Thursday, July 14, 2011

This is so the worst thing you're going to read all day.

[Trigger warning for fat hatred, body policing, disordered eating.]

Actual Headline: So much for the obesity epidemic.

Actual Lede: "Despite the obesity epidemic, North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin, and Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis are pushing legislation to encourage the media to produce healthier images of women. They say women and girls feel overly pressured to be thin."

There is literally so much wrong with the way the "obesity epidemic" and a campaign to promote "more positive images of girls in the media" are juxtaposed here that I hardly know where to begin.

I'll let you tease out all the nuances in comments, and just quickly note my three biggest issues with this construction:

1. Within that headline and lede, there's an implicit suggestion that the cultural imperatives on girls and women to be thin and sexy is somehow a curative against obesity. Obviously, that's problematic for a dozen different reasons, not least of which is its inaccuracy. Our cultural obsession with thinness and the sexualization (and sexual abuse) of girls and women is associated with disordered eating, both compulsive self-denial of food and compulsive eating.

2. Treating a campaign to promote "more positive images of girls in the media" as a mutually exclusive concept from concern about the "obesity epidemic," or what I will redefine more appropriately as concern for fat people with disordered eating who need and want help, is dependent not only on treating "positive" and "obese" as opposite concepts, but also on ignoring that the campaign is not just talking about physical healthfulness. To have "more positive images of girls in the media" is to include images of fat female people who are happy and living full lives and serving a greater purpose than the butt of jokes, and to include images of girls and women who are whole beings and not one-dimensional cardboard cut-out sex objects. A lot goes in to creating a woman (or man) with disordered eating. This campaign is one small part of prevention.

3. For fuck's sake, the campaign isn't just about bodies. And OH THE HILARITRAGIC IRONY of an article covering a campaign that seeks to encourage media not to reduce female people to their bodies by talking exclusively about female bodies.

If your takeaway from three powerful and passionate women launching a campaign to diversify the way female people are presented in the media is OH NOES THEY DON'T CARE IF WOMEN GET FAT, you have missed. the. point.