Tag Archives: fat

Big Question: What is Freedom?

Everyday, we see desired bodies. Inundated with advertisements, consumers quickly learn what is desirable and what is not. However – in reality – desirability is not fixed. Despite what our televisions and billboards tell us, one size does not fit all. Based on culture, race, class and sexual orientation, the desirable body shifts. However, what seemingly does not change is that there is a desirable body. There is an ideal. This ideal is constraining, restricts our freedom and partly disables our ability to fully love ourselves.

Whether you worship thin Victoria’s Secret models or idealize Beyonce’s curves, most people prize a certain body type. People also negate the entire person and choose to solely desire a component of the body, such as a women’s breasts or bottom. The desirable body adversely affects men and women. Body ideals change our bodies from forces of freedom to sources of oppression and anxiety. Interestingly, the body ideal creates body anxiety. In particular, fat phobia, corresponding body anxiety and subsequent dieting pervades American society (Wann and Hesse-Bieber).

Due to recent readings and personal experiences, I have wondered, how can this system be subverted? How can we appreciate multiple bodies? How can all bodies become desired bodies, and in turn how can we create a freer culture where all are celebrated?

Marilyn Wann, “Fat Studies: An Invitation to Revolution” (2009)

Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber, “Selling the Body Beautiful: Food Dieting, and Recovery” (2007)

AD CRITIQUE: Detour Protein Bars


In our society we are constantly bombarded with terrible advertisements that discriminate against and humiliate fat people.  This particular ad is doing just that.  The first issue with this image is the fact that the heavier set woman on the left is made to look unappealing while being juxtaposed next to the super thin and toned woman to the right (who has without question been airbrushed to look that way) .  It is also noticed that the heavier women on the left is in a pose where her head is slightly lowered down to the ground and her face and body position suggest more of a playful attitude.  Where the woman on the right exudes confidence, her head is held high, and her stance is firm and upright.  In her essay The Fat Studies Reader, Marilyn Wann, points out “Overt prejudice and discrimination may be less of a hindrance to social justice for fat people than projects that claim to offer help but nonetheless rely on–and promote– fat hatred” (Wann xvii).  This is precisely what this ad accomplishes.  Suggesting one will become obese after eating candy bars, but that one can also become slender and toned from eating protein bars only promotes fat prejudice and further enforces unattainable body goals.  Detour protein bars–how about we take a detour from all the lies and tomfoolery, and start promoting some truth?


Marilyn Wann, “Forward,” in The Fat Studies Reader, by Esther D. Rothblum and Sondra Solovay (New York: New York University Press, 2009), XIV.


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/



A couple weeks ago, on my way back to Philly after a restful break at home, I came across this advertisement for Swarovski crystals on a billboard. It immediately caught my eye because I thought the catchphrase with the picture was rather ludicrous. Get caught doing what? Eating a burger? Drinking a shake? Eyeing the skinny model, her bones jutting out, I thought the poor woman should probably be left alone to eat in peace.

Taking a look at the other advertisements part of the “Get Caught…Philly” campaign, it became abundantly clear that Swarovski was making a ploy that glamorous women should never be caught doing things that they depict as banal or low class.  While the other ads were offensive in their own right to everyday women who do  those activities, I was particularly offended by their depiction of eating as one of those ‘low class’ activities. According to this ad, eating has become on par with a criminal offense (the model is gaping and horrified at being ‘caught’) – something that should be done shamefully and in secret. God forbid you be caught buying a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or (Gasp!) indulging in a hamburger and shake. Because, clearly, glamorous skinny women would never do anything like eat in public.

This reminded me of Marilyn Wann’s introduction in the Fat Studies Reader about the stigma surrounding being fat. This particular ad is not shaming fatness directly, but rather establishing a new shame to habits associated (erroneously) with obesity – specifically eating. These ads are creating a kind of nonsensical fear surrounding normal and healthy activities. They are essentially saying that to be like the woman in the ad, you shouldn’t eat, and if you do, it is is a shame.  They limit the domain of beauty and allure to a select few individuals who (apparently) never get caught eating – a ridiculous concept.

Wann, Marilyn. Foreword. The Fat Studies Reader. By Esther D. Rothblum and Sondra Solovay. New York: New York UP, 2009. Ix-Xxii. Print.

Ad Critique: Ashley Madison

There is a lovely woman by the name of Jackie who is both an avid feminist, fat activist, and softcore porn model/web model.  Her picture was taken without her permission and used in an Ashley Madison ad displayed below:


Aside from this image being used without Jackie’s permission, and the gross concept that is Ashley Madison, this is a horrific example of fat shaming.  It is directly implying that because “your wife” is fat, that she is automatically scary and undesirable.  The implications of this are that the affair one would be having would be with a thin, desirable, attractive woman.  The fact that this ad was placed in such a prominent place, the Wall Street Journal, shows just how pervasive fat shaming is in society and how fat is a body type that is deemed universally undesirable.  While Jackie’s mere profession shows this to be directly false, it adds to the stigma around being a woman and being fat. This is analyzed very closely in the Marilyn Wann reading, the Fat Studies Reader in which Wann outlines the stigma around being fat.  Fat bodies are both sexualized and desexualized at once.  In this advertisement, she is clearly in a sexual pose, but simply for the purposes of being desexualized. Fat bodies are often sexualized as a joke to contrast with the “very obviously” better and more attractive thin bodies.

The Everyday Collection


The commercial above is one of Target’s many “everyday collection” advertisements.  This commercial sends contrasting messages; it advertises Oreos as a desirable food that should be sought out, and yet the female has to hide the fact that she’s eating any, as shown by her walking to them in the dark.  This is a form of the “fatten up/slim down” style of food advertising, as mentioned by Hesse-Biber.  Ads will promote foods that are certain to cause weight gain while advertising them using a slim model.  In her article, “Reading the Slender Body,” Susan Bordo writes about how the female body today is expected to be “tighter, smoother, more contained.”  She says that this new female image promotes “the right attitude;…suggesting willpower, energy, control over infantile impulse,” things that women today want in order to compete with males.  Advertisements use this female desire to sell their product.  While this may be profitable for food companies, it stigmatizes women who do not fit into the slender stereotype.

If ads began using women of many sizes, would it improve the mindset of how women should look? Would the product still sell?  I think that adding women of different sizes to ads over time could decrease the negative assumptions made about fat women, but it is unlikely that advertising companies will take that leap anytime soon.

Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy. The Cult of Thinness. New York: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.

Bordo, Susan. “Reading the Slender Body.” Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. Berkeley: University of California, 1993. N. pag. Print.

New Body, New Soul

This commercial for the new 2014 Kia Soul premiered in August during MTV’s Video Music Awards. The commercial revolves around the intense workouts and eventual weight loss of the face of Kia, the Kia Hamsters. Even in the youtube description, the “formerly frumpy Kia Hamsters” are described ditching their “furry folds” and transforming into “lean, mean, head-turning machines.” Kia is trying to say that fat is frumpy, doesn’t sell, and doesn’t get any attention. Luckily, the answer to better sales isn’t hard to find, and in fact lies within images of thinner hamsters, because thin is attractive.

From what I’ve gathered from this campaign, fat-shaming sells products, and Kia is cashing in on the trend. It’s a shame to see this kind of negative media still circulating, objectifying and condemning the dreaded curse that is fat. Marilyn Wann says that if you think “thin is inherently beautiful and fat is obviously ugly,” you’re adding on to the social stigma of fat. Needless to say, Kia is not doing fat studies work.

Wann, Marilyn. Foreword, “Fat Studies: An Invitation to Revolution.” The Fat Studies Reader. New York University Press. New York.