Tag Archives: marilyn wann

This Coca-Cola commercial highlights Coca-Cola’s efforts to combat the “epidemic” of “obesity” and unproblematically links weight to amount of calories consumed to health. The ad states, “All calories count, no matter where they come from, including Coca-Cola and everything else with calories.” Any other factors influencing health and weight are thus erased, Coca-Cola portrayed as healthy as long as you drink it lite, in an example of the equation of “’lightness’ with health” that Hesse-Biber criticizes (68). As Wann states, “health is not a number but rather a subjective experience with many influences” (xiii). The ad, however, does not consider that factors such as nutritional value, rather than simply calories, may be more important for health, and does not broach the question of whether the lite drinks are truly healthier, or if the process of making them “lite” may have made them more dangerous. The human diversity of body shapes and weights that Wann points out is also ignored, “obesity” portrayed as something that must be fought (by everyone) – the implications here may extend to an encouragement of harassment of fat people under the justification of concern for their health and for “the health of the nation”. Moreover, the advertisement of smaller portion sizes and labels of calories on the front “to make it even easier for people to make informed decisions” comes off as extremely paternalistic, as well as further reinforces the misleading notion that calories are directly correlated with health. Due to the lack of accurate information regarding health, weight, and the nutritional values of Coca-Cola products provided in the ad, it seems that Coca-Cola, in fact does not want consumers to “make informed decisions” – perhaps because that would mean losing a large part of its customer base.

Works Cited

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

Wann, Marilyn. “Fat Studies: An Invitation to Revolution.” Foreword. The Fat Studies Reader. By Esther D. Rothblum and Sondra Solovay. New York: New York UP, 2009. Ix-Xxv. Print.

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: Get Fit or Get Perfect?


Image courtesy of Equinox.

This Equinox ad above utilizes many of the common advertising tactics employed by the media today. The female model in this advertisement projects the image of the ideal woman with her lengthy body, glistening hair, sizable breasts, and slender limbs. A major problem with this image, however, is that it “offer[s] help, while presenting a nearly impossible standard,”[1] considering the substantial editing that undoubtedly went into this advertisement’s completion. In addition, the man holding the camera is focusing on the model’s upper body, dehumanizing and objectifying her by separating her body parts from her complete self. Other blatantly offensive aspects of this advertisement include the woman’s subservient positioning underneath the man and her glance that invites sexual advances.

The fact that this ad is for a gym exemplifies the ambiguous messaging implied by female representations. Women are taught to seek healthfulness, but also slenderness. However, as Marilyn Wann notes in her discussion of fat studies, these two characteristics are not always connected. The result is a female population that is obsessed with “compulsive dieting,” but also “body-building.” [2]

Perhaps one of the most startling elements of this advertisement is that it appeals to the young generation—to the people who will shape the future. We as mainstream consumers must cease to accept this sort of advertising in the name of capitalism. Rather, we must ask ourselves, “what can and should we do to eradicate this type of advertising?”Through collective action, consumers have power to influence the companies that project these damaging images. We must stop buying their products, encourage stockholders to demand tactical redirection, and promote activism in our communities.

[1] Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber, “Selling the Body Beautiful: Food, Dieting, and Recovery,” in The Cult of Thinness, Second ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 63.

[2] Susan Bordo, “Reading the Slender Body,” in Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 191.

Big Question: What is Oppression?

One mechanism of oppression that produces highly pervasive damage and is difficult to eradicate is that of self-censorship. Every day, the entire population of American women uses it, usually unintentionally.

Over the last half century, the image of the ideal woman has morphed into one of genetic impossibility for 95% of the female population.[1] The media’s images of women are often dramatically altered or even constructed.[2] “But how does this negatively affect women?” you may wonder. The answer lies in how women respond to these images. Just think of how many times you, or a woman you know, steps on the scale each week, hoping that the number is lower than at the previous weigh-in. As Susan Bordo explains, obsessing over one’s appearance is a “powerful normalizing mechanism” that ensures “self-monitoring” and “self-disciplining.”[3]

Self-censorship deflects from the reality that propagating one, unattainable version of normal oppresses the entire female sex by limiting expression of individuality and promoting harmful objectification. Moreover, for those who will never come close to the ideal image, like women of racial or ethnic minorities, the oppressive nature of these depictions is especially detrimental. Minorities are continually pushed further from the point of acceptance for who they naturally are. While some argue that the increasingly idealized slender body, “symbolize[s] freedom from rigid femininity,” the reality is that our oppressive image of female idealness serves the purposes of a patriarchal, oppressive world. [4]  After all, society “confers” privilege according to one’s ability to achieve the ideal.[5]

To overcome the adverse nature of oppression and discontinue self-censorship requires identifying and combating the oppressor, which in this case, is the media. Just think, “how would the media respond to mass consumer refusal to purchase or consume products that insist upon the unrealistic ideal woman?” More specifically, “what personal choices can you make to help mass action become a reality?”

[1] Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women, dir. Kilbourne Jean, Sut Jhally, and David Rabinovitz (Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation, 2010), DVD.

[2] Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber, “Selling the Body Beautiful: Food, Dieting, and Recovery,” in The Cult of Thinness, Second ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 65.

[3] Susan Bordo, “Reading the Slender Body,” in Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 186.

[4] Ibid., 208.

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

Why Do We Care About The Number On The Scale?

Society has consistently had a fascination with weight. Whether the fascination be that the weight is too high or too low can change, but weight is a constant factor in how society perceives a person. Fat has become a modern disease, a condition of ugliness in contrast to the condition of beauty that is thinness (Wann ix). When did weight become the defining factor in how a person is treated in life?

Women and men everywhere are treated differently because their weight is not congruent with what society thinks is the norm: they are discriminated against, under paid, and less respected. In the job market, “fat women earn nearly 7000 dollars less than thinner women” and a worker might even be fired because their weight is a problem for the employer (Wann xix).

Slenderness has become the “contemporary ideal of specifically female attractiveness”, an ideal that is irrational and limiting to any person (Bordo 205). But a person is so much more than their weight; he or she is who they are because of their “gestures, voice, opinions, expressions, clothes, surrounding, and tastes”- things that cannot be defined by an arbitrary number that has no true meaning other than that which we as society give it (Berger 37).  A BMI does not make a person good or bad, a scale should not incite fear and panic, and a person should be able to walk through the streets without getting strange glances or faces because of what shape they may be.

For I am Fatacus, and I am proud.


Berger, John. “From Ways of Seeing.” Trans. Array The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. New York: Routledge, 2003. 37-39. Print.

Bordo, Susan. “Reading the Slender Body.” Unbearable Weight. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. 185-212. Print.

Wann, Marilyn. “Foreward: Fat Studies: An Invitation to Revolution.” The Fat Studies Reader. By Esther D. Rothblum. New York: New York UP, 2009. Ix-Xxii. Print