“Dear Fat People” video sparks debate, increased discussion of obesity in America

Tanisha Bennett, Lauren Smith and other members of Being A Girl attended the Women’s Welcome Assembly on August 31. “Our mission is to educate and empower women so we can overcome barriers in all categories of society, whether it is professional or personal,” Smith said. Natasha Zapata/WUFT News

Millions of people have heard what comedian Nicole Arbour had to say about “fat people.” Now, the conversation of body shaming has emerged around the country and at the University of Florida.

Arbour posted a six-minute video on YouTube claiming “fat shaming” does not exist, and she is OK with offending some people as long as they lose weight.

She insisted that her video was made to spread awareness. But other YouTube personalities, reality stars and actors have spoken out against her actions.

“My aim was to make people laugh, and I think that’s pretty darn noble,” Arbour told BBC in a radio interview Friday.

All the controversy over the video, “Dear Fat People,” has sparked a national conversation about body shaming and self-image issues that many Americans deal with.

Being A Girl was founded at the University of Florida in Fall 2014 by a student to focus on self-image, fitness and health, beauty, and personal branding on and off social media.

“I wanted to bring a group of women together so we could share advice on how to have a great self-image throughout college,” said Tanisha Bennett, the founder and president of BAG.

Arbour told BBC she doesn’t “believe in bullying,” but Bennett said she would consider Arbour’s video a form of bullying.

“The world would be pretty boring if we were all small or even if we were all fat — as she would say,” the 21-year-old said. “We were all made in different ways for a reason.”

Lauren Smith, the vice president of BAG, said she felt Arbour’s video was meant to be funny, but there was a necessary message that got buried beneath bias and poor delivery.

“It’s hard to be funny with a serious issue that is currently affecting American lives at alarming rates,” she said.

Smith said aside from the controversy, the media attention is a positive thing in the sense that it brings the topic of obesity back to discussion.

“Too many times we forget these issues are here because of how fast the world is today,” she said. “However, this can also be negative, as many people may aim to follow her footsteps for personal gains by attacking real issues with empty solutions backed by satire.”

BAG organizes workshops and events once a month, Bennett said. They are usually the first or second Wednesday of every month, depending on how the week falls.

“We try to bring girls together from different walks of life to show them, ‘You don’t have to look this way, but if you want to be healthy, this is what you can do,’” she said.

Smith said that the organization has a lot of women who are dedicated to educating other women on the positive and negative issues that affect them.

“I’m huge on women empowerment, so BAG gave me the opportunity to explore this passion of mine in a comfortable environment,” she said. “I chose BAG because our mission matches my personal beliefs.”

Bennett said people who deal with body shaming and weight issues should remember that even though they may be considered overweight, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone who is underweight is healthy.

“Skinny doesn’t equal healthy,” she said.

Smith said there can always be more awareness and coverage of these issues, and introducing topics on body image and self-esteem every once in a while is not enough.

“Every generation needs advice about accepting yourself,” she said. “We need catalysts in every community to keep the conversation going all year long, domestically and internationally.”

About Natasha Zapata

Natasha is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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