Fat-shaming of Women in Social Media

Being in the media spotlight, women are often subjected to scrutiny against their appearances, intelligence, and their creative works. While being a woman in media has many glamorous qualities, social media can be a breeding ground for negativity. Like we’ve all heard before, many people feel they can express hate and insults towards others due to easily hiding behind a computer screen or a phone. For females, that is usually intensified due to women feeling like they are a sexualized object. In our blog, we analyzed how women in the limelight get more social media attacks on body images and “fat-shaming” compared to their male counterparts. With the images listed below, we show examples of these hateful comments towards women on Instagram and Twitter, in old and new advertisements, an example of how male celebrities are critiqued, and also an example of celebrities attacking other celebrities. With this evidence, we argue that women in the media are more scrutinized when they don’t follow the ideals of sexualized and emphasized femininity.

Vintage AD

Vintage Ad

This vintage ad reveals that fat shaming has long been in existence and is especially prevalent in advertising. Fat shaming has been employed in order to sell weight loss products such as diet pills. Because society is trained to believe that fat is unattractive and undesirable through these images, people take it upon themselves to relay the message through comments and criticisms of women’s bodies.

 Chrissy metz 1.png                    chrissy metz 2

Chrissy Metz’s Instagram

According to Tomiyama and Mann, “Obese people are already the most openly stigmatized individuals in our society, with published data showing that weight stigma is more pervasive and intense than racism, sexism, and other forms of bias” (2013). This is remarkably evident on Chrissy Metz’s instagram. There was an overwhelming number of negative comments about her body with many equating her to animals, such as a whale. This dehumanization of her, as seen in the photo, makes it easier for people to verbally attack her. This post is about the SAG awards, which her show won multiple awards for. Due to women being valued mostly for their looks, her body was all that was being commented on – not her success.

Dascha Polanco

Dascha Polanco’s Instagram

This photo from Dascha Polanco’s instagram page was intended to be a lighthearted and fun halloween post, but some commenters took it upon themselves to criticize her body. Although there were many positive comments on this post, the negative comments, including the one pictured above, were most often a criticism of her body. This post also uses the sumo wrestler costume to comment on her skin color in a negative manner. The commenter even mentioned her hit television show “Orange is the New Black,” but failed to mention anything about her performance – only comments about her body. “Regardless of all the advances girls have made in education, sports, and other domains, their worth is still ultimately tied to their appearance” (Greenhalgh, 2015).

Jessie James Decker.png

Jessie James Decker’s Instagram

Jessie James Decker is a different kind of “fat-shaming” critique. In her Instagram post, she stated that she wanted her music video to embrace women that “no matter where you are at in your life, shape, or size, you can exude that confidence and sexuality in your womanhood!”. Jessie received many hateful body-shaming/fat-shaming comments due to being six months pregnant during this shoot. According to Greenhalgh, she believes that the bullies “consider the abuse deserved and that it is deemed beneficial to the target, who is expected to see the light at last and change his or her ways” (2015). Even though many women would argue that she is basically the holy grail of emphasized femininity, she still receives judgement based on her looks solely, not her creative talent.

Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling’s Instagram

Similar to Jessie James Decker, Mindy Kaling was also body-shamed while pregnant. Although she was indeed pregnant in this photo, she had not yet publicly confirmed it. Over the years, Mindy Kaling’s weight has fluctuated and she has been very open about trying diets and eventually accepting her body as is. However, the public has yet to accept her body. Instead, they wonder if she looks heavier because she is pregnant or because she is eating poorly, or even because of an unflattering dress. Kaling’s being shamed while pregnant exhibits the point that pregnant women are seen as the equivalent of being fat which is considered “unsexy.”

Hubpages and Medium

Just like the older advertisement stated above, current advertisements haven’t changed much with trying to show what an idealized/sexualized femininity should be like. These two advertisements were chosen because they really contradict what the companies, Burger King and Carl’s Jr., are trying to sell. These ads are trying to show that if you want to look like these women, then you should eat their fast-food. Obviously, eating fast-food won’t get women to these sexualized images, but rather, it could easily create the opposite. For example, we highly doubt that a triple-cheeseburger topped with bacon and all the works would make us look like the image above. Advertisements like these suggests a very unrealistic form of sexualized/idealized femininity that put pressures on women to look a certain way, while consuming their unhealthy products. It’s a constant battle.

