So I’ve been away for a long while again, but nothing motivates me to get back to blogging quite like righteous indignation. Which is what I felt Monday. By now, I’ve simmered down to mere frustration and disappointment. For those of you who may not know, a YouTube personality and “comedian” released a video a couple of days ago entitled “Dear Fat People,” in which she purports to finally give voice to what everyone has always wanted to say to fat people (I didn’t know that all non-fat people had had a convention and agreed on what they’d like to say to fat people, nor did I realize that people had been holding back from saying it before). Nicole Arbour claims that she is trying to help fat people and inspire them to get healthy; however, her video is about six minutes of ranting against fat people, body positivity, and obesity. I know that whenever I really want to help people, I think the best way to go about it is by shouting how disgusting and horrible I think they are….not.
That stupid video has pretty much dominated my thoughts since I saw it Monday morning. And people have told me to just brush it off and not let it get to me. One of the learning specialists I work with at my job says, “They can’t get your goat if they don’t know where it’s tied.” It’s just hard to hide a metaphorical goat that I physically have to wear around every day. And I don’t know exactly what it was about this particular video that upset me so much. I guess it’s all the attention that it got on the internet and the fact that it’s much easier to brush off little comments here and there, or discount one jerk and chalk their opinion up to rare ignorance or meanness, than it is to ignore an entire video tirade and all of the “likes” and supportive comments it received. I mean, it takes a few seconds for some douchebag to make a rude comment, on the internet or in person, but it must have taken Nicole Arbour hours of planning, preparation, filming, and editing to put that video together. She devoted hours of her time in order to make an entire video shaming other people. To be fair, I have kept myself in a protected little bubble, following body positive accounts on Instagram, reading articles about plus-sized women like Tess Holliday making a career in modeling, and surrounding myself with people who don’t see my waistline as a measure of my worth. In this bubble, I allowed myself to believe that our culture was moving in the right direction, that we were starting to focus on health and acceptance and loving everyone, rather than putting people in boxes and categories based on their appearance, gender, sexual orientation, etc. and spreading more hate.
Consider my bubble well and truly burst.
As of yesterday, I’ve had to admit that we as a society have not made as big a stride as I’d hoped. We live in a world where people like Nicole Arbour, who have probably never been fat or obese, can create hateful content that makes wild assumptions about people they don’t even know under the guise of “trying to help.” This video presents something of a quandary for me. I believe in free speech, so I believe that Nicole has the right to say whatever she wants. However, I also believe that we should all use our power and influence wisely. So I guess, I’m just wishing for a world in which we wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not to censor hate speech. When she was called out for bullying, Nicole tried to hide behind the label of comedy, as if nothing intended for comedic purposes could ever be considered hurtful or just plain wrong. What’s worse, she’s now trying to turn this into a feminist issue by trying to claim that people are only mad because she’s a woman.
Pardon my French, but bitch, please. There’s an issue because you claimed, “Fat-shaming is not a thing. Fat people made that up.” Yet your entire video is one long fat-shaming rant. I can understand that it is hard for female comedians to be taken seriously, so maybe that’s why Nicole felt she had to resort to such lazy comedy. However, comedians like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Amy Schumer are wildly successful, yet they didn’t have to insult a (no pun intended) large group of people. Please do not claim sexism is the reason that people are upset that you compared fat people to Frankenstein, suggested a special parking section for fat people further from the store so they’d have to walk more, and even encouraged people to “stop eating” if they were offended by your comments. Really? Stop eating? Yes, let’s encourage people to develop eating disorders so that you will feel more comfortable and not have to live with fat people. Sounds reasonable…
This brings up another point: the misguided belief that all fat people are fat because they sit around eating Big Macs all day. There are a myriad of reasons that people may struggle with their weight. Seriously, it is often WAY MORE complex than simply loving food too much. I would try to list some of them, but I honestly don’t think that people really need to explain or justify their weight to anyone besides their doctor. At the end of the day, someone else’s body is none of your f**king business.
Another problem with Nicole’s pathetic bid for fame is that she can dish out criticism and hate, but she can’t take it. Once people starting commenting negatively about the video and calling for its removal, she disabled the comments, preventing anyone from voicing a disagreement with her. She couldn’t even give a good reason for her decision:
Atrocious grammar and text slang aside, it’s obvious that Nicole does not actually care about her audience and what they do and don’t appreciate in terms of “comedy.” This tweet only confirms that Nicole didn’t make the video to “help” or “inspire” fat people to get healthy. Nicole does not care about me and she doesn’t care about other fat people. Nicole made this video to become relevant and get attention. If you read through her tweets since the video’s creation and watch her latest video, “Most Offensive Video Ever” (in which she makes jokes of abuse and racism), you can see that she doesn’t care that her video was hurtful. The only thing she cares about is the fact that she’s gotten more subscribers to her YouTube channel since “Dear Fat People” was posted.
