Here’s An Idea: Don’t Talk About Other People’s Bodies So Much

It had been months since any of my coworkers had said something about my body.  No one’s ever been rude or crass, but you know, I can live without people pointing out my shape.  It makes me self-conscious.  People usually mean well, but frankly, I’d just prefer that strangers weren’t evaluating my body.  Wild, right?

In fact, after some weight gain and redistribution, I finally developed some hips (tada!) and comments tapered off.  I began to hope that I’d slipped into some “safe zone” where I was neither too skinny, nor too fat to merit size-based comments.

Then someone called me “willowy.”  In the grand scheme of things, that’s fine – it was nice, honestly, and it came from a coworker I respect – but it made me think about Tia’s recent-ish post about dealing with everyone around her fat-shaming and discussing diets.  Wouldn’t it be great if other people’s bodies just didn’t concern us so much, even if we think we’re being constructive?

Or how about the incident with the Wisconsin news anchor a few weeks ago?  A “viewer” (and we use this term loosely because he watched the show only occasionally, happened to glimpse a fat woman one time, and felt the need to comment) wrote a hurtful email to news anchor Jennifer Livingston.  He called her a bad role model purely on the basis of her being overweight.  Livingston, having the privilege of a huge platform to respond, did so with grace and awesomeness, pointing out two critical factors: one, that her bully knew literally nothing about her, and two, that by making hurtful comments, he is giving others – particularly his hypothetical children – the license to make similarly hurtful and massively unhelpful comments.

Her bully then went on to prove that he totally missed the point by challenging her to set an example by slimming down, and that he – generous, helpful man that he is – would advise her as needed.  For the children!

Charming.

Here’s the thing: when you comment on a stranger’s weight, you are not being helpful.  You are not telling them anything they don’t already know.  And if you’re offering advice or help, again, chances are good that they have already tried several things to change their weight, and even if they hadn’t, they usually prefer to hear comments on weight from a trusted friend or health professional.  They haven’t been waiting around for you to point out something as obvious as their weight.  Hurtful comments will not shame anyone into conforming to certain standards.  They will accomplish only that – shaming.

More importantly, one’s weight has no impact on one’s ability to be a role model.  As Livingston said herself in the second link above, “Talk to me about the stories I cover, not the way I look.”  When I’m at work, I’d like my coworkers to comment on the work I do, not whether or not my weight seems to have changed.  Being fat is not the worst thing a person can be; neither is being model-thin.  Aside from medical concerns (which can be assessed by a doctor, not coworkers or people watching you on TV), there’s no real reason anyone should have to change his or her body type – so, unless you’re a doctor, quit bringing it up.

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