By now, everyone has at least heard of the "Dear Fat People" video. Nicole Arbour, a YouTube persona, uploaded the video last week. If you haven't seen it, here it is below. Take a minute and watch it.
Over the past week, this video has gone viral. It now has over 3 million views due to it being shared across social media. Interestingly enough, I didn't see this video first, but rather a response to it. I got about 30 seconds into the video, called "Response: Dear Fat People / TW" (below) before I switched over and watched the entire six minute, eight second long video. My jaw dropped and stayed dropped for a really long time. I don't know how anyone could be so callous, how anyone could call what she did comedy. And the first couple of responses I watched showed that very visceral side of the argument.
After I finished, I returned to the previous video I was watching, a response by Meghan Tonjes (Trigger warning for self harm). Personally, I've followed Meghan Tonjes on YouTube and her other social media for a while. She is what I would consider a leader in the body-positivity movement, with her hashtag #bootyrevolution on social media taking online forums by storm in early 2014. In this video, however, Meghan is very honest with her audience about how much hurt this video has caused her and will cause other people, because "a lot of girls, of all different sizes, who really don't need to hear this sh*t" are going to hear this video, are going to see this video, and are going to take what Nicole Arbour is saying to heart. Spreading toxicity like this in the form of caring about someone's weight or health is very common when people are fat-shaming someone else. And yes, Nicole Arbour, fat-shaming is a thing. It isn't shaming someone because they are fat so that they stop eating, which, as a statement is so harmful to impressionable young girls who will hear the message of that video, just as Meghan said.
The next video I saw in this saga was another response from Meghan Tonjes. This video is almost a response to her response, wherein Meghan talks about something she also talked about in her previous response, which is treating every person, including fat people, as if they are a fully-formed human being whose story cannot be told by the outside of their body. But it is also a moment where Meghan talks about how it's okay to make a fat joke, but to also make her laugh. A lot of content is talked about in this video, including a previous interaction between Meghan and Nicole over something that doesn't involve the "Dear Fat People" video, but overarching through the video is the topic of body-shaming and how cruel it really is. At the very end of the video, Meghan talks about how she had to fly on a plane the day after she saw the video, which has a long anecdote about Nicole dealing with a fat family on an airplane. "I thought about that video in the back of my head... I still sat on that plane and made sure I didn't touch anyone with my arms... It sticks with you." Cheap comedy at the expense of other people isn't really comedy, it's kicking someone when they're already down.
Laci Green also talks about cheap comedy and kicking people when they're down. Laci is a educator on YouTube whose videos cover a wide variety of topics, including the topic of privilege. Her video is less directed at the "Dear Fat People" video itself and more about why we think that comedy that tears other people down is funny. At one point in the video, she asks "How do you know which direction this joke is punching?" in a reference to an earlier statement where she said jokes can punch up at abuses of power, or punch down, at the people who are already being abused. And the answer to her question? "It's pretty simple - just ask, who finds this funny?" If people who already have privilege, if people in positions of power do, if abusers do, then maybe the joke isn't funny to everyone. Maybe it's just funny to you.
The last video I watched regarding "Dear Fat People" was created by Matt Joseph Diaz, another vocal member of the body positivity movement. Matt had a viral video of his own earlier this year, in which he talks about his excess skin after losing nearly half of his body weight over the course of six years. I'll link the video here . In it, Matt is very brave and very vulnerable. But in the video addressing "Dear Fat People," he talks about something that Meghan Tonjes touched upon in her second response, which is the outcry of condemnation for Nicole Arbour that included threats to her person, and the like. His video is about what we as a community can do after seeing "Dear Fat People," and it isn't attacking Nicole. It's being better allies and advocates and stopping fat- and body-shaming when they occur in our own lives.
As someone who struggles with some body issues, "Dear Fat People" offended and hurt me. It offended and hurt a lot of people. But we can learn from this, just like Matt Joseph Diaz talks about in his video. We can learn and become better, more conscious people because of this. We can become people who speak up in the face of body- and fat-shaming. This video isn't a one time thing, it just happened to be cherry-picked out of the miasma of YouTube and was latched onto by the general public like so many videos that have come before. But the conversation has really been started again, and this time I hope it doesn't stop.