About a month ago, one of my sisters tagged me in a video she recorded of Family Feud—a game show where two families compete for a cash prize by trying to find the most popular answers to a variety of questions. On the episode of the daytime game show she recorded, host and comedian Steve Harvey asks the contestants to answer a rather loaded statement: “Name a reason a woman might decide to be with a chubby [or fat] man.” This, as one might imagine, ends up being a rather humorous round for the contestants, Steve Harvey, and the audience.
But my sister didn’t share this video on her Facebook page to garner laughs from her friends and family. It was quite the opposite, actually: my sister was angry at the round’s subject and the subsequent answers given. More specifically, my sister said:
“This really bothers me! This is why people think you have to be skinny/fit to be beautiful, to be wanted, to be loved, and to deserve anything…this is NOT OKAY!”
My sister tagged me in this post knowing my background in fat studies and sexuality studies (and as a fat masculine person), knowing I would agree with her frustrations.
The one thing this particular round of Family Feud does correctly is summarize many of the unfortunate myths our society perpetuates about fat people—specifically, fat men—and relationships.
In keeping with TBINAA’s theme of fighting body terrorism in search of radical self love and acceptance, we will be looking at the various myths this episode lists, how they’re harmful, and how they are simply not true.
“Fatty Got Money!” (Fat Men Are Only Valuable For Their Money or Power)
The myth: The fact that this myth is the most popular of the 6 given answers—34 of the 100 people originally surveyed gave this or a similar answer—is troubling in and of itself. This myth is something we see play out throughout the various facets of American culture, whether it’s movies or politics or pop culture. If a classically attractive person of any gender is with a fat man, the general assumption is that this fat man has to have money, or some sort of power otherwise. Why else would someone who could presumably get with anyone they wanted choose to be with a disgusting fat man, right? This kind of thought is extremely damaging for a lot of fat men, placing all of their value as people into the money or power they may or may not have.
The truth: While there are, of course, some people who only seek relationships for money or power, the truth of the matter is that quite often, people will choose to be with a fat man because they actually want to be with him. This myth is much less often applied to skinny or “fit” men, unless of course that person is known to have money or power. But it’s much easier for people to understand two skinny/traditionally attractive people being together because they’re attracted to each other than when a skinny/traditionally attractive person chooses to be with a fat man for other, less superficial reasons.
More Radical Reads: Moving from Healthism to Radical Self-Love: The Man in the Photo
“She’s Fat/Digs Food” (Fat People Only Like Other Fat People)
The myth: With this myth, we have an example of how people attempt to take the agency away from fat people, and really people in general. The assumption behind this myth is twofold, where people will only be attracted to or seek relationships with a) people who look like them, or b) people who society deems as attractive. We’ll talk about point “b” in the next section. What is most directly shown in this survey answer is the idea that fat people will only be able to have relationships with other fat people, whether it’s because they only find other fat people attractive or because that’s all they can get, in the most brutal of terms. Slipped into this myth is a related double-edged myth that all fat people love to eat a lot of food, and all people who love to eat food are fat.
The truth: Put plainly, the assumption that fat people will only seek relationships with other fat people is incredibly false. In some ways, this myth is contradictory with another myth that claims fat men only want to be with traditionally attractive people. Primarily, though, it’s important and unfortunately necessary that fat men will be attracted to a wide variety of people of all shapes and sizes, and the same goes for fat women. That doesn’t mean that fat people will only ever be with fat people, and to assume so is at the very least ignorant, if not completely fatphobic and sizeist.
“She’ll Look Better” (Fat Men Are Unattractive)
The myth: Fat men, under any and all circumstances, are unattractive to all people. More specifically, this myth assumes that all fat men are inherently less attractive to all people than any partner they could ever have. That partner is only using fat men to appear more attractive by comparison. This myth makes the assumption that, as mentioned above, no one could conceivably be in a relationship with a fat man because they’re actually attracted to him. Fat people are simply tools to achieve a higher sense of desirability to potential future partners.
