Stand Up to Body Shaming

From some questionable tweets by Benefit Cosmetics UK and the now infamous Old Navy incident, body shaming seems to be in fashion these days.

This is not surprising since our consumer-based culture, via media, medicine, and state actions, legitimizes ideologies that privilege the thin body and shed an unflattering spotlight on the fat body.

In popular culture, the 2008 Pixar film, Wall-E, portrays the dire consequences of technological dependence on our physical bodies, where we become fat and lazy folk who sit glued to our television screens.

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humans in Wall-E

In the film, humans feed on fast food, have robots cater to them, and hover around on chaise lounges to the detriment of their own muscles that have atrophied to the point of immobility. This scenario perpetuates many fat myths (i.e., beliefs that those who are fat are unhealthy, asexual, incompetent, jolly, lazy, ugly, bitchy, etc.) and reaffirms contemporary bodily aesthetics that value thinness.

Also in the film, the advertisements for the latest red- or blue-centric fashions contained slender models instead of more representative fat ones. Even in the Wall-E universe where everyone is fat, the fashion models must be thin!

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fashion ads in Wall-E

In Hollywood, it is funny to mock larger bodies; fat is a punch line, as most recently illustrated by Benefit Cosmetics UK’s regrettable participation in the #MakeAMovieAFatty campaign.

These kinds of images and campaigns that present an unflattering image of fat saturate the entire media landscape and contribute to weight bias similar to that experienced by the woman who overheard a teenage girl and her mom ridicule the size of a plus-size tank top while shopping in Old Navy.

As empirical studies have shown in detail, we equate fatness with a lack of self-discipline, laziness, and even stupidity. Experimental studies on weight bias point to the pervasiveness of negative attitudes toward fat in multiple settings including employment, education, healthcare, and the media. Contemporary American society discriminates against fat, a point made clear in one study where even fat respondents showed an implicit preference for thin people, as well as an implicit stereotyping of fat people as lazy. Likewise, in a study of health professionals, obesity specialists exhibited significant anti-fat bias, associating the stereotypes of “lazy,” “stupid,” and “worthless” with fat people.

Thankfully, there are many, like Rachel Taylor who rocked that tank top, Benefits’ twitter followers who complained, and those posting under #BeautyInAllChallenge instead of #DontJudgeChallenge, who stand up to this shaming.

It is time for all of us to stop the shame and celebrate body diversity.

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