Tuesday, May 22, 2012

on fat shame by laci green

Laci Green is a young feminist vlogger I discovered yesterday. She keeps it real on her youtube channel, where she mostly talks about sex and gender identity, but also produces incredible commentaries on body image.

I guess some of her stuff is kind of controversial (I haven't explored even a quarter of it.) But her videos are quirky and fun, and yesterday I got totally caught up in those ones dealing with body image. Laci did a particularly impressive job addressing the social epidemic of fat shame...that is, the way we project our own fears and insecurities onto others who have visible fat. And she's not just talking about the morbidly obese (though shame is unproductive for any body weight). She's also talking about even the very subtle ways in which we demonize every inch of visible fat on the human body (like a soft tummy or jiggly upper arms).

Two of Laci's major points really stood out to me. The first was the idea that we have come to fear the word 'fat'. It has become so shameful to be fat, that we can't even use the word anymore. We all have fat. It is essential for survival. And yet, acknowledging our own fat is like some sort of faux pas...like we've uttered a dirty word. We can't talk about our own fat without people assuming we're ashamed of it.

Laci also addresses the fact that we often disguise our fat shame as concern for the health of others. Being overweight or obese does lead to major health issues. But shaming someone for their weight leads to other issues that are just as serious, like depression. We can only really deal with these issues of health if we are dealing with them in an emotionally sensitive way. Our bodies deserve our love no matter what part of the journey we're in.

The only point I disagree with is when Laci (albeit a bit jokingly) says no one cares about a stranger's health. I definitely do. But I think her real point is that the amount of fat we see on someone is not the real indicator of health (physical or otherwise) of a whole person. It's difficult to care about a stranger's health, because there's only so much you can know about them.

But take a look for yourself...



What ultimately resonates with me, as a health blogger, is how very personal health and weight are. Judging and shaming other people's health is unproductive. In fact, even telling people that they need to be healthy and how to do it doesn't really work. Health is a decision you make for yourself. It's personal. And it looks different for everyone. We all have our own personal hurdles.

I like to think that health professionals should provide resources and inspiration...but the decisions and the work belong to the individual. We shouldn't shame people who are struggling more than we are, nor should we feel guilty for struggling more than others.

The video has gotten some really negative and really positive feedback. What do you think? Please feel free to disagree, but keep it polite!

6 comments:

  1. Loved it! You know, I just hate when people live up to any negative stereotypes. Therefore when I see other fat people (and I say other because I consider myself fat but not in a bad way) I tend to look more at how they are dressed. My actual thought is often "why do you have to look like that?" when they dress sloppily. This goes for fat of all sizes. It doesn't matter if you're a fat-around-the-midsection size 6 or a more-junk-in-the-trunk size 22, it's about how you feel about yourself and that carries through in dress. Do you dress yourself with confidence in clothes that flatter or have you given up on yourself? That's what matters - love yourself and let others know that you are not afraid to love your fat!

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    1. I am so guilty of judging people on many different levels (I think we all are). I sometimes have the same reaction to sloppiness...but then I also think...maybe this is a person who is hurting so badly they can't even begin to care about their appearance. Or maybe they just don't care what other people think...a sort of confidence in and of itself. So I try to stop those judgments as well. But you're right...confidence and self-care go so far in the impressions we get from people, regardless of how they look otherwise.

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  2. I really love this video. It makes you realized you should NOT feel embarrassed or shameful for having visible body fat, ESPECIALLY when you know you live a healthy active lifestyle. While obviously there is an obesity epidemic which is NOT healthy, this video deals with giving self-love back to girls who are average but self conscious about body fat, or to overweight girls who may to loose weight, but need to learn to love themselves first. If you don't respect your body (fat and all) you cannot possibly begin to make healthy decisions for it.
    I also agree with you though about the 'who honestly cares about a strangers health' part. I care about their health as well. But maybe that is because I work in a health related field.

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    1. We are totally on the same page. "If you don't respect your body you cannot possibly begin to make healthy decisions for it"...so well said. It is a process that comes before anything else...or at least alongside anything else.

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  3. the thing i really struggle with is approaching someone i know about their weight. i agree - it's easy to look at someone overweight and think you know why they're overweight, that they're unhealthy - and you don't. but i have a close friend and i honest to god worry about her health. i know she doesn't exercise. i know she eats without really caring about nutrition - she doesn't eat horribly, she just eats whatever it may be. and i know she's obese. and i love her - a lot! and i want her to be healthy! i encourage her to come to the gym with me but we have different schedules or she's sick or i'm sick or what have you. and it's an odd position. i would *never* say this to her or bring it up, yet a tiny part of me wants to. but i have no idea how to do it and keep our friendship in tact, and i would never want to hurt her feelings. at the end of the day, it just sucks. a lot.

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    1. This is a really difficult situation...especially because of the whole self-love piece. Chances are, there is a lot going on emotionally. I can't say I've ever approached anyone about their health directly, so I wish I could give actual advice. But it sounds like she is lucky to have a friend like you, and one of the best things you can probably do is to be a good listener, so when she wants to talk about physical or emotional struggles, she'll feel comfortable going to you.

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Thanks for making me smile. =)