Celebrities Fight Back Against a Viral 'Fat-Shaming' Video

Grace Helbig and Whitney Way Thore are among those who responded.
Sep 8, 2015· 3 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.
Dear Fat People

What we've all wanted to say to FAT PEOPLE

Posted by Nicole Arbour on Thursday, September 3, 2015

The comedian Nicole Arbour has come under fire for recording a video in which she says fat shaming doesn't exist, yet that's what she's being accused of on social media.

"Fat shaming is not a thing. Fat people made that up," the YouTube personality says in a six-minute video that's been viewed more than 21 million times since it was uploaded to Facebook last week. The clip, in which Arbour criticizes hashtags such as #bodypositivity, drew such a strong backlash that it was temporarily taken down from her YouTube channel over the weekend, the comedian said on Twitter.

At a time when many women are using hashtags to proudly proclaim their curves and stretch marks on social media, celebrities including Melissa McCarthy, Ashley Graham, and Meghan Trainor are speaking out against the stigmas associated with terms like "plus-size." Even lingerie brands are capitalizing on the momentum with campaigns showing body diversity. It comes as no surprise, then, that Arbour's video has drawn criticism from all corners of the Internet.

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A number of high-profile comedians and activists have responded with videos of their own, many of which refute Arbour's suggestion that fat shaming, or the practice of bullying people for their size, can be a motivator for individuals to lose weight. Instead, as YouTube star Grace Helbig explained in a video response, "Most people with body image issues are pretty self-aware deep down, so what you're really seeming to say is 'Stop being a human being. Stop having emotional issues. Just stop bothering me because I'm being affected by your pain.' "

The 29-year-old author and podcast host said she was so bothered by Arbour's video that she stayed up all night writing notes about it before she decided to record her reaction and upload it to her YouTube channel, which boasts more than 2.6 million subscribers and dozens of typically lighthearted videos touching on everything from Jenga and Taylor Swift to pimples and diarrhea.

Arbour's message also didn't sit right with TLC reality star Whitney Way Thore, who took to Facebook to post a video refuting the idea that weight is a primary indicator of health. "You cannot tell a person's health, physical or otherwise, from looking at them," said the subject of My Big Fat Fabulous Life and founder of the "No Body Shame" campaign for body positivity. She says she weighs more than 300 pounds in part owing to her diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome.

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The 31-year-old North Carolina native's six-and-a-half-minute video has been viewed more than 13 million times since being uploaded to Facebook on Friday. Its primary message? "Your weight does not measure your worth," Thore said. Fat shaming, she said, "is the really nasty spawn of a larger parent problem called body shaming, which I'm fairly certain everyone on the planet—especially women—has experienced."

Body image issues disproportionately affect women and girls, according to a Today show survey from last year. Researchers found that 60 percent of adult women have negative thoughts about themselves on a weekly basis, compared with 36 percent of men. Even from a young age, girls report a hyperawareness of their body. About 80 percent of 10-year-old girls said they were afraid of being fat, according to a study compiled by the NYC Girls Project, an agency aimed at boosting kids' self-esteem. The fear has been linked to eating disorders, which affect an estimated 24 million people in America.

WHAT I WANT TO SAY TO FAT PEOPLE ---> #DearFatPeople This is my response to Nicole Arbour's video (& all body shamers!) S2 of #MyBigFatFabLife premiers Wed. 9/9 at 9 on TLC! #NoBodyShame

Posted by Whitney Way Thore on Saturday, September 5, 2015

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On Twitter, body-positive advocates including Margaret Cho and Tess Holliday chimed in about the dangers of body shaming, suggesting the practice isn't just real—it's deadly. The Korean American comedian and the size 22 model have both been vocal about their struggles with body image. In her autobiography, Cho attributed her eating disorder partly to pressures she faced to be thin in Hollywood. Meanwhile, Holliday created the #EffYourBeautyStandards hashtag to challenge the notion that women's bodies must adhere to a limited shape or size.

Arbour has responded to the criticism on Twitter, where she suggested she was the first comedian in YouTube history to be censored for what she called a "satire." On Tuesday, she also tweeted that she was unfairly criticized because of a sexist double standard. "If I were a guy, people would have lol'd n moved on," she wrote.

Ultimately, Thor says, Arbour's video may have been hateful, but it helped draw attention to the ways overweight people are targeted and bullied on a regular basis. "Marginalized people have long been the target of shaming, bullying, and violence, and while racism, sexism, homophobia and the like are still prevalent in our society, there has been a shift in our collective social conscience in the way we talk about these issues," Thor wrote in an Instagram post on Tuesday. "The response to 'Dear Fat People' shows that a shift is happening for fat people now, too."