Fat and Fabulous / Plus Size Wars (Channel 4) and fat acceptance

While waiting for One Born Every Minute to appear on 4seven this week, I caught the last ten minutes of a programme listed as Fat and Fabulous, although it appears to have been renamed Plus Size Wars, as this is how it is discussed on the internet and listed on catch up service 4od. This programme covered a recent move by some modelling agencies to hire plus size models and in the snippet I watched, a top model Tina Holliday was meeting fans (many of whom are bloggers) at an event in a shop in a mall.

I can’t comment on the programme as a whole but two positives stood out from what I saw.

Tina’s fans who met her made numerous comments about the high value they placed on just seeing someone like themselves in the media. They saw that she is the same size or shape as they are, and expressed how seeing her and her success made them feel better about themselves. They noted that only in recent years had they been able to find fat bodies like their own reflected back at them in fashionable and empowered ways. One mentioned that she wished she had been able to see this when she was growing up, as she wouldn’t have felt so alone. This positivity within a broader fat acceptance movement shows that as a society we could take a more humanising approach to the research populations – the people, the individuals – who are scrutinised, blamed, moralised on, and marginalised. Because it is not difficult to see what it feels like.

On my web travels to find more information on this programme I came across this piece from Charlotte at apple-charlotte.com which expresses this very nicely, so I’d like to quote a little from it:

you can not stereotype a whole group of people based on appearance and deem them ‘unhealthy’ and then use that as grounds to discriminate and isolate. […] why should I have to justify my body and circumstances? And fat people who don’t have PCOS or other medical reasons that may cause them to be big, doesn’t mean that they should experience any more or less hate than me. (we shouldn’t experience any AT ALL) When did someone’s health become a currency in life? All the medical problems you can get from being overweight you can also get from being average or below weight. You can also be fat and have absolutely no medical problems – YES, REALLY. (and also be slim and have hundreds of medical problems) You can also be fat and fit – Tess Munster herself works out 3 times a week, and she’s not alone in that. But again, why should fat people prove that they are a ‘good’ fat person who eats healthily and works out regularly? There are going to be fat people who don’t eat so good, and don’t do any exercise (and also a lot of slim people who do the same – yet face no prejudice because their bodies supposedly do not reflect their ‘unhealthy’ lifestyle) – but SO WHAT?! That doesn’t make them less of a human being. Everyone on this earth deserves complete equal rights, and if you don’t believe that because you think fat people are evil human beings or something, then you really need to think about what you’re suggesting. You’re suggesting that slim people, or people that fit the perfect image are worth and deserve more, and therefore the most important people on this planet; anyone who doesn’t fit this ‘perfect’ and ‘healthy’ image should then suffer the consequences of their failing lives.

When healthism takes visuals – body size – as a measure of healthiness and value, those deemed not to fit are dehumanised.

The second positive element in the programme came in an interview with a modelling agency (worker? owner?). She must’ve been asked something concern-troll-like such as, is it not bad to have fat role models like Tina Holliday because it can encourage unhealthy lifestyles? Her reply was (paraphrasing) I cant comment on how healthy or not Tina is. I’m not a doctor. She left it at that. It shouldn’t be, but it was refreshing to hear that when the moralising voices are so loud.

Plus Size Wars is currently available on 4od.

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