“As much as the conversation about body image has spread to men, society saves its most vicious scorn for women.”
The sexism of fat: it’s easier to be a fat man than a fat woman - Edwin Lyngar, @rolereboot (emphasis added, as always)
As much as the conversation about body image has spread to men, society saves its most vicious scorn for women.
I think it was sixth grade when a tougher kid made me do the “truffle shuffle,” in the gym locker room. The shuffle originates from The Goonies movie where a chubby kid shakes his belly for the amusement of others. It wasn’t the first time I was asked to reproduce the effect, although most often I didn’t mind. On that day, I was tired of it so I refused. The other kid got in my face, while other kids jeered, so I relented and shook my flab. A minute later, I started crying like an oversized baby, letting tears drip down my face in shame. The kids in the locker room were horrified by my outburst, and they all offered sincere apologies. It was only one of many indignities in the life of a fatty.
I’m a fat guy. But this isn’t about me. As much as the conversation about body image has spread to men, society saves its most vicious scorn for women. As I’ve ambled from fatness to fitness and back again in a constant rearguard, bloat action, I can’t help but notice how much easier my life has been than the many women who share my struggle.
I’ve been with a group of men and heard them mock fat women on far more than one occasion. I play along or stay silent or look at my shoes. I’m chickenshit that way. I’m not the only fat guy to take comfort in my male privilege, but by doing so I help no one. To be a fat woman is to live in a constant state of cruelty, as the beginning and end of all ridicule.
“Fat chicks” are always the punch line. So the joke goes, they are like mopeds—“fun to ride but you never want to be seen on one.” They are the butt of fraternity humor. I have watched many wonderful women in my life suffer from this gender imbalance, even as those same women are the most kind and giving people I know. My sister, Jen, is the perfect example. “I spent $1,000 a month on a personal trainer and nutritionist. I worked out a couple hours a day six days a week. My health markers were better than most of my skinny peers but I was still considered clinically obese,” she said. “I also feel that fat is the first thing someone notices about me, but that is probably due to constant ‘fat shaming’ that comes through the media 24/7.” It’s a sad irony she is one of the most decent people I know, yet she struggles to make up for some imagined societal crime.
A recent study of “Biggest Loser” contestants shows just how hard it is to stay thin, once you’ve been fat. With so much growth in weight problems in our country, it’s insane to chalk it up as just some “individual failing” because it’s a problem shared by a growing percentage of our fellow Americans. Something else is at work here, but whatever it is, I don’t care about the “why.” I’m just baffled at how we can treat large women so badly.