Stop With the Fat Jokes, New York Daily News

More

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
Jump to comments
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.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Are Americans So Bad at Saving Money?

The US is particularly miserable at putting aside money for the future. Should we blame our paychecks or our psychology?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

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

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In