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Fatphobia on the Internet

June 13, 2014

Team Gnomercy

Weight LossDickweedDiet Talk

Trigger warning: Discussion of fatphobic trolls.

This is the third and final guest post by Dow Jones, our latest blogging candidate. You can read the first two here and here. Then you can vote on her inclusion here.

It is no secret that fat hatred and fatphobia are prevalent in society and online. In my last blog post, “The Religion of Weight Loss,” I discussed the evangelical approach undertaken by trolls on the Twitter hashtag #notyourgoodfatty. Here, I will be discussing the broader aspect of fatphobia as seen throughout the internet and how it reflects society’s attitude against fat folks, as seen on sites like Youtube, Facebook, reddit and any news article or message boards where obesity is being discussed.

Indeed, the internet seems to be a space where those who are fatphobic freely disparage fat people, making fun of them and participate in “concern trolling.” You would be hard-pressed not to see such comments in any section of a blog or news site that discusses obesity, such as the many articles on Jezebel that discuss such topics. Many of those posts are often “facts” regurgitated from the mainstream media, such as “obesity is a problem and we must do something about it,” “fat people are costing us money; I shouldn’t have to pay for their unhealthy lifestyles,” or “obese people are unhealthy.” And so on and so forth.

Youtube and Facebook are two of the biggest sites that are rife with fatphobic comments. Just click on any Youtube video that talks about obesity, or has fat people in it in some manner, and you will see comments either concern trolling, making fun or even being downright abusive. Facebook is notorious for its propagation of memes, pictures and videos, and often those media portrayals fat people in an unkindly light. For example, a few months ago I got a video shared by my cousin’s wife of a rather large, black woman twerking on stage in front of hundreds of people. The comments section was full of people making fun of her weight and full of fat jokes and unabashed disgust of which it can be seen here. Later, when I confronted them about their fatphobia I was told that I was being “ridiculous” and that I should “lighten up” and “cut it out.”

Another example is that of Krissi Biasiello. Krissi was a contestant on the fourth season of MasterChef, a reality cooking contest show that airs on Fox.

Krissi Biasiello

Chef Kriss Biasiello.

At one point, Krissi saves herself from the pressure test, a move that was deemed hypocritical after she had criticized one other contestant for the same. After this particular episode aired, her Facebook and Twitter blew up exponentially and she was attacked viciously and with frightening vitriol. Her attackers didn’t hold back on using her appearance, most notably her weight, in their insults, saying such things as “hypocritical fat bitch,” “ugly cow,” “ugly ass fat bitch.” She even received death threats. They went as far as to paint her as racist due to someone digging up an older, pre-MasterChef, personal tweet that said, “NBA: N****rs Bouncing Around,” which was the lyric to a rap song she was listening to at the time.

Social media is far from being the only sites where such commentary can be seen. On news sites that discuss obesity and obesity-related issues, readers are confronted with commentary riddled with healthism, ridicule, derision and disgust, particularly if the article leans towards a more fat-friendly position. The Daily Mail published an article about how a defective gene called the FTO gene may cause carriers to have lower impulse control over hunger pains and favor high caloric food above others. The commentary is full of users spreading weight loss evangelism, concern trolling and hemming and hawing that all boils down to a complaint that “fatties will just use this as another excuse.”

Then there are the corners of the internet where banal, dark humor and just general assholery exists, such as 4chan and reddit, the latter of which is notorious for fatphobia subreddits like Fat People Stories. FPS is one of many subreddits where users discuss encounters with fat people, often using derisive language and negative, fat-bashing descriptors as “hamplanet,” “hambeast,” and “Fatty McFatterson,” mainly directed at fat women. One can see many examples of fatphobia on reddit alone, and if fatphobia could be a renewable form of energy, reddit would be able to sustain the world.

There also exists blogging sites whose sole purpose is to mock those who are in the Fat Acceptance movement, even making blogs on Tumblr to mimic them, such as the many sites that imitate This Is Thin Privilege in order to either make fun of or to “debunk” the claims made by the users and moderators of TITP. One particular site is a (seemingly) pro-ana Tumblr site named “That’s Not Thin Privilege” whose moderators are apparently obsessed with TITP and serve to openly mock and deride TITP and its moderators. Indeed, many of the trolls that plague Fat Acceptance and body positivity sites come from sites like reddit and Tumblr.

