But What If She Were Fat?

[Content Note: Body shaming; fat hatred.]

While we were on break, another incident of public fat-shaming of an actress made the news. This time, it was comedian Jay Mohr, who body-shamed Alyssa Milano on his podcast after hosting a NASCAR event where Milano was a presenter. He said, in part: "It seems like she had a baby and said, 'I don't really give a shit. ...I read it on her gut. ...Somebody sat in the director's chair and was not wearing Spanx and I was like, 'Jesus Christ.'"

Anyway, Milano got wind of it and tweeted: ".@jaymohr37 So sorry you felt the need to publicly fat-shame me. Be well and God Bless. Please send my love to your beautiful wife."

From there, it took the usual path, as Mohr insisted it was a joke, and that it should have been obvious he was just joking (what—don't you have a sense of humor?!) because Milano is thin and beautiful and irony blah blah fart.

As if a man who's been in show business for a million years is unaware that thin women get earnestly fat-shamed and unironically body-policed all the time, too. Sure.

Eventually, he sorta apologized, while still insisting he was just joshing: "I had thought (incorrectly) in an improvisational moment, that the incongruousness of my statements, when held up to the light of how beautiful Alyssa Milano is, would have been funny given that she is the size of a thimble."

First of all, I call bullshit on his claim of being ironic, because nope. We all know what "ironic fat-hate" being deployed as an ostensible compliment looks like ("Boy, it's just too bad that [famously thin and beautiful woman] is so fat!") (which, by the way, is still gross) (just the worst), and what Mohr said doesn't look like that at all. It does, however, look exactly like the way insecure dudes bash women's bodies when they think they're in a closed conversation.

So, thumbs-down on Mohr's apology because he can't even be honest enough to own what he really did.

But secondly, and more importantly, this incident is yet another in a string of similar incidents of public fat-shaming (always as "a joke," of course) in which the dénouement is essentially: We all agree that the thin, beautiful woman who was fat-shamed is actually thin and beautiful, and all is right with the universe again.

Except, here's the thing...

Fat-shaming isn't wrong only when it's deployed against someone who isn't fat. It's wrong all the time. In fact, an actual fat woman who's subjected to public fat-shaming doesn't have access to this neat resolution where basically everyone agrees that she's gorgeous and she doesn't deserve to be fat-shamed and the fat-shamer is a real loser who should apologize to her.

An actual fat woman who's subjected to public fat-shaming is more likely to be told she deserves it; that she's ugly; that she's unhealthy. What does she expect, being all fat in public like that? The fat-shamer is a hero for saying out loud what everyone was thinking, anyway—a champion for not capitulating to the PC police.

It's a completely different narrative. No one makes apologies about how "heartbroken" they are for fat-shaming a fat woman.

There is no soft landing in the knowledge that, despite what some dipshit said, you have a socially-approved body.

Fat-haters wonder why the fuck fat activists talk publicly and often about loving our own bodies. Well, that's why: Because sometimes we are the only ones who do. When we get publicly fat-shamed, there is no outpouring of compliments, no reassurances that we are fine the way we are. We're responsible for providing all of that love and acceptance on our own.

The narrative has to change. Jay Mohr fat-shaming Alyssa Milano wasn't bullshit because she's not fat. (Although: That, too.) It was bullshit because fat-shaming is bullshit. It's utterly unjustifiable irrespective of the shape of the body of the person at whom it's directed.

Our collective response doesn't need to be: "Look at her—she's beautiful!" It needs to be: "Look at her—she is a human being."

Of course I realize that not everyone, especially not white male comedians, shares my opinion that human beings are entitled to dignity. But the only hope we have of subverting that pernicious disagreement is by changing our baseline expectations. I expect more than defending only privileged women against fat hatred, on the basis they're not even fat, anyway.

What if Alyssa Milano were fat? That shouldn't make a difference about how many people come to her defense.

But it does.

[Related Reading: This is so the worst thing you're going to read all day.]

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