Monday, January 9, 2012

It's hard to be a little girl when you're bullied

I realize this is the billionth post you all have seen about the Georgia ads which bully fat children. In case you've just happened to have had a prior engagement under a rock and are only now emerging from the gala, here are the ads that the fatosphere has been buzzing about:

The videos on the website show Bobby (above) in black and white sitting across from his (also fat) mom asking, "mom, why am I fat?".

Tamika, the girl in the last photo above is seen in her video fidgeting uncomfortably in front of the camera with her (supposedly) mother saying, "Being thick runs in our family. As her mom, I never noticed Tamika eating any different from the rest of us. She likes junk food, but what kid doesn't? When the doctor said she had type two diabetes, I never thought what we eat made her sick. I just always thought she was thick like her mama.

Tina, the girl on the right in the third photo above says, "I don't like going to school because all the other kids pick on me. It hurts my feelings."

Maritza (not pictured) is a girl of color and says, "My doctor says I have something called hypertension.. I'm really scared"

Lastly, Jaden (also not pictured), a boy of color says, "Playing video games is what I like to do by myself. I don't have to be around the other kids.. cause all they want to do is pick on me"

If this is the first time you've seen these ads, it may take you a moment to take it all in. Other than the fact that fat people can be just as healthy as thin people, some of these are downright absurd. They're not based in fact and they're downright stigmatizing and bullying. These things are why fat children are more at risk for eating disorders and suicide. Let's go through these things one by one.

"Chubby kids may not outlive their parents"
This is a bald faced lie. Firstly, "chubby" is not the same as fat as we already know that those in the "overweight" category live the longest. But when they say chubby they mean fat, right? But according to the same study (as the 'overweight' live longest study) obese people live just as long as normal weight people- the same study says that obese patients are even less likely to die from heart disease and that the healthiest fat people were people who were fat when they were.. *ding ding ding*!... kids! More so, according to the predictions on life expectancy- it's still going up.. no worries.

"Fat kids become fat adults"
Excuse my language but, no shit sherlock. That's because genetics play a pretty big role in weight and there's more than one gene that helps out. This is what makes this kind of fat shaming particularly cruel and useless.

"Big bones didn't make me this way. Big meals did"
Ahem- except that no study has ever shown that fat people eat more than thin people, although a few have shown that fat kids eat less than thin kids. In other words: liar liar, pants on fire.

"He has his father's eyes, his laugh, and maybe even his diabetes"
Considering that diabetes is genetic then yeah, he just might. If the kid was thin (controlling for lifestyle) he'd have the same risk. Did anyone see Captain Obvious sail by?

"75% of parents of overweight kids ignore the problem"
Well this is the first good news I've seen- that means that 75% of parents are (hopefully)  not being assholes and fat shaming their children, instilling in them lifelong body image issues. Of course, we have campaigns like this to do this for them.

"Fat prevention begins at home. And at the buffet line."
I'm sorry, but what...? Because thin people never eat at buffets? Or are we just assuming they have more self control? Wait.. didn't we just say that fat kids eat less than thin kids? Yes.. yes we did.

I'm skipping the next two because I want to talk about them a little more in depth. So the next one is, "My fat may be funny to you, but it's killing me." Excuse me, please show me any evidence that fat directly kills anyone. Lack of exercise, poor food choices, lack of health care, discrimination, bullying, weight cycling, weight loss drugs- those things may be killing you, but fat certainly isn't. How many times do we need to repeat that one can be fat and healthy or thin and unhealthy? The thing is- this is Georgia's poverty rate is at 14.4-  it ranks #5 in states with the highest poverty rate. In fact, if you look at the fattest states and the most impoverished states, there's quite a crossover. Stress, depression, lack of medical care, lack of access to nutritious foods or safe areas for activity are all issues that may contribute, but one thing is for sure; the war on obesity is also a war on woman and a war on the poor.

Okay, let's go back to the two we skipped:
"It's hard to be a little girl if you're not"
and "being fat takes the fun out of being a kid"

These two really caught my attention because I was a fat kid and I have an excellent memory. Being fat never interfered with me being a kid. I wouldn't have even known or cared that I was fat if people didn't point it out to me. To me, I was just a kid, swinging, climbing trees, and playing Star Trek during recess with my best friend. If you take out all of the bullying, the abuse, the attacks, and the nasty "well meaning" comments from adults ( in other words, still bullying), then being fat has absolutely zero impact on my being a kid or a little girl.

