Kath Read and Fat Shaming by Strangers, Why is this OK?

fat shaming

Kath Read

I came across a story of Fat Heffalump blogger and fat activist, Kath Read, telling the story of being photographed in public by strangers. Not because they thought she was awesome and gorgeous and just couldn’t resist asking her for a photo, but because they wanted to make fun of her size and the way she looks and sneak cell phone pics of her. WHAT. THE. F***????!!! Seriously??? Where they do that at? Strangers have even shouted “Fat B*tch!” at her as she walks by. My blood was boiling reading this story.

Kath talks of a time when she turned the tables on a photo snapping stranger:

“People do photograph me a lot. There was a guy at Roma St train station one day and he was p*ssed that I had taken his photo. The look on his face was like ‘how dare you!’”

Really? So, let me get this straight. It’s OK for you to snap pics of her but not OK for her to snap pics of you? *blank stare* Sir, I need you to have several seats. Kath, continue to do you boo and brush them haters off.

I tip my hat off to Kath who admits it makes her angry, but she is not letting it change her bright colorful and fun clothing style. She gives no Fs about these people who want to bully her on the street. I have to say she is better than me. I would cuss them out, cry, fight them and take their picture all at the same damn time. I love that Kath is not letting these people steal her shine and that she continues to be herself, BUT, I still can’t wrap my mind around people thinking its OK to do this, having the NERVE to do this and getting away with it! Fat shaming has gotten out of pocket.
Kath Read
This whole thing led me to ponder a time when my aunt was made fun of in public for her weight by a group of teenage boys when I was a child and I cussed them out! Bullying is my biggest pet peeve next to racism and I have NO TOLERANCE for it. But, I’m curious…

Related:   My New Year’s Theme: Walk In It

How many of you have experienced bullying for your weight by strangers in public? How often does this happen to you? Have you seen this happen to someone else in public?

Photo credit: Josh Woning/Courier Mail AU

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Comments (33)

  1. dear fashionista, I’ve been bullied very often. For example… At one time I was riding my bicycle when I passed a group of young men. One of the men said loudly; that poor bike!!! All of the other men started laughing. I wished the ground would open and swallow me (and my bike). Unfortunately I have many more examples.
    Wishing you all the best from Holland, Astrid

  2. Honestly, this has happened to me very rarely, thankfully. And by that I mean outright comments about my weight. I am heavier now than when I was an awkward teenager with low self-confidence, but I think the way I dress, carry myself etc now has maybe changed that somewhat. I get more positive looks and comments about my clothing or my appearance than negative ones. Although I can only assume Kath also has that attitude so I don’t know why people still bother with comments when she is clearly happy in her own skin. It’s lame and I think it is a projection of their own insecurities.

  3. This doesn’t happen to me these days, at least not that I know of or notice, but it has happened.

    Several years ago, I was with two of my friends at a fast food restaurant late at night. We were seated near a table of 6 or so teenagers. While one friend went to the bathroom, my other friend and I took our coats off and sat down. I noticed that one girl from the teen table started loudly whispering and eventually said, “I f*ckin’ hate fate people!” I realized that she said this because my striped shirt happened to be similar to the one she was wearing, so… she was embarrassed about that? I dunno. At that time, I felt a little ashamed because it just came out of no where, and they kept going, especially when my friend, who’s bigger than I am, rejoined us. We looked over the menus in silent anger as the teens kept looking our way.

    I think at that point our friend who was away at college called me. When she asked what we were doing, I took the opportunity to let out my anger a little by saying, “We’re at SnS, seated near some inconsiderate teenagers who keep talking sh*t.” I was really glad that my friend followed that with “what?” so I could repeat myself louder and with intensity as I looked each kid dead in their eyes. That shamed most of them into dropping it, telling the girl who started it all to be quiet when she tried to continue. She ended up getting upset that no one was backing her up while my friends and I ended up having a great conversation and meal. At the end of it all, as we were leaving, that girl ended outside sitting on the sidewalk, moping about the situation. I couldn’t help but laugh.

  4. I was walking out of a bar in Hermosa Beach with a group of thin friends. I had on tight jeans and a tank top and heels. A group of frat looking guys started yelling at me to cover up my cottage cheese thighs. I was mortified and ashamed. I can say it gave me a complex for a really long time.

