Fat Shaming and fat stigmatizing are nothing new in the tabloid media. Movie stars, reality stars and the body of pretty much anyone in the entertainment public eye is ogled, criticized and critiqued with a media ruler taken to every waistline, bust-line and belt notch gained or lost. So what’s the big deal? These are adults who have made a conscious choice to thrust themselves into the limelight. All publicity is good publicity, right? Wrong. Let’s move past that and look at the bigger picture. Fat stigmatizing and shaming by the media hurts not only the target but all of us. It has consequences. It desensitizes us to be empathetic to the struggles of others. It tells us that it is ok to teach our children to react in the same manner to other children who may be overweight or different in some manner. When done on social media sites like Twitter, it encourages others of like mind to pile on, further creating the fiction that it is acceptable conduct. Finally, contrary to popular belief, fat shaming has no positive effect on weight loss and in fact, has the opposite effect in addition to other possible long-term consequences to the target.
What about those of us who may be carrying a few extra pounds who are not in the media limelight? Maybe just wanting to take in an NBA playoff game with some primo courtside seats? Exit stage left the Hollywood tabloids. Enter stage right, the sports media who are supposed to be covering sporting events but instead target some unsuspecting person just trying to take in a playoff game.
ESPN pundit, Darren Rovell, decided that all is fair in love, war, sports, and fat shaming when he tweeted a photo of such a guy and rendered his distasteful public opinion about the guy’s size to his 460,000 followers on Twitter. Darren deleted the tweet and did apologize, but only after he was called out by other Twitter users. One could argue under such circumstances that it was less an apology than CYA damage control. I won’t attempt to read what was going through Darren’s head but one thing is clear. At the moment he hit send on that tweet, he did not think it was any big deal to fat shame the guy enjoying the basketball game. The desensitizing of America to the struggles of others. Rovell disappeared for the rest of the night as the wrath of twitter(mine included) descended on him for his insensitive tweet. Shame on Darren and any other media representative who believes that it is funny or witty to inflict a fat stigma “drone strike” on an unsuspecting person who wants nothing more to enjoy his/her life free from public attacks over his/her body. Let’s try to be more empathetic to the struggles and differences of others and not prop ourselves up for a laugh at their expense. If you can’t be that, try harder just to keep your mouth shut.
Brian Cuban is an author whose best-selling book “Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder” chronicles his first-hand experiences living with, and recovering from childhood bullying, eating disorders and Body Dysmorphia Disorder (BDD) and drug addiction. Brian speaks regularly about his recovery and breaking the male eating disorder stigma.