It looks like Tyra Banks has joined Special K for their “Shhhhut Down Fat Talk” campaign. I hope that she reconsiders, because there are a bunch of issues here.
I blogged about the many issues with using the term “fat talk” as a substitute for “negative body talk” , chief among them that saying that we shouldn’t call people fat suggests that being fat is such a terrible thing that we shouldn’t utter the word out loud. Fat people are not Voldemort and making fat seem like the “physical descriptor that must not be named” actually further shames and stigmatizes people who are fat whether we call them/ourselves that or not. The trick is to end body shaming and negative body talk full stop – not to suggest that we should abandon the use a perfectly good physical descriptor because people have been allowed to heap stereotypes onto it.
This campaign falls prey to all of the issues I discussed in that post, plus they’ve upped the ridiculousness ante by suggesting that ending fat talk helps with weight management – that we should see our bodies needing to lose weight but not say it out loud – as a way to market their breakfast cereal-based diet plan. This is the latest in a series of examples of Special K appropriating concepts from Size Acceptance to sell dieting. It’s not cool and the research that it’s based on is embarrassingly poor both in its construction and its conclusions. Their research also doesn’t challenge the existing research which shows that the vast majority of people who attempt weight loss gain their weight back in 5 years with the majority gaining more than they lost.
Tyra, if you’re reading this I’d like to say that I appreciate the work that you’ve done toward body positivity. I remember cheering as you took a picture of you in a bikini that the media tried to use to shame you and threw it back in their faces, marching with women yelling “So What!” I can’t imagine the pressure that you’ve been, and continue to be, under and the body criticism that you’ve had to deal with. So first I want to thank you for the work that you’ve done.
You’ve stated that you “don’t believe in diets” and, if that’s true, I would ask you to consider not promoting them. I’d like to invite you to fully join the Size Acceptance Movement, and to become a proponent of the Health at Every Size option. I invite you to consider that loving your body does not have to include trying to manipulate its size using a specific brand of breakfast cereal and cereal-related products, and that loving your body can mean choosing a prioritization and path to health and then letting your body settle at whatever size is settles.
I’d also ask that you reconsider your terminology of “Fierce Realness” in lieu of plus-sized woman. All women-identified women are “Fiercely Real” and to imply other wise, however well intentioned, is to dip our toe in the pond of putting other people down to try to make ourselves feel better, and that trick never works. I would suggest that we take words back from the bullies and/or create words that work for us, making sure to be inclusive along the way.
If we truly want to create a world where people are able to appreciate their amazing bodies at every size and make choices about the prioritization and path to health based on their own desires and research, then we can’t allow the diet industry – an industry that profits by taking credit for the short-term weight loss that is a biological response, but blames their clients for the long-term weight gain which is also a biological response, funds short term research but not long term research because “it would be too depressing to our clients,” and then uses that blame and shame to sell people their product again and again – to pretend to be leading the way.
First they told us to buy Special K so that you couldn’t pinch an inch on us.
Now they are telling us not to talk badly about our bodies, as long as we’re buying 1,460 Special K meals and snacks a year to do their diet.
They can sell whatever they want but we don’t have to buy it, and Tyra Banks, you don’t have to lend your name to it. I think we can do better.
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