Recently, I have seen a fat meme pop up numerous times on various social media sites (see meme below). The meme depicts a sweaty, fat man on a gym treadmill, his back to the camera. The caption reads “Making fun of a fat person at the gym is like making fun of a homeless person at a job fair. Don’t make fun of people who are trying to better themselves.” This meme has been hailed as a body positive message with an uplifting moral message. However, I find this meme very problematic for a few reasons.
Firstly, the meme implies that there is something inherently wrong with being fat. By stating that the man is “trying to better” himself, the meme infers that something is wrong with him as he currently is. The fat man must change his appearance because it’s wrong to be fat. It disregards the fact that there are many people who are fat and that there is nothing shameful or wrong with their bodies. There is no one type of body that is better than others. There is no such thing as a correct body.
Secondly, the meme assumes that the only reason a fat man would be at the gym is to lose weight in order to “better” himself. There are a number of reasons why people go to the gym. Yes, one reason is to lose weight. But some people go to the gym to relieve stress, to get away from the daily grind of life, or any other number of reasons. I go to the gym in order to retain strength and flexibility in my surgically repaired ankle. It’s because of meme’s like this one that people assume that the only reason a fat person would be at the gym is to lose weight.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this meme deems it appropriate to make fun of people who aren’t attempting to “better” themselves. The language used in this meme suggests that as long as someone is trying to “better” themselves we shouldn’t make fun of them, but those who aren’t attempting to “better” themselves are fair game for name calling, shaming, and bullying. Why is it OK to make fun of anyone? Shouldn’t the message we put into the world be ‘don’t make fun of anyone’?