In the last year or so, I've noticed a slight change in how the media are becoming more and more accepting of "Fat Jokes". Most recently in ITV's "I'm a Celebrity..." Ant and Dec were seen laughing at a contestants' fat joke. They are role models for many and when they are seen laughing at fat jokes, that "helps" make these kinds of jokes okay.
Ricky Gervais has made some extremely nasty comments about fat people saying "Fat people are lazy f---ing fat pigs"! Really? Even Michael McIntyre, a much loved comedian whose style of comedy is practically never offensive, has fat jokes in his repertoire. So in general, it's becoming more and more accepted to poke fun at fat people.
As a people, we try to be enlightened and decent, we do not accept racist remarks, homophobic remarks or derogatory remarks aimed at handicapped people or other minorities... Basically, we try to be accepting of others and to respect people's differences... except, of course, when the joke is on fat people. Fat people are fair game, it seems!
But why do I care so much, then? Because I'm offended. I'm overweight and these jokes offend me. Why is it okay to make jokes that offend and hurt a large (yes, I read it!) part of our society? It shouldn't be!
When it comes to overweight people, people say "Fat people can just loose weight" and in most cases this is followed by "if they quit stuffing their faces and get off their (fat) behinds to exercise". In most cases I guess these people would be right. Technically. But there is almost always a reason why people are overweight and it's rarely as easy as "just eat less, exercise more and then you'll loose the weight". Many, many overweight people have serious psychological issues that are at the root of their weight gain, some even have physical issues that make it hard for them to loose weight and maintain weight loss.
But what about smokers then? 20% of British adults smoke. They risk their health, they smell really bad and they poison the air other people breathe. Why aren't we making jokes about them?
And what about people who cheat? Approximately 18% of people in relationships cheat. They cause heartbreak and they break up families and ruin children's lives through sheer selfishness and for personal pleasure. Why are we accepting of that as a simple part of human relations?
And what about people who go to the pub to drink every or every other night instead of spending time with their families or saving their money and their good health? Why are we not calling them lowlifes and publicly shaming them by making cruel jokes?
Smoking, cheating and drinking to excess are all examples of things people do that are totally selfish, all done for instant gratification and without any regard for consequence or for other people. If you do any of those things, or have any other vices, there is a part of your life that you could do better but that you are not controlling - exactly like when an overweight person eats too much. How about thinking about the vices you have next time you make fun of someone just because they are overweight - if the shoe was on the other foot, you might not think it was as much fun!
I see those who make fat jokes as simple bullies. People generally bully others because they themselves feel inferior and making others feel bad gives them a sense of satisfaction or of being in control - they lack control in their own life so they create a situation where they are in control.
Being fat becomes the one thing that defines the overweight person to the people around them. You can be smart, funny, a great parent, a good writer, lover, runner, dancer or cook, but if you are fat, none of those things matter because the fat is so visible. It isn't possible to hide that you have a problem with controlling your weight, so that weakness suddenly becomes the first thing people see about you.
I can only speak for myself, of course, but I would like to share with you the reason (the excuse?) why I am overweight. From when I was a child I was completely average. When I moved to London at 18 and walked everywhere I was a size 8. My weight then fluctuated and I landed on a healthy size 12/14. Then in my late twenties I started my own business, worked constantly by the computer and was always sitting down, I gained weight and became a size 16/18. Then I had three IVF cycles which added another two sizes due to hormonal issues. And then I was pregnant with twins and the last two sizes after the pregnancy have been SO hard to shift. And that's that really... that's how I went from being completely normal to being very overweight.
My New Year's Resolution for 2013 is to loose weight - I am determined to do it because I want to be there for my children. I want to grow old for them and I want to show them a healthy lifestyle. I will even blog about my progress - I think that may make me even more determined to succeed... fingers crossed!
60% of people in Britain weigh more than they should. This isn't even a minority any longer, so why is it acceptable to make fun of someone just because they are overweight? It shouldn't be.
So... to all of you who make fat jokes, especially the public figures and the producers who decide what reaches the public: Think about your own vices and how you would feel if these were on display every time you were with other people. Would you not be hurt if you were made fun of? If you would, think about that next time you consider The Fatties to be Fair Game.
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