Martha Stewart: Fat-Shaming ‘Diet Culture’ Oppressor

(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

Yesterday, I wrote about how, for our sins, an angry God had inflicted a Martha Stewart Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover on the world. Turns out I wasn’t the only one appalled by this development. Elyse Wanshel at Huffington Post was too. But while I was slut-shaming Grandma, Wanshel was tut-tutting Grandma for fat-shaming others. Welcome to the latest installment of Things Lefties Care About.


“While debuting her cover exclusively with the “Today” show on Monday, “ wrote Wanshel, “Stewart was laser-focused on spreading messages that some who have experienced eating disorders, or feel insecure about their own aging bodies, may find frustrating.”

No, Stewart was laser-focused on Stewart, basking in cheap attention. The only message she was spreading was “Look at me!”

 “To be on the cover at my age was a challenge. And I think I met the challenge.”

She then went into detail about how she met this “challenge” using rhetoric straight out of diet culture — or a system of beliefs that equates thinness with health and moral virtue, classifies certain ways of eating as good or bad, and encourages weight loss at all costs.

Oh, dear. An octogenarian makes an embarrassing spectacle of herself and Wanshel sees it as a chance to apply critical fat theory. In truth, nothing Stewart said about preparing for the shoot or looking the way she does was at all extreme. She gave up carbs and did pilates.

But then Stewart had the nerve to throw genetics in people’s plus-size faces:

“My mom was my role model,” said Stewart, referring to a throwback photo Stewart posted of her mother for Mother’s Day on Sunday. “After four kids, she was still wearing a two-piece bathing suit. And she still had two more after that, and she was still wearing a two-piece bathing suit, so that’s pretty fabulous. My genes are good.”

(For the record, anyone, regardless of size, should feel free to wear a two-piece bathing suit if they want.)


For the record, no.

But it turns out that Stewart, when she’s not tokin’ it up with Snoop Dog, is a tool of patriarchal oppression.

The problem with upholding diet culture, argues Christy Harrison, a registered dietitian and the author of “Anti-Diet,” is that it oppresses people who don’t meet a supposed “health” ideal. This, in turn, “disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health,” Harrison explains on her website.

Stewart’s narcissism may be off-putting, but she’s not responsible for those people, however many identity boxes they check. She’s not bound to run every statement or action through the fat-femme-trans-color-disabled well-being computer model to make sure she doesn’t trigger a victim.

Obviously, she wasn’t considering Wanshel’s feelings before making “remarks equating thinness with moral superiority by describing her lifestyle as ‘good living’ and a ‘clean life’ ― terms that appear to be about wellness rather than diet.” You do come off rather judgy there, Martha.

And, yes, it should be said that Stewart is posing for an issue of a magazine that is the embodiment of Western beauty ideals. While it’s certainly nice to see an older woman like Stewart included, it might have been more revolutionary if someone who broke more beauty standards — and didn’t subscribe to and amplify diet culture — made the cover.


Got that, SI? We’ll be expecting the 2024 Body-Positive Swimsuit Issue.


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