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Lessons from Shrill

Shrill was just released on Hulu this past Friday and I’ve successfully binged all 6 episodes. The show, based on Lindy West’s memoir, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, stars Aidy Bryant as Annie Easton. With Dumplin’ (a recent movie on Netflix based on a book by Julie Murphy) also on the scene, I’m optimistic that more larger folks will have the opportunity to be seen in the media – heads and all! Shrill depicts the incredibly spot-on and difficult challenges that many people in larger bodies face in our society with a strong stream of humor.

Entertainment often centers people with extreme amounts of body privilege, which doesn’t reflect the majority of its consumers. Seeing someone be or do something that we’d like to aspire to is often paramount in order for us to actually go on to fulfill those dreams. In Shrill, when Anne sees other large women embracing their bodies, taking up space, and living with purpose, she begins to be able to see herself from that perspective. And that’s what Shrill and Dumplin’ are doing for other large women who generally only see themselves depicted as a friend or otherwise shown in a very poor light. Larger bodied characters can be complex too – duh! It is truly an exciting time and I cannot wait to see more diversity show up on our screens and in our magazines.

That being said, it isn’t all positive, we see how fatphobia saturates the experiences of fat people, mostly under the guise of “concern” for their health. We see how often Annie is harassed or receiving unsolicited advice for how she can improve her health (aka how she can lose weight) and it is super problematic!

Whenever I’m on my soapbox about Health At Every Size (HAES), I get people saying, “yeah, but it’s just not healthy to have that extra weight.” I have spent most of my time trying to fight this assumption using science, but I’m starting to realize more and more that this line of arguing isn’t entirely helpful in addressing some people's arguments. Yes – there’s a bunch of science to support HAES and reject the promotion of intentional weight loss for health. But, there’s a bigger picture here.

No one is going around expressing concern over the health of thin people despite the fact that thin people experience all sorts of the same health issues that people in large bodies do. So what this tells me is that this “concern” is just a cover for fatphobia. Because why would somebody else’s health be any of our business anyway? Why would someone need to be healthy to be worthy of our respect? Likewise, why does someone need to be thin to be worthy of respect?

Yet, fat people live in this reality where they often aren’t respected or taken seriously. Shrill really begins to highlight these vast obstacles and lets those of us living with thin privilege see how incredibly harmful our conditioning and biases are. If you have Hulu or can do the free-month with them, watch this show because it provides a really necessary perspective – and so much fashion! I seriously need some clogs.

Take Action:

Now, it’s your turn – what biases do you hold about people in larger bodies? Where did these beliefs come from? How might you choose to see things differently?

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