Chelsea Handler Poking Fun at Weight Gives Inside Look at the Struggles of Being Fat in the 21st Century
An attempt by Chelsea Handler to poker fun at Andy Richter's weight on a recent "Conan" is a perfect example of the public acceptance of "fat shaming" that, for some reason, people continue to view as acceptable.
The joke brought to the front of my mind something that's been bugging me for quite a while: Prejudice toward overweight people. Sure, we could just cast aside the joke and point out instead the fact that she'll need a new liver long before Andy Richter needs a lapband, but this is a chance to expose the shaming and prejudice toward people with a weight problem.
One of the main reasons I've never said anything about the issue with weight-prejudice is that I haven't wanted to lessen the struggles of people that have suffered physical and mental torture over the color of their skin or the accent of their voice. Those struggles are centuries old, and this fat-hate is relatively new. There was once a time when being overweight was the sign of a life of affluence. That's definitely no longer the case.
As more and more prejudices are publicly scorned, people who make a hobby (or profession) out of laughing at and pointing out the differences of others are forced to go with something that won't have them outcast for their hateful words. Fat people are an easy target. Most fat people blame themselves for being that way, and that leads to very few people willing to fight back (as Andy did).
The fat jokes are just the latest fad in the ever-evolving world of what's socially-acceptable and what's not acceptable in terms of breaking down others. Once, the color of someone's skin was something considered fair game. Jews were once fair game. Homosexuals were targeted. That's not to say those groups are not currently discriminated against and poked fun at. It's just that those previous targets are taboo now in the joke world.
When one door closes, another door opens. With race, sexual preference and religion being off the table, that leaves weight as one of the last groups of people that just accept being on the receiving end of hate. Weight issues aren't just a target of the cruelty of others. There's also the discrimination that comes with paying for an extra plane seat, or discrimination in the form of paying more for an extra "X" or two on your shirt size. It'll never be something that's admitted publicly, but there's also the discrimination in the work place.
Two job candidates, fairly equal in most regards, could have their fate determined by their appearance. That's not just limited to the suit, the haircut and the shoes. It's also the weight. There's a prejudice there.
Many people say that weight is something you can control. Those who have suffered racial prejudice may say they didn't choose to be born with that skin color. Gay activists will tell you they were born that way. Take a look around at my family reunion. You're not going to find many sprinters. You'll find enough offensive linemen to start a football team, but not many wide receivers.
Genetics plays a large part in physical appearance, and that includes weight. To tell someone they should just "lose the weight" is the same thing as telling a gay man he should just "stop liking dudes". If it was that easy to lose the weight, there wouldn't be billions of dollars spent every year on fruitless (literally & figuratively, I suppose) efforts to lose weight that we'll never lose.
The prejudice toward overweight people has to stop, but before that can ever begin, we, as overweight people, need to accept ourselves for who and what we are. That doesn't mean we don't have to strive for a healthy lifestyle. It's not all-or-nothing, as I sometimes tend to allow myself to think.
I'm not necessarily happy with my weight, but I'm happy with the man inside this large exterior. That's far more important to me. I know a lot of people so unhappy on the inside that it doesn't matter what's on the outside, because it's never good enough. I definitely want to be healthier, but that's something easier said than done for those that have tried and failed too many times to even count.
Most of this self-hatred starts through the judging of others. Whether it's family, friends or bullies at school, fat people are taught through life experiences that something's wrong with them. Decades of hearing and feeling this leads itself to misery. I found early on that self-deprecation goes a long way in diffusing the insults and disgust directed at people struggling with their weight, but that doesn't reflect the way those words impact me.
Constantly being reminded of our weight problems, whether it's in increased costs for bigger clothes sizes, a 2nd seat on a plane, or just passing by a window and catching our reflection, can ruin a day. If it was because of the color of someone's skin that they had to pay more for clothes, or pay for another airline seat so that our neighbor isn't uncomfortable, there would be an uproar.
Because overweight people shoulder the "blame" associated with their weight, no one looks at how wrong it is to be treated in such a way. Can you imagine telling an airline passenger that they'll need a "buffer" seat between them and their neighboring passengers because they're gay? God help us all if that ever happens. Yet overweight people just suck it up and pay.
Ultimately, I'm the only person with the power to change what genetics and my lifestyle has given me, but until the day comes that I get the time and the plan to be a thinner man, shouldn't I be given the same respect that's offered to those with a more physically-acceptable body type? You'd think so, but until that day comes, those of us with weight problems will just have to turn the other cheek and put up with the ill-conceived attempts at humor and insults.