I measure 5 feet, 2 inches, and weigh 135 pounds. This makes my BMI (Body Mass Index) 24.7. I therefore fall under the category of “normal weight,” by a whole two-tenths of a percentage point. For perspective, 2/10 of a percentage point is equal to two pounds. If I gain 2 pounds (and really, whose weight doesn’t fluctuate by 2 pounds or more throughout the course of a month?), I am “overweight.” Am I suddenly not healthy because of those two pounds? Have my exercise level, eating habits, overall health changed drastically simply because my body has chosen to add the equivalent of a large bag of baby carrots? I don’t think so.
That said, there are MANY people on the other side of that line who are in far better physical health than I am. More active, better eaters, and started with a better balanced health dance card. They can do more pushups, run longer, lift heavier weights, and their bodies feel good more regularly. But, they’re fat. Unaccepted/unacceptable by today’s health and beauty standards. They are pathologized for perceived laziness, gluttony, and neglect.
Some people qualify their hatred of fat people by saying things like, “but you’re trying to lose weight, so you’re fighting the fat, and I know it’s hard, but go you!” Pro tip: patronizing fat folks doesn’t make them think you’re any less full of shit. Drawing a line between those who are merely overweight (myself included, when those 2 pounds are around) and those who are morbidly obese is also not a good way to make lasting friendships.
Where’s this coming from? A freelance journalist, Maura Kelly, was published on the Marie Claire website this week. The article (to which I won’t link) talks about how disgusted she is by the image of really fat people making out on television, about how tv shows which show happy fat people are promoting unhealthy lifestyles, and how, with the right nutrition and exercise tips (which she is more than happy to provide!), obesity can become a thing of the past! As the Bloggess has pointed out, Kelly herself has had a very serious and well-documented battle with anorexia nervosa, so she doesn’t have the most objective perspective. In an after-the-fact apology, Kelly cops to her skewed perspective, but still doesn’t understand that her language around “healthy size” completely erases the sincerity of the apology. Pointing out that she only really meant that REALLY FAT PEOPLE were gross does not make the article any less offensive.
The Bloggess suggests that we pity Kelly rather than be angry with her. I can buy into that to a point. The thing is, though, she didn’t self-publish. This blog post was published on the website of a major women’s fashion magazine. This essentially means that Marie Claire is promoting and supporting Kelly’s ideas as part of their magazine’s content culture. Feel sorry for Maura Kelly, but be angry with Marie Claire, and let them know that advocating body hatred of any kind is unacceptable. Write the editor (firstname.lastname@example.org) and share your letters publicly. Don’t let Marie Claire stand behind the disordered thinking of its writer on this issue.