When someone writes something that you 100 per cent know was just written for the reaction, the best thing to do is ignore it. I know this. Yet here I am, writing about Giles Coren’s article in Esquire this morning that is so obviously a troll he may as well have written it while crouching under a bridge. Thing is, when I read the headline “I Don't Care What My Son Becomes... As Long As He Isn't Overweight” it hurt so much that I was either going to write about it or go outside and scream.
The rest of Coren’s article is basically what you’d expect from the headline – he is convinced that his son, Sam, is fat, and is worried that he will grow up to be a fat adult. Somehow, though, Coren has managed to make this even more offensive than the headline initially suggests.
There’s the part where he talks about people such as Adele, Paul Hollywood and Diane Abbott and describes them as “ostensibly successful, yes, but laughable to behold with their untucked shirts and stretched, shiny faces”. The bit where he says of fat people that he’d like to “kill them all and render them down for candles”. The bit where he worries about how Sam’s weight will reflect on him, because “each actual fat person is blatantly just a badly brought-up, greedy little son of a bitch”. And, my favourite part, the bit where he says he’s not bothered if Sam is a “crackhead or alcoholic” – as long as he’s not fat.
He demanded that his wife go on a diet and lose the baby weight after their second child, eventually doing the ‘cunning thing’ of planning a holiday with thin friends so that she went on a diet
Not content with being horrifically, cruelly fatphobic, Coren also decides to tick off a few other items on his dickhead bingo card: ableism (“He looks a bit r***rded because his mum took him for a haircut on the morning of the photo shoot”), misogyny (“There are uses for a fat woman. She can be kind of cosy”) and sexism (“My wife is not the moral absolutist that I am and she is the one who does the Ocado orders. And cooks most of the food. But is a bit of a lazy tart. Sorry – a busy working mother”).
And this isn’t the first time Coren has been a total dick about weight. Someone on Twitter pointed out that, when his son was born, Coren wrote a piece for Mother & Baby magazine about how he demanded that his wife go on a diet and lose the baby weight after their second child, eventually doing the “cunning thing” of planning a holiday with some super-thin friends so that his wife felt so terrible about how she looked in comparison that she went on a diet. He also signs off this article using the same joke about having your jaw wired shut that he uses in the Esquire one, which is lazy as well as really shitty.
Obese workers are less likely to be hired, less likely to be promoted and will earn less than their slim counterparts
I know some people will be reading this and thinking that I’m overreacting and that this doesn’t matter. But the thing is, opinions like this being published and legitimised does matter. I first saw this article because of a tweet by Emily Reynolds, and one of the replies to her is this gem: “People are rightly judged if slovenly… In the hiring decisions I’ve had a hand in those overweight did not have a chance all other things being equal.”
This man’s opinion is backed up by stats – a study by Monster has shown that obese workers are less likely to be hired, less likely to be promoted and will earn less than their slim counterparts. And it’s not just in the workplace that overweight people suffer – doctors take our medical complaints less seriously, we are more likely to be found guilty in court than our thin counterparts and fat children are less popular and less confident than other children.
If Coren’s article included any of those fears, any kind of understanding of the culture of disgust and prejudice around fat bodies, I could understand it. Instead, he dedicated 1,000 words to making fun of fat people and contributed to the toxic culture he’s supposedly worried his son will be a victim of. If only he’d write about weight and parenting with half of the thought and consideration as his brilliant sister Victoria did last year.
I’m bored of tired, stale rent-a-gobs like Giles Coren and Katie Hopkins making fun of fat people when they want attention but can’t think of anything original to say
I’m really bored of fatphobia. It still hurts initially, but eventually I just get frustrated that we’re still doing this. I’m bored of the arguments with strangers who feel they have the right to comment on my body and whether I have the right to exist in the same way a thin person does. I’m bored of meeting a new person or watching a new TV show/film and being hit by a joke about how fat people are lazy or unattractive within the first five minutes. And I’m bored of tired, stale rent-a-gobs like Giles Coren and Katie Hopkins making fun of fat people when they want attention but can’t think of anything original to say.
I can’t argue that life wouldn’t have been easier for me if I had been slim. I can understand why a father would be worried about his son’s weight, and there are some interesting points in Coren’s article about nutrition and young children and how to encourage them to eat and live healthily. Unfortunately, they’re buried under so much bile it’s hard to extract them. And I also can’t argue that my weight has stopped me being successful – I’m married, I have a good job, a great circle of friends, and I’m in good health. But maybe that’s because my parents always said, “I don’t care what you become, as long as you’re happy.” And supportive, non-judgemental parents do far more good for a child than a 30in waist. Just a thought.