  5. Oh yes, many bullies. One particularly hurtful time was when I was trying to get off the train and this jerk was standing right in the doorway (of an almost empty train) and I had to push past him to get out. He shouted “lose some weight” as I got off. Because apparently I should be tiny enough to squeeze under his arm to get out. And then the train took off so I couldn’t even tell him off. Another time my (female) partner and I were walking home together holding hands, and a group of rowdy teenage boys followed us almost all the way home, making particular attention to my weight as well as being homophobic.

    It’s really hard to believe all the positive body image stuff when you have had these experiences, plus “friends” and family adding to it as well. It’s a struggle, but at 35 I am finally to the point of standing up for myself, thanks to you and other women who make it easier.

  6. Oh yeah. When I was younger, some younger yet guys followed me around the beach yelling, “Look at the whale!” That’s just one instance of many. I’ve been shoved over on seats in buses and trains, too, with people loudly complaining that some people should purchase two seats. Lots more, too. It’s the last acceptable predjudice in our society.

  7. Unfortunately, in our society, that while its universally frowned upon to be racist or to bully children and other people online, being a bully of FAT curvy women is perfectly alright to them. It feels sometimes that you are not human and are not allowed to dress or be a certain way in order for your own personality to shine through. Ever notice its worse against women? I’ve had friends apply for jobs and were not hired, and found out it was because the person doing the interview as just disgusted by how big the girl was. This sort of discrimination is disgusting. Don’t let people pidgeonhole you just because you carry extra weight. We are all beautiful inside and out and deserve to let our own personal style shine through.

  8. About a month ago for me. It happens a few times a year sad to say. I was walking holding hands with my husband in a costco parking lot and a car drove by…the passenger yelled out “You don’t have to hang on to her bro, nobody wants that.” I was in my own world when it happened so it took a minute for it to register but I love that my husband and myself have to go through this…super fun times…NOT! That fool was lucky he was driving away because he would have seen that in fact someone does want me and it’s the man holding my hand…and I get plenty of offers might I add. Mean people suck.

  9. I can honestly say that I’ve never had anyone say something like this to my face. But I have “resting bitch face,” and maybe people don’t want to try. I also have one of those attitudes like “I wish somebody WOULD!” Knowing myself, my reaction would be to tell a person off. And if I ever see it happen to someone else, I would still cuss the bully out. Period. Point blank.

    1. Ha! I too have resting bitch face and have never had anyone say anything to my face! That “I wish a ***** would!” face! Lol

    2. LOL! I was reading these posts and thinking that I have never experienced public shaming like this even though I am heavier than most of the people sharing their experiences! Then I read your post and thought, “OH! THIS is probably why!!!” I, like you, have “resting bitch face” (love the term btw) and I generally have a “bring it” attitude so I don’t think people want to take me on! lol!

    3. Oh, I would like to add however that I HAVE had the “you’d be pretty if you weren’t fat” messages from many members of my family. Including my own parents.

  10. It happens to me a lot . I have had women come up to me and say I’m your to pretty to be that fat or you should really get gastric bypass you would be perfect I’m a whopping size 18 by the way I ignore it and I know it comes from a place of ignorance but it hurts and it’s wrong just to attack someone’s body or put your hang ups on them

  11. It’s happened to me before…just last week I was at a lounge and a group of women were pointing and snickering at me. I’m a solid size 16 and proud of it. I usually stare back and let them know I see them but try to not let it bother me even though it is hurtful.

  12. I’ve been bullied by total strangers in the street, I’ve been denied jobs because I was “fat” (we are not talking about model jobs here, but regular sales person in a non clothing shop and office jobs), I’ve had people name call me in public restroom, I’ve been denied service or “strongly” suggest a “healthy” choice on a menu, I’ve had close family member told me I could have been pretty if I wasn’t fat.
    There are so many example that I could fill a whole box here with gory details on how mean people can get. For many years I’ve hid all the scars that the bullying caused but not anymore. My oldest son started to get teased for being the whole opposite on me, for being too skinny or tiny for his age, then I bare my scars to the world. I explained to my son to be proud on who is his and see the advantage on being skinny. I’m still overcoming my low self-confidence but I’m doing it so for my sons.

