Mindy Kaling challenges the Fat Sea Monster

A reader and old friend of mine recently asked for my feedback on a clip from Jimmy Kimmel Live featuring Mindy Kaling. She was fresh from an interview with Vogue where she talked about not needing or wanting to be skinny. She and Jimmy discussed the article, and the feedback she’s received since.

She made a lot of good points, particularly regarding how it shouldn’t be weird for someone to want to be the size that they are, and in that way she really isn’t a role model. Her main point, however, was oftentimes people disguise criticism as compliment by praising her boldness for not feeling “like she needs to subscribe to the ideals of beauty”. She followed up with an echoic, comparative statement that initially sounded like she was putting them in their place: “It’s so refreshing that Mindy feels comfortable that she can let herself go and be a fat sea monster”. She then made sure to let the audience know that she works out and runs all the time, as a qualifier.

What Mindy is actually saying with all of this is that she has a normal body (whatever that means), and it shouldn’t be a big deal for others to accept it. It’s not like she’s huge, or weird, or lazy, or tentacled.

This video is a good example of a trend I am seeing where women are reclaiming their bodies as “normal” and saying size shouldn’t matter. Except if you are too big. Too big is bad. Also, don’t be too skinny. There is a new “normal” that doesn’t include the very fat or the very thin.

One of the last things Mindy said regarded courage. She mocked people for calling her courageous for wearing a mid-drift top. For some women, even wearing a sleeveless top is a panic-inducing premise. People are made to feel insecure about themselves on a daily basis to the point that it impacts how they dress themselves, and how they present themselves to the world. It does take courage to stand up to daily abuse, and it does take courage to look inside oneself and find the strength to love yourself inside and out. Mindy minimized this struggle so flippantly that I now share her irritation at her idolization.

4 thoughts on “Mindy Kaling challenges the Fat Sea Monster

  1. You’re irritated that Mindy Kaling says that her choice of clothing isn’t heroic. But by being angry at that and saying “No, it is a highly courageous act to bare yourself to the world when you’re larger than the ideal”, you’re reinforcing the idea that fat=bad.

    Self-love is a struggle for women (and men) of all sizes. Clothing choices can make people of all sizes feel insecure and imperfect. I think what she was saying is that, in the big picture, clothing isn’t a huge deal. There are bigger things in the world, bigger issues, real courage being shown every day.

    I guess what I’m really trying to get at here is that most of the population would feel self-conscious or brave on some level for wearing a midriff top. But to emphasize the courage that it takes for an overweight person to make the same choices as a skinny or “normal” person shows that despite your struggle to the contrary, you have the same biases as mainstream society – that fat is unattractive. So maybe go a little easier on all of us out here in society who have biases. We’re all just human.


    • SOCIETY conditions us to think fat is bad. If someone calls you stupid on a daily basis, ridicules you, and treats you in a way that makes you feel less than human, it DOES take courage to step out from that hate and express yourself. Skinny/”normal” people have privilege that fat people do not have, regardless of their status as a member of the human race. Acknowledging the privilege, calling it out, it does NOT reinforce the idea that being a fat person is bad.

      Consider, instead of resigning to bias, that you could instead contribute as an ally. There is nothing wrong with being thin or fat. What is wrong is to whitewash the issue, or pretend it’s not a big deal.


  2. Consider, instead of resigning to bias, you leave behind the victim mentality and concentrate your efforts on being the person you want to be, whoever that may be.


    • I am the person I want to be. I stand up for my rights and the rights of others. I call out discrimination and victim blaming when I see it. I advocate for a group of marginalized people who are vilified daily for simply existing. Frankly, I am pretty badass.


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