OPINION: There's a fine line between giving helpful, constructive criticism and being absolutely bloody rude about something that's none of your business.
Actually, scratch that.
The line is about as wide as the Grand Canyon, but that particular memo apparently hasn't reached some people - people, such as a viewer of a US TV station in Wisconsin who thought he'd take it upon himself to write to the station's news anchor Jennifer Livingston to inform her that she's fat.
After not watching the news bulletin for some years, the viewer took time out of his no doubt busy schedule of daily upbraiding random strangers for what he considers their moral failings, to tell Livingston that he, "was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn't improved for many years. Surely you don't consider yourself a suitable example for this community's young people, girls in particular."
The viewer added that Livingstone had a "community responsibility" to lose weight since, "obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain."
Livingstone responded with a reasoned, graceful and polite on-air reply that has become an internet hit.
As Jennifer put it, "The truth is: you could call me fat. And yes, even obese, on a doctor's chart. But to the person who wrote me that letter: Do you think I don't know that? That your cruel words are pointing out something that I don't see?"
Making fat a moral failing and vilifying people for being fat isn't just cruel. It's also unjust and discriminatory. In a society where most forms of discrimination have, if not been eradicated, become taboo, fatness is one of the few areas where otherwise decent people feel fine about letting abuses fly.
It is time to dispel once and for all the myth that people are fat because they are lazy and simply don't care.
For most people who are fat or obese, choice just doesn't come into it. In our fatphobic society choosing to be fat makes as much sense as choosing to have leprosy. Who in their right mind would choose to be the recipient of the discrimination, hatred and scorn that is so often and so freely levelled on people who are overweight?
Who would choose to have their character, their moral worth, and even their intellect judged by their family, peers and complete strangers based on the shape of their body?
People who hold prejudices against fat people don't even have the intellectual guts to come out and admit the fact that they don't like fat people. Instead, they dress their prejudices in the respectability of trumped up concerns about health or, as in the case of Jennifer Livingston's correspondent, communal responsibility.
The problem, though, is that the science doesn't support such "concerns". While many fatophobes will deny it till they're blue in the face, the research shows there is no automatic connection to fat and health. You can be fat and healthy and thin and unhealthy - and vice versa.
The research has also repeatedly shown that fat people live longer those who are normal weight and those that are underweight.
Perhaps the most dispiriting thing about the viewer who wrote to Livingston is that he probably thought he was being genuinely helpful.
But imagine for a moment how you'd feel if people raised their eyebrows every time you put food in your mouth as if implying you're a morally inferior, self-indulgent pig who doesn't deserve to eat? How good would that make you feel?
And wouldn't it just make your day to walk into a clothing store to find nothing in your size and nobody who is willing to serve you? Feeling good yet?
If losing weight is as easy as feeling bad about yourself, why would anybody choose to be fat?
Bravo to Jennifer Livingston for standing up against fat shaming bullying and calling for the restoration of basic human decency.
- Daily Life
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