According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, as of 2012, 8 million Americans suffered from some kind of eating disorder. Of the 8 million, 7 million were women. 42% of 1st – 3rd grade girls wanted to be slimmer and 80% of 10 year olds feared getting fat. Schools send home ‘reports’ that call children obese and overweight. The World Health Organization has classified obesity as a problem of “high priority” and at the 66th World Health Assembly this year, they have decreed that obesity is now officially a Non Communicable Disease (NCD) Target to be dealt with. Apparently, obesity is now on par with lung cancer.
A craze over weight has swept the nation. Its not surprising according to Susan Bordo, who writes in her Reading the Slender Body of how society is constantly bombarded with images of supposedly ‘perfect’ and ‘healthy’ bodies that are slim and fit. The media presents a “nearly impossible standard” that society has quickly come to adopt as the ideal. It has even managed to pervade the medical field, which makes broad sweeping statements about how much weight is ‘overweight’ and the health dangers of obesity ignoring the fact that weight and overweight is different for every individual and it is perfectly possible to be fat and healthy. The result of this is rampant dieting and stigmatization and shaming of fat people. Marilyn Wann writes in The Fat Studies Reader of how fat people are discriminated against and in general are treated more poorly than those who emulate the media enhanced slender body.
Its very easy, looking at the body of evidence, to put all the blame on the media. It is, after all, their images and limited depictions that are at the root of fat fear. However, at the same time, I feel that human society needs to take at least part of the blame. The media is ultimately there to make money and despite knowing that they are depicting images to make money and not reflect reality, society continues to view the media fantasy world as a standard of what people ‘really’ should be. There should be a re-education of humanity not to respond and take these advertisements so seriously. Parents and the current generation need to set an example for the younger generations. Telling your children they are beautiful no matter what, then ordering Jenny Craig is not an appropriate example. Our actions belay our words which only further gives the media more power over us. In this case I am not trying to blame the victim, but at the same time I am trying to posit that individuals should take a more pro-active role in protesting media depictions and not adhering to them.
Marilyn Wann, “Forward,” in The Fat Studies Reader, by Esther D. Rothblum and Sondra Solovay (New York: New York University Press, 2009), XIV.
Susan Bordo, “Reading the Slender Body,” in Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 186.
“Eating Disorder Statistics”. Statistic Brain. Web. Accessed 09/26/13
“Childhood Overweight and Obesity”. World Health Organization. Web. Accessed 09/30/13. http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/childhood/en/