December 22, 2013
No Shame: An Open Letter to a Daily Hiit Blogger
Here's a quick reminder for journalists, authors and bloggers: if your article title is a question that can be answered in a single word, you might want to double-check whether it's worth writing. Andrew Peloquin, a fellow blogger at dailyhiit.com, recently wrote just such an article: Fat Shaming: Does it Work? Andrew, I could have saved you a day and a half of sitting at your computer, as every piece of credible research available on the subject of shaming and stigmatization has already answered that question: No. And if you don't believe me, maybe you'll believe the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. In 2010, the Center did a literature review on shaming and stigmatization and found that "weight stigma is not a beneficial public health tool for reducing obesity. Rather, stigmatization of obese individuals threatens health, generates health disparities, and interferes with effective obesity intervention efforts." I suppose it's possible that, despite taking it upon himself to try and set his blog audience straight about this whole obesity thing, Andrew somehow missed all the available information on obesity. Who has time to read all that stuff, anyway? Oh wait, I wrote an article about this exact thing, distributed on the same site to the same audience last month. The depth of Peloquin's research was an Urban Dictionary search for the term "fat shaming", which was clearly written by someone whose bike was stolen by fat person when they were 8 and who hasn't let it go. (Because yes, Andy, an open-source gag site is a much more reliable repository of information on health and public policy than Yale.) But damn it, research or no research, he's got important opinions! And you should care about them!
Well, I’d have to agree that anything that humiliates someone is wrong . . . if fat shaming really does cause emotional pain or stress, it probably is the wrong thing.Whew! That's a relief; between the Urban Dictionary reference and his opening "disclaimer" absolving people with medical issues from the guilt of being fat, I was worried that what follows was going to be really stupi . . .
Now, on the flip side, I’d have to say that fat shaming is one of the best things in the world.I . . . but you . . . what?
What many people see as “Fat Shaming” is really just “telling them s*** they don’t want to hear.Huh. I don't think I saw that in any of those studies. Weird. And, sure, that's a simplistic and unhelpful perspective on how people make decisions about their health, but I suppose he's not really bullyi . . .
Don’t be silly and take things personally that really aren’t. Your guilt is on you . . .Aaaand there it is. His only justification for why we should listen to him at all—the only reason he offers as to why he's even remotely qualified to be talking about fat shaming, to anyone—is that he's unfit:
I’m by no means in shape. In fact, I’m working to get rid of my belly fat, arm fat, leg fat, and body fat just like so many other are.Andrew Peloquin, like so many others, still thinks that being fat is the problem. He believes his fat is so shameful, he lists it limb by limb, disassociating his fat from himself. And if Andrew Peloquin can't give up his shame, damn it, you shouldn't be able to give up yours either. Sometimes the bullied becomes the bully. What he doesn't know is that being fat isn't the problem: not his and not yours. What Andrew Peloquin doesn't know is that the days of blaming fat people for their fat are over: legions of smart, compassionate people are out there building better pathways to health as I write this, and not one of them requires anyone to shame themselves into feeling inadequate. Andrew Peloquin doesn't need to be ashamed of his body—but he needs to rethink how he talks to others about theirs.