  13. I’ve been called names, had my picture taken, taunted at the pool and called whale (in front of my fiancé no less). I’m 33 and all of that happened in the last 5 years.
    But most recently, I was was sent a private message from a woman whom had seen some body positive posts I had made in a women centric group we are both a part of on facebook.
    She basically said she wanted to tell me that the group (whom she had no authority to speak for) thought it was wrong that I’d “encourage people to be fat”…that my body positive posts (none of which shamed or made fun of skinny people, or said that being healthy wasn’t important) promoted an unhealthy life style and were offensive to people, like her, who worked hard to have a healthy body.
    Unfortunately for her, she chose to harass the wrong person. I lit her up. I called her out on the fact that she wasn’t of authority and should not speak for the group. Then I proceed to enlighten her to the fact that I generally under eat (just because my life is too hectic) and that I have never had a bad report from the doctor and I go to the gym five days a week.
    She backed down because she knew she was cornered… Then I reported her ass to the group admins.

  14. I’ve been called names by complete strangers several times. The two most recent incidents stand out for me.

    #1) Last summer, I was doing some shopping at a large outdoor mall in the L.A. area. I was crossing the parking lot to get to the mall, walking in a designated pedestrian crosswalk area, when a large SUV pulled up to the crosswalk and the driver attempted to drive forward as I was about 1/4 of the way across the crosswalk. The driver’s window was open, so I stopped and looked up at him and asked if he intended to hit me. His response? “Hurry up, fatass, go get a cheeseburger.” I flipped him the bird and walked on.

    #2) I work in public education in the L.A. area, at a large public high school. I participate in the high school graduation ceremony every June. As is always the case when the ceremony’s over, the parents make a bee-line for the parking lot, everyone trying to get out at the same time. Last year was no different. What *was* different, however, was the rudeness I encountered. I was in my car, heading for the parking lot exit. Two lanes of parking lot traffic were merging towards the exit. The polite thing to do was to take turns – let a car from one lane move forward, and then allow the car from the next lane to merge behind the first car, so drivers in each lane could get to the exit in a fair and timely manner. However, the drivers in one lane were refusing to let drivers from the other lane merge in, so we were all backing up, waiting for our opportunity to get in line for the exit. I tried to slowly move forward, hoping the driver in the other lane would be polite enough to let me in, since it was my turn and 4 other cars from the other lane had cut me off and were heading towards the exit. The car I was trying to merge in front of held 2 parents of a student at my school. As I moved forward, I smiled at the parents in the other car and made a gesture indicating I’d like to merge. Rather than allow me to merge, they stepped on the gas to move forward more quickly. Frustrated, I drove forward, hoping they’d get the message and allow me to merge. Instead, they continued to push forward even faster, cutting me off and forcing me to squeeze my car very close to a barrier fence, nearly scraping the side of my car. As they drove past me, the woman passenger in the car – the mother of a student at the school where I work – rolled down her window and yelled “wait your turn, fatass!” at me.

    So, yeah. Public fat shaming happens. These two pillars of society showed that they believed insulting my appearance, calling me out on my fatness (as if I’m unaware that I’m fat!) would hurt me. It doesn’t hurt that they call me fat. I take no issue with the word; I *am* fat, no denying it. What hurts is that they think I deserve to be bullied because of my appearance. The word means nothing; the action, however, clearly shows that these asshats believe fat people deserve to be bullied. And that’s not ever ok.

  15. this just happened to me today. i was walking home from the bus stop and someone yelled “WHALE” at me. I didn’t give them the attention they wanted and they drove off angry. It kinda shook me up but I won’t let it eat away at me like it would’ve when I was younger

  16. Unfortunately Yes.. I’ve had people call names after me on the street.. I’ve been told many times that I lookes sooo much prettier when I wasn’t fat.. that I;m weak and obviously have no self-respect…

    I once had a man approach myself and my friend – both very curvy – in a restaurant, and lean over us as we looked at the menu to tell us “I’d stick to the salad bar, if I were you, ladies… you don’t want to make things any worse, now do you?” he was less than impressed when I smiled serenely up at him, and emptied my wineglass over the crotch of his jeans, and told him “When you’re grown up enough to understand that the way we look is a) Fine by us, and b) none of your damn business, then maybe you’ll be mature enough to be allowed to eat in public…. ” it wasn’t the first time I’d had to deal with that kind of rudeness.. but it WAS the first time I was able to react without being embarrassed and ashamed of ME

  17. I’ve had food thrown at and told I should eat it since I’m so fat. I was laughed at all through high school because people thought I was too ugly and I’ve been treated like I’m stupid because of my weight.

