Over the weekend, YouTube comedian, Nicole Arbour, ignited debate about body image and fat shaming after posting a video on her channel titled “Dear Fat People”.
In the 6-minute rant criticizing overweight people, Arbour claims that overweight people are taking their bodies for granted, and that fat shaming does not exist. Arbour even implies that people should shame overweight people so that they stop their eating habits.
“Fat shaming is not a thing,” Arbour said. “Fat people made that up – that’s the race card with no race.”
The Canadian comedian also said, “If we offend you so much that you lose weight, I’m ok with that. You are killing yourself.”
Arbour quickly came under fire from body image advocates on YouTube and across the country for her remarks. Prominent fellow YouTubers such as Tyler Oakley and Grace Helbig weighed in on the situation, saying that comedy is not an excuse for criticizing someone’s appearance.
“To me, it looks like you’re using a controversial, personal subject to leverage subscribers and attention in a really negative way, which really bums me out because comedy can really be amazingly powerful and positive,” Helbig said in a response video posted on her YouTube channel.
As of Sept. 8, Arbour’s video “Dear Fat People” has been viewed nearly 1.5 million times. This video has been viewed by many Utica College students and has elicited a negative reaction from them.
“I don’t think anyone’s appearance should ever be the topic for comedy,” occupational therapy student Andrea Schultheis said. “I think as long as someone is comfortable with the way they look, other people should respect that.”
Body image is an important issue in the United States and on UC’s campus. According to Brown University, nearly 80 percent and 50 percent of “normal-weight” women and men think about their weight frequently. Research has shown that poor body image and negative reinforcement about one’s body increases the risks of developing extreme weight control habits such as eating disorders and laxative abuse.
“I definitely think that body shaming is an issue,” Amanda Nardozzi, a senior public relations student said. “I feel that everyone should be able to live their lives the way that they want to and not have to be judged by others.”
Arbour’s video not only caught the attention of the Internet but also by YouTube’s parent company Google. On Sept. 6, Arbour’s YouTube channel was temporarily suspended after being reported by users for violating the website’s community standards. Arbour quickly responded on Twitter, claiming she is the first comedian on YouTube to be censored. The channel has since been restored. Since Nicole Arbour posted the video, her channel has gained nearly 40,000 new subscribers.
“If the same video was put up, but instead replaced weight with race as the topic it would have been taken down,” Schultheis said. “The YouTuber has the right to say whatever she wants, but I do think what she said was harmful to society. I’m going to assume a lot of YouTube viewers are younger, and that video wasn’t a good role model for children growing up with so many other pressures around them.”
The YouTube comedian claimed from the beginning that the video is not to be taken seriously but as comedic entertainment. Some compared Arbour’s brand of comedy with fellow comedians Kathy Griffin and Joan Rivers who have made a career of criticizing people’s appearances.
“It’s a hard position. Because of course I don’t agree with shaming people for their bodies,” junior Jesse Haggerty said. “But there are comedians that are wildly famous for making fun of their own bodies. Biggest example is Gabriel Iglesias.”