I keep seeing people on social media saying they disagree with Tess Holliday’s career as a model (I mean…what the shit? Who made you god?) . The common argument is that she is in some way “promoting obesity”…my retort is HOW exactly is she telling people to get fat simply by existing happily? For those not familiar with Tess, she’s a plus size model and advocate of body positivity – she even started her own social media craze #effyourbeautystandards which aimed to liberate larger people of the burden of feeling insecure due to societal norms.
There are a couple of underlying issues that result in this sort of thinking: The main one being that somehow by being a successful fat person who is widely considered beautiful, she is somehow promoting obesity as a choice. Are you high? That’s exactly the same as telling a disabled model that she’s promoting disability! First of all, obesity is often not a choice which is consciously made…I am yet to meet anyone who wants to purposely gain weight to the point of being clinically obese…I mean, why? Just so they can be ostracised by society as many fat people are? Health problems and genetics are the main factors in a person becoming or being obese and by shaming them and assuming they got that way through food alone implies that their weight and perceived gluttony is the only thing about them that matters – even if being fat is their natural state, you’re implying they should starve their bodies to fit into what you consider to be an acceptable weight despite potentially aggravating their health more through this. Even if every single obese person managed to get that way by stuffing their faces with donuts and drinking pure lard – it is not your job to tell them not to do it, other people’s bodies and weight aren’t your concern.
This brings me to my next point, faux concerns about the health of fat people is just incredibly transparent. “Oh I’m just concerned about your health sweetie” um you don’t know her, you aren’t concerned about her health it’s just a convenient excuse to dump your fatphobic views all over her. If health were really a big deal to the people touting claims of obese people dying younger and so on, you’d kick up just as much of a fuss over the ultra thin models that ACTUALLY are encouraged to suffer through harmful excessive dieting to keep their jobs. In truth nobody should ever preach to anybody else about their health just from looking at a picture, or even at all. Especially not in such a public way over social media or the tabloids. Genuine concern does not come across in language that both shames and degrades the person you are addressing nor does it tend to exist for total strangers (conveniently only very fat ones).
You cannot give someone a health diagnosis simply by looking at them and their size especially if you’re not a doctor. This sort of judgement encourages the false idea that anorexia only affects thin people and diabetes, hypertension and heart disease only affects fat people, which leads to genuine sufferers of these ailments without treatment because people don’t notice or believe them. Adding another layer of fuckery to this situation is the widespread view that thin= good, feminine, frail, dainty, pretty fat= bad, ugly, lazy, unappealing. This underpins many of our behaviours from not wearing certain clothing because we “don’t have the body for it” to monitoring the weights of celebrities in the hope that one of them will stop being as beautiful by gaining or losing too much. It’s sad.
Tess Holliday is not encouraging anybody to do anything but love themselves regardless of size. She is simply existing as a fat person and living her life without shame, what’s more she’s soaring to success while she’s at it. She deserves her job, while she may not have worked hard for it in the gym or on the scales as her thinner counterparts have, she’s worked even harder to overcome stigma and to become mentally strong enough to do what she does every day.