Funding Our Oppression

Fat MoneyThere is a quote by Anna Lappe that says “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”  As an activist, that rings really true for me – the way that I spend my money is a form of activism.  I can spend money in a way that supports companies that support me, or I can fund companies that do something between ignoring and outright oppressing me.

First, to be clear I’m not talking about a boycott –  boycotts have absolutely proven to be effective tools in the right circumstances, but this is something different than that.  This is about making choices for how I  spend my money regardless of how anyone else spends theirs.  These decisions aren’t easy,  they are rarely cut and dried, and they typically involve sacrifices. They are also personal decisions for each of us, and it’s not anybody’s job to tell us what to spend money on and our choices don’t make us better or worse than anyone else.  I’m not trying to tell anyone else how to live, it’s just something I think is worth talking about, so I’ll confine the discussion to me.

A few years ago I made the decision to stop buying or consuming anything with a weight loss message.  It occurred to me that I spend a great deal of time trying to counteract weight loss messages and that when I give them money they use that money to put our even more weight loss messages that I then have to try to counteract.    It eliminated a lot of drink options, a lot of food options, there are stores where I don’t shop, and items that I don’t buy, but when I make the oatmeal from the brand that took me 10 minutes to find and cost $0.50 more, I feel good that I’m not paying for more labels trying to terrify people into eating oatmeal so they don’t look like me.

Of course this leads to all kinds of judgement calls – I don’t want this to become a thing that overtakes my life but I do want to feel that my purchases are in integrity with my beliefs.  Sometimes it is cut and dried for me –  I simply refuse to fly Southwest Airlines – I’ll either pay more or not travel if I can’ t afford it, because their treatment of fat people has been so abhorrent (Trigger Warning – fat shaming, and many bad things) that I simply will not give them money. Then there are some others that are much more judgment calls – does Sweet and Low count? It is sweet and low calorie but is just saying “low calorie” the same as a weight loss message? For me it’s easy to overthink, and worry about being perfect but, just like the rest of civil rights, for me it’s important to take, and celebrate, small steps.

If you haven’t yet, please consider signing the petition to keep kids off The Biggest Loser.

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19 thoughts on “Funding Our Oppression

  1. I do this too! For me, it mostly applies to shops which don’t stock plus size clothes. Obviously I can’t buy actual clothes in these shops anyway, but I only buy shoes, bags, and accessories from places that also stock plus-size clothes. I don’t buy low-fat or low-calorie versions of foods; however, that’s because I would rather eat the *real* version of something than a chemical-laden, modified version.

  2. Honestly, at this point I feel so surrounded by weight-loss messages that the last place I want to see it is on my breakfast cereal.

    Currently I’m experience that post-grad vacuum, where after graduating you get into the real world and realize how body-positive most colleges are, and how NOT body-positive the real world is. I get company e-mails that encourage me to ‘maintain, don’t gain’ (WHY is my weight their business? I feel like that wouldn’t go over as well if the message was ‘don’t get too drunk over the holidays’) and every day at lunch my co-workers discuss which parts of their lunches are the ‘guilty pleasure’ and admonish one another for ‘being bad’ when a co-worker brings in donuts.

    As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder since puberty, it’s really difficult to be surrounded by weight loss messages. I just want to have a healthy perspective about my body, and it’s so hard when my first reaction to stress is to start picking myself apart and restricting my diet, and then when I’m in my ‘you’re okay, your body can run and jump and is so, so cool’ moments, my company and coworkers and even my oatmeal is telling me to lose weight.

    I’ll be eliminating weight loss foods from my fridge, if only because if I see another message telling my that my body is unacceptable, I am going to crack.

  3. There is more to the oppression. Often plus size clothes now cost $10 per item more than smaller sizes when there is actually more difference in size between size S and L which are not charged more. In addition I am also often charged more to get the extra inch of pant length I need even though I am only 5’7″.
    And after having to shop longer and pay more two different ways, I have little selection.

    Why do stores think that because I got large I now only want Disney characters or things with glitter on them? I want regular clothing that fits well… yoga clothes that are big enough and long enough. Even the plus size stores seem limited to party clothes and a few black pants.

    It is not uncommon that in many stores there is a large selection in other sizes for most items and almost none in my size–either that or it is so popular that it sells out first! (?) They could just check their clearance section and find they make less money when they overstock the smaller sizes and they are left unsold.
    Even my shoe size and underwear size sells out first. Yet they carry more stock in the smaller sizes and offer only a few selections in my sizes.

    And why stop at equal treatment? Why not band together to beat them in their own game. I have no problem with boycotting, especially if it makes companies take us seriously and stop assuming we will just take whatever leftovers we are given.

    But why not band together and buy in bulk, we larger size women buy appliances and other items they count on us for, we could form our own buying coop and maybe get more for our money. There are a lot of us out there and we should have a voice. We are a large “minority” market.

  4. What really bugs me most about weight-loss propaganda is this (and I’ve been tempted many times to call out magazines on this practice): They will have an article about a “lose weight fast!” plan or “Just 20 minutes a day, and you’ll see results!” RIGHT NEXT TO a picture/recipe for “the most decadent cake ever!” That’s right…two pages, one right next to the other. Or even on the front cover–one galley with boast, “The Amazing Fruit-Only Diet!” or some other happy horsesh*t, and two inches across the page will be “Our favourite pies and cookies…you’ll be drooling!”

