A Real Conversation About Obesity?

Nicole ArbourA good friend recently asked: “Will we ever be able to have a real conversation about obesity or will it always be these side shows?” The example of comedian Nicole Arbour (right) — pathetically grubbing for attention with a hateful video on YouTube and Facebook — gives us doubts about the near-term possibilities.

Arbour put out a six-minute rant she named “Dear Fat People.” She made it clear that she was trying to be offensive, saying:

If we offend you so much that you lose weight, I’m OK with that. I’ll sleep at night.

Just in case anyone didn’t get her point, she shut down the comments on her video and said that by doing so, “It means that I don’t give a f**k what u have 2 say.”

Great. She milked this flash of hatefulness for more than 700,000 views on YouTube and 19 million on Facebook. She claimed to have been censored by YouTube, but that may have been just a ploy for more attention. And she sparked many passionate responses. Whitney Way Thore, star of “My Big Fat Fabulous Life,” responded to Arbour’s comment that “fat shaming is not a thing” with a video in which she said:

Fat-shaming is a thing; it’s a really big thing, no pun intended. It is the really nasty spawn of a larger parent problem called body-shaming, which I’m fairly certain everyone on the planet, especially women, has experienced.

The next time you see a fat person, you don’t know whether that person has a medical condition that caused them to gain weight. You don’t know their mother just died. You don’t know if they’re depressed or suicidal or if they just lost 100 pounds. You don’t know.

By sparking such an intense backlash, Arbour is proving that we are moving past the time when shaming peoples’ bodies would be accepted quietly — even in crude humor.

Perhaps hateful people and hateful humor will never go away. They do get marginalized when people recognize them for what they are, though.

But silence is not enough. People need to find more constructive ways to talk about obesity. More and more, you can find advocates and healthcare professionals who care enough to approach the subject, set aside their biases, and listen.

We need more of that.

Click here to read more from CNN, here to read more from USA Today, and here to read more from People magazine.

Shh! Photograph © Raquel Camargo / flickr

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September 8, 2015