Friday, February 17, 2012

Fat Shaming, Health, and the Atlanta Ad Campaign

So there's a little scuffle going on at the moment, because Children's Healthcare of Atlanta has been running the ads above, ostensibly as part of the fight against childhood obesity.

Fat activists are upset, but they don't seem to be the only ones distancing themselves from this. As the just-linked article comments, Dairy Queen approves this ad campaign, while Kaiser Permanente disclaims it, an odd pair of reactions if there ever was one. I can see why, though.

The Balabusta, having successfully lost ten pounds since the beginning of 2012, would like to report that she is still bothered by the degree of fat-shaming and blaming, and the ham-handed crappiness of these ads.

Caperton, over at Feministe, has a very good analysis of the ads, and I think it is well worth a read. My key problem with this, aside from the fact that I sincerely doubt it was a good use of funds, is that that, as always, people who like the 'fat will kill you, fatties' approach seem to have no clue or care what an already desperately negative environment for fat children they are projecting their additional, hopeless crap into. The idea seems to be that if you can make life bleak enough, with constant mockery, chiding, reminders that you're ugly, and reminders that this is all your fault, people will change.

How's that working out so far, Georgia?

"Fat children turn into fat adults" Fat adults get the same blaming directed at them. My interactions with doctors as an overweight adult have ranged from the mildly annoying to the horrifying.

(I especially cherish the woman who, along with a variety of other bizarre behaviors, many of them directed at my size, told me, when I called her office to ask if I should be concerned that my upper arm was double its normal size following a tetanus shot, that it was probably because of 'the fat on your arm preventing the vaccine from being absorbed'. Since you're supposed to shoot the stuff into muscle, I always kind of wondered about that. Luckily, I haven't gotten tetanus.)

I've been nearly yelled at, and told that I couldn't be helped when I expressed a distaste for Weight Watchers' program. I've suggested exercise ideas and been told they were 'too dangerous', and that I should take 'short, gentle walks'. (This to a twenty-something with the health of a horse.)

I've been dismissed for picking target weights for weight loss the doctor felt were too high, apparently on the theory that someone who decides to diet down to 120 pounds is more likely to do so that someone who targets 180. I've been shamed, insulted...and offered help exactly once. When I was in a graduate program at USF, I mentioned wanting to lose weight to the doctor there, who nodded agreeably and offered at once to set an appointment up with a nutritionist who could discuss my goals and help me put together a good food plan. The memory of that kindness still seems utterly startling.

In general, much of the 'healthcare community' seems to think that offering any kindness or hope to fat people will only encourage them to continue being fat. You know what kids do, Healthcare Atlanta, when their pediatrician tells them they're going to die, the TV tells them no one will ever love them, and the kids at school call them whales?

They go home and eat all the Hostess cupcakes they can get their hands on.

Think carefully before perpetrating this cruelty that pretends to be helpful into another generation. The obesity situation in the US is real. We no longer have the leisure of trying to fight it by attacking people.