On Wednesday, size-22 model Tess Holliday shared a video of her Uber driver questioning her health based on her size. “My driver who is fat is questioning if I’m healthy,” Holliday wrote over the video.
The brief snippet of their conversation shown in the video revealed the driver asked about her cholesterol levels, to which she replied, “My cholesterol is fine, I’m perfect. Yup, I’m healthy.”
In her caption, Holliday added that after she told the driver that she is healthy, he turned off the radio and changed the subject. Holliday also stated that she would boycott Uber from then on.
Many supporters came to Holliday’s defense, arguing that the driver represents Uber and is providing a paid service, not giving a health screening. “Regardless of anything anyone feels is ‘obvious’ when they see someone super plus sized or extra rail thin, comments, statements, remarks, or questions about someone’s health status or body type are very personal and rude,” one commenter wrote.
Not everybody agreed with Holliday’s decision to comment on her driver’s weight, though, and others didn’t see the harm in his questions. “This is the biggest contradiction I have ever seen,” one critic wrote. “You go on about body shaming yet you film a man and call him fat and put it on social media. Not once did he call you fat; he was simply asking you a question about you.”
Another suggested: “Perhaps he only asked you about your cholesterol because he is worried about his own and wanted to connect with you over something you perhaps could help him with. He was not insulting you by showing his concern for your health. I think you might be projecting your own thoughts onto him. He turned the radio off because it must have been awkward, and changed the topic because he was trying to be polite. Please try to practice the compassion you deserve for others as well.”
Holliday later edited her caption to add that she called the driver fat as a “descriptor and not to insult him. Also I did not show his face or use his name when filming; it was to be able to show what I deal with daily and why this behavior is unacceptable from anyone.”
Still, many commenters thought Holliday’s qualifying comments were off base. “You’re a hypocrite. And the change in your caption doesn’t change the fact that you chose to post a video (the guy was wrong in what he said, btw), then label it the way you did. You didn’t need to point out his weight to get your message across,” one critic wrote.
Holliday went on to post a series of videos explaining herself and the message that she hoped her original post would achieve.
“I feel like most people are missing the point of this,” Holliday began. “Do I think that he was being rude by saying these things to me? Do I think that he was doing them maliciously? No, I don’t. But that’s the problem.”
She continued: “He was shaming me and giving me unsolicited advice about my body based on the way I look and my size, which is wrong. … No one, ever, regardless of your size, should give you unsolicited health advice. … That’s the point of the post.”
Unsolicited advice, particularly surrounding health, is indeed frustrating and generally unhelpful. Author Toni Bernhard lives with a chronic illness and points out in her Psychology Today column that she often receives unsolicited health advice from people who do genuinely care about her health and are “as frustrated as she is” that she is living with pain. Bernhard has explored her health with top doctors and done extensive research to find the best option for her, and ultimately wants to stick to the plan that she is working with, not question herself or defend her decisions as a result of unsolicited advice.
From a psychological perspective, unsolicited advice is more selfish than it appears at surface level. “Consider that if, deep down, inveterate advice-givers view their worth on the basis of how well they compare to others, they must remain (however unconsciously) in eternal competition with you,” writes psychologist Leon F. Seltzer Ph.D. “Such individuals, firmly entrenched in the ego-gratifying habit of telling others what they should do, rarely can wait to be asked for their opinion. Routinely anxious to declare that they know something you don’t, they’re apt to offer suggestions or solutions prematurely.”
Seltzer added: “Not that their remedies aren’t generally well-intentioned. But there’s still a certain element of righteous self-satisfaction in how these opinions are volunteered. Which is why you might harbor vague, uneasy suspicions that what they’re proposing may somehow be meant as much for themselves as for you.”
Many of Holliday’s fans agree. “I hate when people feel like they have the right to comment on your body, especially by masking it with concerns/questions about health. It’s so disgusting that it’s socially acceptable to shake and put down people who are bigger,” one commenter wrote. “A comment like that sounds like maybe he is seeking an answer to diminish his own insecurities since you are confident about your image and your lifestyle and he probably isn’t. Some people seem to project their insecurities onto others so that they may find a way to accept themselves.”
Regardless of whether you believe somebody is handling their health optimally, try not to offer up your opinion about other people’s bodies or what they choose to do with them if they haven’t asked for your advice.
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