Comparing Kim Kardashian to a couch, as most of the internet did following her appearance last week at the Met Ball in a floral dress, is not OK. Judging women’s bodies, pregnant or otherwise, is never justified and perpetuates dangerous standards of beauty and physical perfection. While Kim Kardashian has made the choice to place herself in the public eye, the consequences of the media constantly fat-shaming her reverberate throughout our culture, and reinforce the message that being fat is just about the worst thing you can be.
Since Kardashian first announced her pregnancy, tabloid and celebrity blog coverage of her weight gain has been incessant and astoundingly cruel. Many magazines made claims that she now weighs 200 pounds and that Kanye West finds her body so repulsive he is considering leaving her. People have defended these attacks by arguing that she made the choice to live in the public eye, and now she is facing the consequences of that choice. Never mind that she is pregnant, and is growing another human life inside her body, one that is relying on her as a source of nutrition, food, and growth. This is seen as no excuse for her to gain weight and change the shape of her famous body; a body the public feels it has ownership of.
When media sources criticize Kardashian’s weight gain they send the message to all women that it is not OK to be fat or out of shape, even during pregnancy. This anti-fat messaging, perpetuated throughout our culture, reinforces the cultural value of thinness and normalizes fat-shaming.
Our cultural value of thinness is unhealthy and causes immense harm to women, and undermines concerns of health for concerns of beauty. Fat shaming and weight bias impact overweight and obese people by increasing their risk of depression and anxiety as well as encouraging low-self esteem and body image. Negative attitudes around weight also contribute to the prevalence of unhealthy eating behaviors and discourage overweight children and adults from engaging in physical activity.
Overweight individuals are less likely to be hired for a job due to their weight, and are more likely to face discrimination based on weight from their doctors. Recent research has also shown that male jurors are biased against obese women in court. Stereotypes of the laziness and unhealthiness of overweight people persist, and create a reality in which weight-based discrimination is a part of everyday life for overweight Americans.
While it may seem that Kim Kardashian is just a silly celebrity who should buck up and get over the weight gain backlash, this commentary has real impact on our culture and our images of overweight people. By consistently presenting fat as a negative quality and shaming the bodies of people we feel take up too much space, we create biases and double standards that cause real harm in our society. Anti-fat bias undermines access to healthcare, and inhibits the promotion of healthy relationships with food and nutrition. Rather than promoting health and well-being, fat-shaming and anti-fat bias perpetuate patterns of harm and contribute to, rather than alleviate, our country’s weight problems.