Super Bowl LI, Fat People, and Hypocrisy

super-bowl-dwfWhen fat people insist that we deserve to be represented by the media in positive ways, one of the ridiculous reasons given for refusing to represent fat people in the media as happy or successful at anything other than weight loss, is that fat people aren’t “prioritizing our health” and are therefore bad examples who must be kept out of the media.

For today I’m setting aside the fact that this is both completely untrue and that it even if it was true it would still be extremely messed up, to discuss the almost unbelievable hypocrisy that is committed anytime this argument is made and, specifically, on Super Bowl Sunday, as I try to explain in this annual DWF post.

Today was Super Bowl LI (for those not into sportsball, it’s the annual championship game of American Football.) It had an anticipated audience over 100 million people. Advertisers paid $5 Millon for a 3o second spot on FOX.  And the event is entirely comprised of men – many of them meeting the (totally bullshit) definition of “obese” – putting their health on the line and risking serious injury in the service of sportsballing better than other men, and winning jewelry.

If we really believe that the media should not give positive representation to people who don’t “prioritize their health” by whatever definition of “health” and “prioritize” that someone is using, then I’m pretty confused here:

First is this incredibly long list of injuries for the past month.

And what about the massive impact of concussions on players future lives (and the NFL cover-up thereof.)

Or the fact that the rate of bankruptcy means that taxpayers will likely pick up the cost of most of the future healthcare they’ll need.

Football players are given massive media exposure despite the fact that they are clearly not prioritizing their own health.  The NFL makes more money than any other sport and its commissioner has predicted that they will achieve $25 billion in annual revenue by 2027.  (That will still be less than half the current revenue of the diet industry but that’s a whole other blog post.)

So if we think that people who don’t “prioritize their health” are poor role models and shouldn’t be represented positively in the media, what was that whole Superbowl thing about?  Where is the hand-wringing that football players aren’t good role models because they aren’t prioritizing their health.  Where are the calculations about how expensive football players (from Pop Warner to Pro) will be – not just with sports injuries while they play, but with the fallout from concussions, and the constant pounding their joints take? Where is the WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THEIR KNEES hand-wringing?

Where are the calculations of how much money could be saved if instead of playing football those who participate just walked 30 minutes a day 5 days a week?  Where’s the government-sponsored “War on Football Playing”? And all of that despite the fact that body size is complicated and not entirely within our control and we don’t have a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people were able to change their body size, but playing (or not quitting) football is absolutely a choice.

The truth is that this whole “It’s because of fat people’s health” thing is just a crappy justification for size-based discrimination, and it’s long past time to stop using healthism and ableism to justify sizeism, and to end all of them instead.

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13 thoughts on “Super Bowl LI, Fat People, and Hypocrisy

  1. I love how you call it sports ball. Every year while I’ve worked or volunteer in a DoJang, I’ve hosted what I call “kick in” for kids and parents (usually moms) who would rather hang out on the mats, eat popcorn and watch Disney/movies. First of all, I’m not a fan of team sports or watching them on TV. Secondly, when I read the very troubling statistic that vastly more children and women are physically and mentally abused on Super Bowl day than any other day of the year, I felt I had to do something. My answer was to host my Kick Ins to give people a safe space to get away from a potentially bad situation.

    1. Due to my health, I have been largely living under the metaphorical rock lately, and frankly, wasn’t even aware that it WAS Super Bowl Sunday, until I got online (finally, after quite a while off-line) to play an online role-playing game.

      My clan-mates were chatting about the Super Bowl, and it was almost finished, so that’s how I found out about it.

      I was horribly shocked to read one of them saying, “You totally raped that bird,” and then I found out that the Patriots beat the Falcons, and figured it out.

      I want to change to a new clan now, because I can’t bear to read the clan chat. This is not the first time they’ve used rape as a joke. Usually, I just ignore them, but Sunday was pretty much the last straw for me. Time to find a new clan and/or the “ignore clan chat” button and keep it on permanently.

      Bless you for helping give people a safe space. I never really thought about the connection before, between abuse and Super Bowl, but it truly does not surprise me, any more than it surprises me to see that male privilege and the celebration of violence, through violent sport, is so strong in our society.

      It’s a pity, too, because there are so many non-violent sports out there to enjoy and support. My favorite sport (and yes it IS a sport) is ballroom dance. Also figure skating. WOW. The things people can do with their bodies is amazing! But what about track? Running is an excellent non-violent sport that also serves an actual useful purpose. Climbing, swimming, caber-tossing – all have a basis in a useful skill. Yes, caber-tossing has a useful history, albeit violent. It was a way to bridge moats, back in the day when besieging castles was a thing. But the violence came after the caber was tossed. It wasn’t the whole point of the tossing, itself, and certainly not now, as it’s done in the middle of a field.

      I could watch a SuperToss Sunday, all day long, and cheer myself hoarse.

      What even is the use behind football? Really?

      And yet, you actually hear the term “football hero.” Hero? Are they saving lives?

