Reader Chris let me know about this study, in which researchers worked with “men and women” (cis being presumed, no mention of trans or nonbinary people) in a remote area of Nicaragua who had either regular access to television or no access to television, all of whom had basically no access to magazines or the internet.
The breakdown was stark – those without television access preferred larger bodies, those who watched TV preferred thinner bodies.
They did a further experiment, showing the villagers a series of pictures of larger or thinner women, and found that after seeing the images, their preferences adjusted in the same direction.
While one of the study’s authors had found the same effect in women in Western Societies previously, this had never been tested in non-industrial societies.
Study Co-author, Dr Jean-Luc Juckers said
“This study, utilizing a range of quantitative and qualitative research methods with non-Western participants, provides yet more empirical evidence that the mass media impact female body size ideals.”
Co-Author Dr. Tracey Thornborrow explained
“Our findings clearly demonstrate that perceptions of attractiveness are highly changeable, and are affected by what we are visually exposed to.”
This is important because of those people (who are often benefiting from the status quo) who insist that the fact that fat people don’t have positive representation in the media doesn’t have any negative effects.
It is harmful to us to not have positive representation, but it also perpetuates fatphobia as the media teaches people to see fat bodies in a negative light, even while they try to tell themselves that it’s natural to think those things about fat bodies.
This seemed particularly appropriate to talk about in light of the Golden Globes tonight, hosted by noted fatphobic, transphobic, ableist defender-of-white-dudes-using-the-n-word human trash pile Ricky Gervais, and the extreme lack of fat people nominated (which doesn’t really set fat people apart from other marginalized groups including People of Color, Trans and non-binary people, and cis-women except in gendered categories that are specifically for them and exclude those who don’t fit into a strict gender binary.)
This is a direct reflection of the perpetuation of the thin beauty ideal. In the US, those who cast performers often cast first and foremost based on the performer’s ability to meet a stereotype of beauty rooted in cis, het, thin, white, able-bodiedness (unless the part specifically calls for something different, in which case it’s often rooted in negative stereotypes.) When it comes to fat people this robs us of the opportunity to have and be positive representation.
The truth is that thinness isn’t important at all. You could replace almost any leading role with a fat performer and the only thing that would actually have to change is people’s fatphobia at the thought of a fat performer in a leading role.
The study’s lead author, Professor Lynda Boothroyd, summed it up nicely:
“TV and advertising bosses have a moral responsibility to use actors, presenters and models of all shapes and sizes and avoid stigmatising larger bodies. There needs to be a shift towards a ‘health at every size’ attitude and the media has an important role to play in that.”
Was this helpful? If you appreciate the work that I do, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time tip or by becoming a member. (Members get special deals on fat-positive stuff, a monthly e-mail keeping them up to date on the work their membership supports, and the ability to ask me questions that I answer in a members-only monthly Q&A Video!)
Speaking of fat performers, I’ll be doing a stand-up comedy set as a guest performer at the FATCH – the Fat Sketch Comedy Group’s New Year, Same You show on January 10th at 9pm at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater on Sunset in Los Angeles. Tickets and info can be found here (Accessibility info: there is a fat-friendly bench in the front, the rest of the seating is stadium theater seats with arms up at least one step. The venue is wheelchair accessible, but there is limited space for wheelchairs.)
In case you missed it, my adorable dog and I have a poem to help you resolve (for the first time, or again) to ditch diets. I’m having fun doing videos like this so there will definitely be more – if you want to make sure not to miss future videos, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel!
Like this blog? Here’s more cool stuff:
Wellness for All Bodies Program: A simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight-neutral perspective. This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!
Price: $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)
This e-course that includes coaching videos, a study guide, and an ebook with the tools you need to create a rock-solid relationship with your body. Our relationships with our bodies don’t happen in a vacuum, so just learning to see our beauty isn’t going to cut it. The world throws obstacles in our way – obstacles that aren’t our fault, but become our problem. Over the course of this program, Ragen Chastain, Jeanette DePatie, and six incredible guest coaches will teach you practical, realistic, proven strategies to go above, around, and through the obstacles that the world puts in front of you when it comes to living an amazing life in the body you have now.
($79.00 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)
Love It! 234 Inspirations And Activities to Help You Love Your Body
This is filled with thoughtful advice from the authors Jeanette DePatie, Ragen Chastain, and Pia Sciavo-Campo as well as dozens of other notable names from the body love movement, the book is lovingly illustrated with diverse drawings from size-positive artist Toni Tails.
Price: $9.99 softcover, $7.99 Kindle, ($6.95 + free shipping for DancesWithFat Members)
Book and Dance Class Sale! I’m on a journey to complete an IRON-distance triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here! (DancesWithFat Members get an even better deal, make sure to make your purchases from the Members Page!)
I’m (still!) training for an Iron-distance triathlon! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com .