Marginalised Voices: Fat shaming is far from over

By Meg Wellman |

Have you ever been humiliated or judged for your body size and appearance? This is fat shaming – treating those who are overweight unfairly which leads to bullying, discriminating and being singled out. Being overweight is not always a choice but it is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. 

“Fat shaming is happening unconsciously” | Thought Catalog/Unsplash

The body positivity movement is slowly changing, thanks to unapologetic figures such as the American singer songwriter Lizzo – from spreading self-love and empowerment, to being open on the media about her own self-love and insecurities. But seeing the media react towards Adele’s sudden weight loss, it makes us question whether we still have a long way to go until we can truly celebrate women and men of all shapes and sizes. 

Body positivity should be important, especially now more than ever. In our society, being fat is seen as the worst thing an individual can be. I know during my childhood if you were not a certain size, you didn’t belong and were often pushed aside. It has got to a crucial point – that we are allowing children and young people to feel like they have to change themselves to fit in. Why can’t they be allowed to just feel comfortable in their own bodies instead of being criticized for the way they look? This neglect of self-love is carried with them through their adulthood, constantly battling with their own thoughts about the way they look due to the opinions of others. 

what started as a movement of fat acceptance formed into body acceptance and positivity of all sizes, ethnicities and shapes

The focus began to shift from fashion to fat shaming during the mid-20th century. Body positivity started with the Fats Rights Movement, and this continued to grow- by the 1980s, the enthusiasm for fat liberation began to spend across the globe. The term Body Positivity wasn’t used in the ‘70s,’80s or ‘90s but people were aware of fat activists. In the early 2000’s, the internet had started the spread of body love but also body hate – it allowed individuals to express themselves, despite the hate comments and backlash . What started as a movement of fat acceptance formed into body acceptance and positivity for all sizes, ethnicities, and shapes.

A friend summed it up perfectly: “body positivity has definitely change since I was young; before the age of 18 I’d never really met a girl who was proud of and embraced her bigger body. I started working and met the most amazing woman who would dance like the no one in the world was watching. It enlightened me to how powerful body positivity is.” Watching others embrace who they are and how beautiful their body is can really impact others too. This is a perfect example of why ‘influencers’ should be teaching those who look up to and follow their platform that everyone should love themselves, no matter what shape and size, rather than promoting slimming shakes or diet plans. 

Many people believe those who are overweight should feel ashamed of their eating habits or weight and this may lead them to become healthier – but this is far from the truth. Fat shaming causes individuals to feel terrible about themselves, consequently causing them to gain weight and eat more instead of feeling motivated. Discrimination towards those who are overweight can cause psychological harm and the problem could become worse. 

Gaining weight is a serious factor from being fat shamed, but quite often psychological and physical issues can be caused from this including depression, eating disorders, self-esteem issues, risks of chronic diseases, stress, suicide and self-harm.

| Monika Kozub/Unsplash

An anonymous source shared their experience with the stigma of fat shaming – “The problem I’ve always noticed is the stigma behind gaining weight or being bigger. I’m terrified of gaining weight, even though I’m not on the heavier side. Not because I think I wouldn’t love my body, but because I’ve seen so many women (and men) fat shamed like it’s not okay to love yourself, no matter what size you are. Even now, while people are slowly realising how important it is to tell others how beautiful they are, no matter what shape or size, there’s still people out there who throw hateful comments around like they have a right to judge someone for being themselves.”

Fat shaming is happening unconsciously, online or in person, and our society are not doing enough to step up and put a stop to the stigma. We need to shift our obsession of appearance to promoting a healthy lifestyle for everyone, regardless of their weight. 

This article is in our Opinions section. As such the views within are those of the contributor and do not represent an editorial stance.

The views expressed in this publication are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Falmouth University, the University of Exeter or Falmouth & Exeter Students’ Union.