. Arbour makes a mockery of body-shaming, homophobia, misogyny, racism and even Islamophobia in just six minutes. If it weren’t so terrifying, it would almost be impressive.
Arbour’s argument essentially states that being fat is a choice. She believes fat people do not face the same discrimination that people of color, people with disabilities and gay people face.
She sums up her point of view within the first minute: “Fat shaming is not a thing. Fat people made that up. It’s like the race card with no race.”
There is reasonable validity to the idea that the overweight population in America does not face discrimination nearly to the degree that, say, people of color face. Arbour’s argument, however, is flawed in her complete misunderstanding of what fat-shaming is.
Arbour says, “Are you going to tell the doctor that they’re being mean and fat-shaming you when they say you have a fucking heart disease?”
What’s clear here is that Arbour believes that fat people do not want to take responsibility for their weight or that they do not believe they could be unhealthy. In many cases, those who are the victims of fat-shaming are not overweight to the point of poor health, but are simply curvier than the modern notion of beauty.
Arbour’s beliefs portray a common misconception about the body positivity movement. She mocks body-positive hashtags by comparing them to “#methlove” or “#teamsmokers.”
Being body positive is for people of all body types. Body positivity is not about praising bad health. It is about loving oneself and one’s physical appearance. Those who are obese or overweight to the point of health risks may need to make lifestyle changes, yes, but the point is that it is their personal choice it should not be mocked. In addition, it is especially important for women to be told that there are infinite interpretations of beauty outside of the “norm.”
The plethora of inaccuracies within Arbour’s argument can be traced to her incorrect interpretation of fat-shaming. Fat-shaming can essentially be defined by the idea that overweight or plus-sized people are treated with disrespect and face actual, legitimate discrimination. Aside from the obvious societal contempt for overweight people seen in the media, those who are overweight face institutionalized discrimination in many forms.
Discrimination against overweight people occurs in the medical, legal and professional fields every day. A 2012 study by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found instances of weight bias in education, employment and healthcare. In addition, the Boy Scouts of America only allowed scouts with a BMI of 40 and under to participate in their annual Jamboree in 2013.
An issue that Arbour doesn’t address—but one that is very apparent—is her internalized misogyny. Her arguments seem to be targeted primarily at females—the most common victims of fat-shaming. It is nobody’s place to criticize or condemn women comfortable with being fat and women who choose to love their body no matter their size.
Body positivity is important. Both women and men should not have to endure discrimination and ridicule from people like Arbour, whether it be about their personal life, appearance or health.