The word ‘fat’ is harmful
The SRU Reflections Body Image Program has kicked off Fat Talk Free Week on Monday, with several other events happening throughout the rest of the week. One of the events on Tuesday featured a booth set up in front of Starbucks with a petition to end the “F” word (fat).
Regardless of whether or not people think the petition will end the “F” word, the word fat should never be used when talking about a person’s physical appearance. It is important to remember that when referring to someone as being “fat”, you are assuming that they choose to be that way. That person who you just called “fat,” could be struggling with a very difficult disease. According to WebMD.com, Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland produces too little of the thyroid hormone, which regulates our metabolism. With too little of the thyroid hormone, it slows down our metabolism, which often causes weight gain. People who are referred to as “fat” may also be in the process of trying to lose weight, but often times get knocked down because they are told they aren’t beautiful or handsome because they have rolls on their back.
Think about it. Would you call your best friend fat because she was bigger than you? No.
The same rule applies when referring to someone as skinny. Thousands of females and males die each year because of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia. Some people assume that just because someone is skinny, they automatically choose to be that way. Although often times it is meant to be given as a compliment, we are told to never tell someone, “Oh, you look so skinny, what did you do,” because sometimes being skinny is out of a person’s control.
The SRU Reflections Body Image Program is doing a great job of raising awareness of body-shaming. They have put sticky notes all over the bathroom mirrors in different buildings to remind people that they are beautiful when they look in the mirror. It is important to remember that someone’s body type doesn’t define that person and shouldn’t be the only thing someone see’s when trying to get to know someone. Calling someone fat or skinny can be just as hurtful as calling them ugly or stupid. The movement that The SRU Reflections Body Image Program is trying to create by having this petition to stop the “F” is very effective because it gets students questioning the hurtful and derogatory term, which will hopefully put an end to it on the Slippery Rock campus once and for all.
‘Fat’ isn’t inherently bad
We understand the notion that some words are inherently hurtful, and can stand behind some words being ‘“banned” because of their negative connotation. However, unlike saying the word ‘retard’ to describe someone with a mental disability, or some other words with inherent malice, ‘fat’ isn’t a word that is by itself harmful.
The problem with the word ‘fat’ is what it’s begun to mean in society over the last several decades. Currently, we equivocate the word ‘fat’ with laziness, over-eating and ugliness. In reality, fat is just what it is, an accumulation of fat cells in the body.
Ending the word isn’t going to eliminate the stigma behind it, but will only perpetuate it. We are teaching people that calling someone fat is so bad that the word shouldn’t even pass through our lips.
In a TED talk by burlesque performer, Lillian Bustle, who is 240 pounds, tells the audience that she describes herself as fat, but still loves herself.
On calling herself fat, she says:
“I use that as a self-descriptor, and I don’t say it to put myself down, and I certainly don’t say it in the hopes that someone will say ‘oh no, you’re not fat!’…We as women are programmed to tell each other that we’re not fat, because to many people, both men and women, fat is the worst thing you can be.”
When we seek to ban words, we give them power. By saying ‘oh, we can’t tell someone that they’re fat, because that’s insulting,” people are perpetuating the idea that the word ‘fat’ means what society think it means.
There are plenty of people who have a bit of extra fat around their bodies, but still exercise regularly and eat right. Some people actually can’t help it, especially women. There are some health conditions that make it extremely difficult for people to lose weight.
Instead of worrying about the term’s negative connotation, folks should be trying to create a positive connotation. The word itself is not offensive, the people who use it to attack and hurt others are. Kill the negativity, not the word.