Editorials

All the ways that fat shaming is not OK

Alicia Machado, who won the Miss Universe pageant in 1996, listens as Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign rally at Pasco-Hernando State College in Dade City, Fla., on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016.
Alicia Machado, who won the Miss Universe pageant in 1996, listens as Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign rally at Pasco-Hernando State College in Dade City, Fla., on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016. The Associated Press

The ugliest election in decades might be over, but that doesn’t mean all of the ugliness is going away. To the contrary, some of the most repugnant ideas forced upon our national consciousness by Donald Trump remain with us, embedded in our culture and waiting to be challenged by the adults in the room.

Take the appalling body-shaming case out of L.A.

On Friday, prosecutors decided to file invasion-of-privacy charges against Dani Mathers, a former Playboy playmate who, just for the fun of it, decided to snap a photo of a 70-year-old woman showering in the nude at the gym last summer. She then shared the image publicly on social media.

“If I can’t unsee this then you can’t either,” Mathers, 29, cruelly quipped with the Snapchat photo.

The post quickly went viral, drawing the attention of police and the Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office. She’s now charged with one criminal count, and could get up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted.

At first blush, the charge might seem to be a bit too harsh; her attorney Tom Mesereau certainly thinks so.

The case is indeed groundbreaking, marking one of the first times that someone has faced criminal counts for such an act. Prosecutors capitalized on the unique circumstances of the peeping-Tom-style photo in an attempt to make the charges stick.

“While body-shaming, in itself, is not a crime, there are circumstances in which invading one’s privacy to accomplish it can be,” Feuer said in a statement. “And we shouldn’t tolerate that.”

Charging Mathers sends a message that body shaming is not OK. It’s not harmless teasing, and efforts to curb the behavior isn’t about political correctness. In reality, body shaming and fat shaming can cause victims lasting psychological damage and can lead to anorexia and bulimia.

Mathers has apologized for her actions, swearing she had only intended to send the photo to her followers – as if that makes things better.

“I’m sorry for what I did,” she wrote in July. “I need to take some time to myself now to reflect on why I did this horrible thing.” In September, she again took to Twitter to say she has taken “full responsibility.”

That’s certainly better than Trump, who, in September, defended himself for having called former Miss Universe Alicia Machado an “eating machine” and forcing her to lift weights in front of TV cameras.

Machado is still upbraiding Trump, writing articles about what his words did to her. That’s important, but it’s the Mathers case that may truly be a wake-up call.

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