Monday, October 21, 2013

Response to Psychology Today Article About "Fat Shaming"

In a Psychology Today article entitled The #1 Worst Thing to Say to Your Fat Friend the author, Harriet Lerner, Ph.D discusses an article written by another writer, a woman named Natalie Kusz. Ms. Kusz is an overweight woman writing about "fat shaming" and in her article she talks about instances of shaming enacted upon her by strangers and she contends that, while they are certainly hurtful, the moments during which she feels the most shamed is "the well-intentioned disapproval of a friend--the one who leans a narrow hand on your arm and murmurs, “I hope this doesn't hurt your feelings, but I love you and I'm concerned about your weight." Both authors contend that this friend is acting in a harmful, rather than beneficial manner when they make such statements to their overweight friends (I wonder if they would feel this way if it was gambling/alcohol, etc rather than obesity being discussed).

Well, I strongly disagree with the contention made by both of these authors and what follows is the comment I submitted for publication on the site.

I cannot disagree more with the contention of the author that it is reasonable to equate a stranger yelling "Get out and walk, fatass!" with a friend  saying “I hope this doesn't hurt your feelings, but I love you and I'm concerned about your weight" in terms of being shaming statements. The stranger's actions are clearly nothing but shaming. Horrendous, hurtful and terribly rude shaming.

The friend's comment, however? Absolutely nothing of the sort. That's a statement of concern meant to broach the subject of their friend's well being/health. That statement is one borne of concern and an ability to discern objective truth (the friend is fat and risking their long term health), not an act of "fat shaming."

The author may contend that "I felt shamed when he/she said it!" and they may be telling the truth but that shame is a response to their own recognition of the truth of the matter. It is there because they know what they are doing is harmful to their health and social standing and they feel bad about it. To put the blame for this on the friend is to shift the burden of responsibility from oneself to the people around them who are trying to help.

This is just further evidence of the fact that this culture is a little bit too concerned with feelings and because of that, coddling of adults in spite of pointing out the objective reality of a given situation, even when long term health is on the line has become de rigueur. People will literally get sick and die earlier than they could because the people around them are shamed (yes, major irony here) into staying quiet lest you make the person feel bad while you're trying to point out the obvious and save their life.

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