Fatsronauts 101

Fatsronauts 101 is a series in which I address assumptions and stereotypes about fat people that treat us as a monolith and are used to dehumanize and marginalize us. If there is a stereotype you'd like me to address, email me.

[Content Note: Fat bias; medical malfeasance; body policing.]

#20: Fat people aren't that bright.

This is a narrative about fat people that we see expressed all the time, whether it's surprise at some demonstration of intelligence (see, for example, the shock expressed all over the internet that Mama June had the foresight to financially plan for her children's future, or the existence of fat PhD candidates), or contemptuous head-shaking at our failure to exhibit comprehension of how Not Being Fat works: The last time I visited my previous doctor, whose prescription for everything is "lose weight," and tried to address with him that my level of fitness changes based on diet/exercise changes but my weight doesn't, he responded by laughing in my face and telling me: "Eat less. Get moving. It isn't rocket science."

Well. I may not be a rocket scientist, but at least I can read. Competently enough to know that humans aren't Bunsen burners.


Fat people are stupid. This is a narrative that gets transmitted all the time. We are too stupid to understand our own bodies. We are too stupid to be engaged in our own healthcare. We are too stupid to make "good choices." We are too stupid to understand how weight loss works. There is a website called "You Are Fat Because You're Stupid." If we are content in our bodies, we are too stupid to realize we should be embarrassed of ourselves and filled with self-loathing. Multiple studies have been funded purporting to find a link between "obesity and stupidity." Surveys have found there is job discrimination based on employers' assumption that fat applicants aren't as smart. If a filmmaker or showrunner wants to indicate that a character is soooooo stupid, there's a pretty good chance that character will be fat. The caricature of the Stupid Middle-American is always fat. Adorably daft animated characters in children's stories are usually fat. If there's a good-hearted but simple-minded (male) character in a fantasy series, odds are on fat.

"Fat and stupid" go together like a fat horse and a stupid carriage.

This particular prejudice has played out in my life over and over. If I deal with someone (who isn't a rank misogynist) about, say, a problem with a utility bill on the phone, I'm treated like a capable and intelligent person. If I deal with someone in person, I am more likely than not going to be treated like I am immensely stupid, right down to a slow, condescending speech pattern reflective of a presumption I cannot understand any words with more than two syllables.

When I worked in an office, there were times when I spoke to clients, subcontractors, vendors, whomever, on the phone first, and was treated like a capable and intelligent person, only to have every trace of confidence that I am capable and intelligent subsequently evaporate into thin air as soon as they met me in person and discovered I am fat. They literally spoke to me like I was an entirely different person.

(Naturally, this will be an experience common not only to fat people, but people across multiple intersecting populations, who are presumed to be capable and intelligent over the phone, but not by some people after discovering they are interacting with a person of color, or a trans* person, or a person with a visible disability, as examples.)

There is, of course, no evidence that fat people as a population are any less intelligent than thin people. But the stereotype persists.

Fat people aren't a monolith. There are smart fat people, and not-so-smart fat people. There isn't much more to say besides that. If you look at a fat person, and presume zie must be stupid because you monolithize fat people into one giant lump of indistinguishable humanity, the person with the thinking problem is you.



#19: All fat people hate/want to change their bodies.
#18: You can diagnose fat people's health issues by looking at them.
#17: Fat people's choices are always dictated by their fat.
#16: You are helping fat people by shaming them.
#15: Fat people hate having their pictures taken.
#14: All fat people are unhealthy.
#13: Fat people looooooooooove Twinkies!
#12: Fat people don't like/want to see media representations of themselves.
#11: No one wants to be fat.
#10: Fat people need you to intervene in their lives.
#9: Fat people don't know how they look.
#8: Fat people don't deserve anything nice.
#7: Fat people are permission slips for thin people to eat what they want.
#6: Any fat person eating a salad or exercising is trying to lose weight.
#5: Fat is axiomatically ugly.
#4: Fat people eat enormous amounts of food.
#3: Fat people are jolly/mean, and fat people are shy/loud.
#2: I can tell how someone eats all the time, because of how they eat around me.
#1: Everyone who is fat is fat for the same reason.

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