    The worst though was when I was like 13 and this lady came up to me in the store and insisted that I was pregnant because of my weight and the size of my stomach, and then when I told her that I was overweight she said I was lying to her and continued to insist that I was pregnant and that she felt sorry for me. I was literally in tears on the walk home from the store.

    1. I think that “lady” had a few screws loose. There are unstable people who will make an issue of a person’s weight because it’s allowed in society. I get stared at occasionally from people who scare me with the expressions on their faces.

  18. People tried to call me “Precious” or an ape in high school. It used to make me sad and angry. But I really don’t care anymore. I realized that no body’s opinion but mine even matters. I love my body. Consequently I found my amazing, incredibly fit and handsome boyfriend who loves me and my body too. He tells me how beautiful I am and how much he loves my curves. I’m so happy when I learned to accept myself, someone accepts me too. I love this skin.

  19. One of my clients tried calling me “The Nutty Professor” (re the Eddie Murphy film) once. I think he expected me to go along with the joke: as it happened, ice formed so rapidly on my upper slopes that he was wise enough never to try that (in my earshot, at any rate) again.

    Sadly, in a youth, fitness and surface appearance obsessed society, the bored, cruel and/or stupid will take out their own inadequacies on what they regard as easy targets. Since drips tend to travel in showers, the ideal educative consciousness-raising outreach response of a punch in the face may not always be practical.

    Two parting thoughts: western society is becoming steadily more obese; we are becoming the norm in reality, whatever the advertisers and fashionistas may pretend. Also, in this week’s New Scientist, there is an eye-opening article on the health *benefits* of being fat. Yes, you read that right. Turns out that BMI is essentially meaningless.

  20. I have numerous times. But my motto is, “I’d rather be fat and happy than like you and mean.” Usually self reflection will pipe them down for a few minutes.

  21. Wow, I’m so glad to know I’m not alone. Most of my friends are skinnier than me, I use to be a size 8 in High School. I had a terrible car accident when I turned 16, and the older I get the harder it is to keep my weight down because of lack of activity. I eat very little and feel very guilty when I over indulge. I was told I would be in a wheelchair by 30, I’m now 40, and no wheelchair! But I’m now a size 24 and on very strong pain meds. Sometimes, I have to use the store scooters, I have days I’m unable to walk very far because of back pain. It is the most embarrassing thing in the world to me, I know it embarrasses my sons (they are too sweet to say it, but I see it on their faces), because people stare and whisper, all they see is a very fat lady, who is too lazy to walk through the store, buying food she obviously doesn’t need. They don’t see the fact my back is severely deformed, and getting worse everyday, even hurting if I’m just sitting, let alone trying to walk through a mega store on one of my bad days. I do feel like a prisoner in my own body. I don’t choose to be fat, I would much rather lose the weight and be able to be more active! I miss doing things able bodied people are able to do. This year however, I decided to take back my life. I’m getting out and about, no matter what it takes. If I have to stop halfway there, and sit on the ground till my back stops hurting, then start off again. If I know a lot of walking is required and nowhere to stop, I’m gonna buy a set of crutches. I’ve also decided I don’t care anymore what others think, my husband loves me, my kids love me, and my true friends know I’m not fat because I’m lazy, and they are all that matters! My goal is to be healthy, for me, whatever size that is for me, not what society thinks I should look like. I’m sure I’ll never be an 8 again, but I know I will feel better if I can get some of this weight off. But for now, I’m going to make the best of this! And I’m done wearing black, it only makes me look fat and depressed. I wanna look as happy on the outside as I choose to be on the inside. Don’t get me wrong, I think I’m beautiful at the size I’m at, and all of you are too. I just wanted to say, never judge a book by its cover, don’t be quick to judge anyone, for any reason. No one knows just by looking at a person, why they are the way they are, without walking in their shoes. There will come a day when those that judge, will be judged, and I would hate to be the person that makes fun of someone for their appearance.

