By ERICA WATSON
“Big Sassy Black women in Church Dresses are my favorite thing in the world. But I’m really selfish and I want to keep you around. I have no idea the correlation between high notes and calorie intake, but I’m not going to question it.” — Nicole Arbour, #DearFatPeople
I am a fat girl.
Luckily a very funny one, which has ultimately worked in my favor since being a comedian is my career of choice. We all know that as a plus-sized Black woman, stereotypically, my career choices are supposed to be limited to being a sales associate at a “big girl” store, a mean lunchroom lady, starring in a gospel stage play extravaganza, being a “BBW stripper” or a comedian. I chose the latter. (Although I must admit, I have chosen the stripper name of “Miss Poundcakes” just in case this comedy thing does not work out.)
“Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!” is a mantra that most of us learn early on as a way to cope with all the mean spirited teasing and taunting that comes our way as children and continues thru adulthood.
For me, the taunting was about my size. I was always teased for being fat. I must admit that there were times when the insults hurled at me cut so deep that it made my soul bleed. In those moments I would have preferred a stick, a stone or even a machete because physical wounds sometimes heal faster. My only form of self-defense was comedy. You hit me with words, I slap you with my tongue. My being funny was less about entertaining people and more about survival. Comedy has saved my life.
With that being said, I love a good joke. Even a fat one. If it’s funny, I will laugh!
So when I woke up one morning with my inbox filled with emails with a video link of Nicole Arbour’s Dear Fat People, I just knew I was going to be in for a treat. I was honestly hoping that it would be just as funny as many of the other “Dear So-and-So” videos that have gone viral over the last few years.
Unfortunately, It wasn’t funny.
As a matter of fact, it was awful! It was so bad that I felt sorry for her. As a comedian, I know how hard it is for women to make it in this business. That’s why many of us get so consumed with “making it” that we cheapen our brands and do ANYTHING to get “put on.” In this world of Internet Celebrity where YouTube views equal development deals, Facebook shares create movie roles and Instagram “likes” lead to major product endorsements. It’s no wonder that a comedian like Nicole Arbour would create a video like this to get attention. But all attention isn’t good attention.
In her attempt to be funny, she perpetuated stereotypes and outright lies about overweight people. Even so, I totally believe in freedom of speech and that censoring her by yanking the video off YouTube is not the right move. I also understand that with freedom comes the possibility for backlash if people do not agree with how you feel. In some ways, political correctness has stifled our ability to have open and honest communication about how we REALLY feel.
I don’t know Nicole. Maybe she honestly thought she was being satirical, and that her video would change lives. Or maybe she is a mean girl who hates fat people. Regardless, here are a few things that I think she and others like her should know.
1. Fat Shaming IS A Thing
Her words: “Fat Shaming is not a thing. Fat people made that up. That’s a race card with no race.” How can you say something is NOT a thing, while you are actually doing it? Nicole Arbour’s video is a fat-shaming video, hands down. Her opinions about fat people speak to larger truths about size discrimination. In my opinion, it is one of the last accepted prejudices allowed in this country. When it comes to race, sex, gender and physical abilities, we have learned to be more tolerant as a society, but treating people wrongly because of their size is still fair game.
2. Shaming Does Not Work
Her words: “Shame people who have bad habits until they stop. If we offend you so much that you lose weight, I’m ok with that!”
Studies have shown that shaming people is the wrong move if you want to enhance someone’s personal development. If someone is truly suffering from an eating disorder or health related issue that results in weight issues, shaming them can actually make matters worse.
3. Skinny Does Not Equal Healthy