Bill Maher’s statement on fat shaming misses the mark

Amruta Baradwaj, News Editor

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“Fat shaming doesn’t need to end; it needs to make a comeback. Some amount of shame is good. We shamed people out of smoking and into wearing seat belts. We shamed them out of littering and most of them out of racism. Shame is the first step in reform.” – Real Time with Bill Maher

Late night TV show host Bill Maher made a statement to his viewers, asserting that, “Being fat isn’t a birth defect.” His argument defending fat shaming ultimately promotes bullying and trivializes biological conditions. While Maher’s intentions were to highlight the growing rates of obesity and the problems surrounding healthcare, the way he constructed his argument led him to be the face of controversy. 

Maher ended his show on Sept. 6 with his closing thoughts on obesity and its relationship with the body positivity movement, directly contradicting all known scientific information about body shaming. The conversation about obesity stemmed from a much larger topic regarding the 2020 Presidential candidates’ healthcare policies. 

All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don’t lift a finger to help,” Maher said. 

The comedian went on to question why so many Americans had “pre-existing conditions,” 

completely disregarding the negative effects of fat shaming. An excerpt from BBC states that shaming “is the wrong way forward,” because it simply points to the direction of anxiety, depression, and self-destructive behaviors. In no way does it impart an urgency for lifestyle changes. 

Maher’s editorial completely fails to acknowledge genetic predispositions, metabolic rates, leptin deficiencies, and several other biological factors as biological causes for obesity. Discriminating against individuals based off of their weight has also proven to be detrimental to overall physical and psychological health. 

The prominent voice of dissent against Maher’s comments came from individuals on Twitter who spoke out saying that if fat shaming actually worked, the world would have no more fat people. Several Twitter users pointed out inconsistencies in Maher’s argument, asserting that bullying only leads to feelings of shame and discomfort. 

Host of the “Late Late Show,” James Corden, was also quick to use his platform to openly disagree with Maher, and to introduce the idea that being fat and being unhealthy were inequitable. Corden spoke out against Maher, armed with anecdotes and humor, asserting that fat shaming does not need to make a comeback because it “never went anywhere.”

“Ask literally any fat person. We are reminded of it all the time… There’s a common and insulting misconception that fat people are stupid and lazy, and we’re not… We know that being overweight isn’t good for us and I’ve struggled my entire life trying to manage my weight and I suck at it. I’ve had good days and bad months.” Corden said. 

Maher’s statements about fat shaming came from a place of ignorance about the general topic of obesity and health. He allocated his time to remark on a topic that is far more important and complex than his one-dimensional portrayal of it.

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