Features

The Lowdown on Fat Shaming

Why it's never okay to make fun of someone for being fat.
IMAGE United International Pictures

A couple of weeks ago, 20-year-old Maru Guayco hit back at the people who criticized her for wearing a crop top and told her things like "Maganda ka sana kung pumayat ka," "Taray naka-crop top pero ang laki ng tiyan," and "Mabuti nakakasuot ka ng ganyan kahit mataba ka." Her reply was spot-on and inspiring, reminding people to stop equating beauty with thinness, that one's size is not an indication of health, and that girls should love their bodies and wear whatever they want.

It's a pretty brave response, especially when fat people, when faced with criticism about their size and weight, are generally expected to just fold and sheepishly say, "Oo nga, ang taba taba ko na" and "Oo nga, kailangan kong magpapayat." Some people would even retort, "Maganda pa rin naman ako kahit mataba ako, at pwede naman ako magpapayat," which comes across as slightly feistier and empowering, but actually still sounds as though being fat is a negative condition that should be remedied.

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Fat shaming is very rampant here in the Philippines. Who hasn't been told "Ang taba taba mo na!," "Bumibilog ka na yata a," "Napapasarap yata tayo ng kain ngayon a" or any other similar version by relatives or even mere acquaintances? Fat people are also consistently made fun of in movies and on TV shows; just think of skits where fat actors are lifted by their thinner costars, who struggle and stumble exaggeratedly in the process, or jokes where the fat actors are referred to as pigs or whales.

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Seeing and hearing fat people being made fun of inevitably makes people think that fat is funny and something to be ashamed of. And that's how fat shaming becomes normal and ingrained in us, and it tends to be expressed in our reactions and comments toward fat people.

Whenever a bigger girl goes out in public wearing shorts, dresses, bikinis, or any skin-baring ensemble, people tend to say "Ang lakas ng loob niya." But it's not necessarily said in an admiring way. The underlying meaning of that statement is "I can't believe she has the guts to go out in public wearing those clothes," because the expectation is that fat people should hide underneath loose, baggy clothes and never wear anything that shows off their shape.

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Some people can't believe it when they see a conventionally cute guy who is in a relationship with a fat girl, because the assumption is that someone cute should be with someone equally attractive—and from the point of view of some people, being fat automatically disqualifies you from being pretty.

Then there are those who say they make comments about size and weight because they're only concerned about the health of those who are fat. Which is questionable, because people generally have no concrete insight into the actual health condition of whoever they are criticizing and thus are just making judgments based on appearance alone. Besides, studies have already shown that, rather than motivating people to lose weight, fat shaming and weight discrimination does not only cause psychological stress, but also increase the risk of weight gain and obesity.

Some people are also amazed when a fat person declares that she loves herself the way she is, because for many of us, being fat is not something to be proud of, but a condition that you should change if you want to be attractive—or even merely accepted by society. With thinness held up as the norm and with all the fat shaming they are subjected to, fat people are made to feel like unworthy human beings who should be ashamed of how they look.

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Fat shaming is a way of policing people's behavior and appearance, of forcing everyone to comply with standards of beauty and fit a (small, thin) mold. That's why people generally wait until they lose enough weight to be able to wear the clothes they want or to prepare for a beach trip or a big event. That there are also people who are afraid of weighing more 100 pounds speaks volumes about how even the slightest weight gain might turn you into an object of mockery.

Simply put, fat shaming ultimately says that you're only acceptable if you look a certain way, and if you don't, you deserve to be ridiculed.

Fat shaming may never completely go away, because there will always be critics who feel it's their duty to tell others how to look and live. But always trying to meet people's standards and avoid criticism is exhausting, and you really don't have to wait until you've lost X pounds before you start enjoying your life and appreciating yourself. So even when faced with fat shaming behavior and comments, you might as well go about your business, having fun and wearing the cute clothes that make you feel great about yourself.

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