When Good Friends Post Bad Fat Jokes

WTF are you doingThe internet is chock full of fat jokes so they can be difficult to avoid, but it’s always extra upsetting when someone we think of as a friend posts one of them.  I’ve talked about those terrible “People of Walmart” pictures before, today I’m talking about something more subtle  – jokes that suggest, for example, that just existing as a fat person is somehow hilarious, or cheap jokes based on lazy stereotypes.

Like all oppressive BS, we get to choose how to deal with this.  The choices we make might change from day to day, or even hour to hour based on the situation, our relationships with the people involved, and how we feel on any given day (maybe we feel like doing some activism, or maybe we need a break from standing up to bullshit behavior,) and all choices are valid.  Here are some options:

Do nothing

Yup, just ignoring this is an option.

Hide/unfriend

Depending on the platform where this is happening, it may be an option to hide this particular post, all future posts, or to unfriend the person.

Private message

You can send them a message and say something like “You may not be aware, but the post you made earlier was really hurtful in the way that it [insert issue here]

  • stereotypes people like me
  • uses people like me as the butt of a joke
  • tries to make appearance-based bigotry funny

We are [friends/family/etc.] and I know that you didn’t mean to post something hurtful, but you did and I’d really appreciate it if you take it down.

Or

Can we talk about that joke that you posted earlier, it really hurt my feelings that you would post a joke that is based on stereotyping people like me.

Be Prepared!  They may refuse to take it down and/or attack you. When people are confronted with their inappropriate behavior they often try to make the person who confronts them the problem – be prepared to be called “oversensitive,” to be accused of having no sense of humor, of not being able to take a joke etc.  At that point you’ll need to decide what to do moving forward and the options range from doing nothing, to trying to continue the conversation, to ending the friendship.

Reply publicly

Leave a reply explaining exactly why this “joke” isn’t funny, or cool to post.  Again, be prepared for people to try to make you the problem. Remember that you get to decide how to reply, how long to involve yourself in the conversation and you can opt out at any time.

It can be incredibly hurtful when a good friend posts a fat joke, to me the most important thing to remember is that your feelings are totally valid, and while you may be able to control your reactions, you can’t control their actions. If things get bad you can use a three-step boundary setting process:

  1. Explain what you would like.
  2. Explain the (realistic) consequence, if you don’t get it.
  3. Follow through.

Make sure to choose a consequence that you can truly follow through with.  So maybe you say:

  1. I need my facebook wall to be free from fat jokes
  2. If you insist on posting fat jokes I’ll need to unfriend you.
  3. If they post another fat joke, unfriend and let them know why.

or maybe something like this:

  1. I’m not willing to be friends with someone who engages in weight bigotry
  2. If you continue to engage in weight bigotry then we can’t be friends.
  3. If they continue to engage in weight bigotry then, in the words of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, if they were laughing you don’t need ’em cause they’re not good friends.

Remember that this is not an argument about whether or not their behavior constitutes weight bigotry, you get to determine what you feel is offensive and you get to set boundaries based on that.

For more support around this check out

When you have to confront weight stigma

and

Five Phrases for Size Acceptance Self-Defense

It’s not you, it’s them.  Bullying, stigma, and oppression are the problem, fat people are not, and we get to choose how we deal with it and whatever choices we make are valid.

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Published in: on August 5, 2015 at 9:36 am  Comments (15)  

15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Back when I used facebook more, I publicly confronted someone about a really un-funny joke she posted. She got all defensive (“some people just like to laugh!” ok, I like to laugh too, I also like to not see gross, offensive, stereotyping bullshit…) and then unfriended me and we’ve never spoken since.

    • She unfriended you because you didn’t laugh at her un-funny joke? Wow! How oversensitive of her! /sarcasm/

      At least she saved you the trouble of making that choice, yourself.

      • Right? Honestly, that was one of the (many) reasons I gave up on facebook. It’s just not worth it.

  2. It is especially important for thin allies to do this work as well. Do not sit idly by and watch fat jokes go unchecked! You are like secret agents in the war against body oppression. People use fatphobic rhetoric around thin folks assuming it is okay, let them know that you believe all bodies are worthy of love! Speaking of ally skills, I find doing work where I use my privilege to stand up for other oppressed groups (for example, standing up against racism and transphobia when I see/hear it) gives me practice for those times when I need to call out someone in my life for fatphobia. Thanks for writing this!

  3. I actually wrote a letter recently to Universal Pictures about a similar issue. I usually like the pictures of Minions with jokes, and a lot of them are body positive. But I’ve noticed some “fat jokes” being made by the minions, and they seem mean spirited. I don’t expect UP to write back to just one person, but I needed to make my voice heard.

    • Many of these meme are not created by the content owners (UP in this example), but rather by random FB pages to drive likes.

      • Oh, I feel silly! They all looked really professional and seemed to be pics of minions that hadn’t been released before, so I assumed that was a viral marketing thing on UP’s part.

  4. My oversensitivity does not excuse your callous insensitivity. And if you value me, you’ll be sensitive to my needs.

    • And “over sensitive” is just code for “standing up for yourself when you are made the butt of a joke.”

  5. I do not think it’s oversensitive in any way whatsoever to call out callous jerk type people. It’s just being human.

  6. When I confronted a long-term (30+ yrs) IRL friend about a fat joke she posted on FB, among her responses were accusations of hypersensitivity and “Get over yourself.” (Typical bully talk.) I chose at at that point to get over her, instead, and unfriended her on FB and in person. Turns out, our “friendship” was a one-sided illusion, and I am much happier without her in my life.

  7. Kudos for this amazing post. And really, any post that incorporates the Fresh Prince is gold.😉

  8. SOne thing to consider… When I unfollow or select that I don’t want to see posts, FB often prompts me to say why. I tell them that I found the post offensive and why. I’ve even just straight out reported them as inappropriate content.

    I do often choose to point it out publicly, but usually do so without identifying the person. What is funny is that the one person I’m talking about almost always replies to my post in a supportive way. So confusing!

  9. I love this post! Trying to navigate through this fat-phobic society can be tricky. Your posts are a major help!

    This needs to go into a Fat People’s Guide to Internet Survival. lol Along with “Make sure you have plenty of sanity points available if you want to read the comments on any non-size-positive site.” and really a whole slew of other things you’ve written about. You should totally write a survival guide for fat people. Sadly, it’s pretty needed in this day and age. Actually, your entire blog is kind of like a survival guide! lol Awesome!

  10. I called one of my fat friends out (this had to be almost 6 years ago now) for making not only a fat joke but it was racist, and all kinds of nasty. She called me all kinds of names for calling her out. Then turned around and pulled the “people are calling me a user and abuser!” No sweetheart you made a horrible “joke” and we’re called out for it. I unfriended her and blocked her.

    She actually just not to long ago asked my boyfriend why I stopped talking to her as well as a bunch of our other friends. We got sick of her BS


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