Canadian comedian Nicole Arbour sparked outrage September last year with her highly controversial ‘Fat Shaming‘ YouTube video. The video, viewed by over 10 million people, contains a barrage of abusive slurs including ‘Obese people should be repeatedly embarrassed to encourage them to lose weight’ and ‘Fat shaming is not a thing. Fat people made that up’.
The 30-year-old comedian voices her belief that ‘People who are obese should be made to feel bad about themselves until they stop eating‘. As a result of her ‘fat shaming’ rant, Arbour was fired from an anti-bullying film she was due to work on, with claims that the director said he never wanted to see her again.
Despite the backlash and criticism, Arbour continues to remain unapologetic about her ‘Dear Fat People’ video, defending herself by calling it satirical and claiming that she was merely ‘having a bit of fun’.
Arbour does actually make a valid point in the 6 minute clip as she briefly addresses heart disease, diabetes and highlights ‘you only have one body’. Her approach, delivery and remaining content, however, are all completely and utterly the wrong way to ‘help’ anyone, and much like her UK counterpart Katie Hopkins, she’s clearly more about the followers, views and attention.
Contrary to Arbour’s belief that her outrageous opinions that her fat shaming may have a positive affect (motivating those who feel targeted to lose weight), research and studies in fact show the opposite and highlight the devastating effects and negative impact body shaming can have on an individual. Not only is it mentally harmful, it’s physically damaging too.
Expressing an opinion on someone’s physical appearance can have immediate effects, but alongside the emotional hurt and sense of being ostracised, this kind of discrimination may cause serious long-term damage. Body shaming has been found to have a more profound negative impact on both physical and psychological health than prejudices against more fixed characteristics such as gender or race.
A recent UK study of 5,000 adults indicated that discriminatory experiences contribute to poorer psychological wellbeing in individuals with obesity; furthermore such experiences cause a 70% increase in symptoms of depression.
Results by a report also published this week show that making overweight or obese people feel bad about their bodies doesn’t do anything to motivate them to lose weight, but in fact does just the opposite.
Negative body image and weight-based discrimination has a negative impact on self-esteem, decreased life satisfaction, and problematic eating behaviours such as binge eating.
Celebrities have been hitting back at the recent rise in body shaming outbursts, with many believing that body shaming should be made illegal, including Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, who was recently a subject of concern over her thinner frame. Cheryl said ‘I can take whatever they (the press) throw at me after 13 years. What worries me is what it is doing to the younger generation. And some of the people writing this stuff are women. There is no sisterhood’.
In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 legally protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of age, sex, race, disabilities, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy or gender reassignment; maybe it’s time body shaming should be included too, so we no longer have to watch, read or see vile outbursts like Arbour’s.
(Origionally Published on Cultnoise Magazine – currenly under reconstruction)