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Aman Singh: Fatphobia is the implicit and explicit bias that is rooted in a sense of blame and a presumed moral failing

Aman Singh
NDP MLA Aman Singh is trying to raise awareness about the devastating consequences of fatphobia.

On August 6, Richmond-Queensborough NDP MLA Aman Singh delivered the following speech in the B.C. legislature about fatphobia:

In the wake of an Oscar win for The Whale, a horrifically discriminatory movie that uses fat suits—and don’t be mistaken; a fat suit is just blackface in another context—and a storyline to paint the protagonist as grotesque, pitiful, it’s well beyond time we talk about fatphobia.

We talk about racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, sexism, but we don’t address the systemic oppression that affects people who live in large bodies.

Fatphobia is the implicit and explicit bias that is rooted in a sense of blame and a presumed moral failing. Being fat is highly stigmatized in culture. Anti-fatness is intrinsically linked to anti-Blackness, racism, classism, misogyny, and many other systems of oppression.

Often, it is blaring and obnoxious. But more often than not, fatphobia is less overtly mean and, instead, cloaked in concern for the fat person—your mom clipping articles about how being at a higher weight causes worse COVID complications. It’s actually way more complicated than that.

Sometimes it looks like unsolicited suggestions to exercise or subtle weight-loss advice. Or fatphobia can come out as classic microaggression. “You have such a pretty face.” The unspoken part: “The rest of you, not so much.”

There’s this mistaken belief that if you diet or you eat a certain way, you can control things. But there is more and more evidence that we are largely not in control of our body size.

The harmful effects of fatphobia are a constant for people in larger bodies, and it is more intense for women. Higher-weight people of colour also face dual stigmatization that can compound things like the wage gap and medical discrimination.

Experiencing weight stigma has real-life effects. The stress and repeated trauma that aggressions create lead to more illness. It causes anxiety, depression, poor body image, poor self-esteem. Women earn less as they gain weight. People, especially women, seen as fat get poorer medical care.

This is a life-and-death issue for many. It destroys people. It’s up to us to make this world a better place for everybody. Let’s do that.

More learning resources

The following section is provided by Pancouver:

Well Rounded is Vancouver writer and director Shana Myara‘s award-winning 2020 documentary on fatphobia.

Watch the trailer for Well Rounded.

Myara interviewed four Canadian women who had come to terms with their body shapes. Moreover, she included a great deal of scientific and historical information countering myths about obesity. One of the experts quoted, A. Janet Tomiyama, is a professor of psychology at UCLA.

In 2016, Tomiyama co-authored a paper with several other researchers in American Psychologist that reviewed studies of obesity treatments. These studies revealed that one-third to two-thirds of dieters regain more weight than they had lost while on their diets.

The researchers also wrote that “these studies likely underestimate the extent to which dieting is counterproductive because of several methodological problems, all of which bias the studies toward showing successful weight loss maintenance.”

“In addition, the studies do not provide consistent evidence that dieting results in significant health improvements, regardless of weight change,” the researchers maintained. “In sum, there is little support for the notion that diets lead to lasting weight loss or health benefits.”

Tomiyama and the lead researcher, Secrets from the Eating Lab author Traci Mann, elaborated on their views in a 2017 article on The Conversation website. It was entitled “What thin people don’t understand about dieting”.

In this piece, the two experts flat-out declared that diets do not work.

“Change your focus to improving your health with exercise (which doesn’t require weight loss), and resolve to choose a different New Year’s resolution next year,” Tomiyama and Mann advised readers.

Just last month, Tomiyama was among those quoted in a National Geographic article about weight-shaming. She described it as “the last acceptable form of bias” in our society.

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Aman Singh

Aman Singh

Aman Singh is the NDP MLA for Richmond-Queensborough.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.