What did make it hard to be a little girl and what did take the fun out of being a kid was fat stigma, discrimination, and bullying. In other words, ads like this. This campaign accomplishes the very thing it speaks out again- making kids miserable. A lot of their campaign hinges on how fat kids get bullied and how much that sucks. Yes, it does suck. But let me tell you, fat kids aren't the only ones who get bullied. When the news picked up stories of gay kids killing themselves and homophobic bullying did we see state and nation wide campaigns to cure homosexuality? Did I see any ads that said, "I don't want to go to school. The kids make fun of me for being gay" with "stop the homosexual epidemic now" stamped across the bottom? As a member of the lgbt community I would have been outraged just as I'm outraged now at this kind of fat hate. In any other circumstance we create sensitivity programs, anti bullying campaigns, and massive awareness campaigns to combat the problem. But with fat kids? We blame them, blame their parents, tell adults that it's their job to bully them (and other adults) and all because it's good for them. I can't think of a single form of bullying that is as socially acceptable and even encouraged as the bullying of fat people. I hope the parents of these children realize how detrimental this is and I hope the children themselves can grow up to find the fat acceptance movement and throw off the horrible abuse that Georgia has perpetrated against them.


  1. I'm intrigued by the "overweight (but not the obese) live longer" article, but stunned by the crass insensitivity of the ads. Good point about the bullying of gay kids but the vilification of "chubby" kids (gotta love the attempt to soften the name-calling). You gotta wonder what parents would allow their kids images to be used for this campaign. Good post!

  2. I agree completely that this is socially acceptable bullying, and ought to be called out. However, we have seen some people respond to the push against bullying gays by replying "They should just be less gay" or "They deserve it." I'm talking about principals and teachers, here, folks. This fat lesbian is outraged by both.

  3. Thank you peter- unfortunately a lot of parents of fat kids are fat themselves.. and they internalize the fat hate. They believe that these ads are good much like the organization putting them up to begin with. As far as the differences in life expectancy you also have to add on top of it the fact that fat and fit people *do* live just as long as thin people- and longer than thin unfit people. But constant dieting is hazardous to your health, diet pills often cause heart problems, kidney problems, and other long term health consequences, and fat people are told that fitness is useless unless it makes you thin- so if it fails to do that (and it does 95-98% of the time!) then they just give up, thinking it doesn't matter. So the mortality rate among people over a 35 BMI isn't just about the fat- it's about the lifestyle created by society.

    and thank you Flamingo- and right on! this fat bisexual is as well! You're absolutely right in how some people have responded to lgbt rights campaigns- luckily the behaviors of those people are condemned by the majority of Americans- we're coming along in that aspect! Most Americans now support LGBT rights. I won't go so far as to say that most Americans aren't homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic since you can be those things while still supporting lgbt rights (like how you can be a misogynist while still thinking women should be able to vote). Let's hope that fat rights don't take as long to reach that same point where public fat hate is condemned by the majority! The damage to children is unfathomable!

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  5. These sorta remind me of those old fashioned "dangers of self abuse" propaganda campaigns. They were bullshit too.

  6. Many good points raised, but...
    The analogy with homosexuality does not stick i'm afriad.
    If you put a fat child on a strict regime of a couple of small veg portions and only water every day (I'm talking amounts that would be considered abuse) then eventualy they would no longer be fat (or healthy or happy).
    There is nothing you can do to a homosexual child that would change their sexual orientation.
    I am all for fat acceptance, simply put fat people should not be discriminated against. But it is not the same as discrimination based on sexual orientation or race for that matter.

  7. You could also put a gay child on a strict regime of heterosexual-only training and behavior modification courses and VOILA, said gay child would act straight!

    But once you remove the abuse (forcing someone to behave "straight"/ starving your child down to a size 2), both of these people will go back to their natural state of being. One just happens to be a body size while the other happens to be a sexual orientation.

    Same thing with skin bleaching/hair straightening on people of color to make them look more "white". Just because you CAN change something under the intense and unrelenting pressure of bullies and assholes who want everyone to fall under the same specific stereotypes does not mean that it actually changes said person.

    In fact, fat people who lose weight from weight loss dieting have had metabolic panels done when they go back to eating normal amounts of calories- the results showed that their bodies were acting like they were starving to death even though said person was getting adequate nutrition each day. It is as though the fat person's body WANTS them at that higher weight and will do anything (slow the metabolic rate, pack on fat, create carb cravings out the wazoo, etc) to get back to that weight. I've read some of the (very rare) blogs for people who are maintaining weight loss- their lifestyle is obsessing about food and exercise 24/7- comparable to having a "second job."

    Fat people are going to be fat, even if you try and make them thin. Even when they're wearing that size 2, their bodies will metabolically adjust to bring them back to their original size, get back to homeostasis and the set point-(or encourage a higher setpoint since you're obviously going through famines with regularity when you do weight loss diets).


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