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The F-word

By Jac Kern · February 27th, 2013 · We, As Humans
For a country in which a majority of the residents are overweight, America sure hates fat people. 

As it’s been reported and discussed on many platforms, fat hate is one of the last acceptable forms of discrimination. 

“Fat” itself is something of an expletive today — when it’s actually used, it is generally meant to be a slur. Of course we have several synonyms of varying degrees, like “curvy” or “thick,” which aren’t necessarily meant to be negative, just more of a consolation prize. 

Watch any of the recent red carpet coverage and notice how reporters scramble to say something nice about an overweight woman’s “curves” or ignore her body altogether (“What a beautiful face!”). 

Disregarding the fact that all forms of discrimination are wrong and no one should harbor hate for a complete stranger. What is it about the overweight that angers people? Moreover, is being thick, heavy, curvy or just plain fat really the worst trait in a human?

I grew up around plenty of heavy people, so perhaps that’s why I learned early on that “fat” is a bad word — you never call someone that word or make fun of the way someone looks. 

It broke my heart to hear kids use this word about people I loved, and it felt even worse when the word was eventually turned on me — on the playground and beyond. 

And while there is an uprising of people (mostly women) who are “taking back” the word fat, refusing to be ashamed of their bodies, I still can’t understand why many believe this is a justified prejudice.

When I think of prejudiced people, I envision ignorant, ultra-conservative, hateful people out of touch with modern reality.

But fat-shaming comes from all types of people — including educated, progressive, alternative folks that one wouldn’t tend to pigeonhole as discriminatory. Live and let live, right? 

So how do these forward-thinking individuals get caught up in such an age-old problem?

Well, there are many justifications for fat hate — namely, health. 

Just Google “I hate fat people” (and prepare to be ashamed of the human race). 

Between pro-anorexia sites and blogs devoted to fat-shaming, there are health and fitness-related sites that literally list all the terrible things about overweight people, all under the shade of “health concerns.”

If it’s OK to hate fat people because of their eating decisions, then why don’t we equally discriminate against the young, hip, healthy-looking kids in McDonald’s commercials? Why is smoking still considered kind of a cool trait? 

I’ve had the F-word shouted at me from a moving vehicle. Why don’t you hear about people driving past bars yelling insults about drinkers’ bloated livers? 

Silly examples, sure, but obviously we are not a culture of health crusaders.

Looking at other prejudices — it seems the root, besides ignorance, is fear. 

Racist people fear a world where people don’t look like them (uh, news flash…). The same can generally be said about homophobia and other prejudices. But if discrimination is based on fear, what have fat people ever done to scare us? 

Being completely honest, many thoughts do cross my mind when I see a very overweight person, including fear. 

First is pity — imagining how poorly other people might treat them, or how it’s difficult to get around. Then I worry, as a person who’s struggled with my weight for most of my life, that I could turn out that way. Suddenly I’m back on the playground and “fat” is the worst thing a person could be. Sadly, that overweight person goes from being just another stranger to a manifestation of my fears. I’m aware of the problem but I still contribute to it, just with feelings of sadness instead of anger or hate. 

I think for many people, a really heavy person represents a loss of control. And whether a person got to such a size because of a glandular problem or a poor diet, that doesn’t make them any less worthy of love or acceptance. Gaining some weight isn’t the worse character flaw one could have.

I can’t expect people to stop their knee-jerk reactions or even the way they think. But if you want to judge a heavy person in line at Taco Bell, don’t do so under the guise of a freelance nutritionist — and pray those bean burritos don’t start accumulating on your hips.

CONTACT JAC KERN: jkern@citybeat.com or @jackern



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