Big Girls Cry

Plus-Size-womenAn image scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed the other day. It was a picture of an overweight woman, hanging upside-down by her legs on a stripper pole and crunching up, presumably working her abs. Next to her picture, as a comparison, was a picture of a plump rotisserie chicken on a spit. The caption read, “Nailed it.”

I was immediately put off by the snarky comments people were making about this image blinding them and how they can’t unsee it.

I commented, “Good for her for doing it, though. How many of us would give up? She joined a class and she is working. I’m impressed.”

I wanted to bring some balance to the comments, but the more I thought about it, the more it disturbed me.

Fat-shaming seems to be the only form of bullying that is still socially acceptable.

The woman in the image is a real woman. Someone created that meme and posted it. There’s a slight possibility the victim has a generous sense of humor and gave them permission, but more likely, she’s crying herself to sleep, possibly contemplating suicide, because of the humiliation of being compared to a chicken on a spit.

Do you know what I see when I look at that image? I don’t see a woman who looks like a chicken.

I see a woman who probably hates to go shopping, because she never feels pretty. I see a woman who has likely spent most of her life on one diet or another but has a hard time losing weight. I see a woman who hates the way she looks in pictures and cries when she sees herself in the mirror and determined, possibly for the thousandth time, that she’s going to do something about it.

I see a woman who made a choice to get out of her comfort zone and commit to a class. I see a woman who decided to try something different. Maybe it looked like fun, and she thought if she was enjoying herself, she’d be more likely to stick with it. Maybe, like every other woman in the world, she wants to feel sexy, and she thought a pole-dancing workout class would help.

I don’t know what her reasons were, but I know that she put on her workout clothes and she showed up. And she showed up regularly enough to be able to hang upside-down and do crunches from a pole. That’s impressive.

All we get to see is that one image. We don’t know how far she has come, or what it has taken for her to get there. Maybe, like this woman she has been working at it for awhile, and while you’re looking at a woman who is still overweight, she’s really a woman who is several sizes smaller than she used to be and still going.

But I see a woman who is trying desperately to be someone who the world sees as attractive. To not be someone who is ridiculed and shamed, only to be mocked anyway. What possible motivation does she have to keep going, when internet infamy is her reward for trying?

I said above that fat-shaming is socially-acceptable bullying. People seem to think that it’s somehow okay to bully overweight people because “it’s their own fault they’re fat,” and “it’s all about the math—if they’d just eat less than they burn, they’d be fine,” and so on. It’s all boiled down to simple math, and if you can’t do the math, you’re lazy and therefore you deserve what you get.

Here’s the problem:

It’s a lie.

It’s not all about the math. Sure, sometimes the math is a factor. Sometimes people really are just lazy and would rather eat junk than work hard. But not always.

See, nobody wants to be the fat kid. Nobody enjoys having people judge them. Nobody thinks it’s fun to have everyone around you assume you’re lazy and stupid.

There are a myriad of factors that go into obesity, from metabolism, to thyroid or other endocrine malfunctions, to food allergies, to pollutants, to genetics, to a thousand different unknowns. Many overweight people have tried every diet in all the books, and it still doesn’t work. This article explains some of the reasons why. But, from a psychological point of view, since it doesn’t work anyway, and no matter what they try, they stay the same, so they eventually give up.

Maybe you have it backwards. You see a fat person eating a Big Mac, and you think that’s why they’re fat. Maybe the reality is that they’re fat anyway and dieting doesn’t help, so why not enjoy what they’re eating?

Or maybe, like this woman, despite how their body carries their weight, they’re perfectly healthy and active and just want to enjoy life (and in this case, enjoy Halloween) without being judged and ridiculed.

The point is, for the most part, fat people are just like everyone else, doing the best they can with what they’ve been given.

And it’s horrifying that people think it’s okay to create memes or make comments with no purpose other than to humiliate others.

