If you are a woman, you are no stranger to body policing. No matter
how beautiful, or successful you are, people will always look for a flaw
and suggest ways that you can change to better conform to the straight
male gaze. Stars like Katie Couric, Demi Lovato, Salma Hayek and Lady
Gaga, have all been very public about their struggle with body image and
disordered eating. Tyra Banks famous response to
the fat shaming that she received, when critics felt that she was
letting herself go, is but one example of a woman having to stand up
against the belief that there is a size standard to which we all must
conform. If you happen to actually be a fat woman, the pressure and the
scrutiny intensifies in proportion to your weight.
Jennifer Livingston is a morning news anchor for WKBT-TV in La
Crosse, Wisconsin and recently she was sent the following letter from a
viewer, which her husband later posted on his Facebook page.
It’s unusual that I see your morning show, but I did so for a very
short time today. I 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. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and
one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note
hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public
personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.
Thankfully, Livingston was given the opportunity to respond by the station and she said in part:
“Yes, the truth is, I am overweight. 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?”
“You don’t know me. You are not a friend of mine. You are not a part
of my family, and you have admitted that you don’t watch this show. So
you know nothing about me, but what you see on the outside. And I am
much more than a number on a scale.”
Her response went viral for one simple reason, it resonated with
people. All of us at some point have been judged and the more outside of
the supposed norm we are, the more likely we are to have experienced
this sort of abuse.
Fat is a very stigmatized identity and it is considered by many to
represent a moral failing. Fat is associated with gluttony, a lack of
control and slovenliness. These negative attributes attach themselves to
fat people regardless of how active, engaging or beautiful they are.
Fat is deemed so negative that women are starving themselves, and
binging and purging to avoid the label of fat. I think that it is fair
to say that this is extreme, but in a world in which fat people are
largely erased, policed and shamed, is it any wonder that we have pro
anorexia sites littering the internet? Before young girls know how to
do long division, they are already considering dieting. The reason
that diet products, fat free foods etc., are largely aimed at women, is
because some women live perpetually on a calorie restricted diet for
fear of gaining any weight all.