One of the things that the Georgia Project did was bring together some uneasy allies. People like Jillian Michaels and Alton Brown who regularly deliver an anti-obesity, fat=bad thin=good message, but who felt that the Georgia Fat Kid Shaming billboards went too far.
While I am happy that they were at least able to realize that shaming kids is a truly horrible idea, I want to be careful that we don’t take our eye off the ball here.
Not shaming fat kids is not nearly good enough. Not shaming fat people of any age is not nearly good enough. The gold standard for me is that body size is not a barometer for anything- every body deserves respect.
Jillian Michael’s comment about the campaign is a really good example. She said “let me be really clear – shaming children is NEVER the solution for any problem. Leading by example is always your best bet with obesity.” She used the hash tag #hateobesitynotobesepeople
I just want to make it clear that while I’m glad that she was able to step up the 2 inch curb of realizing that shaming kids is bad, the idea that obese people are lost and need to be led by someone’s example is offensive. And you can’t hate obesity but not obese people – it doesn’t work that way. If you hate obesity, then you hate me. I’m not a thin woman covered in fat, I’m a fat woman. You can’t love the thin person who you wish I was without hating the fat woman I am now.
Also, let’s remember that Ms. Michaels is part of a billion dollar business (The Biggest Loser) that emotionally and physically abuses fat people for entertainment and profit. (Off topic a bit – Does anybody else wonder what would happen if they took the people on the biggest loser and had them do moderate activity that they enjoy 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week and encouraged them to add healthier foods to their diet? No screaming trainers, no lying to people by conflating weight and health, no working through massive injuries, no duplicating the activities that get people diagnosed with eating disorders, no manipulating the scales with water weight, no “weeks” that last 14 days. I’ll bet that the health benefits would be the same, even if they didn’t experience weight loss. Does anybody want to do a reality show of happy fat people moving 30 minutes 5 days a week? Call me.) Perhaps it’s a commentary on what Jillian inspires vs. what she says that many of her fans responded to her comment in defense of the billboards “It’s not shaming to tell kids that their lives won’t be good if they are overweight” was a common theme.
As we move forward on the path to abolish weight stigma and end the oppression of people of size, I think that we should be careful to maintain a goal of being fully respected, rather than just not being shamed, stigmatized, and humiliated. Let’s be clear that we deserve nothing less than full respect.
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