Stop With the Fat Jokes, New York Daily News


This column isn't taken to scolding very much, and aside from the occasional Tweet war, it doesn't have a temper. But having been steeped in the science of stigma, I've got to make an exception. This New York Daily News headline about a corrupt union boss, "PIGGY'S BANK," clearly, unambiguously, and undeniably connects his girth to his actions; the writers are playing off of, and reifying, the linkages between fat and excess and uncontrollable urges. And readers get it. I got it. I kind of laughed at the headline, and then felt ashamed of myself. We are so conditioned to accept without remorse the fact that we find fat funny.

I don't know why Daniel Hughes, a Port Authority union leader who admitted stealing $500,000 to feed his gambling and sexual addictions, happens to be fat. I do know that his weight has nothing to do with the substance of the story, which is about his crime. It's very easy to write a lede that begins with "A roly-poly rip-off artist...," much like how the New York Post used to call Monica Lewinsky a "portly pepper-pot." 

The Daily News can write whatever headlines it wants. I don't care about Hughes. I just want to them to know that making fun of fat people doesn't simply hurt fat people. It harms them by perpetuating a stigma that has real, scientifically-validated, deleterious effects. One headline isn't going to do much damage, but the casual and easy use of physiognomy in headlines and in humor -- well, it harms people who've done nothing to deserve it.  

 fat1.jpg
Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Miniature 1950s Utopia

A reclusive artist built this idealized suburb to grapple with his painful childhood memories.

Video

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her school. Then the Internet heard her story.

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

More in Politics

Just In