I have followed Whitney Way Thore, dancer, entrepreneur, and star of TLC’s My Big Fat Fabulous Life, on Instagram for years. I love her. She can dance her ass off, she’s funny, and I love what she stands for. Her No Body Shame campaign is right up my alley. As a fellow fat girl with PCOS, I relate to so much of her content. Also, let’s be honest here: I always love to see women in big bodies just fucking succeeding, society’s beauty standards be damned.
Being fat and visible to the public can really suck. I don’t have a social media following like Whitney, but I do have a job that allows me to speak freely about issues relating to life in a fat body sometimes. Even as a person who is able to retain relative anonymity, I am subject to a lot of outside opinions about my size. Much of the time, it happens when I’m writing about something else! Some of my most brutal, critical comments came from CIS MEN on an article about BREASTFEEDING. Some people see fat bodies and figure it’s open season, and their weapon of choice is their shitty opinion.
Whitney Way Thore calls that shit out, and I LOVE IT.
This week, Whitney was just living her fat fabulous life as she is entitled to do, and she posted some photos of her activities. Visiting the Louvre with her new boyfriend, twirling in a gorgeous full-length skirt, and swimming with her friends. All the stuff that summer dreams are made of. Sigh.
But could that just be that? No.
Because people are obsessed with commenting on fat bodies. Obsessed.
Whitney came back to Instagram after posting all of her beautiful Parisian summertime experiences and posted a photo of herself in a super cute bikini, this time with two comments pasted over her body. One of them said, “You still haven’t lost any weight, huh?” and another declared, “Girl u lost weight! Looking good.” Whitney’s caption read, “This — on everything I post, always. So tired of it, exhausted by it, annoyed with it. Can we please find something else to talk about? Suggest good topics in the comments.”
In the comments, she got her fair share of people claiming that she has no right to ask people to talk about something other than her weight because she chose a public life (bullshit) and plenty of other people actually suggesting other topics. Bless their literal hearts.
Can I just say to Whitney Way Thore, YES AND AMEN!
It IS tiring, exhausting and annoying when you can’t live your damn life without every single fucking thing becoming a weight issue. When your body is big and you dare to exist in it openly, especially online, people just assume they’re entitled to comment on it.
I don’t think I really have to tell you why the first comment sucked. In our society, fat is always considered less than thin, and weight loss is always seen as an accomplishment. By pointing out that Whitney doesn’t appear any smaller, that commenter was making their intent to shame her abundantly clear.
It’s that second comment that’s a little tricky. I realize the person likely believed that commenting on Whitney’s body to point out that they think she looked smaller would be a positive thing. It is a commonly-held belief in our culture that fat people are just failed thin people, and that every single one of us is desperately clinging to a desire to be smaller. The commenter almost certainly thought they were cheering Whitney Way Thore on.
They didn’t intend to shame. But any comment about a fat person’s size or body can be really disappointing and uncomfortable if it centers our body in a conversation that was supposed to be about something else.
You know what would have been the bigger compliment?
Not giving a shit about the size of Whitney’s body to begin with. Nothing could be more welcome to a fat person than not having to constantly think about the size of our body and your opinion of it.
Although our culture makes it really hard to just exist as a fat person without thinking about the size or shape of your body every second, we do have that right just like everyone else. Every single thing we do is not an invitation to comment on your perception of our bodies.
Can we just get a break from being seen as a work in progress sometimes instead? It would be really freaking welcome to be able to feel like people see everything else that fat people are once in a while. We are so much more than our bodies and our labels. And it’s super weird to constantly have someone else bring up your body when you didn’t. Awkward. Bizarre. Boring.
As a species, we really need to curb the entire habit of commenting on other people’s bodies at all, especially if they’re strangers.
Look, if your best friend has been depriving herself of everything delicious for three months to fit into a bridesmaid’s dress, and you know for sure that she would be elated to hear that you think she looks “skinny,” throw it out there. You have a relationship, and you know that she would welcome the feedback. That’s not what I’m talking about here.
I’m talking about the way that some people feel some kind of compulsion to bring the size of shape of a fat person’s body into a conversation that is clearly not about their body. Weird. Could you just resist that temptation? Fat people are allowed to post photos just to post photos. Even fat celebrities. There’s no profession that removes a person’s right to ask for boundaries.
There’s no level of notoriety that a fat person can achieve that makes you less of an asshole for body-shaming them or randomly commenting on their size.
Everyone should be allowed to exist in social media spaces without discussing someone else’s perception of their body every single time they post. Fat bodies are not always up for discussion. In the immortal words of Cardi B, “Let [us] fat in peace.”