When Joking About Body Image, Where Do We Draw the Line?

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Three women were reasonably upset upon receiving their bill at a restaurant, where their server had typed in “Fat Girls” on their receipt in order to track their order. The guys over at Barstool Sports had their own comments to add to the mix, claiming that it’s, “no different than writing ‘red sweater’ on the bill if that’s what they were wearing.” Read on into the comments and many claim they aren’t so much shocked about the name-calling, but rather that the bill was so small considering how much these girls must eat.

Now, if a body type was the type of thing we all just decided to ‘throw on’ in the morning while we got dressed, I might agree with their argument, but it’s clear from watching the women react on the video below that a small comment on their appearance drastically hurt them, to which the manager responded by offering a discount after trying to stifle his own laughter.

Of course, it’s not just the fact the server commented on the ladies’ appearance that makes them so angry, but the connotation of the term “fat girls”. Would this even be an argument if a waiter wrote “athletic chicks” or “skinny blondes” or something to that effect on a different party’s bill? Probably not. What makes it OK for us to start joking about other people’s appearance? Once a woman reaches a certain BMI percentile is she suddenly “below” other people?

In another instance of joking based on body types, tennis player Caroline Wozniacki mimicked Serena Williams’s curves during an exhibition match by stuffing towels down her shirt and down the back of her skirt. Serena had a good sense of humor towards Caroline’s impression, probably due to the fact Serena has historically shown Caroline up 5 out of 6 times on the tennis court.

I think these examples show more about the people making the jokes rather than the people receiving it. The three women aren’t pissed off because they’re trying to blame someone else for their weight. They’re pissed off because they are being identified by their body types, carried by a negative connotation. Meanwhile the waiter is too dense to realize identifying customers by their shape and size is a poor business model. In Serena’s case, she tweeted a funny reply to Caroline’s joke, asking, “Do they make Brazilian bikinis for, um, well, me?”, but it doesn’t automatically make Caroline’s little stunt appropriate. Serena may have been the target of her joke, but a number of fans as well as viewers across the world could take offense to it. Perhaps if Caroline perfected her tennis technique to rival Serena’s instead, Caroline might not have to resort to making immature jokes to draw attention back to herself.

Whether you find body image jokes to be funny or not, there’s no question these have an impact on people who struggle with their weight or shape. There’s much more to a person than their outward appearance, and I think the people who resort to childish comments and lack respect for others should be the ones who are embarrassed… not the other way around.

[Lead image via Yuri Arcurs/Shutterstock]

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