Speaking of those people who subscribed to Nicole because of “Dear Fat People,” part of the reason that this video has stirred up so much controversy and been so hurtful, at least to me, is all of the people who are agreeing with Nicole’s particular brand of “inspiration.” Not only do fat people see a video of one woman insulting and berating them, they see this as well:
Wow. I’m sorry, I just didn’t realize how my body was affecting you and your life. Oh, wait…
And you know what? The things that these people are saying are nothing new. They aren’t anything different from what fat people have heard their entire lives. In fact, these are things that I’ve told myself. I was a chunky kid and I encountered my fair share of bullies, starting with name-calling in elementary school. I used to lay in my bed at night and pray to God to make me skinny. I also hit puberty early and experienced some weight fluctuations, which is normal. In middle school, some boys I didn’t even know threw rocks at me on Valentine’s Day. I wrote in my diary about how disgusting I was and how no boy could ever like me because I wasn’t worthy or attractive enough. These self-esteem issues and society’s warped definition of beauty distorted my perception of my own body so much that I believed I was unloveable and gross even through high school, even though I was totally healthy and an average size. In college, I went on a diet that basically only allowed me to eat apples, lettuce with vinegar, and two saltines per day. It has only been in the past few years that I’ve been able to feel any confidence or accept my body. And it’s not a constant thing; I have good days and bad days. Sometimes, I still catch myself thinking how lucky I am that P would date me, even though I’m fat.
It is so unfortunate how easily one incident can ruin months and years of work towards confidence and self-esteem.
And it’s really frustrating to me that Nicole and others are belittling the body positive hashtags that are used to promote self love and foster a kind, safe community for people of all body types to support each other. No one using those hashtags is actively promoting obesity. In fact, most people on those hashtags are trying to live a healthy life. What I think is more telling is the fact that there was even a need for these hashtags. People like the ones above who fat-shame have created such a toxic and hateful environment that these hashtags were created as a place for people to go to find love and acceptance for who they are. Despite what some people may believe, the body positive community is not a place where we all go to eat mountains of food and encourage each other to stay fat. It’s a place where one’s body does not determine how he or she is treated. I don’t think it’s wrong to celebrate people for who they are, rather than what they look like.
Ultimately, the most offensive part of Nicole Arbour’s video and the majority of the support it has received is that she and others try to disguise body-shaming under a cloak of concern for fat people’s health. Nicole claims, “I’m really f**king selfish, and I want to keep you around… I’m not saying all this to be an asshole; I’m saying it because your friends should be saying it to you… I really, really hope this bomb of truth exploding into your face will act as shrapnel that seeps into your soul, makes you want to be healthier so that we can enjoy you as human beings longer on this planet.” I’m sorry, this “bomb of truth”?! A lot of people are defending this video because they want to spread the message that obesity isn’t healthy. EVERYONE KNOWS THAT. I know that I should take steps to live a healthier life. But there is nothing wrong with the fact that I choose to love myself and love my body, despite its flaws.
Strangers like Nicole Arbour do not know why my body is this size, nor do they need to know (spoiler alert: it’s not just because I appreciate a cheeseburger. Shocking, I know!). This video is not inspirational or helpful. It is judgy and mean. I sincerely hope that if you are truly worried for someone’s health and wellbeing, that you find a kind, private way to express these feelings. And I hope that you can be mature enough to respect that everyone’s journey is different, everyone has their own problems, & that everyone makes their own decisions. Someone else’s body, lifestyle, sexual orientation, fashion choices, etc. are not your problem.
I am incredibly thankful for all of the wonderful, kind people who have responded to this video and people’s rude comments with messages of love and acceptance. I HIGHLY recommend watching these videos by Meghan Tonjes, StevieVlogs, and boogie2988. They explain the problem behind “Dear Fat People” so much better than I can. I also really love this video of Meghan’s that talks about misconceptions about fat people.
So please, please, please let’s all be kind to each other. Let us strive daily to remember that we do not know what others have gone through or are going through. Let us not pretend that we know how people should or shouldn’t live their lives. Let us not claim to know the solution to another’s problems. Let us live with grace and love for our fellow human beings.
At the end of the day, at best, Nicole Arbour is a terrible comedian. At worst, she’s a bully. And if bullying inspired healthy lifestyles, we’d all be fucking Olympians.