Fat shaming sucks. It makes people feel bad about themselves and, as science has proven, doesn't actually help people who are fat not be fat. Not that it matters, because it's none of anyone's business. But apparently YouTuber Nicole Arbour didn't get that memo when her video "Dear Fat People" went viral last month, in which she belittles heavier people, spouts off assumptions about their health, and generally makes them feel terrible.
Activist and entrepreneur Stacy Bias couldn't even finish watching the abhorrent video, but she kept thinking about all of the fat people who would keep watching and loathe themselves because of Arbour's hateful words and judgments.
"The next morning when I woke up I was still thinking about it and I thought to myself, 'I deserve a merit badge for NOT flying to Canada to sit on her.'" she told A Plus in an email. "The thought made me laugh so I drew it up along with a few others and posted it to my Facebook wall."
Thus the "Rad Fatty Merit Badges" were born.
Friends began requesting stickers so she created a fundraising page to raise printing costs — which took just 8 hours to meet 100 percent of the funding needed. As requests came in, Bias created more badges with sarcastic, unapologetic slogans that ranged from "Survived Body Shaming without Self-Blaming" to witty "Took Up Space."
Bias explained to A Plus that she choose to flip the shaming words into funny sayings because being able to live in a world being constantly judged for your exterior appearance isn't easy. If anything, it should be celebrated.
"Fat stigma is an inarguable reality. Its impact is daily. Hourly, even. The fat body has become symbolic of so many things society has moral opinions about and that symbolism doesn't get divorced from the actual human being that lives inside it," she told A Plus. Fat people are stereotyped, dehumanized and discriminated against every single day and that takes a substantial toll on a person's overall well-being.
"Literally existing — just that — EXISTING —is enough to cause people to glare, stare, verbally assault, or even physically assault a fat person. The kind of fortitude it takes to move through a world like this with any measure of joy is something worth celebrating."
She's doing so, and is helping other do so, through the stickers. They're just a concept right now but will go into production in two weeks. In the meantime, Bias hopes that they can help those struggling with body image can use the badges to have even one moment of certainty abut their strength and worth.
As for those who fat shame, like Arbour, she hopes they get back in touch with their humanity and compassion.
"What I want is for people to see others as humans who, independent of whatever assumed imperfections they may appear to have, are intrinsically worthy of kindness and respect," she said. "I'm not sure a button can do all that, but wouldn't it be lovely if it could?"
It's definitely a start.