Brynne Huffman of Texas is creative person whose recent Facebook post, to a page called “Love What Matters,” garnered more than 34,000 comments and almost 170,000 “Likes” in a single day. What could inspire so many responses?
The painfully honest post explores a very basic question that encompasses not only the obesity epidemic, but the appropriateness of fat-shaming, the feminist “male gaze” trope, and Grandma’s quaint old saying: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” It’s the tricky subject of fat acceptance.
Wearing a summery white blouse and mid-thigh-length denim shorts, Huffman went on an errand run. Publishing a picture of herself in the outfit, Huffman acknowledges that she has “worked very hard past judgmental family and friends, past divorce, past depression to NOT have an issue with my body.” Waiting to send a package at the UPS store, she found herself next to a slimmer woman who felt entitled to remark, “Your hair really is amazing… You should probably rethink the shorts though.”
Although Huffman felt a flareup of rage, she contained it and only replied, “You should probably rethink your shirt” — which, ironically, bore the word COEXIST. Huffman’s anger, she reports, stemmed mainly from her own immediate impulse to go home and change clothes. That someone else’s perception and opinion had the power to impact her so much was the galling thing.
Of course this was not the first time in her life that she was forcibly reminded how much body size matters. She wrote:
And I’ll go a step further and say it especially seems to matter as an actress. Matters more than talent. Than attitude. Than pretty much anything else. Because fat girls are not believable heroines, ingenues, or objects of sexual desire.
The anger Huffman refrained from expressing in a public place came out in the much more public space of the world’s largest social network, where emotion was reflected back in literally tens of thousands of supportive comments.
Urging women to stick up for each other, rather than tear each other down, she added:
Plus sized doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy.
Plus sized doesn’t necessarily mean lazy.
Plus sized doesn’t mean ugly or undesirable or untalented or uncoordinated or LESS. THAN. HUMAN.
You might have an issue with my body. I don’t.
Women are eternally plagued by the question of how much to reveal to the world. It often seems that, like the audience at an old-time burlesque show, men spend all their time urging them to “Take it off! Take it off!” It is dismaying to be told, by a person of either sex, to “Put it back on!”
Many of the commenters were astonished that the COEXIST woman felt free to offer unsolicited advice to a stranger. One related how her daughter was trying on shorts in a department store fitting room when another customer decided to chime in with an opinion. Some expressed gratitude for the men who accept their larger frames. Women who live in hot climates wrote of their intentions to start wearing shorts, and one said she had never worn shorts since her teen years because of cruel insults, but meant to start immediately.
Two major points emerge from the debate. First, we need to get a handle on this thing. The obesity epidemic is in full swing, and the kids of this generation need to be saved from it. Second, that will not be accomplished by fat-shaming.
Publicly embarrassing overweight people is rude, doesn’t help them a bit, and, if anything, tends to reinforce their determination to “be themselves.”
Your responses and feedback are welcome!