• Fri, May 20 2011

All The Wright Stuff: Why Is “You’re Fat” The Go-To Insult For Women?

Fat.

If there is any word more easily tossed at woman on the internet, I don’t know it. But why is fat the go-to insult for those looking to score an easy wound? Because it works.

At some point, being seen as overweight became a huge stigma, and that stigma lead to insecurity in women. That insecurity insantly gave everyone in the world a handy word with which to break a woman’s ego. Even if you are a normal weight, being called fat can give some women pause. “Maybe I LOOK fat in my profile picture? IS size [insert your size here] fat?” There’s no reason for this ladies. And let me tell you why.

I’ve been on both sides. First, I am not this nicest person on the internet. I can find a hundred bad things to say about pretty much anyone. 99.9999 times out of 100 those comments have nothing to do with dress size. Why? Because it’s too easy. And that is why people on the internet will call you fat, whether you are or not. It’s easy. It’s the one crack that is guaranteed to get a rise out of women.

Second, I’m a woman and I’m on the internet. Add to that the fact that I’m a fairly unpleasant woman on the internet, and I’ll give you a few hours to count all the times I’ve been called ‘fat’, ‘obese’, ‘fleshblob’ or ‘twinkie smuggler’. (Yes. Really.) So I know how it feels to receive it, and I understand why people say it.

Now, honestly, I have trouble understanding why a three letter word carries such a huge whallop for us women. Maybe that’s because years of teaching myself to just ignore the word “fat” when its lobbed in my direction have given me the hide of a saddlebag. Maybe because I know (from experience on the not-nice-person side) that by the time people are commenting on your weight they’ve run out of valid critiques. If anything it should make you feel better – if that’s the worst they can say about you, if that’s the best they can do, you’re doing pretty darn great in life.

I know, I know, “sure, that’s easy to say, Alice.” It’s easy to say, “don’t let it bother you!” But the way I see it, it’s pretty simple: if you wouldn’t care about someone’s opinion regarding anything else in the world, their opinion of you and your looks/weight/body should matter even less. The insult should roll off your back like so much water off the proverbial duck.

Looking at it this way actually does work. Now, I’m not saying I’m made of stone, here, folks. Those “shut up, fatty” comments used to bother me back in the early innocent days of internet trolls. But once I started using that barometer of whether or not to care whether someone on the internet though I was “fat” I started to realize it doesn’t matter. By letting what a bunch of people who had never seen me naked get me all worked up with their comments about my body, I gave them power over how I felt about myself. And since you can’t control dickheads on the internet, you have to adjust how you react.

Again, you just have to remember the person flinging this word at you is going with a quick and dirty low blow because they have nothing else about you to find fault with. You may or may not be overweight. It doesn’t matter, because calling someone fact is about hurting someone’s self esteem, not about stating empirical truths. I don’t have the answers for how to deal with name calling. It’s going to hurt you unless you learn to disregard it. I assure you, you will not turn into an animatronic robot with no emotions if you teach yourself not to get bothered by attacks on your body. What you will learn is that the only opinion of your body that matters is yours, and that of the people you love – even if the haters gonna hate.

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  • andrea dunlop

    I think it works because we’ve all been taught that being fat = being worthless as a woman. I think people use this exactly the same way in real life: I can’t think of a time a man called me the F word to my face when I hadn’t just rejected him in some way. (you know how this goes ‘c’mon baby, you’re sooooo beautiful.’ ‘yeah, no thanks.’ ‘fine, you’re fat anyway’)

    You’re right that we give the word its power of us, so we should be able to take it away.

  • Charlsie

    What a great column! This is so dead on — you hit the issue right on the head, as always, Alice.

  • Lana

    Can we please stop talking about weight so much already? It’s depressing seeing all these “weight insults/compliments” posts on the facebook feed within 2 days. :(

  • Huh

    “I can find a hundred bad things to say about pretty much anyone. 99.9999 times out of 100 those comments have nothing to do with dress size. ”

    I’m not a fan of your writing as I find it rather forced and mundane, but it’s never so terrible as to elicit a response from me that might take up more time and energy than you’re worth. That being said, this is bullshit. You’re lying. I know you’re lying because I’ve seen you throw fat insults at your critics on more than one occasion and I do believe multiple occasions would qualify as being more than 0.0001% of the time. It’s your go-to insult when you know you’ve been called out on something valid. Kind of like plugging your ears and shouting “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”

    Seriously, if you’re going to pass judgment on everyone who doesn’t pander to your self-pitying BS, then at least be honest about who you are and how you live your life.

  • Eve

    My little sister was once in a livejournal argument and someone called her fat. She laughed at him because, not only is she skinny, but this person had no way of knowing what she looked like as there were no pictures of her on her livejournal. It’s kind of a perfect illustration of how meaningless the “fat” insult really is– someone who hasn’t even seen you will lob it at you.

  • Tinsley

    I really like alice’s column. Did she get fired?

  • Jen V.

    I was called fat to my face by a homeless person in San Diego (I am. Sure, so what?) I laughed and replied that I could smell him comming half a block off. What does it say about our society that a stinky homeless person feels superior to a clean, employed fat girl?