There are also numerous message boards out there that are fatphobic. An obvious one is, just a search on the keywords “Fat Acceptance” returns 214 hits. The Love Shy forums has threads that discuss how fat people are “disgusting” and a forum that I lurk on has a thread mocking the Fat Acceptance movement as a whole, which is more detailed in my Tumblr post here.

A common thread about these boards that engage in fatphobic slinging is that the demographics tend to be heavily male. There are numerous discussions about feminism, the patriarchy and other social justice crowds, but I won’t discuss them here in order to stay on topic.

I made a tweet to #notyourgoodfatty a few weeks ago saying, “A good indicator of the existence of thin privilege is the internet itself.” This statement is true, as the internet is a mirror of society at large. Websites are created to cater to many tastes, beliefs, likes, and general worldviews, ranging from politics to weather to religion. People’s worldviews are shaped by those who surround themselves with, whether parents, family members or friends, as well as the popular media and culture. In the case of beauty, Western culture dictates that thin people are the ideal and that fat people are “sloppy,” “disgusting,” “lazy,” and so on and so forth, and these opinions are reflected on theiInternet.

This is why Fat Acceptance blogs and websites are a much needed corner of the internet. As a safe place for those that don’t fit into society’s beauty norm, they forma place where fat people can share stories about their experiences. Fat Acceptance blogs and sites reserve the right to moderate, block or delete abusive, fatphobic comments so as to not give them room. These sites are havens from the onslaught of diet industry and weight loss propaganda that are abundant in the media and online. A home away from home as it is. There is no place for fatphobia on these sites and they are not welcome in these spaces.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    June 13, 2014 12:21 pm

    Having two blogs that I have to moderate has shown me just how much fat-phobia there is in this world of the internet. I’ve gotten more comments about my weight, and the weight of others, online than I’ve ever gotten in real life (well, other than the comments I always got from my mother, which were hurled at me every day of the damned week when I lived with her, and then every time I saw her after I moved out of her house).
    I think I don’t get a lot of comments about my weight in real life because my normal facial expression looks like I’m pissed off – and that expression on the face of a relatively tall fat woman can be pretty intimidating. Add to that expression the fact that I swear worse than a sailor (and I know this because my husband was a sailor and I swear worse than he does… and am not afraid to use those swears against assholes who think they have the right to police my body – well, it tends to keep nasty comments (that I can hear, anyway) to a minimum.
    I’ve also noticed that the older I get (I’m 60), the fewer comments are made about my weight. It’s almost as if people don’t expect older folks to be able to do much in the way of exercise simply because of age. Which is a total crock of shit – there are a lot of people older than I am who are still hitting the gym, doing marathons, dancing all night, getting all kinds of movement into their lives. Of course, that only applies to real life, if I went on 4chan or reddit, I imagine I would garner all sorts of hate for my age, my size, my disabilities, and the fact that I’m a woman (that seems to be the worst sin of all in 4chan and redditors’ eyes). Good reason for me to stay away from those places. As far as Facebook goes, most of my friends are fellow fat acceptance peeps, and the ones who are just gaming friends? I’m not “following” them so their posts don’t show up in my news feed and I have no idea how most of them feel about fat people. If they “follow” me, they know my stance on fat acceptance and a lot of other subjects, and they haven’t “unfriended” me yet, so I’m guessing it doesn’t matter to them what my views on those subjects are (or they agree with me). I’ve gotten to the point now where the news is something I read and shake my head at. When it pertains to fat people, I know most of it is going to be blaming and shaming, so I read the article, ignore the comments after it (if any), and just remember that most of the time, those articles are written from a place of prejudice against anyone who doesn’t meet society’s definition of “the norm”. Since I’ve never ever met society’s definition of “the norm” in my entire life, it doesn’t bother me now that I don’t “fit in” – I’m rather proud of the fact that I belong to a unique group, that I’m not a “sheep” who has to follow the herd in order to be happy – I get to define what “happy” means for me, no one else gets to define that for me. That’s not a position I’ve always been in, though, it took me quite a few years of being unhappy because I could never find my “niche”, the place where I “fit”, where I “belonged”. But eventually (by the time I was 40 or so), I had figured out that my happiness wasn’t dependent on anything outside of myself, it was up to me to find what made me happy, follow that, and fuck the rest of the world if they didn’t like it. And the older I get, the more it’s brought home to me that that’s the only way for me to be truly happy with myself and my life. As long as I’m not hurting anyone else, it’s none of their business how I live my life (and if their poor sensitive eyes are “hurt” by looking at my fabulous fatness, well, then they’ll just have to look away, because I’m not hiding just so they don’t have to see me).

