Fatsronauts 101: Gaslighting the Mocked

[Content Note: Fat hatred; body shaming; invasion of privacy; threats.]

As you may recall, last year, a woman named Dani Mathers, who had a large social media following by virtue of having been a Playboy model, took a photo of a naked 70-year-old woman in the locker room of a gym, then posted it on Snapchat next to a photo of herself giggling with the caption, "If I can't unsee this then neither can you."

After massive blowback, Mathers claimed she had only meant to send it privately to a friend and shared it publicly by mistake. Oh.

This public fat-shaming was not only profoundly unethical and cruel, but it was also illegal—and Mathers recently pleaded no contest to invasion of privacy charges, for which she'll have to complete 30 days of community service. She also received three years probation.

Now Mathers is doing a round of media, because of course she is, to talk about how she's been victimized (she has gotten death threats, which I condemn without qualification) and also to whine about how she never intended to hurt the woman that she victimized.
"I didn't have an intention of breaking a law. I just wasn't thinking, to be honest," she said, noting that she meant to send the photo privately to a friend. "My intention was to reply to the conversation I was having with my friend. I know the difference between right and wrong and I chose wrong."

Mathers told ABC that she has never met the woman involved, although she has wanted to apologize in person.

"I never meant to hurt her," she said. "I never ever intended on showing the world this photo … I hope that she could forgive me."

"I just want her to be able to move on and move forward in her life and not feel judged or that she what she was doing was being ridiculed, because it had nothing to do with that and I'm so sorry," Mathers told ABC.
This is the same sad refrain we've heard from thin people getting caught fat-shaming over and over. That they didn't intend to hurt anyone; that what they were doing didn't have anything to do with judgment or ridicule.

Bullshit it didn't.

Time and again, people who are fat-shamed are revictimized by their abusers, who insist that what they were doing wasn't really what it seemed. As if we don't know. As if we haven't been subjected to the same disgusting fat-hatred and shaming our entire fat lives.

They abuse us, then gaslight us—trading on the ubiquitous narrative that fat people aren't that bright.

I cannot begin to sufficiently convey the profundity of my contempt for people who fat-shame and then implicitly accuse the fat people who call that shit out of being too stupid to understand what really happened, trying to convince us they're not actually fat-haters, even as they leverage the cultural fat hatred that marks fat people as stupid in order to get away with harming us.

Suffice it to say, if your play after getting caught fat-shaming is to claim that "no judgment or ridicule was intended," I'm not convinced that you care about harming fat people.

If you want me to believe that, then the place to start is admitting what you did, and frankly addressing that it was intended to harm, and forthrightly discussing your own anti-fat biases.

Because, I gotta tell ya: Not only are fat people not as stupid as you think, but y'all fat-haters aren't as clever as you think. We are well aware of all the judgment and ridicule that has happened at our backs.

We know what it looks like and what it sounds like. We recognize it clear as day, even if you won't.

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