Shaming Fat-Shaming

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Craven Walker, inventor of the Lava Lamp, also built and administered a large camp for people who enjoyed the naturist (nudist) lifestyle. He valued both spiritual and physical health, and felt that obesity violated those ideals. One information source says that he tried to ban obese people from his paradise, and consequently was attacked by the press, and nearly taken to court.

But his official obit in The Telegraph spoke of only one incident where Walker said something rude and has alienated his base:

He did once cause offence with his attempt to discourage larger-sized naturists from coming to his camp. “We at Bournemouth have a health centre and only want healthy people here,” he said. “We are against all these fat fogies — it’s not what naturism should be about.”

Around the topic of obesity, exotic varieties of shame grow. A couple of years back, Facebook added a new possibility that users could choose to express their state of mind. The “I’m feeling fat” status caused pushback. Fat-acceptance activists accused the site of enabling fat-shaming and encouraging self-destructive thoughts. The “Fat is Not a Feeling” movement got up an online petition which quickly garnered 16,000 signatures. Facebook saw which way the wind was blowing, relented, and removed the troublesome emoticon from its repertoire.

A venerable institution of higher learning was shamed into ending a program that was highly rated by the kids, harmed no one, and probably did a lot of good. Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University made it mandatory for students with BMIs of 30 or above to attend a 15-week fitness course. This happy state of affairs lasted for three years before somebody got upset and blew the whistle.

Extremism: Fat-shaming vs. thin-shaming

Efforts to quash fat-shaming sometimes proceed all the way into straight-up thin-shaming. Childhood Obesity News has mentioned the fat-shaming YouTube personality Nicole Arbour, who made a video that angered multitudes.

A few months later she followed it up with a sequel that raged against the appearance of model Ashley Graham on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and accused Graham of staying overweight just to help manufacturers make fortunes by selling plus-size clothes to large women. To top is all off, Arbour accused fat people of thin-shaming the Mattel company until it produced a version of its famous doll, Barbie, with more meat on her bones.

Remember when Maria Kang published photos of herself only eight months after giving birth to her third child in three years? The caption read, “What’s your excuse?” Her Facebook page quickly collected 18,000 comments, mostly positive. But some folks wanted to pillory the “No-Excuses Mom” because they read her encouraging and inspirational message as fat-shaming.

Professional competitive eater Adam Richman was caught in a similar whirlpool of indignation when he lost 70 pounds within 10 months. Unwilling to congratulate him on this accomplishment, online trolls wrote things like:

The whole hypocrisy of this is on his show Man vs Food he glorified extreme eating contest and was extremely obese but now that he is thin is holier then thou.

Then, Richman attracted more public disapproval by posting before-and-after photos with the word “thinspiration,” and lashed out at people who criticized him for it. Apparently he had not been aware of the word’s magical significance among deviants who promote anorexia and bulimia. Richman soon had the opportunity to learn that no good ever comes from getting into an Instagram feud with a correspondent known as Adipose Activist.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Edward Craven Walker,” Ancestry.com, 04/19/06
Source: “Craven Walker,” Telegraph.co.uk, 08/19/2000
Source: “‘Dear Fat People’ shlock-vlogger freaks out over Ashley Graham’s Sports Illustrated cover,” Salon.com, 02/23/16
Photo credit: susan402 via Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

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