I have been going back and forth on if I should post anything on this whole ‘Dear Fat People’ video by a YouTube “personality”, I won’t call her a creator because the content she does generate is lazy, unoriginal, and shock crap to garner views and attention. It’s not creative or fostering of any sort of honest conversation that has benefit for more than just the creator to get views and money. On the one hand I hate that if I do I give this person the attention and possible views from people searching the video out, and validate her own sense of self entitlement as some sort of “hero”, but on the other I watched the way this trash affected people, and myself, and I don’t feel like being silent. There is a message to share from all of this and it is drastically different from the one Nicole Arbour thought she was generously teaching us.
On the off-chance you haven’t heard of this video at all the gist is that Nicole made a video a few days ago titled ‘Dear Fat People’ where she takes on the martyr role of saying all the things people want to say to fat people but can’t (or don’t because they aren’t awful human beings and have even a modicum of respect.). They include the usual; “You’re gross”, “You’re obviously the epitome unhealthy”, “You’re being selfish risking dying and leaving your loved ones to miss you”, “You’re worthless”, “You would be so much prettier/likable/better if you just weren’t fat”. Then she goes on to say that she isn’t saying these things to hurt Fat people, no, she is trying to be helpful. She cares about you, wants you to live a long healthy life and clearly the only solution to a long, happy life is being thin.
Now I don’t know about you but the stench of bullshit is very strong and the harmful impact her words set into motion are clear as day. However that doesn’t mean I am sitting up here telling you that being overweight can’t lead to health risks, obviously it can. However here is something Nicole seems to be unaware of; Fat people are aware. We know that being fat can have negative effects on our life, and if we didn’t there has been a handful of people ready to tell us at multiple turns. I’ve had family members mention it, I’ve had teachers mention it, I’ve…not had any friends mention it I don’t think (go friends, you’re amazing!), I’ve had random people I don’t know stop me to tell me, I’ve had guys who thought I was really into them when I wasn’t tell me, I’ve had guys who thought I was really into them and I was tell me. That last one sucks something special.
The fact of the matter is that we know. But another thing Nicole (and anyone for that matter) doesn’t know is the life that Fat person you’re judging leads. When we look at people and all we get to see is their physical appearance we are seeing just a fraction of who they are. We can’t discern their diet or their work out schedule or what medical challenges they might face. Someone Fat could eat so excellent and work out daily just to maintain the present body they have, or they could be a person who is not the greatest at watching what they eat and making sure they get some exercise. Someone skinny could also be either of those people. An outside glance does not give an accurate look into who a person is or what their value is, and that, unlike their weight, matters.
Nicole wants to pretend she’s not being mean or encouraging fat shaming (mostly because she claims it doesn’t exist) but she is. She is facilitating an idea that it is acceptable to harass people because you are uncomfortable with their existence. Nicole might think she is just saying words in a “funny” or “satirical” video and that they shouldn’t matter if they mean nothing but they do. Words mean something. They have power unlike anything. She thinks she is saying them to be a comedian and make a joke, but in that same breath she is telling people they aren’t worth respect.
And that’s what frustrates me the most. It isn’t that some tacky, unoriginal woman is talking about Fat people in a negative light. It’s that she’s telling people not to believe they are worthy of love and respect. I don’t know her demographic well but I know YouTube is nearly more popular with young kids and teenagers than TV now more than ever and if a young girl is watching that she is being told a horrible lie. Young fat girls are hearing that despite their young age they are already lesser people and the only time they will have value is if they become thin, no matter what the costs. Young thin girls are hearing that they have a standard to abide by if they want to stay well liked and accepted by the world. Young boys are too hearing her message and trying to figure out where on the scale of worthy they lie based on their body.
I read and heard so many painful responses to Nicole’s video and it killed me to see people second guessing how amazing they are because some desperate person needs the validation that their name is being repeated no matter the context it is attached too. The benefit however is that words can be healing just as much as they can be damaging and from this has stemmed some really great emotional and powerful discussions.
Meghan Tonjes put up an inspiring video, Nicola Foti did a really on point response, John Glaude made an excellent rebuttal video, Grace Helbig has an excellent video addressing it, Loey Lane talked to her viewers about not letting it get to them, Kendall Rae nails it, and Whitney Way Thore from TLC’s ‘My Big Fat Fabulous Life’ has a both articulate and hilarious reaction . These are just a few I’ve seen (you can find more by typing in ‘dear fat people’ in YouTube and looking for responses but not the actual video) and enjoyed because they all said things I feel like I couldn’t properly put into words. (Pssst Meghan also has this great video [among many on body positivity] that talks about assuming things about people & their eating habits based on their bodies)
Dumbledore once told Harry, “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” And I think that while Nicole’s words have inflicted some grotesque injury, it is time to change the conversation and start to remedy that. Let’s have open and honest discussions about why it’s not okay to shame people, and how Fat people are people and worthy of your respect no matter how their bodies make you feel. Let’s talk about being kind and positive and finding ways to bring us together as humans rather than grasping at straws for reasons why some of us are better. We all have to share this planet together and it’s a lot easier to do when less noses are in the air.