Unlearning Shame and Anti-Fat Bias

Unlearning Shame and Anti-Fat Bias

In “Session 294: Understanding Anti-Fat Bias” of the Therapy by Black Girls podcast, licensed psychologist and host Dr. Joy Harden Bradford talks with author, advocate, and yoga teacher Jessamine Stanley about trending media that actively seeks to diminish fat acceptance by means of shame and ridicule. 

“Tough love” is a phrase we know all too well. It has been used for generations to justify the often overly harsh words and acts of someone who claims to care about your well-being. Tough love often utilizes shame, humiliation, and ostracization to “teach” the lesson. This approach has been under serious and constant scrutiny in recent years as discussions around gentle parenting techniques, personal boundaries, and mental health have exponentially increased. But yet, there are still sections of the internet where shame and ridicule are masked as “tough love,” and this can be easily seen in online fitness spaces or anywhere online where a fat person simply exists. 

“What does fat mean? Fat means large. Ok, I’m large. That doesn’t mean that I’m not worthwhile, it doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve to exist. So if it’s okay to be fat — let’s suppose that it’s okay to be fat — then what can I do now? Where can my life take me? What can I own in my own being? How am I allowed to see myself when I accept all of who I am?” - Jessamine Stanley 

Whether the prying and demeaning words come from the mouth of a loved one or a stranger behind a social media profile, know that this is not love. Anti-fat bias is socialized and ingrained in us from a very young age and affects the worldview and self-esteem of everybody in every type of body. In this current day, where body shapes fall in and out of favor quicker than ever in recorded history, it is essential that you discern what your own opinions of your body are and what opinions you have taken up from others. Jessamine Stanely challenges all of us to ask ourselves if we truly feel that way. Do you truly despise your body? Do you truly believe that you’re worthless because of your size? Do you really think that you have to change? Do you really believe that you have to lose weight to be able to confidently enjoy the summertime?

Taking ownership of the word fat, and decolonizing the labels and definitions put onto our bodies, helps us not only separate our thoughts from the “tough love” of others but also begin the process of unlearning our anti-fat biases. 

“If you start from a place of self-love and self-acceptance, you are able to go much further than if you start from a place of shame and hatred.” - Jessamine Stanley

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