I have seen some online discussion recently of whether or not Glee is promoting obesity. I’m not going into plot lines but it appears to be because two fat characters (both female) have high self-esteem, have at least one man who is interested in them, and are not on diets.
First I thought maybe I didn’t understand the meaning of “promote”, so I looked it up:
- to help or encourage to exist or flourish; further: to promote world peace.
- to advance in rank, dignity, position, etc. ( opposed to demote).
- to encourage the sales, acceptance, etc., of (a product), especially through advertising or other publicity.
Let’s look at the first two. Now, at least according to standardized testing, I’m a reasonably smart girl. But I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the concept. The idea that, in a society where fat people receive 386,170 negative messages A YEAR about how we are unattractive, unhealthy, unworthy etc; that showing two fat girls who actually like themselves is going to encourage obesity to flourish. I’m having an awfully difficult time imagining that people will see two fat people who don’t hate themselves and say “Wow, obesity is way cooler than it sounded the other 386,170 times I heard about it. I want to be obese! How can I get that done?”
Looking at third point, let me try to re-construct this argument:
Showing fat people who like themselves and have success in life and love might make other fat people think that’s possible for them, and that’s a bad thing. If fat people are going to be portrayed in the media, we need to make sure that they are shown as miserable, unhealthy and self-loathing. That way, fat people watching will realize that they can never be happy and that they too should be miserable, unhealthy, and self-loathing because this will encourage them to be healthy.
And I think that’s a bunch of crap.
I would guess that people who publicly complain that showing healthy, happy fat people is promoting obesity are most likely in it for themselves – maybe to feel superior, maybe because they want to rail about something. Maybe because they feel that personal responsibility means that they get to set the standards of health and beauty and everyone else is personally responsible for fitting into them. If you really care about the health of others, I don’t think that you would be interested in lowering their self-esteem as a first step.
I don’t have research on this but I do not personally believe that the best way to help someone take good care of their body is to convince them to hate that body and feel unattractive, unhealthy, and unworthy. I just don’t think that a cogent argument can be made that self-loathing is the yellow brick road to health.
Bottom line: If shaming people made them healthy we wouldn’t need doctors in this country. If diets made people thin and healthy (note that these are two separate things) then, after spending over $60,000,000,000 a year on them, we would all be thin and healthy. Since that’s not working at all, I think it would be just dandy if we all were allowed to make our own choices about our health and have those choices respected. For me, I choose to believe that healthy behaviors have the best chance to creating a healthy body, certainly better than betting on a less than 5% chance of just being smaller than I am now.