Keeping “fat shaming” off the air will keep it out of society
“You wouldn’t talk this way to anyone else … so why do it to yourself?” These are the words from the new Special K commercial fighting against “fat talk.”
A few months earlier, Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence sat down in a one-on-one chat with Barbara Walters to discuss her views on the growing trend of fat shaming in America. Fat shaming, also known as “weightism,” is discrimination or stereotyping based on a person’s weight — especially toward those who are extremely thin or obese.
In recent years, a new trend of fat shaming has taken shape. Actors use it to attack each other in public. Sites like Twitter and Facebook have pages where users go to post indecent and insensitive comments about those on the extreme end of weight. There are even websites, such as the infamous Return of Kings — a misogynist site that bans homosexuals and women — that encourage the discrimination, shaming and, in some cases, imprisonment of women who are overweight.
Lawrence, however, had some strong opinions about the trend, saying, “I think when it comes to the media, the media needs to take responsibility for the effect it has on our younger generation, on these girls who are watching these television shows and picking up how to talk and how to be cool.” She later stated that “all of a sudden, being funny is making fun of the girl that’s wearing an ugly dress … and the word fat. I just think it should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV.”
Lawrence may have a point. Between 1999 and 2006, a study conducted by the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality found that hospitalizations of children younger than 12 increased by 116 percent. While there are no recent statistics, it is safe to say that the problem has not gotten better and is an issue needing serious attention.
At one point in time, a fleshy woman was a healthy and beautiful woman. That is not to say that this is not still the truth, but it is understandable how, after watching a Victoria’s Secret modeling show, cosmetics ads or even men’s cologne ads, one might feel the discrimination against those of us who have never seen ourselves wearing a size zero anything. After all, you never see the guy wearing Axe getting the beautiful size 10 girl.
When asked whether she agreed with Lawrence, UH-D nursing freshman Chelsea Chance said, “I personally believe the media has the responsibility to monitor and regulate their actions and think carefully about what consequences might spur from them. Children are more technologically advanced and impressionable than ever and are affected and influenced by the media every time they turn on the TV, check the Internet or go outside and see a billboard. I don’t think it’s fair to place complete and total blame on the media for how a person might feel about their body, but I certainly think that the media greatly influences self-esteem and knows it has that power.”
Likewise, Alora Delacruz, a nursing freshman at UH, said she also believes that the media play a major role in how people behave and react to certain situations. She also believes that “as time progresses, people, particularly models, are pressured to lose weight and even look totally opposite of how a healthy person should look like. There is and will always be fat shaming in the media, regardless of the time period.”
Regulations in America exist today that dictate what commercials, words, content and overall material can be shown on what channels and at what hour of the day. PBS, the Channel 8 station that UH owns and sponsors, is one of many channels that work against these modern stigmas.
On its website, the station claims, “PBS and (its) member stations are America’s largest stage for the arts and a trusted window to the world. In addition, PBS educational media helps prepare children for success in school and opens up the world to them in an age-appropriate way.”
While UH isn’t directly involved with fighting fat shaming or negative media and has no statements agreeing or disagreeing with whether it is good, by owning the network PBS, UH is indirectly fighting negative media and is encouraging the importance of educating the youth as well as providing a safe environment for them to learn about things that will be relevant to their success in school and with other children their age. It is age-appropriate content. It is also enlightening all ages through public media and community involvement in the programs that are broadcast.
So what is there to do? There are people on both sides of this argument — some who agree that media is responsible and others who say it’s an individual’s responsibility. In an era that is moving toward political correctness, one can only hope that a shift will fall in balance of changing the beauty trend that is affecting the youth and changing the way many men and women view their bodies.
“I think TV shows and movies and the news can never really be regulated without dealing with the issue of censorship,” Chance said. “I hope that the media will come to realize how much fat shaming affects people’s lives and increases bullying. Cigarettes and drugs used to be portrayed as cool on TV, but now we have Above the Influence commercials. I hope fat shaming will someday stop and have similar commercials that remind people everywhere that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.”
Will TV ever truly be regulated? Who knows. One can only hope things will change.
Opinion columnist Juanita Deaver is an anthropology freshman and may be reached at [email protected]