Reddit's sad network of fat-shaming
If you’ve never heard the term “hamplanet” before, consider yourself lucky. It’s the name some people on the Internet use to talk disparagingly about overweight people. Ham, like the food. Planet, like the large gaseous body. You’ll find it mainly in a section of Reddit called r/fatpeoplestories, where 60,000 subscribers trade anecdotes about their run-ins with people who are heavier than they are.
“This sub is a place for you to tell us about hamplanets in your life and your relationships/encounters with them,” the subreddit’s information sidebar reads. “Remember that hamplanet is not just about the weight, but also the hamentality—rudeness, entitlement, fatlogic, etc. Not all fat people are hambeasts but all hambeasts are fat people.” It goes on to add: “Expect to be permanently forever grossed out.”
Take this story:
I start handing out sunchips feeling like freakin Jesus here, and everyone is all greatfull, and chatty and nice about it.
Until I hear the shrill screeching of a hamplanet. But I dont see a hamplanet.
it emerges from the shadows behind a clump of three demi-moons, who had totally eclipsed it. He reaches his grubby (hadn't been washed in weeks it looked like) marshmallow hands out for sun chips, and starts wargarbling at me to come closer.
My whale-ese is rusty, at least, I'm pretty certain that's what he was saying.
Or this one:
Birds fly, ground shakes, the sun itself quivers as it moves closer to the earth caught in a larger bodies gravitational pull.
Na, it's Porkeretta.
Porkeretta is waddling through the interior and heading straight for the handicap door.
Walker-bro gets this look of fear on his face, as he can barely move as it is and cannot open the other doors due to his disability.
The door opens and the shit hits the fan.
The first thing that hits is the wheezing. It was loud. You know the sound a vacuum cleaner makes when it's on the verge of breaking? It was like that.
"Move." Porkeretta gasps as sweat drips from her glisteningly woman jowels. You can feel the thin-hatred in her voice.
Besides “hamplanet,” FatPeopleStories has coined a few other phrases like “condishun” to make fun of overweight people who suffer from medical ailments, or “fat logic” to mock the way fat people think. On Mondays, the group collects best-of stories; on Thursdays, they ridicule social justice Tumblr activity; and on Fat2Fit Fridays, “former hamplanets” can share their fitness journeys.
Many of the stories center on the fat person’s perceived “rudeness” when faced with everyday situations like buying clothing or shopping for food. A retailer might explain how a “hamplanet” came into their clothing store and raged because they didn’t have a plus size section. A pregnant woman told of how a food court “hamplanet” told her she needed to eat more than a salad to feed her growing fetus.
There are two types of stories on r/fatpeoplestories. In the first, the subject is a giant jerkwad who also happens to be fat, and conflating the two is tenuous at best. For instance, this story, “Psycho Moon,” is about an annoying, clueless girl trying to move in on a friend’s boyfriend. What she weighs is secondary to her being a terrible person. The two are unrelated. But the story always mentions the person’s weight and includes a story about the culprit eating way too much. She asks the boyfriend to get food right after wolfing down McDonald’s, and swears she needs 2,500 calories a day to have any energy. Her overeating is an added reason to hate this already unlikable friend.
In the other type of fat-person story, the narrator fails to acknowledge that the “hamplanet” may have different needs or that her feelings may be hurt. On the This Is Thin Privilege Tumblr, overweight people gather to talk about how hard it is to find clothes, how their partners act ashamed to be with them, and how differently retail workers and authority figures treat them from their thinner peers. But on Reddit, the theme of the “hamplanet” tales seems to be “no sympathy.” The fat people in those are portrayed as lazy, unwilling to exercise, and seem to be at fault entirely for their appearance.
A related community, r/fatpeople, is less popular (only 99 subscribers) and is posted in less frequently. Most submissions are clandestine photos of overweight people out and about wearing clothing the photographer has deemed too tight or revealing. Overweight people riding on scooters is a theme.
Here's a sample submission:
The format for telling the stories seems to have originated at 4chan, as shown in this story about an outdoor running track. The mocked thin-privilege posts are mainly from Tumblr, where people gather to discuss the often overlooked instances of discrimination against fat people in a society that puts a svelte figure on a pedestal. The fat-shaming subreddits vs. the social justice Tumblr community reveals a long-standing debate between acceptance and health. It perpetuates the idea that every overweight person is lazy, rude, and at fault. Fat = bad.
Less than a month ago, a redditor named u/uberwolf0 fought back, trying to bring humanity to the issue with an Ask Me Anything in r/fatpeoplestories. In it, he talked about the abuse he suffered as a child and how his mother only fed him junk as a way to hurt him.
Uberwolf0 ends the thread by saying, “I'm becoming more and more comfortable with sharing these details with the world but yes its still pretty hard. But fuck it, if one person can learn something from reading that and make a lasting change then its worth the discomfort.”
In u/uberwolf0’s AMA thread, members of the subreddit are less hasty to judge, reasoning that food perhaps made him feel safe in an unsafe household, and relenting that his size is not his fault. But had they seen him on the street and posted a mocking photo to Reddit without ever speaking to him, how would they have known he deserved their scorn?
In the comments on r/bestof, which recounted the user’s story, other redditors sounded disgusted by the subreddit, not the story.
“Your subreddit is a bunch of bullying shit and you're a piece of shit for being subscribed to it,“ one wrote.
The top comment: “Reddit: the super progressive website that fights against bullying because bullying is bad! (unless the victim is fat, or maybe a minority, or disabled in some way).”
Photo via Flickr