The truth: Just as some people might pursue a fat man for money or power, some people might only pursue fat men to seem more attractive to others. In reality, though, this seems to be less common than this answer would have us believe. I’ll keep repeating the point, even if I sound like a broken record: some people actually find fat men attractive! This myth is another example of how our culture’s perceptions of fat men removes any non-superficial agency from anyone who chooses to be with them.
“He’s Warm/Cuddly” (Fat Men Are Good For Cuddling…But Not Sex)
The myth: This is one of those “positive stereotypes” many folks who shy away from “political correctness” try to use in their blatant bigotry, similar to “all Asians are smart” or “all gay men are fashionable and confident.” The issue with “positive stereotypes” is the fact that they automatically alienate anyone who doesn’t fit in with those stereotypes or, even worse, anyone who wants to be seen as more than just what society wills upon them. Fat men are stereotyped as being warm and cuddly, but not much else on the “positive” side of stereotyping. This survey answer works in tandem with an answer given by one of the contestants that ended up not being on the board: the fat man in question is good at sex. Steve Harvey, in his “comedic” fashion, acts as if this is the most outrageous answer in the world, as the other contestants and the audience laugh in agreement with the host. So we have another double-edged myth on our hands: fat men can be warm/cuddly, but they can never be seen as sexual beings, let alone being seen as possibly “good” at sex.
The truth: While many fat men are indeed “warm and cuddly,” it’s inherently harmful to fat men as human beings to see this as their only positive trait. This blatant objectification of fat men’s bodies is the result of what the above myths have done to remove any other positive aspects of what we think of when we look at fat men. The only redeeming quality our culture puts forth for fat men—if they aren’t rich or powerful, and not even 100% of the time—is that they’re like fluffy teddy bears as opposed to, you know, human beings with other desires. This stereotype (more than a blatant myth I supposed) is damning for many fat men who want to be seen as more than warm, cuddly teddy bears. To go along with that notion, what someone perceives as being good or bad at sex is completely subjective, and there is nothing concrete to imply that all fat men, regardless of their “cuddliness,” are bad at pleasing their partners sexually.
“He Won’t Cheat” (Fat Men Are Too Desperate For Love To Be Unfaithful)
The myth: As a culmination of the various implications of the above-listed myths, this myth implies that fat men simply won’t ever cheat on their partners for, again, two reasons: either a) he wouldn’t do anything to ruin the “only sure thing” he has in his current relationship, and/or b) no one else would want to be with him. This survey answer assumes that fat men are so inherently desperate for sexual and romantic attention that they are the only men who would never be unfaithful to their current partner.
The truth: To put it bluntly, this is straight up wrong. As damning as it may be to admit, fat men are just as likely as any other man to cheat on their partners. There’s no way to actually quantifiably justify the assumption that fat men are any less or more likely to be unfaithful than anyone else. On the flipside of this, though, this myth posits that fat men are so unattractive that no one would give them a chance to cheat on their partners, which, again, is also completely wrong to assume. It’s hard to categorize this as either a “positive stereotype” or a blatant lie to make everyone involved feel bad about themselves and their decisions.
More Radical Reads: 5 Myths That Are Keeping You From Having a Fabulous Fattitude
Conclusion… (Myths: Busted)
As with any myths and stereotypes about a group of people, these five survey answers on Family Feud show the blatant body terrorism fat men are subjected to in our culture. Despite what these myths will have you believe, fat men are actually desirable and attractive for many other people, including the implied women in this round of the show. It shouldn’t be so hard to imagine that fat men can be attractive to others, especially to the point that the answers of “he’s good in bed” or—the only actually positive answer to be on the board—“she loves him” shouldn’t be scoffed or laughed at as ridiculous opinions.
There’s of course much more to be discussed on this topic, not only in how fat men are seen and treated, but also how these and other myths apply to fat women and fat folks of other gender identities. It’s a reminder that we have a ton of work to do to achieve any sort of across-the-board levels of respect that will make these myths and any negative perceptions related to them obsoleted modes of thought instead of the largely accepted norms.
[Feature image: Individual with dark skin sits indoors wearing a whit t-shirt and baseball cap as they stare with a slight grin into the camera. They have a low fade cut and beard.]