[GET LIFE] Tyrese and the Futility of Fat Shaming

Tyrese Gibson

Late last week, singer, actor, author and now director, Tyrese Gibson, said something interesting. When asked by AllHipHop if he felt any kind of responsibility, as an entertainer, to inspire people to live healthier lifestyles, he responded with the following:

“No two situations are the same. If you are fat and nasty and you don’t like the way you look, do something about it. It’s simple.

When you take a shower and you put your fat, nasty body in the shower and by the time you get out, the mirrors are all steamed up so you don’t look at what you did to yourself. That may sound offensive or insensitive but ultimately, you are big as hell because you have earned that sh*t. You worked your a** off to eat everything in sight to get big as hell.

If you got a problem with the way you look, then you need to do something about it. Excuses sound best to the people that’s making them up.”

Sigh.

Silly me, for thinking the man who brought me such epic 140-character gems as “Ignore today…Ignore me tomorrow…My strong love and consistently [sic] will concur all walls of false realities… A gift should be opened!” would be profound or thought provoking or even considerate and sensitive when being asked a direct question about inspiring his fans, supporters, and the people who generally suffer through his foolishness and continue to let him prosper.

He’s not the only one, though.

Boris Kodjoe pulled this same silliness – albeit, a bit more specific, this go-round - a couple years back, this time to his Twitter followers. He ended a shade-filled tweet about his nightmare of 300-pound women eating chicken wings and grinding on him with one word: “Scary.”

Wow.

And, because it wouldn’t be a show without an acrobatic backpedaling routine, Kodjoe followed that up with his own weight loss tips and a reminder that there is a difference between “a healthy and sexy stacked goddess and an unhealthy obese one.”

Thank him for that, ladies. Thank his wife, too, who released her glorified bandanas intended to “save your hairdo” during your gym visit. You know, because after a work-out, you also need to have your edges laid like canceled television shows  if you’re going to be that “healthy and sexy stacked goddess.”

Fewer things make me smack my forehead than seeing otherwise intelligent people become belligerent when the topic of obesity arises. People say, “If we can shame smokers, why can’t we shame fat people?” Because you can smoke at home, wash your clothes, and never have your smoking habit affect your career advancement or your ability to get money. A society that supports fat-shaming is a society that believes it is okay to devalue people and their abilities based on their appearance. As Black people, we're already at a disadvantage in wage earnings without our weight also being brought into consideration.

This devaluation brought on by fat-shaming also creates a space where people feel like because they are fat, they should both succumb to society’s pressures and devalue themselves, too. That explains why fat-shamer defenders often start by talking about how they deserve to be talked down to this way because, well, they’re fat--why should people have to use tact when speaking to them?

Fat-shaming ignores the reality of life that people can be comfortable with who they are and still desire to change; it tells people they must hate themselves until they are who or what society wants them to be. Assuming, of course, that fat people are fat because of a moral failing (you’re breaking at least two of the seven deadly sins), they should give up the right to value their own opinion over that of people who don’t give a damn about them personally. No one cares if you’re happy at a size 16 with a clean bill of health. You’re still fat. And, according to Tyrese, nasty. Oh, and you earned that title.

Where does it end? Fat-shaming is little more than “respectability politics,” which basically allows people to put actual terms on whether or not you are deserving of respect--or even your humanity. Exactly how not-fat are you supposed to be? 2? 4? 6? What happens if, when you get to that size, someone pinches your ass and tells you – you know, since it’s not rock-hard – that you’re still fat? Is it then okay if your desperation pushes you towards an eating disorder? No worries. Black women don’t get those.

When I look at the people I love, not once have I shamed them into achieving any end means. I’ve supported them in education and doing the hard work because that’s what was done to me, in love. As often as celebrities talk about how they love their fans,