Regardless of how much or how little their weight problem is in their control, regardless of how hard they do or don’t try, regardless of whether they did or didn’t consent to having their picture plastered all over the internet, they are still humans who are being cruelly bullied. It is no more okay to do that than it would be to create a meme mocking a gay man or a girl with Down Syndrome.

These are real people with real feelings, and they don’t want to be humiliated for something they’re already self-conscious about any more than you would. They don’t want their picture splashed all over the internet for people to ridicule any more than you would.

I considered sharing the actual image, but decided against it, because I don’t want to bring this woman more pain by putting it on yet another site.

There will always be mean people who create and share these memes. There will always be cruel, insensitive people who comment on them. There will always be bullies.

But you don’t have to be one of them.

About Avily Jerome

Avily Jerome is a writer and the editor of Havok Magazine. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, both print and digital. She has judged several writing contests and is a writing conference teacher and presenter. She writes speculative fiction, her ideas ranging from almost-real-world action/adventures to epic fantasies to supernatural thrillers.

14 comments on “Big Girls Cry

  1. Agree completely, it is never acceptable to be cruel, make fun, or otherwise bully anyone for anything, including weight.

  2. Well put, thank you for writing this. When I saw this image I was horrified someone would do this. I thought, damn, I can’t do what this woman is doing, look at her working it and doing something awesome and fun and hard. Anyone who thinks they have the right to mock or take pictures of someone without their knowledge like this is an ass. I hope that is this woman sees this, she knows there are many many of us who think she’s a superhero, she’s DOING it, regardless of the weight issue, she’s strong and active and putting herself out there and that’s more beautiful than any size. Personally, I’d like to be her friend.

    • Me too.
      Did you read the article I linked about Caitlin Seida (the one who was shamed for dressing up like Lara Croft on Halloween)? I actually sought her out and sent her a friend request because I was so inspired by her. I would do the same if I knew who this woman is.

  3. You are so right. I saw that meme and didn’t have the sense to conjure up words, so I said nothing. Your response was so appropriate.

  4. Yes! This! Thank you for bringing this up! This happens in the church too. There is this article that has been going around about how pastors should preach on the sin of gluttony. Um… the Bible does not talk about gluttony except for one obscure verse in Proverbs, probably because there are so many nuances to weight and how society defines weight. It can be the result of lack of self-discipline, sure, but more times than not it is a result of genetics, health issues, having a baby and how a woman’s body changes, and the fact that society is enamored with thin girls with boy bodies. I can’t even imagine if a church was to do that and how a man or woman sitting in that pew would feel, with all those eyes on them, condemning them. Grrr!!!

    Anyway, rant over. Had to get that off my chest. Thanks again for posting this, Avily!

    • Thank you!
      Certainly there are things to be learned from applications of your body being a temple, and moderation in all things, and so on, but so often people are judged for not conforming to an arbitrary standard, like what’s in vogue at the time, or BMI ratings, and any notice of any other factor goes out the window.

      And let’s not even get started on how people can’t even be bothered to take notice of the brains, heart, or any other of a thousand internal qualities because they’re so focused on the outer shell…

    • Happens to men, too. My husband endured “righteous” shaming/belittling at more than one church because of his weight, yet his intake rarely went over 1200 calories and the job he did was hard, calorie-burning physical labor. Too bad three of the diabetes medicines he was on at the time each had weight gain as the primary side effect. Currently off those meds, btw, and his weight has steadily gone down, nearly to his target weight.
      How he was treated was among several reasons we left those churches permanently.
      Grrrr!!! is right, Morgan.
      Thanks for this post, Avily!

      • Wow. Not okay on so many levels. Thanks for sharing that side of it!

      • Wow, that’s so upsetting. I know how your husband feels, I’m on meds that make me retain weight. My drs all think I’m a healthy size and we all agree better a little softer than sick, so it’s really no one else’s business!

  5. You’re so right. Tweeted this. Thanks for posting.

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