Wentworth Miller’s Fat Shaming Apology Falls Short

WTF are you doing

A confused looking fawn colored pug with the caption “WTF Are You Doing?”

A website called The LAD Bible, which describes itself as “home to the best funny, viral and interesting photos from around the world,” posted a meme that fat shamed Wentworth Miller, an actor possibly best known for the television show Prison Break.

Miller responded directly [TW: Discussion of suicide]

Today I found myself the subject of an Internet meme. Not for the first time. This one, however, stands out from the rest. In 2010, semi-retired from acting, I was keeping a low-profile for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, I was suicidal.

This is a subject I’ve since written about, spoken about, shared about. But at the time I suffered in silence. As so many do. The extent of my struggle known to very, very few. Ashamed and in pain, I considered myself damaged goods. And the voices in my head urged me down the path to self-destruction. Not for the first time. I’ve struggled with depression since childhood. It’s a battle that’s cost me time, opportunities, relationships, and a thousand sleepless nights.

In 2010, at the lowest point in my adult life, I was looking everywhere for relief/comfort/distraction. And I turned to food. It could have been anything. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. But eating became the one thing I could look forward to. Count on to get me through. There were stretches when the highlight of my week was a favorite meal and a new episode of TOP CHEF. Sometimes that was enough. Had to be. And I put on weight. Big f–king deal.

One day, out for a hike in Los Angeles with a friend, we crossed paths with a film crew shooting a reality show. Unbeknownst to me, paparazzi were circling. They took my picture, and the photos were published alongside images of me from another time in my career. “Hunk To Chunk.” “Fit To Flab.” Etc. My mother has one of those “friends” who’s always the first to bring you bad news. They clipped one of these articles from a popular national magazine and mailed it to her. She called me, concerned. In 2010, fighting for my mental health, it was the last thing I needed.

Long story short, I survived. So do those pictures. I’m glad. Now, when I see that image of me in my red t-shirt, a rare smile on my face, I am reminded of my struggle. My endurance and my perseverance in the face of all kinds of demons. Some within. Some without. Like a dandelion up through the pavement, I persist. Anyway. Still. Despite.

The first time I saw this meme pop up in my social media feed, I have to admit, it hurt to breathe. But as with everything in life, I get to assign meaning. And the meaning I assign to this/my image is Strength. Healing. Forgiveness. Of myself and others. If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available. Reach out. Text. Send an email. Pick up the phone. Someone cares. They’re waiting to hear from you. Much love. – W.M.

I so appreciate him sharing so much of himself and the many ways that this will help others, rock on and thank you Wentworth Miller.  Facing an immediate and furious backlash, The LAD Bible issued an apology:

We posted two pictures of you last night to our Facebook page, but today we want to say we’ve got this very, very wrong. Mental health is no joke or laughing matter.​

​We certainly didn’t want to cause you pain by reminding you of such a low point in your life. Causing distress and upset to innocent or vulnerable people is simply not acceptable.”

The LADbible continues to cover how prevalent mental health issues are among our audience, as well as the damaging stigma that surrounds such matters.

We applaud your raw honesty and promise to now cover such matters in the responsible manner that our audience expects.

Responding head-on to our post is something we applaud as it will help others through similar challenges in their lives.

Once again, we got this very wrong, and we wanted to say sorry.

www.asfp.org
www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
www.activeminds.org
www.thetrevorproject.org
www.iasp.info
www.samaritans.org
www.mind.org.uk

 

I’m glad they apologized.  I’m glad they provided resources.  But I have a problem here, and that problem is that what I get out of this apology is that they think fat shaming Wentworth Miller was wrong because he was fat at a low point in his life, or because he was struggling with mental health issues when he was fat. It’s tragic that he went through that, but fat shaming him was wrong regardless of his situation.

So while I agree that “We got this very, very wrong. Mental health is no joke or laughing matter…causing distress and upset to innocent or vulnerable people is simply not acceptable,” I think maybe they forgot to add “Fat shaming is completely unacceptable in any circumstance.” And I guess they forgot to add resources for people who are the victims of fat shaming to their list.

It makes it sound as if they think that if he had been happy and fat, or fat and not struggling with mental health issues, it would have been just fine for them to create and disseminate a picture to fat shame him. And that’s just wrong. What they did wasn’t just hurtful to Wentworth Miller, it was hurtful to people who saw it who are fat and had to see yet another example of people suggesting that there is something wrong with our bodies, and that we shouldn’t be allowed to exist in public without expecting to be the butt of jokes.

I’ve said this before, and I’m going to keep saying it until saying it becomes unnecessary:

Fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies without shame, stigma, bullying, or harassment, and it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what being fat means, or if we could – or want to – become thin.  The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the right to basic human respect, are not size (or health, or “healthy habit”) dependent, and suggesting that they are is oppression, period.

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Published in: on April 4, 2016 at 8:26 am  Comments (10)  

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Yeh, it reads like they completely focused on making themselves look better. Thank you for your work Ragen. It continually reminds me that I am not alone and that being fat is ok.

  2. I saw that too, they are focusing on the mental health issue. Maybe in their heads they’re thinking, “better to wait until he’s non-suicidal, then it’s ok to fat-shame.”

  3. Or maybe like a lot of people they only think it is okay to be fat if you are struggling with a mental health issue. The corollary being that you will stop being fat once you are mentally healthy,

    So therefor you are only temporarily fat, not like the ‘lazy slobs’ who ‘do nothing but eat bon bons all day’ and are clearly clueless about how to be think because no body ever told them they were fat. /sarcasm.

  4. Wow I never thought of this but it’s so true! This is a great article I’m glad I read it🙂

  5. I agree that fat-shaming is wrong, full stop.

    Still, as someone who has struggled with suicidal tendencies (funnily enough, only while I was dieting, go figure), I’m glad they at least were sorry about that aspect.

    The very first time I “came out” about being suicidal, nobody who was there said anything. Not even, “Wow, Michelle, are you OK now?” Nope. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

    So, the fact that they were supportive of him at all really does encourage me. It’s not what it SHOULD be, but it’s still better than nothing.

    Also, I don’t dare read the comments, because I feel quite sure there are trolls there saying he ought to have offed himself, because fat people suck up all the resources, and blah, blah, toxic blah.

    And perhaps, maybe, I can hope, this will cause them to avoid such postings in the future. Even if it’s not about fat-shaming is wrong, maybe they’ll avoid it in order to be avoid being called out in the same way, or worse, trigger someone who is currently dealing with suicidal tendencies. I hope.

    • That would be a good thing if they were more careful and thought about how they might affect others.

      Also, I’m glad you did not commit suicide so I could get to read your words here.

      • Thanks, Isstrout! I’m very blessed to have a family who love me, and it was that love that kept me going in the tough times. They didn’t even know it, then.

    • I too was suicidal when dieting. I had no idea how many ways there are to die until I started thinking of them.

      • One time, I was in a hotel room, and counted 12.

        Dieting to change your body size, because you’re all focused on how unacceptable you are, really does mess up your mind. Dieting AGAIN, because you gained the weight back, and lost your thin-privilege, REALLY does mess up your mind.

        Body-love SAVES LIVES.

      • I glad you didn’t commit suicide either, Mich.


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