Tyrese, a great friend in fatphobia

When I first heard that Tyrese was making fatphobic comments in an interview, I almost chuckled. I mean… just look at the kind of laughable ignorance he has spouted from his Twitter account:Tyrese tweet regarding Oprah

But even though Tyrese has excluded himself from the part of my brain that houses the fucks that I have to give, there was something that caught my attention (and triggered me a little bit) about his words. The question posed to him was: “What kind of responsibility do you feel as an entertainer, you have to inspire people to live healthier lifestyles?” Brace yourself…

“No two situations are the same. If you are fat and nasty and you don’t like the way you look, do something about it. It’s simple.

When you take a shower and you put your fat, nasty body in the shower and by the time you get out, the mirrors are all steamed up so you don’t look at what you did to yourself. That may sound offensive or insensitive but ultimately, you are big as hell because you have earned that sh*t. You worked your a** off to eat everything in sight to get big as hell.

If you got a problem with the way you look, then you need to do something about it. Excuses sound best to the people that’s making them up.”

Give me strength…

I am going to get straight to my point or else the temptation to spend the next 20 minutes writing about what a clueless, fatphobic fool Tyrese is will be too great to resist. I named this post “A Great Friend in Fatphobia” because I’ve noticed that like most oppressive relationships, discrimination against fat people often seems to function as a way to benefit the oppressor and/or make them feel safe, comfortable, etc.

When the story broke about Rick Ross’s rape lyric, it was almost as if folks couldn’t wait to fire off the fat jokes they’d been wanting to share about him. Twitter and Instagram have become great hubs for fitness gurus and health conscious folks to share information and motivate others to be healthy. But these messages are often contextualized with fatphobia. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been fat shamed while engaging in debates that have nothing to do with bodies, fat, or me.

What I got from Tyrese’s response to that question was that he didn’t quite identify as someone who felt responsible for promoting a healthy lifestyle to people. Instead of talking about the hours that he puts in at the gym to achieve the toned body that he has; or maybe discussing how important it is to manage your time in order to fit workouts; or being honest about the fact that his celebrity grants him access to resources, information, and privilege to make healthy food choices, Tyrese chose to attack fat, and according to him, nasty people for being fat. And in case you all don’t know, body weight is not the sole, or most important, indicator of a healthy lifestyle.

Fatphobia is a great friend to those who want a(nother) piece of the privilege pie. It’s a way to shame and silence folks based on the way you perceive their body (fat is also relative). It’s always waiting in the shadows to be called upon in moments when fat people dare to make themselves visible physically or abstractly. What fatphobia does not do is address healthy lifestyles, eating disorders, or body image issues, which deserve much more attention than the weight of individual people.

Related:

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Feministing's resident "sexpert", Sesali is a published writer and professional shit talker. She is a queer Black girl, fat girl, and trainer. She was the former Training Director at the United States Student Association and later a member of the Youth Organizing team at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She received her bachelors in Women's and Gender Studies from Depaul University in 2012 and is currently pursuing a master's in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. A self identified "trap" feminist, and trained with a reproductive justice background, her interests include the intersections of feminism and: pop culture, youth culture, social media, hip hop, girlhood, sexuality, race, gender, and Beyonce. Sesali joined the team in 2010 as one of the winners of our So You Think You Can Blog contest.

is Feministing's resident sexpert and cynic.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/ladyaxe/ Sarah Axtmann

    Sesali, you rock my world. This article is right in line with what I have been thinking a lot about lately, which is how the media uses health as an excuse to promote certain beauty standards. Yes, there are lots of reasons to eat right and work out, but the most important one to society seems to be that you will look great. It is something that I struggle with, because any decision I make about my health makes me feel like I am giving in to beauty standards I don’t believe in, and I have trouble separating if I am doing something for health reasons or if I am doing them because of body image issues. The kind of statements Tyrese made are exactly the kinds of statements that cause this tension in me, so thank you for your brilliant take-down.

  • http://feministing.com/members/thorn/ Jen

    I totally agree with Sarah’s comment above; in today’s media “health” = perpetuation of ridiculous beauty standards. All talk of health centers around weight, and the overwhelming majority of that talk is aimed at women. Tyrese could easily have used his celebrity platform to espouse a healthy lifestyle, without launching a fat-shaming tirade that really only reveals his own bias, ignorance, and probably his own body issues.