What some twenty-somethings think about the “headless fatty”


CW: Talk about the “headless fatty”, discussion of fat stigma and weight discrimination.

Like all reasonable decent people, we at Fit is a Feminist Issue despise those “headless fatty” photos. Samantha and I have blogged about them, and others of us have noted and criticized those discriminatory images as well.

No more headless fatties…

Why the headless fatty photo has got to go…

Fat babies deserve heads

Wow, not even chubby babies get heads these days…

Like a bad penny, these awful images keep turning up.

I’m teaching a course on Philosophy of Food in summer school right now, and we are starting it by talking about food memories, preferences, traditions, rules, violations of rules, and ideals. One of the questions I asked them in a short response paper was about the notion of the “headless fatty” and what they thought about it. Here’s some of what they said:

… the “headless fatty” is problematic because in these pictures the bodies become symbolic. These people are in the photos, but they have no voice, not even a mouth, brain, head, no thoughts or opinions. They are reduced and dehumanized as symbols of cultural fear. The beheaded people in these photographs also symbolize that they are being punished for existing, or they no longer have the right to speak, and that without these people the world would be a better place. 

Yeah. I definitely couldn’t have said it better myself.

Here’s another comment:

[the headless fatty] perpetuates the idea that fat people are not people; that they do not have a brain, a voice, or opinions.

One more, which I really like:

This term is problematic because when you remove someone’s head, they no longer have thoughts or opinions.

YES! It’s so clear to my students that the image of a fat person with no head conveys the idea that they have no agency, no humanity, no intelligence, no voice.

I’m writing this to you because these students are giving me hope that fat shaming and weight stigmatization will dissipate; it’s obvious to them that these images are fat shaming, and also obvious how horrible and harmful that is. Yay students!

Let’s all look forward to a time in the not-distant future where people of all sizes and shapes can hold their heads up high, in part because they have heads. Is this too much to hope for?

Readers, how long has it been since you saw one of these headless fat-shaming images? Yesterday? Last month? Last year? Let us know. I’m really hoping they’re on the wane.

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