Lately my Facebook timeline is littered with re-posts of plus size women being made fun of. Before I reluctantly joined Facebook in 2008, I used to receive forwarded emails containing picture galleries of the same things I see in my timeline now, only without the vitriol that is posted in the comments. I wondered if any of the people featured knew about this gallery and email distribution. I didn’t know any of the people featured and I felt horrible that they may not know that they are being made fun of.
In 2011, I actually knew someone whose photo was used as a punchline. This time it was my friend, beloved actress, comedian and TV personality Erica Watson. In the TV One comedy “Love that Girl” Erica’s body was used in a fat shaming joke, her head replaced with the head of lead character Tatiana Ali. After the incident went viral and there was a public outcry, the show issued an apology to Erica. The community was heard and it felt like a victory.
Lately there has been a resurgence of these types of posts on my timeline, so much so that I had to unplug from social media for a while. Since the NBA Playoffs have started, I decided to watch the coverage with my hubby. No blatant fat shaming in the sports world right? I was so,so wrong.
The broadcast started on May 7th as it typically does on “Inside the NBA”, a post game show with host Ernie Johnson and analysts Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal. Charles Barkley launched into fat shaming commentary about the women of San Antonio, TX. Comments included “Victoria is definitely a secret in San Antonio” and Charles Barkley is referring to San Antonio as being a gold mine for Weight Watchers. The host even remarked “Why does every conversation about San Antonio eventually come around to women?”
Out of curiosity, I began to look for previous instances where this had occurred. The answer to why the conversation comes back to fat shaming women is because Charles Barkley slides in fat shaming when he can. The analysts allow it, encourage it and have done so for years.
In a broadcast from 2011, you see the panel visibly uncomfortable, quickly trying to change the subject, not so much now. In a broadcast in 2013, with no rhyme or reason, a picture is shown on the screen of Charles’ face superimposed on a plus size woman’s body. I immediately recognized the picture as one that was included in one of the picture galleries I received years ago. There was no outrage for the unknown woman in the picture, no outcry for an apology for her. No Op-Ed’s.
Then on May 19th of this year, Shaq (who seems to enjoy the fat shaming more than anyone on the show), holds up a cardboard cutout of the same image from 2013 laughing hysterically. It amazes me that after Shaq made fun of a handicapped Michigan man and was forced to offer an apology that he would make fun of another person’s image.
At a time when the world is looking to the NBA for messages of tolerance and inclusion after the L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments, it is clear that this message doesn’t include plus size women.
First instance where they used the plus size image
Charles Barkley mimics fat women eating churros