Headless fat people were going about their business, one person was walking at a fair clip another was paused mid step checking their phone.
Interspersed with these images were thin White women in workout wear buying lots of brightly colored vegetables. And at the end there was a photo of a perplexed looking Fat Lady with a head looking confusedly between a large cake and an apple.
The inference here, though it wasn't stated was that fat people are too stupid to know the difference between vegetables and cake. That those headless mystery fat people must be fat because they clearly don't know how to buy vegetables.
The actual commercial was supposed to be a nutritional PSA.
Now if we are to believe the messages this is what we learn:
- Nice White Ladies in Workout wear would never buy or eat cake.
- Nice White Ladies in Workout wear are really proud of themselves when they buy celery.
- Headless fat people just walking around being fat and dehumanized are too dumb to eat vegetables.
- Fat women can't parse the difference between a cake and an apple.
In this case the message was ruined by the delivery.
Here's the thing. I am all for health and food PSAs. However when these things target only people who don't look, healthy the message becomes a problem.
I put a large part of the terror over The Obesity, down to campaigns like this. Rather than presenting good healthful information with a wide variety of bodies representing that information, the target is always fat people.
It amazes me when I see how many people don't believe if one looks healthy or thing that one can't possibly be unhealthy. That attitude is not only toxic to our mental health (yes you thin people too) but also dangerous.
Rather than the lessons we learned in elementary school things like eat vegetables so you can grow up big and strong, we get the message that eating well or exercising is so we won't get fat.
Rather than the message being that eating well and exercising is good for all of our bodies, the fat body is deemed absolutely unhealthy and at the bottom of a binarist view of health and the thin body is healthy.
One of the things I would like to see happen if we're really going to act like we care about the general health of people is a reduction in this type of scare tactic OH SHIT DON'T GET FAT type of thing.
Part of the ramifications of what society has done is to traumatize a lot of people out of caring about their health.
People have been so abused by our culture and by the people who are supposed to be the ones who help us be as healthy can we can be, they cannot engage with their own health or fitness because it is painful for them.
Let's look at it like this.
Let us pretend you have a puppy and every time that puppy walks on grass you hit it and yell at it. The puppy grows up and doesn't want to be hit so they don't go onto the grass. Would you wonder why?
If the answer is yes you are an abusive person and I suggest seeking therapy.
If you doubt my metaphor ask yourself this. If you can believe that an animal can be abused to the point that they are afraid of grass or men or tall people etc, how is it that much more of a stretch to understand that people can be abused out of their own health care?
Doctors and nurses snickering at you, rolling their eyes at you if you assert yourself or try too hard to get adequate treatment. If you don' absolutely bow down to the weightloss as curative for everything, you are branded a "bad" patient. A fat person can't often times just go to the gym without being stared at and people being ugly.
All of those stresses mount up to a lot of people who just can't engage with health or fitness talk at all because of how abused they have been surrounding their bodies.
That is wrong.
What we need is instead of a moralistic finger pointing greedy weightloss industry is some facts.
Why is it so hard for the people who do these things to say, if you are sedentary (note how weight is not mentioned here) you might be at risk for X set of problems. How about we lower your chances?
Instead of a commercial showing a befuddled fat woman with cake and an apple, why not have a medium average sized person, saying I would like to eat an apple. No cake needs to be involved because I will go out on a limb and assume that we all know the difference between fucking cake and an apple.
Instead of banking on shame why not infuse some joy?
Here's what I propose. People with bodies reject this ideology. Thin person at the doctor, when your doctor praises your thinness say can you not do that? Remind your doctor that maybe you don't exercise and maybe you don't eat all that well and tha no, you have not accomplished anything awesome by not being fat.
I'm serious. Anybody can do this. When people praise you for not looking unhealthy, feel free to school them.
Similarly if people want to lecture or talk down t you because you don't look healthy or thin school them too. One of my personal fvorite tactics is to aggressively question people like that about how they got ahold of my medical records and if they are stealing my identity. BEcause the bare naked fact is, the only way someone would know my BP, blood sugar numbers or whether or not I was about to drop dead at any moment. would be for them to have looked at my actual medical records.
I don't believe that cultural change on the issues of fatnessis going to come from the top down. If we can change the cultue in our immediate vicinitysome stuff can be done.. Maybe you mention a fat blog or other body politics to someone who then starts implementing something they read about in their lives. Maybe they just stop talking badly about their own body.
People they talk to will probably notice this and want to talk to them about it.
People talk. They blog. They do what comes naturally.
This is how we will change things in my view. From the micro to the macro. We may not be able to stop the headless fatty commercials or force health care people to treat us like human beings but damn it, we can make those changes in our own lives and hope that they spread.