TikTok users clash over whether the word 'fat' is an insult: 'It's something to be ashamed of'

·3 min read

Activists have spent years pushing for the destigmatization of the word “fat,” which has long been considered an insult.

TikTok user @bootlegmegz has garnered praise for her short video dismantling the use of the word in a derogatory way. It succinctly sums up what’s so silly about using the word “fat” as a way to hurt someone’s feelings.

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“I think as a society, we have progressed past the need to use ‘fat’ as an insult,” she explained. “It’s a f***ing adjective. I don’t know what people expect the reaction to be when you call someone ‘fat.’ They say it like they’re driving a spear through your f***ing heart.” 

She continues that her response to this supposed insult is, “Yes, congratulations on having eyeballs, b****. I was in this body before you saw it. What do you think I’m looking at?”

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Noting that no other adjective is treated with such weight, @bootlegmegz joked about how, if someone came up to you and said, “You’re tall,” there wouldn’t be the same kind of aggressive connotations. 

Based on the responses to her TikTok, there’s no denying that people are still uncomfortable with the word. 

“It is something to be ashamed of,” one user commented.

“America disappoints me with every passing day,” another wrote.

Others, though, expressed their full support of the reclamation of the word. 

“Love this. Love your attitude too,” one wrote.

“I used to cry when people called me fat, and now I’m like, ‘OK, and?'” another said.

In Self’s “Your Fat Friend” column, Aubrey Gordon wrote that the word fat became an insult over the years because of all the other descriptors that people imply when they use it — slovenly, gluttonous, lazy, disgusting and so on. They’re all fatphobic concepts that are not only untrue of fat people, but they’re also not even a part of the word’s definition. 

“Being called fat is insulting, at least in part, because whatever our size, we all know how fat people are treated,” she wrote. “We all see the way strangers stare at fat people, the ways in which fat bodies are used to prompt full-throated revulsion and disgust.”

Using the word “fat,” she says, is just a neutral descriptor. Not everyone feels comfortable with it, but reclaiming that neutrality plays a significant role in addressing the stigma of using the word in the first place. As people think more critically about how they’re using the word “fat,” this also challenges society to address how they treat people who are fat. 

“If simply naming our bodies is too much to bear, that’s a sign that one’s relationship to fat people is far from neutral, much less accepting or supportive,” Gordon added. “When you cannot name our bodies, when you cannot regard our skin neutrally, what chance do you have of treating us respectfully or lovingly?”

When in doubt, just use whatever word a person says they prefer — and challenge your own comfort when equality is at stake.

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