I’ll “Fat Talk” as Much as I Gorram Please

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Trigger warning: fatphobia, silencing, diet talk

Someone shared this on Facebook yesterday. It’s a video by Special K about “fat talk” — their special term for “self-hatred”.

(Content warning: may cause indescribable rage. Also fairly fat-shaming, and definitely silencing.)

It was shared via Upworthy, the content aggregator with the emotionally manipulative titles. The title for this video was “First These Women Were Offended. Then They Realized Who Was Being Offensive.”

Are you rolling your eyes yet?

There is a MASSIVE problem with this video. HUGE. You could even say it’s a FAT problem. So let’s talk about it.

First, let’s get this out of the way: self-hatred — whether it comes from internalizing the kyriarchy’s unreasonable expectations of you or from mental illness — sucks, no matter what form it takes. If you’re hating yourself, you should work on not doing that any more, because self-hate harms you. You’re worth feeling better about yourself. You’re worth good things. Self-hate is not a good thing.

What I take issue with in this video is the labeling of self-hatred as “fat talk”. The assumption that any time a woman/person socially-classed-as-woman says she’s fat, she’s hating herself.

This not only reinforces the idea that fat is always bad, it also polices how other folks self-hate. If a woman says “I’m so skinny,” as a form of her own self-hatred, she’ll likely be met with cries of “I know! You’re so LUCKY! I wish I were that thin.” Yet a woman saying “I’m fat” is met with “Don’t be so hard on yourself! You’re really pretty!”

As if fat and pretty can’t go together. (News flash, they can, and they do. So do fat and fabulous, or fat and gorgeous, or fat and sexy, or fat and smart. I am a prime example.)

Partners in Crime (Doctor Who)

Ok, so it’s less neutral in Doctor Who. Still, wasn’t the fault of the baby Adipose! Besides, they’re totes adorbs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fat’s a neutral term, folks. Ok? It means “abundance of adipose tissue”. Ask any person who actually knows something about the body and they’ll tell you: adipose tissue itself is not a negative. It’s a necessary part of the human body. We need fat to survive.

(And no-fat diets, by the way, are basically the worst thing ever for you. Just so you know.)

Is too much fat bad for you? Maybe. Maybe not. The truth is, we don’t actually know the full truth there — there are a lot of correlations between being “overweight” (why that word bugs me) and health issues, but they aren’t actually causation. (For more about fat, disease risk, and correlation vs. causation, read this post.) What is likely quite bad for you is a heavily sedentary life and a lot of processed food, which is related to weight gain, yes, but not the sole factor.

This doesn’t mean fat is always unequivocally bad. Nor does it mean that fat is unattractive.

Yet by labeling self-hating talk as “fat talk” exclusively, this video says that fat is always bad. Fat is always unattractive. Fat, in fact, is the ONLY thing that’s bad about you — go on and self-hate about anything else and we’ll cheer you on! But don’t fat talk, ladies. You don’t want to call yourself fat, do you? Why would you want to be a fatty fat fat fatterson? That’s bad.

Think I’m reading too much into it? Direct quote from the video:

Reversing the fat talk. Making it positive talk.

They are outright stating that fat is negative. Always. Videos like this make it harder for fat acceptance activists to do what we do.

This video is being hailed as some sort of amazing breakthrough on body image. Sorry, no. It’s more of the same old bullshit that continues to throw actual fat people under the bus. This is glaringly apparent with the phrase that shows up on the screen midway through the video: “You wouldn’t talk this way to anyone else. So why do it to yourself?”

Oh, huh. I guess all the fat-hatred I’ve had lobbed my way over the years is my imagination? Because, you know, no one would EVER talk that way to ANYONE else. I guess I was hallucinating.

The video ends with a big silencing fest. Women literally shushing each other, and the camera, saying “Let’s fight the fat talk!”

I had no idea that silencing other women was supposed to be a big win for women and body image. This video is saying “Shush anyone who says they’re fat.” Thanks, but no thanks — I get enough of that already from “well-meaning” folks. I really don’t need another source urging people to fight us fatties on our own damn territory. I mean, how very dare we reclaim a word that’s been used to marginalize us?

After the video, Upworthy has a credit note, and they make this comment:

So this is just a bit hypocritical coming from a food company that runs ads that ask “What will you gain when you lose?”

No, Upworthy. It’s not hypocritical at all. Special K is, in fact, saying the same thing they’ve always said — FAT IS BAD. They’ve just put a different spin on it, and you and the rest of the internet have bought it, hook, line, and sinker.

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3 thoughts on “I’ll “Fat Talk” as Much as I Gorram Please

  1. Special K is in it to sell cereal. The whole Shhh campaign is so they can sell more cereal and weight loss bars. People will watch the video, think ‘aww that’s nice’, then buy special K.

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    • Oh, totally. It’s nothing if not another sleazy marketing ploy. I felt I had to speak out, regardless; I was getting pretty pissed at seeing it going through my friends circles with comments like “So true!” and “I agree, it needs to end!”

      People are too eager to have the wool pulled over their eyes, it seems.

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  2. Good for you, taking this on and providing an educational perspective. I can see that one aim might have been to illuminate how destructive it is for people to think negatively about ourselves. But it’s done poorly, as you point out, by assuming that skinny people can tell fat people how to be healthy and more importantly, by shifting the blame to “talk” which is always the BEST way to deal with a problem, not the source of the problem. Was this campaign/video created by fat women/people identified as women? Obviously not. And my question: why aren’t any fat women in the video?

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