#Fatisnotafeeling Facebook!

By BodyMatters therapist Sarah McMahon

Please join us today as we petition Facebook to remove their “feeling” emoticon.

What actually is fat?

Fat is a descriptive term for a particular physiological substance known as adipose tissue.

In humans, adipose tissue is located beneath the skin (subcutaneous fat), around internal organs (visceral fat), in bone marrow (yellow bone marrow) and in the breast tissue. Adipose tissue is found in specific locations, which are referred to as adipose depots. – Wikipedia

The aforementioned Wikipedia article goes on to describe different facets of fat- anatomical features, physiological elements and so forth. But nothing to do with feelings. The fact is, we all have fat on our bodies- and we all need to have fat on our bodies. So the question is this: how did this idea of “fat”, adipose tissue, become so misused as a feeling?

The dirty F word

There is no doubt that “fat” is a dirty word. Calling someone “fat” is the quintessential insult. In western culture fatness has been paired with all kinds of moral weakness: greed, slothfulness, laziness. Interestingly when considering the history of fat, this is a recent phenomenon occurring fairly consistently over the past 125 years. Prior to that, and even within the past 125 years, there are times that fat on the body (and in food) has been celebrated in art, literature and medical discourse.

So what changed 125 years ago? The notion of “weight control“! Initially the idea was that weight could be controlled through gimmicks and devices. This idea grew with increased commercialisation and consumerism. Lets face it, sell a product or service that doesnt work- and blame the individual for that failure- is a gravy train straight to the bank. The emerging “weight control” industry relied heavily on building insecurity and shaming individuals for being “fat”.

Now there is a lucrative “weight loss” industry and the (largely female) human body is a commodity. Body anxiety has escalated and a seemingly legitimate foundation for fat shaming has developed. The notion that fatness is a sign of moral weakness that you “do it to yourself” perpetuates the position of the weight loss industry. Many have said that fat shaming is the last acceptable form of discrimination – the association with fatness and “individual weakness” makes this the perfect  platform to permit and perpetuate this bias.

So what are we saying when we call someone- or ourselves “fat”?

We carry 125 years of history when we call someone “fat”. Originally it was tantamount to moral weakness. Now it is shorthand for saying any kind of awful thing about your self- unattractive, unhappy with oneself, feeling inadequate or feeling dissatisfied.

As the word “fat” has continued to be used in a derogatory sense, it is now a loaded term that signifies all things bad.

In recent years, fat politics has brought some salience to this issue. Fat activists, for example have crusaded to reclaim the F-word as a descriptive state rather than an insult.

Get with the times, Facebook

However these efforts will always be short lived when they are up against the likes of Facebook, who archaically normalise the use of this word for derogatory purposes. Facebook perpetuates our culture of body shaming through enabling people to effortlessly broadcast that they “feel fat” through using a fat emoticon. This is a significant step backwards when we consider the progress internationally to take body image more seriously.

As Natalie Jovanovski writes on the Endangered Bodies blog today

Since 2013, Facebook has caused controversy by using “fat” and “ugly” emoji’s as part of the “feelings” feature of their status updates. Critics of the feelings feature argue that “fat” and “ugly” are not feelings, but rather, judgemental descriptions of women’s bodies. Indeed, as Allison Epstein points out, “You can’t respond to the question, “How are you feeling?” with “short” or “brunette” without getting some weird looks in return”, so why is it acceptable to say that we feel “fat” and “ugly”? In response to online criticisms generated by AnyBody.org and our very own Endangered Bodies, the hashtag #fatisnotafeeling was launched, inviting much-needed discussion about how cultural understandings of “fat” and “ugly” promote disordered eating and body image concerns.

Sign the petition!

Join BodyMatters practice manager Rebecca Guzelian and a number of other brave young women across the globe who are petitioning Facebook to remove the “fat” & “ugly” emoticons. Today this exciting petition is being launched by individuals in the following countries with one joint message: Fat is not a feeling, Facebook!! The countries petitioning Facebook are:

  • Australia

  • Germany

  • Mexico

  • UK/Ireland

  • US

  • Argentina

  • Brazil

  • Colombia

  • Chile

You can read their stories, and why they think this is important on the Endangered Bodies webpage. Please consider supporting this campaign by signing here.

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