Tyra Banks Please Say No to Special K

DefendIt looks like Tyra Banks has joined Special K for their “Shhhhut Down Fat Talk” campaign.  I hope that she reconsiders, because there are a bunch of issues here.

I blogged about the many issues with using the term “fat talk” as a substitute for “negative body talk” , chief among them that saying that we shouldn’t call people fat suggests that being fat is such a terrible thing that we shouldn’t utter the word out loud.  Fat people are not Voldemort and making fat seem like the “physical descriptor that must not be named” actually further shames and stigmatizes people who are fat whether we call them/ourselves that or not. The trick is to end body shaming and negative body talk full stop – not to suggest that we should abandon the use a perfectly good physical descriptor because people have been allowed to heap stereotypes onto it.

This campaign falls prey to all of the issues I discussed in that post, plus they’ve upped the ridiculousness ante by suggesting that ending fat talk helps with weight management – that we should see our bodies needing to lose weight but not say it out loud – as a way to market their breakfast cereal-based diet plan.  This is the latest in a series of examples of Special K appropriating concepts from Size Acceptance to sell dieting.  It’s not cool and the research that it’s based on is embarrassingly poor both in its construction and its conclusions.  Their research also doesn’t challenge the existing research which shows that the vast majority of people who attempt weight loss gain their weight back in 5 years with the majority gaining more than they lost.

Tyra, if you’re reading this I’d like to say that I appreciate the work that you’ve done toward body positivity.  I remember cheering as you took a picture of you in a bikini that the media tried to use to shame you and threw it back in their faces, marching with women yelling “So What!” I can’t imagine the pressure that you’ve been, and continue to be, under and the body criticism that you’ve had to deal with.  So first I want to thank you for the work that you’ve done.

You’ve stated that you “don’t believe in diets” and, if that’s true, I would ask you to consider not promoting them.  I’d like to invite you to fully join the Size Acceptance Movement, and to become a proponent of the Health at Every Size option.   I invite you to consider that loving your body does not have to include trying to manipulate its size using a specific brand of breakfast cereal and cereal-related products, and that loving your body can mean choosing a prioritization and path to health and then letting your body settle at whatever size is settles.

I’d also ask that you reconsider your terminology of “Fierce Realness” in lieu of plus-sized woman.  All women-identified women are “Fiercely Real” and to imply other wise, however well intentioned, is to dip our toe in the pond of putting other people down to try to make ourselves feel better, and that trick never works. I would suggest that we take words back from the bullies and/or create words that work for us, making sure to be inclusive along the way.

If we truly want to create a world where people are able to appreciate their amazing bodies at every size and make choices about the prioritization and path to health based on their own desires and research, then we can’t allow the diet industry  – an industry that profits by taking credit for the short-term weight loss that is a biological response, but blames their clients for the long-term weight gain which is also a biological response, funds short term research but not long term research because “it would be too depressing to our clients,” and then uses that blame and shame to sell people their product again and again – to pretend to be leading the way.

First they told us to buy Special K so that you couldn’t pinch an inch on us.

Now they are telling us not to talk badly about our bodies, as long as we’re buying 1,460 Special K meals and snacks a year to do their diet.

They can sell whatever they want but we don’t have to buy it, and Tyra Banks, you don’t have to lend your name to it.  I think we can do better.

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Published in: on December 21, 2013 at 1:05 pm  Comments (12)  

12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I always admire how diplomatically and organized your thoughts are within your blog. I don’t think I could have written on this topic and worded it better than this.

    I have always loved Tyra and supported her efforts for self esteem and a positive body image. I just hope that she isn’t fooled with the Special K project.

  2. Selling Anonymous masks, peace signs, smiley faces… now body positivity…. Capitalism prides itself on being able to co-opt even anti-capitalist ideas and turn a profit from them. Bah humbug.

    • Exactly- this kind of silence actually increases the stigma of that-which-shall-not-be-named. “Buy our crappy product so you won’t be-OMG- you know what!”

      Fat is a perfectly good word that can carry connotations of abundance and health.

      What needs to end is our culture’s use of the word “fat” to mean ugly, lazy, stupid, dirty, and any number of harmful stereotypes.

      • Very well written, Laura. Fat ,overweight, obese, morbidly obese or whatever terms used to describe a person DO NOT equal lazy,stupid, dirty, stinky.ANY person can have these attributes regardless of their size/weight.A person’s size has no bearing on their worth.So many other factors determine a person’s worth or more accurately, their character.

  3. If I knew Tyra’s email addy, I would totally forward this to her.

  4. My brother and I were talking the other day about how we look at old photos where we were told we were fat or thought we were fat and we realize nope we looked fine a bit bigger that “normal kids our ages” but all in all healthy.
    And we were healthy, my Mom has always been a health food nut and we got to go along for the ride.
    So Today we are both considered Medically obese but this whole time we had been told you are getting fat and we believed it. When in reality nope we were healthy active kids.
    The true irony is that although obese we are both quite active adults he paddles and surfs, and I Swim and walk seven miles 5 days a week.
    My brother is healthy as can be and I am dealing with a bum knee and High blood pressure.
    My point is twofold one; We should strive for health at any and all sizes.
    Two If you hear something long enough you begin to believe it.
    And as an extra point: Companies like Kellogg are not interested in us as people, they are interested in selling a product and if they have to use our fears our shortcomings to do so they will it is called the end justifying the means.
    Body acceptance is a great place to start and like you said it needs to be done separate from a company out to sell cereal.

    • Not sure I agree with “we should strive for health at any and all sizes” – I don’t believe that there is any obligation for any of us to be ‘healthy’ so feel uncomfortable with the word “should”

  5. Reblogged this on Sly Fawkes and commented:
    I truly believe that Tyra’s heart is in the right place, and I think she’s a very cool person all around. However, Special Krap is anti positivity for larger bodies. Every year it comes out with the same bull-honkus about how we can lose six pounds in six weeks. If they’re so body positive, why are they telling us we need to lose six pounds?
    No body bashing includes not bashing fat bodies.

  6. i gotta say, i am not feeling the tyra love. all i remember of her is how nasty she was on some “reality” show about models. she makes her money in the very industry that makes life a living hell for anyone who’s not skinny. am i supposed to be impressed that now, when she’s past her prime in that industry, she wants to slap a “fiercely real” label on women who’re a little curvier than what she used to promote, in order to make more money off them? (only a little curvier though; can’t have women with actual rolls instead of curves be fiercely real.) aside: stop overusing the word “fierce”, tyra.

    and like ragen said, it’s still all about dieting. yes, if this were a concerted move to shut down all negative body talk, that’d be great. but it’s not even close. the whole “real women got curves” idea is crap. real women come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, the ones without curves are no less real (or “fierce”) than the ones with. how about a campaign where we don’t put ANY women down? (or men for that matter; thank you.)


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