Some time ago I have found in a Facebook group, the cover photo of a magazine with a fat female model, and the author of this post was asking what did people think about the promotion of obesity in this way. The post reached over 500 comments in the moment when I left the group, since I felt that the conversation was being pointless and I didn´t want to be part of something that is bringing harm to the society. It is important to mention that the group was meant for people affected by a disease that actually makes people fat, and I guess that almost all the people there, were fat.
Just to give you an example of some of the comments that were being frequently repeated:
- You can have a little body of 5 kg overweight because it is overweight but this cover tells people that they don’t have to take care of how their body looks like (I don’t mean aesthetic issues because it’s a matter of taste) and then people think that it’s ok to be thick.
- Unpalatable, you promote obesity
- It has always seemed to me that media people have money to invest in themselves, not thinking about scalpel interference, but it is possible to hire a personal trainer instead of unhealthy food to order some kind of dietary catering.
- So I believe that admiring such a look is also sick.
- In my opinion, this already too much, i.e. up to 46, it is even plus size. The woman in the picture has a lot of obesity and I don’t think you can pretend that it’s cool.
- A heavily obese woman will never look good. She can try, and people will laugh anyway. Well looked after/not looked after? Does anyone care? When a person is thick, we still look at him through the prism of his pounds.
- heinous grazing sow (hope it was well translated since I was not able to so I used the translator)
- In my opinion, this is telling people that such obesity is cool, normal. Unfortunately, it is not.
- Promotes obesity. Maybe externally is happy but certainly has many complexes and so it is really handicapped because of disability. Because also joints sit down, all is wiped off… It is unbelievable to anyone that such a form is happy and acceptable. Let us know moderation. Not to please one another, but for ourselves, for our health and fitness.
And it was going on and on. There were as well very aggressive comments that were immediately eliminated by moderators.
So, let´s translate those comments to what they really mean
Unfortunately, we are living in a society where the media tell us how we should be, and often define our live decisions. It should not be like this, and I highly appreciate people who fight against it, and stop trying to define what is normal.
In case of this conversation (under the Facebook post mentioned above) it was highly underlined that being fat is not normal, using plenty of arguments, including the ones regarding health. I promise you, fat people don´t need to be permanently reminded that there are different health related risks connected to their situation, in the same way as smoking, consuming alcohol or highly stressful jobs. I don´t want to enter into the discussion if it is possible to lose weight or not, in some cases yes, in some cases no, and in some cases the costs of losing weight can be higher than the benefits of it. There is one thing that is sure, if we will keep telling fat people that they are not normal, instead of being happy, enjoying their lives and possibly doing everything in their power to stay healthy, they might develop mental diseases, and their lives would become even harder.
The second message that those comments are bringing up is the issue of visibility versus promotion of being fat. In case of this photo, people have felt shocked and reacted strongly, since the fat girl is a model, occupation which is associated with being very high and thin. At the same time, if we will decode the comments we can read that if you are fat you should not be on the cover of a magazine, because you promote obesity. So, let´s say a fat girl won the Nobel prize and ends up in a magazine’s cover: I guess this rule as well should apply to her, since what is a difference if the person who promotes the obesity is a model or Nobel prize winner? The ¨promotion¨ is the same. My question to the people who are against the ¨promotion of obesity¨ is: how invisible do you want us to be? Are you asking fat people to resign from the basic human rights of being visible? What is the difference between a fat model or a fat musician, politician, facilitator, PR consultant, or any other job that requires getting out from your bed and interacting with people, having photos taken, and simply being seen?
You get me, right?
Fat people need to be more visible
It is estimated that the 51.6 % of the EU’s population (18 and over) overweight in 2014. In some European countries the number of people overweight or having obesity may be as high as 90% of the population. Unfortunately this is not being well represented in TV and internet, what we see is the part of the society which is slim; definitely the representation of fat people in media is not proportional to how it is in reality.
Some people say that it is because fat people don’t want to be on photos, videos, TV and visible in general. It is partly true. Working with different fat people and learning their stories, mine included, I have observed the tendency of hiding. And I totally understand it. It takes a lot of gut to put yourself out there, to be visible and listen to all those comments that people do, to feel judged, to listen permanently that ¨this is not normal¨, like the comments mentioned above.
This is a kind of a vicious circle that needs to be broken. Fat people often are withdrawing themselves from being visible, because of fear, low self-esteem, and knowing that they will be bullied because “the world is like this”. On the other side since there is only one body-size promoted (maybe two or three, but let´s be honest all of them slim), and because fat people are not visible, anyone who is appearing publicly and is fat provokes a lot of comments and attention, because it is ¨not normal¨, in the sense of something that people don´t see often.
The lack of visibility is leading to a lot of microaggressions, or you can rather call it structural violence. For example, the lack of fat models (or very limited number), is actually influencing that is fat person wants to buy clothes will not know how they will look like on them. Young girls need role models to understand that they can be fat and successful, fat and with an amazing intimate life, fat and popular, fat and strong etc. By making fat people invisible, you are leaving on of the most discriminated groups without role models, meaning without one of the important factors of becoming strong enough to stand for its rights.
Some final reflection
If you are fat, you know that you are fat, and there is no need for society, TV, friends, family, doctors and everybody to permanently keep reminding you that you are not fine, that you are not normal. We leave in a society where one picture cannot change the way how the people think about the fat community, and in the society where we leave it is simply impossible to promote being ¨fat¨ with one photo, with one fat model.
On the other hand, this one fat model can help a lot, can help accept ourselves and live our lives, can help to stop hiding. Yes, the problem of obesity is a lot connected with invisibility!
You will never help by attacking, this is draining the brains of fat people even more and more, and makes them feel invisible, hidden, that leads to being unsocial and to other different serious consequences. Let them be visible. Let us be visible.