    1. This made me cry.. I’m about the same size as you are. I raised six wonderful human beings and I am now an empty nester. I work remotely as a web developer so I sit at my computer for hours on end at home. I am having a HELL of a time walking these days. I don’t know if it’s a combination of having six kids in 12 years and the extra weight I’m carrying or the lack of activity. I used to be so much more social. Community theater and singing and just an outright gregarious type of person. Ya know the one who tells her life story in the checkout line but whom you like immediately. I’m trying to change things little by little but at this stage I can’t even walk across the street to the strip mall. I order EVERYTHING online. Groceries, necessities.. etc. I am a hermit at this point. My girls come to visit and I hem and haw when they want to go do something because I worry about the back pain. Don’t get me wrong I KNOW how smart I am and how much my family loves me and I am not depressed – just a little anxious about exposing this body to the world out there.. never used to be. I have always been a big girl but I’m the biggest ever and the voices in my head keep saying, ” someone is going to comment about your size” – “someone is going to be mean to you” — but I find though there are the teens who drive by in their cars and yell out obscenities.. the percentage of those horrible comments vs the gentle smiles directed my way in the store or all the other friendly people I encounter when I do take my ample behind outside seems to counteract that to a point.. I find myself talking myself out of going outside.. more often then not these days. Due to back pain and fear of ridicule.. I DID get myself a pedal exerciser! So hopefully that’ll help a bit.. I get caught up in my coding and suddently 3-4 hours have passed and I haven’t moved! Which I know is horrible!!

  22. Recently had a woman look in my grocery cart and tell me there were better alternatives to what I chose. I told her there were safer alternatives than approaching a complete stranger with unsolicited advice about her grocery choices. By the by, I had chicken breasts, a boat load of vegetables, rice and a couple of potatoes.
    Oh yeah, and Pepsi Max.

  23. It’s not just in the USA, I live in the UK and have been degraded and bullied by comments ever since I was a teen. I am now to retirement age, and had several failed surgeries. It is VERY true, you should NEVER judge someone until you have walked a mile in his/her shoes…..but we should NOT just have to take this abuse, and mine even started with my own mother!!! (and she was very big herself) We HAVE to stand up to these bullies and let them know that we WILL NOT be treated just as they wish. After all, people will treat us only how we ALLOW them to treat us!!! Fight back (verbally) my large lady friends!!! We are ALL beautiful just as God intended and if other people cannot see that, it is THEIR problem, NOT ours!!!

  24. it has happened to me in Italy, especially with young kids and if they are in a group. When I was a teenager I felt really scared to walk among a group of people in the street, especially if they were young guys. If they said anything I would show my middle finger at that age or something like that haha… Nowadays it happens much more seldom

  25. I have be on the receiving end of some hurtful comments all my life, from strangers, to classmates, to co-workers and family who think they are doing me a favor, by “having a little talk.” It hasn’t been constant, and confusing and stinging me when it comes out-of-the=blue. I’m a large-framed person: broad-shouldered, heavily muscled, large-busted. I wear a straight size 16. What I find stunningly bizarre is that I have worn 20W, and the less fat I carry the MORE I hear negative comments! It’s as if you are standing on the edge of the ocean and people feel that they can somehow save you from drowning in fatness. When I was at my heaviest, I rarely heard remarks directly about my size. I would receive very specific, pointed compliments about earrings and hair or the old “pretty face” that seemed to carry a silent under-current of dear, I’m trying to be nice and prop you up even though you are obese and I pity you. Any talk now about fitness activities carries some unwanted cheerleading to “keep going” no matter that I’d just clocked an hour of intense workout. Compliments about clothes are lovely, but I don’t know what to say to people when they assume I shop in only plus size stores (“Oh my cousin loves LB, you must too.) (Lovely people who have been subjected to much worse abuse, please understand I share this only to point out this odd experience. I have only slightly glimpsed the nightmares some of you have lived.)

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