Feature

Fat phobia: The acceptable bigotry

In response to a blog that expressed revulsion at a new sitcom about a couple who meet at Overeaters Anonymous and fall in love, Marie Claire magazine received some 28,000 e-mails and a protest in front of its offices.

Our dirty little secret is out, said Sadie Stein in Jezebel.com. Hatred of fat people is the last acceptable form of bigotry in America. Marie Claire, a supposedly “forward-thinking ladymag,” apparently articulated what many size-2, image-obsessed young women think when its website carried a blog entitled “Should Fatties Get a Room? (Even on TV?)” The piece, by Maura Kelly, expressed revulsion at a new sitcom called Mike & Molly, about a couple who meet at Overeaters Anonymous and fall in love. “I’d be grossed out,” Kelly wrote, “if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other. I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything.” In the outrage that ensued—Marie Claire received some 28,000 e-mails on the post—readers called Kelly “fattist” and “ignorant” and held a protest in front of the magazine’s Manhattan offices. In her rueful apology, Kelly admitted that she’s a recovering anorexic with “a lifelong obsession with being thin.” Still, it’s telling that a mainstream magazine didn’t think twice about a piece expressing undisguised loathing of fat people.

So a fashion magazine thinks it’s gross to be fat, said Charlotte Hilton Andersen in HuffingtonPost.com. Now, there’s a shock. While “half the Internet” has attacked Kelly for her post, “she’s really not the problem. Many, many people feel this way.” The real issue is the collective self-loathing American women feel about our imperfect physiques—our terror of being considered even slightly overweight. In fairness to Kelly, it’s important to point out that about a third of our population is dangerously obese, said Bonnie Rochman in Time.com. Another third are overweight. For millions of Americans, rolls of fat are not merely an aesthetic problem but a threat to their health, which Kelly also pointed out in her post. 

Let’s not make excuses for this “heinous attack on human dignity,” said Josh Shahryar in HuffingtonPost.com. Just like blacks and gays, the overweight are treated as second-class citizens. On the job, studies show, they’re denied promotions and are paid less. Doctors often treat them with disdain. Marie Claire actually let a recovering anorexic use its website to mock a TV show in which two chubby people find love, which is akin to asking “an on-again-off-again KKK member to critique Roots.” There’s an “incredible amount of bias” in this country against overweight people, and it’s time we treated it like any other form of bigotry.

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