Kevin James.png

Kevin James’ Instagram

Kevin James is an example of a man who does not meet the ideals of hegemonic masculinity, but is not criticized for it. Although this comment is very mean and negative, it is still criticized for his talent rather than his looks. According to some research done in California, Greenhalgh mentions that “The California ethnographies allow fairly strong conclusions about gender. They say that, statistical parity notwithstanding, fat still is—or should be—a feminist issue. Although boys were subject to vicious fat abuse too, and they suffered emotionally on account of it, in every case the boys were able to rise above the taunts and resist taking on the global identity of fat boy. Because boys’ worth is evaluated primarily on the basis of their achievements and because boys rely much less on others’ views for their sense of self” (2015). This exemplifies our argument that women receive a harsher punishment when they don’t meet the ideals of emphasized femininity, rather than men do with hegemonic masculinity ideals. 

Gabourey Sidibe.png

Gabourey Sidibe

Gabourey Sidibe receives many hateful comments of her image and body through Twitter daily, which ended up pushing her to write this tweet. Even though Gabby is beautiful in her own way, people still expect her to want to be like the emphasized femininity stereotype. In Daniel Callahan’s article, he states that his “proposed plan to reduce obesity rates is to use strong social pressure- even if it crosses the line into outright discrimination- to teach people that being overweight and obese is ‘not socially acceptable any longer,’ and to “make just about everyone strongly want to avoid being overweight and obese”’ (Tomiyama and Mann, 2013). Even though Callahan’s advice has proven to be extremely ineffective, people don’t stop the hate towards women.



This Cosmopolitan article ranked the best and worst dressed celebrities at the 2017 Oscars and every single one mentioned is a woman, with only one (Octavia Spencer) being plus-sized. Although it could be said that only women are on this list because men’s tuxedos are all so similar, celebrities such as The Rock, Terrence Howard and Pharrell wore very unique tuxedos. This is an example of women being judged on looks, while men are judged on talent. As to why there is only one plus-sized woman on the list, “The obese are said to be lazy, self-indulgent, lacking in discipline, awkward, unattractive, weak-willed and sloppy, insecure and shapeless” (Callahan, 2013) and therefore, not best dressed.

katie hopkins

Heatworld Article on Katie Hopkins

Katie Hopkins is Daniel Callahan’s prodigy, and is also a firm believer in “abusive fat-talk, stigmatizing and shaming people to motivate healthful change” (Greenhalgh, 2015). She is an example of being on the other end of body shaming towards other women and celebrities. Like shown in the picture, she constantly uses “strong social pressure to bear on individuals” like Callahan has suggested. Callahan claims “it will be imperative, first, to persuade them that they ought to want a good diet and exercise for themselves and for their neighbor and, second, that excessive weight and outright obesity are not socially acceptable any longer” (Callahan, 2013). Not only does she attack many female celebs, she also says hateful things towards other issues like school shootings, etc.

Women are held to higher standards when it comes to emphasized femininity because historically women have been viewed as property, sexualized objects, and one that can be controlled. This toxic idea has led to the discrimination of women both in and out of the spotlight. After all, “weight-based discrimination is one of the few legal forms of discrimination that remain in America, and there is substantial evidence of weight discrimination across multiple domains of living, including health care, employment, education, and media” (Tomiyama and Mann, 2013). Fat shaming is so widely accepted, especially when it is against women with “derogatory labels like “slut,” “fat, ugly piece of shit,” and “bloated lump of fat” (Greenhalgh, 2015) that those who commit the crime see nothing wrong with their actions. Bullies believe they are encouraging the victims to live a healthier lifestyle, when in reality, they are dehumanizing women.


Tomiyama, A., & Mann, T. (2013). If Shaming Reduced Obesity, There Would Be No Fat People. The Hastings Center Report,43(3), 4-5. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23480876

CALLAHAN, D. (2013). OBESITY: Chasing an Elusive Epidemic. The Hastings Center Report, 43(1), 34-40. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23480960

Greenhalgh, S. (2015). Social Justice and the End of the War on Fat. In Fat-Talk Nation: The Human Costs of America’s War on Fat (pp. 267-288). Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt20d8843.13

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