    The hell? I’m old and crusty enough to let it bounce off my thick hide, but anyone else who is desperately trying to fight off the mind whackadoo-edness that print media loves to anesthetize us with is going to feel jerked from one emotional extreme to the other.

    And the cherry on such crap sundaes? “Enjoy these amazing cookies now…diet in the new year. Look inside for our best exercise tips on shedding holiday pounds!”

    Oh, good. My joy is borrowed, but boy howdy, will I have to do some serious repentance for troughing it. Fan bloody TAST tic.

    1. I am absolutely convinced that this is their marketing ploy; to tempt you into eating the food and then shame you so they can sell you the weight loss thing. When without the stimulus, you might not have spent any money at all and been healthier for it. It is deliberate, and it makes me mad. They are trying to steal my health and take my money.

      Is that paranoid?

      1. Actually, it’s spot on. The marketing/advert/PR worlds are exceptionally creative and manipulative and it is their job to sell you XYZ, at whatever cost. Many magazines/other often are at the mercy of the advertising agencies, if they want revenue, and as such pander to them rather than their reader population. Advertising agencies are well versed in the best way to sell you their client’s product. And it’s not based on your well being.

        What is scary is most folk don’t notice it at all. And in this day and age it’s becoming even easier to spout all of that crap since so many believe that everything you see, read, hear is true.

  5. What Reagan said about sweet and low really hit a chord with me. I’ve been trying to avoid spending money on diet products, but I’m diabetic and need to manage my sugars intake. Some of my favorite things to enjoy and yet treat my sugars well are the low carb snack bars from Atkins and I use zero calorie soda when I have fizzy drinks. It’s about striking a balance for me. I’m not ‘dieting’ to loose weight, I’m managing my food intake and carbs so that my body isn’t being beaten down by high blood sugars and all that it can do.

    1. Mr. Twistie also has diabetes, so yes, there will continue to be artificial sweeteners and low-carb snacks at Casa Twistie… but I let Mr. Twistie choose those for himself and accept that sometimes he doesn’t even see the same messages I do.

      As you say, with diabetes your first priority has to be monitoring your blood sugar, and unfortunately many of the products designed to help with that do carry fat-shaming, anti-body-love messages.

      But anything I buy, yeah, I avoid the messages as much as humanly possible. I cook from scratch most nights, try to find recipes that are naturally low in carbs so as to feed my husband healthfully and still avoid the nasty messages, and then do my best to look the other way at the sweetener packages that scream at me about how many less calories they contain than sugar.

      As you say, it’s a balancing act.

  6. I recently came across a bag of snack carrots that advertised The Biggest Loser!! I was like WTH?! I generally buy organic but not always. I have my own little set of rules on what should be organic–it might not make sense to everyone but it all makes sense in my own little world. 🙂 If they are on sale I’ll buy organic snack carrots but my favorite store carries bags of non-organic at 98 cents. So, I usually buy those–my guinea pigs eat most of them anyway. But the other day I paid $3 for the organic (a different brand) so I wouldn’t have to buy that Biggest Loser label.

      1. I’ve seen these too.

        I happen to be a fairly longtime and regular shopper at my smaller-chain grocery store, so in addition to not buying these carrots, I also let our produce manager know why I wasn’t buying them.

        He listened, that I can say, and thought.

        I don’t know whether it’s feasible for them to switch to another supplier at the moment — and I get that — but it’s nice to know that this is something someone at the store may consider in the future.

  7. Totally agree with you about Southwest, although now that they’ve actually issued a policy that includes not kicking fat people off their flights, I feel like I want to support them with my money so that other airlines will notice and issue similar policies. Thoughts?

  8. I do try to do this most of the time, just because I can’t stomach purchasing something that pisses me off that much. It’s become difficult to buy anything in the age of 100 calorie packs. Carrots – lol. Has anybody noticed how those “wonderful” pistachios now brag about being the low calorie nut? There’s also one coconut water that has a little blurb on the back about how it’s low fat, so we can have “small butts and big hearts”. I don’t even know what to make of that one. I just wish they’d all stop.

    1. Small butts and big hearts, eh? I now have ginger ale in my nose. I was half a laugh away from spitting said ginger ale all over my computer.

  9. In general, I don’t buy food with weight loss messages because I assume that if it tasted good, it wouldn’t need a weight loss message.

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen bottled water for sale (sorry, I can’t remember the brand) with a weight loss message!

  10. In Korea, I see a lot of food products with weight loss messages on them. Interestingly, the weight-loss message is usually in English even if the rest of the words on the package are in Korean. For example, an energy bar might say “SLIM” or a box of cereal say “CALORIES DOWN”. Most people here are thin, but I think the idea of (processed) diet foods comes the West. The imported adjective “WELLBEING” sometimes means “healthy/natural” and sometimes means “diet”.

    Yesterday, in a “wellbeing” restaurant, the waiter apologetically explained that they didn’t have cola b/c it was not “wellbeing” (there were plenty of coffee drinks, teas and alcoholic beverages). He offered ginger ale instead. So I had ginger ale with my burger and fries. ^^

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