This is not my ass, but it very well could be (on a good day, when I’m wearing my miraculous microfiber panties). This photo has been one of Yahoo’s “Most Emailed Photos” now for a few weeks. It accompanies a story on obesity. Being it’s the most emailed photo, I imagine people sending this photo to their friends. “Did you see this? OMG!” “Had no idea you were in London over the holidays!” “This here is the reason I never sit next to fat people when I fly.”
It seems to me that no rules — legal or moral — apply to those who villify fat people. I’ve even had people at work tell me fat jokes, right to my face. Hello. Nice to meet you. Did you not notice that I, too, am FAT? I do not find your fat joke amusing. But alas, I will laugh, because the only thing worse than a fat person is a fat person that isn’t jolly.
When news organizations do a story on, let’s say, disabilities, news photogs don’t walk outside and snap a photo of someone in in a wheelchair. When there is a story on gang violence, we don’t see generic b-roll of people who live in the hood. It would be wrong, and no editor or producer would let it fly (and rightfully so). But whenever there is a news story on obesity or diet pills, they show us a parade of fat asses. The message — a fat person isn’t actually a person. He or she is simply fat, which is why we feel it’s OK to let this one fat person visually represent ALL fat people. But just to be kind, we won’t show their faces.
The fat ass in this picture belongs to somebody. Somebody’s mother, somebody’s child, somebody’s wife. Maybe she knits booties for the newborns at the hospital in her spare time. Maybe she cares for her sick husband. This photo was snapped at the Heathrow Airport. She’s probably waiting for her flight, worried about what witty thing she can say if she doesn’t fit into the airplane seat, or how she’ll handle it if they pull her out of line and make her buy a second seat. Turns out she should’ve been more concerned with the photog lurking behind her.
Some people might think she brought this on herself. She chose to overeat. But I can assure you, obesity is a very complex emotional and behavioral problem. It’s not about a lack of discipline. Unlike thin people, there is something inside of our bodies and brains that creates a drug-like addiction to food. It’s a hourly torment that is magnified by the sideways looks we get and the whispers we hear. We all have flaws, but some of us aren’t lucky enough to have invisible ones.