      I’ve never been a football fan. My favorite part was just singing the school song, and watching the audience. Now, reading about the upswing in abuse and violence on Super Bowl Sunday, I’m more turned off than ever.

  2. Ah health the great disequalizer…The Nazi’s started with health, physical, mental, moral as an obligation to the state. We’re heading down the same path, insurance bias, negative stereotypes, health at any cost thinking… It is plain old bigotry and fear of death wrapped up in the lie of wanting you to be the healthiest you you can be…for me… Yes, we get rid of the “un fit” whats left is a perfect society…

    1. It won’t surprise you to find out the great number of religious people who say that ill health is a punishment from God, and that if you do everything right, and follow God’s will, you’ll never get sick or become disabled.

      Amazingly, they ignore the entire book of Job.

      Yes, according to the scripture, God has, on several occasions, stricken sinners with illness. And he has also cured people of illness, to show his power. But, he has also, lots and lots of times, allowed people to fall ill, and allowed them to stay ill, and allowed them to die. Because He has his Reasons.

      We don’t know what the reasons are, but we do know (those that read the ENTIRE Bible, and not just the parts we like) that illness strikes the righteous, as well as the wicked.

      The health as a moral obligation goes hand in hand with health as a moral barometer, and both of them are wrong.

      1. This is really important, because I have had people tell me that I just need to claim God’s will and I could be healed from my infertility, or claim God’s will and be healed from my headaches or my fibro or my this or my that and yes even my fatness and I’m always like… didn’t Paul have a “thorn in his side”? Wasn’t he full of faith? Of course we know Job’s story from the outside, but we know Paul’s too, just from his view, which is that he had a physical ailment (we don’t know what) that he was never cured from, and we don’t know why.

        1. I think one reason (and I am sure there are many others, as I do believe in God), is that being frail ourselves makes us more accepting of the frailties of others. And having loved ones with frailties helps us be more accepting of the frailties of others.

          Parents of special needs children will often say how it taught them to be more open, loving, and accepting, in general. Of course, there are those who fail to learn the lessons, as well.

          God doesn’t want us to have perfect lives, largely because we can’t learn much from perfection. It’s the imperfections in the world, and in ourselves, that give us the ability to grow.

          When God heals, it’s for His own reason and His own plan, and we can’t command Him or force him to go contrary to his own plans. We can ask, but we can’t command Him.

          People do try to bargain with God, all the time. “If I do X, Y, and Z, you’ll do this specific blessing that I want, right? Not some other blessing that I might need more, but this specific blessing that I waaaaaaaant.” Yeah, that rarely works. And if it does work, it is because the person praying for it actually had the good sense to want what they actually need.

          Like in that song, “Unanswered Prayers.” The prayers weren’t unanswered. They were answered with “No.” People have a hard time accepting that.

          And that is why the whole “thin=moral” argument just does not work, at least in a Christian ideology, with Christian scripture. Maybe some other religion has scripture and ideology that supports that thesis, but Christian sure doesn’t.

          I’m not educated enough to speak about any other ideology, especially as regards to health, size, weight, and morality.

  3. I did watch the sportsball as a way to hang out with friends. During Lady Gaga’s half time show, for some of it she wore a top that revealed her abdomen.

    Like most women, she has belly fat. All I could think of was ‘how many people are going to have a hissy fat because she is showing belly rolls when she bends’. Never mind that she danced all the way through that.

    I actually don’t know if any body had a hissy fit, I couldn’t bear to check.

    And yes, there were injuries during that game.

    1. I watched with my husband just for the camaraderie but we missed the halftime show *wink wink*
      The thing that sticks out to me is the commercials though. Like the snickers. If you’re hungry eat a snickers. You aren’t yourself, you’re cranky, you ruin things, so eat a snickers. But then the message that the rest of us are getting is “only eat a snickers if you aren’t already fat. If you’re fat and hungry go be hungry some more”

      1. I hate that message. The idea that it’s better to be hungry, angry, cranky, on the verge of passing out, than for a fat person to actually eat something to fuel their bodies is just ridiculous.

        Thin people are allowed to have low blood sugar, or be “hangry” (I love that portmanteau), recognize it and do something to solve it, but fat people have to just suck it up. Meanwhile, they’re miserable, and everyone around them is affected by their misery, especially if they are the kind to lash out when they’re miserable.

        And then we get the “will power” lecture.

        My favorite is when some thin person tells me that if I “Just have the tiniest bit of willpower, to put down that donut (insert whatever food I might be eating at the time, including salad with lemon juice instead of dressing),” I’ll magically become thin. Because it happens so fast you know. You don’t have to have “the tiniest bit of willpower” for twenty-four hours a day, every day for THE REST OF YOUR FREAKING LIFE!!!! Nope. It’s “just the tiniest bit of willpower.”


  4. Of course we all know it really isn’t about “health” anyway. The larger person may be the healthier one, but if they don’t look a certain way, they’re branded “unhealthy.” Which, in truth, equates to “not fuckable by current societal standards of beauty.”

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