Super Heavyweight Olympic weigh lifter Holley Mangold has signed up for the next season of biggest loser. I’ve received a lot of e-mails and messages from blog readers asking me how I feel about it. I had considered Holley a fit fatty role model and even participated in her fundraising for the last Olympics so it was rough for me when I found out that she had chosen to go on
the Roman Colosseum Gladiators the biggest loser. It took me a while to sort out my feelings but here’s what I’ve got.
Holley is allowed to choose to try to lose weight. I do not believe that I can be in integrity by demanding the right to practice Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size while simultaneously attempting to limit other people’s choices. Holley has information and world class coaches available to her and she has made her decision to, in her words, “be the in-shape, smaller girl.”
Holley is allowed to go on the biggest loser. Whether it’s because she genuinely believes it will help her with her next Olympic bid, or they gave her a bunch of money, or she wants to solve social stigma through weight loss and by bowing to the tremendous social pressure to be thin, or whatever her reasons are, it is absolutely her right to choose to go on the show.
I think that the Biggest Loser is a horrific show that emotionally and physically abuses fat people as entertainment. For a first hand account, I highly recommend Golda Poretsky’s Interview with former contestant Kai Hibbard (“I believe that . . . most of the contestants, felt like it was okay to treat us like we were subhuman when we were there, that the ends justify the means. If they were going to make us thin, then it was totally worth it to humiliate us and treat us poorly all the way along. I just don’t feel that way.”) But Holley isn’t required to subscribe to my beliefs about the show.
So what it comes down to for me is that Holley Mangold is not a role model for me. And she’s not required to be, Holley never asked to be my role model, she never agreed to be my role model. I picked her and, it turns out, I chose poorly – or more specifically, she used to meet my criteria but no longer does. So now the only question is what to do about it. Holley’s choice to lend her name to a franchise that I strongly believe serves to stigmatize and oppress me and other fat people leads to my choice to no longer lend my support to Holley. Like all of my decisions around money and activism, I do my best to support things that support me in return. Now it’s time to go role model shopping.
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