Fat America: Profiting off the Majority-Minority

Fat Wallet

A fundamental pillar of body diversity activism is the concept that fat people are a persecuted minority in this country. Statistically, people classified as “overweight” actually make up over two-thirds of the population. That means we can’t be considered as a minority, right?

Wrong.

This statistical discrepancy is used as fuel to discredit the body acceptance movement. What a cursory internet search reveals, however, is that this is a legitimate phenomenon called the “majority-minority”. In Texas, New Mexico, and California, for example, non-White Hispanics constitute a majority-minority, in that their population outnumbers that of other races in the same region. This majority-minority status does not negate the discrimination faced by the Hispanic population. Things like housing discrimination and hate crimes (which among immigrant populations are most likely higher than reported due to fear of deportation), are just as bad in these states compared to states where Hispanics are merely a minority-minority group.

Increased population, and thus visibility, is not a cure for discrimination. This is painfully apparent when looking at the treatment of fat people. Even though fat bodies, or at least bigger than “average” bodies (think about that statement for a second) are by far the numerically dominant group. Logically, businesses should be catering to us. Services should be catering to us. People who make waiting room seats, underpants, and cars should all be catering to our big butts. There are billions of dollars to be made here. A capitalist’s wet dream.

Instead, I hear arguments along the lines of, “just because you’ve let yourself get fat doesn’t mean you deserve special treatment”.

Is it special treatment when it directly caters toward the majority of people?

In fact, weight-loss is a huge money-making industry. It just doesn’t cater to us. It tricks us into THINKING it’s catering to us. In actuality, it’s taking advantage of us. Warning: dieting and weight shaming ahead.

From media empire charlatans …

… to the tech industry …

… to multi-level marketing schemes…

… to the pharmaceutical industry …

The diet industry is a $60 billion a year industry, and it works if your metric for “working” is making a shit ton of money reliably over time. What it doesn’t succeed in doing, however, is helping people lose weight and achieve that much sought-after “average”-ness. Most people regain the weight they lose. Businesses and corporations stand to gain by keeping your sad ass fat, and your fat ass sad. By treating the majority like a minority group, by keeping us feeling disenfranchised, lonely, ugly, and unloveable, corporations can keep us buying things that don’t work and things we don’t need. Fat Americans face discrimination on an economic level, with constant messages telling us we aren’t worth anything unless we change. That we don’t deserve to be treated well unless we stop being “lazy” and “exert some effort”. We are subjected to scare tactics, personal attacks, and public shame. “Average” and “thin” people are susceptible to these messages as well. People are pressured to utilize “willpower” to maintain their physique, to eat certain foods and take certain medicines so they don’t devolve into a dreaded fat person. This fuels societal stigma, and creates a body-type based class system where thin people benefit from fat people staying fat. People who stay “fit” because they “put down the cheeseburger” or “get off their ass”. They can feel superior. They can feel “better than”. They can feel right, as long as they keep taking their probiotics and count every calorie and exercise 90 minutes a day.

Show me a world where we aren’t profiting off telling people being fat is bad and you might just have a case against the overweight in this country being a true minority.

Jennifer Lawrence: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

First of all, Jennifer Lawrence is dynamite in every movie she does. She is lovely. She seems fairly intelligent. And then she goes to Barbara Walters and says this:

Transcript:

BW: “You criticized the people who judge other women especially on the red carpet, you’re very sensitive to that. Why?”

JL: “Because why is humiliating people funny? And I am also, and I get it and then I do it — we all do it but, I think when it comes to the media — the media needs to take responsibility, for the effect that it has on our younger generation, on these girls are watching these television shows and picking up how to talk and how to be cool and how to be — then all of a sudden being funny is making fun of the girl that’s wearing the ugly dress and making fun of the girl that’s, you know… and the word fat. I just think it should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV, and  if we are regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words for the effect it has on the younger generation, why aren’t we regulating things like calling people fat?”

Okay, let’s break a few things down. What is and is not seen on broadcast TV is largely determined by two groups; the Standards and Practices departments of the given cable television network, and (for broadcast television) the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC bases their guidelines mostly around the concept of “obscenity” as it is vaguely defined by the US Supreme Court. Specifically, it looks for material that:

  • An average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
  • Depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law;
  • Taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value

The Standards and Practices departments of television networks are beholden to no one but their potential advertisers. Obscenity, or sex, or smoking, or drug use, is not banned from television.  And when those behaviors AREN’T shown, it’s usually because it would upset the advertisers and the network would lose revenue as a result.

Banning the adjective “fat” from TV is not the same as banning smoking. The problem with how “fat” is used on television isn’t that it glorifies the use of the word. It is that it glorifies the use of the word as a derogatory term. If anything, “fat” should be used more often, in more positive contexts. More fat characters with positive story lines and comedy that doesn’t revolve around body type. The only way to get the networks to discourage fat caricatures and fat shaming for comedy would be through the manipulation of ad revenue. Unfortunately, there is BIG BUSINESS in fat shaming, and even more in “body improvement” and “health” (think low-fat anything, makeup, SPANX).

Asking for someone to ban a word like “fat” does not deter fat shaming behavior. It simply increases its already negatively charged stigma. I say, bring on the “fat” words! Proliferate them! Take their negative power away. That is something that would actually help little girls… to hear words that describe their bodies that aren’t “bad words” that you can’t say on TV.

The Fat Word: The Beginning

Starting a blog is hard.

lsp2

First, you need a central concept and theme. For me, the central concept started as a gripe. Actually, more like a series of interconnected gripes that bordered on angry ranting and came across as sour grapes. I am fat, therefore flawed in some way. There are vast machinations that remind me on a daily basis that I am ugly/lazy/stupid/ill/undesirable. Most of the time, my logic and self-esteem win out and I saunter through my day with sass and self-possession. Roughly 20% of the time, however, societal pressures win out and make me feel like a disgusting, lumpy monster. No one should feel like that. Even “thin” and “attractive” people feel that way — we live in a media-rich world saturated with body-shaming messages disguised as entertainment and advertising.

This blog is for the Lumpy Ones.