Why your 'jokes' about putting on weight during lockdown are actually fatphobic

Sirena Bergman@SirenaBergman
Tuesday 05 May 2020 12:45

Since no one can leave the house much, many aspects of our lifestyle have taken a hit, including our food and exercise habits, and for some it may have an impact on their weight.

It seems pretty insignificant to worry about about going up or down a dress size in the middle of a global pandemic, yet it's something people can't seem to stop talking about across the internet. Whether it's a tweet about how much junk food they're eating or an Insta Stories about their workout routine, a lot of this content seems to revolve more around weight and body size than it does around simply being healthy.

And one particular genre is memes featuring people in larger bodies, with people claiming this is "what we'll look like after lockdown".

This is a problematic narrative for a number of reasons. Firstly, there is increasing evidence that weight and size don't correlate with lifestyle choices. It is a hugely damaging misconception that people who are smaller are healthier than those who are larger.

It's also clearly body-shaming the people in the pictures, or others who look similar, suggesting that their bodies are the opposite of aspirational, something to be dreaded and mocked.

Louis McSharry, author of Fat Chance: My Life in Ups, Downs and Crisp Sandwiches explained this issue perfectly in a series of tweets, saying she'd had to block someone for sharing one such fatphobic meme, saying:

Fat people are not fodder for your pathetic ‘jokes’. I’m a human being, not a before picture or a ‘jesus I could end up like that’ joke.

Here's her thread:

Many of her followers clearly agree with this sentiment, and the original tweet has had more than 3,000 likes.

Some tried to equate it to a number of lifestyle memes out there:

While it's true that there are other memes which may be personally offensive to some (and this should always be at the forefront of our minds), the systemic discrimination against fat people is a huge problem in our society, and can't be equated to simple hurt feelings, but rather is a propagation of collective bigotry which has a real impact on people's lives.

Research has shown that doctors often hold negative attitudes, both explicit and implicit, about people they see as being “overweight”. A 2019 survey revealed that half of employers are predisposed against hiring people who are larger. Some people argue that it is actually the most common form of discrimination in the UK, although it's important to note that women, people with disabilities and people of colour may be additionally likely to suffer weight discrimination – it's not a matter of "either or".

Either way, it's food for thought. Things which may seem flippant on the surface can have a very real impact on the lives of those with less privilege (yes, being thin is a form of privilege given the social currency it comes with).

So maybe think twice before posting that meme...