Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Stand Against Weight Bullying

I have been very happy the last couple weeks to donate my Photoshopping time to this project:

...which is one of the organized responses to the Strong4Life campaign in Georgia. It's a project that is trying to reduce rates of childhood obesity with "harsh" (their words) advertising showing chubby children in black and white photos staring sadly into the camera with fat-shaming slogans like: IT'S HARD TO BE A LITTLE GIRL WHEN YOU AREN'T.

That one breaks my heart. How dare they say little fat girls aren't little girls. It's hard not to be mad and heartsick when you see advertising that recreates visually the worst of what it's like to be treated as a fat kid and then tells the kid it's their fault. Basically the campaign is an endorsement of fat prejudice.

I don't know that they're trying to do this--I don't know that they even see that they're doing this (well, now they probably do). I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt at the moment for no other reason that contemplating the opposite makes me exhausted, and note that truly, yea verily, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and that like many organizations like this--organizations that make heavy-handed mistakes like this--they are probably passionately interested in the health of children. The problem--the dead-end--is tying health to size, full-stop, and working backwards from there. Good health--bad health--health is much more complicated than that. And why is there no concern for thin children who have health problems that may stem from their different diets? And is there anything about this project that would make a fat kid want to run around outside?

It seems like so many conflicts that the people promoting this and the people aghast at it are quite close together, as well as far apart, like the ends of an unclosed circle. If people could set aside the blindness that comes from fat prejudice, there is common ground here. We all want healthy, active kids.

So, the "I STAND" Tumblr and photos (called "STANDards") are one response to all this. They're fun, they're real, they're diverse, they're happy, and they are positive and focused on health. People are smiling! I really like that.

If you'd like to do one yourself email Marilyn Wann at with a photo and a short slogan that completes the phrase "I stand...".

Another response to Strong4Life is the fabulous Billboard Project run by Regan Chastain. The idea is to put up positive messages on billboards to counteract the message of Strong4Life in the Atlanta area. Fundraising for this project starts at midnight tonight--here's the link!

In the meantime, some more great STANDards (the first one is Debora Iyall of Romeo Void):