    • Apsara permalink
      January 26, 2015 10:33 am

      I’m sorry your mom was cruel to you. I’m a grandma, a fierce, free-thinking, lean, mean fighting machine. I fought as hard against the fat bias of society (you HAVE to pull the other direction or minds will be poisoned) as my dad fought against prejudice. This is not difficult, and it is a parent’s JOB. When we would see a fat woman, (or man) while driving by, whatever, I would say “wow…her lap sure looks soft and comfortable huh guys? I’ll bet her hugs are warm and lovey-dovey” and would point out the beauty in big as well as smaller people. My boys all grew up with healthy Top O’ Maslow’s Hierarchy mindsets. One of my sons, all of whom brought fat girls home as well as thin one’s, hooked up with a average-sized young woman from a very large family. Her mom died from eventual complications of bariatric surgery. After my daughter-in-law’s first and only child, my only grandchild, was born, she never regained her former figure, and despite my son not caring a whit (she looks the same to me mom) she began to fat hate. First on herself, THEN on my grand daughter. I had to take my older son’s girlfriend aside once, my son alerted me to the fact that she was feeling self-conscious being fat, among all of us slim-jims, and explain to her that we don’t “do” dieting in our home, or judgment of bodies (MINDS ayup, characters yeps but not bods!) and that she needs to just relax, and chill. This wasn’t working with my grand daughter’s mother. Compounding what SHE considered an issue, my grand daughter’s obesity, she never cooks. My grand daughter lived on fast food and pizza from the age of two onward except when she was at my house and got home-cooked meals (and yummy snacks). My grand daughter grew into a very fat little girl. And her mother started harassing her about it from five years on. I put my foot down, of course and I’m the Alpha. But my idiot son and she became strung out on meth (WOW!!!! It made her SKINNY for the first time in years!) and after trying to get them help, and being primary parents to our grandchild because they were locked up in their room getting high, they ripped us off took my precious fat little princess and went on the run. My husband is S.E. Asian, and they don’t make issues over food. I remember coming back from a date in Cali with a handsome Thai man, who said to me over dinner “better die from too much eat than too much hungry” and when I repeated that to my dad he laughed and said “damn right!” So my husband and I NEVER fat shamed my grand daughter, she wanted a foot-long Sonic hotdog, she got one by Gawd, and she loved to finish half of whatever grandma or grandpa were eating. My son sided with my daughter-in-law with the fat shaming and we had some fights over this. Well now they are on the run. Rather than be cruel to her like your mother was to you, I’m in emotional torment, thinking always of people being mean to my fat grand daughter and me not being around to protect her. I’m now hyper-sensitive to hateful fat remarks to others in public (MORE so than before) and ready to pummel the loud mouth at the drop of a hat. When I saw that comic “Wrong Century” for the first time last weekend I cried. She is fat and all alone in the world with two fat-shaming crack heads and I don’t know where they are. I’m haunted.

  2. Dizzyd permalink
    June 13, 2014 5:39 pm

    Vesta – A-fucking-men!

  3. July 10, 2014 5:37 pm

    Reblogged this on Sly Fawkes and commented:
    Some people just really have no life. It’s shameful and sad that anyone could devote that much energy to hate.

    • July 3, 2015 7:06 pm

      Spot on! Perhaps the fatphobics are caught up showing off their fitness blogs and boards with the kind of fitspiration we HAES proponents don’t have in mind. We’re being lambasted for laziness (To be honest, society teaches us that moderate exercise for 30 minutes/5 days is considered lazy compared to VERY vigorous exercise for 2-3 hours almost every day.) and poor diets (I eat around 75-90% nutritious foods and 10-25% “play foods,” which is one of the essences of Intuitive Eating.)

      I think that people caught up in fatphobia (or at least most of them) are adherents top the societal religion of the pressure to be thin. I think a lot of them own those non-HAES fitspo/thinspo sites. Can’t they just keep them private? My new saying is based on the fitspo quote: tell society to suck it up and know that health and fitness comes in all shapes and sizes so that 80% of 10-year-old girls won’t have to suck it in. (Honestly, it’s based on the statistic that a bit over 80% of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat.)

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