In Case You Thought “Fatphobia” Was Overstating the Matter

An ad that depicts a giant disembodied beer gut chasing a man across a city might just help you get the “phobia” part.

(via Weetabix)

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40 Comments

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40 responses to “In Case You Thought “Fatphobia” Was Overstating the Matter

  1. I think it’s the music that creeps me out more than anything else. Makes me want to buy a pair of New Balance shoes.

  2. I have to admit that I don’t have much to say about this ad. It’s just insanely annoying.

  3. Meowser

    Cool, I can cross Reeboks off my list of things to buy. All I need is an iPod ad that bad and I’m all set!

  4. Angelos

    I guess I’ll have to put my mark in the Bad Liberal column here:

    Really? This ad is troublesome to you all? We’ve gone from “body acceptance” to “anything that advocates fit-and-trim is bad?”

    I’m no six-pack underwear model, but I’ll be FMS-fucking damned if my stomach is going to hang over my belt. Jeebus fuck. If goals and pride are bad if they relate to weight and self-image, then you’ve all gone off the deep end on the exact opposite side of the anorexia/bulimia crowd.

  5. I believe this counts for “So it is bad to be healthy?” and “I’m concerned that you are being too extreme.” for anyone playing BINGO.

  6. Winchell

    I’d venture the ad is targeting the roughly 20 to 50 year old demographic of males who wouldn’t mind being in better shape. As part of that demographic, I am not the least bit offended. The disembodied belly is a bit disturbing, yes. But its clever use of in-your-face symbolism is better than most commercials out there. I mean the guy is literally trying to outrun his “beerbelly”, right? A “beerbelly” is probably the ultimate symbol of being out of shape.
    I just worry that if we continue down this path of denouncing and attempting to whitewash anything that might possibly offend anyone, we’re going to end up with a culture that is just so much FDA approved, fresh-scented, sterilized goo that yes…will probably succeed in offending no one. But what if that offends someone too? Then what to do? *Throws hands up in resignation*

  7. That’s definitely fear of fat.

  8. Arkades

    Was I the only person to think of a certain Woody Allen sex farce? (Except in that case, the marauding body part was a giant breast instead of a giant belly.) This ad was either an homage or a total rip-off.

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  10. Kate Harding

    Winchell and Angelos, the problem is not that I’m offended by it. I’m offended a thousand times a day; I live in Bush’s America. I get over it.

    The problem is, it’s one more message telling us fat is something terrifying and monstrous. Yeah, I get that it’s an exaggeration (ya think?), but they have to start with something true for the exaggeration to be effective. And that true thing is that people in this culture are disgusted by and afraid of fat. I’ve already laid out the reasons why that degree of fear and loathing is absolute horseshit.

    I’m no six-pack underwear model, but I’ll be FMS-fucking damned if my stomach is going to hang over my belt. Jeebus fuck. If goals and pride are bad if they relate to weight and self-image, then you’ve all gone off the deep end on the exact opposite side of the anorexia/bulimia crowd.

    Are you seriously saying I’m “off the deep end” for suggesting that a gut hanging over a belt is not actually something terrifying and monstrous? Bitch, please. This ad has nothing to do with “goals and pride”; it has to do with exploiting fear of fat to make people buy a product. Running in terror is not exactly a healthy exercise program.

    I’ve explained quite clearly in several other threads why I believe — and lots of research supports this — setting weight loss as an end goal is almost inevitably setting yourself up for failure, and completely beside the point of improving health. Not to mention improving self-image. For people who cannot naturally maintain a low weight, the cycle of losing and regaining can be damaging to their physical and devastating to their mental health.

    If you exercise and eat well and don’t have a beer gut, then bully for you. But that’s probably not nearly as much of an accomplishment as you think it is, ’cause your genes are probably doing a lot of the heavy lifting. I guarantee you there are fat guys who exercise as much as you, eat no more than you, and remain fat because that’s how their bodies are built. And ads like this encourage them to hate themselves, starve themselves, and overexercise, because people can’t get it through their fat fucking heads that size diversity is perfectly natural.

  11. Adnan Y.

    I’m going to have to go with Winchell and Angelo here.

    Rather than being an example of ‘fatphobia’ – I’m assuming you meant cacomorphobia, ‘ the irrational fear of fat people’ – the Reebok advert’s simply a literal escape from the Beer Belly (dun dun dun!). And last time I checked, having a beer belly – whether one is skinny or fat – is hardly an indication of being in good shape, but more a case of being lazy or being in a stationary for more than is normal. And if the idea of making sure that one’s stomach doesn’t hang over my belt is seen as a bad thing, then we might as well tell kids to not bother eating fruits in vegetables, or not bother to exercise.

  12. Kate Harding

    And if the idea of making sure that one’s stomach doesn’t hang over my belt is seen as a bad thing, then we might as well tell kids to not bother eating fruits in vegetables, or not bother to exercise.

    Are you fucking kidding me? Eating fruits and vegetables and exercise are good things because they improve health. Weight loss, which can be and is done in a whole lot of incredibly unhealthy ways, does not improve health, in and of itself. NO ONE is advocating a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet as ideals here. But I love how many people think advocating for fat acceptance — i.e., accepting that people naturally come in different fucking shapes and sizes, period — means my real message is “Pull up to the TV with a case of beef jerky, everybody!” Jesus.

    Also, I just got BINGO.

  13. Adnan Y.

    NO ONE is advocating a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet as ideals here. But I love how many people think advocating for fat acceptance — i.e., accepting that people naturally come in different fucking shapes and sizes, period — means my real message is “Pull up to the TV with a case of beef jerky, everybody!” Jesus.

    Harding, that’s just it. I’ve not said that being fat = unhealthy in ever instance. I can’t recall the magazine issue off-hand, but Mens’ Health magazine carried a feature a few years back about a fellow who was in extremely great shape – having taking part in several triathlons, an excellent competitive cyclist and runner, and so on. My father is in his late fifties and has gained a couple of extra belt-sizes, but he’s in remarkably good shape, watches his diet, and many people have assumed that he is some ten-to-fifteen years younger than he actually is.

    What my point was this – a beer belly, regardless of one’s size, is taken to be an indication of being unhealthy and living a sedentary lifestyle. To me, the video you posted wasn’t being cacomorphobic at all, but an advert that was basically saying “Oi, get off that couch! Follow a healthier lifestyle. (And buy our shoes, too, while you’re at it.)” Saying that the advert was an example of cacomorphobia, in that regard, though understandable, was a wee inaccurate.

  14. Adnan Y.

    PS: that “ever” is meant to be “in every instance.”

  15. Angelos

    If you exercise and eat well and don’t have a beer gut, then bully for you. But that’s probably not nearly as much of an accomplishment as you think it is, ’cause your genes are probably doing a lot of the heavy lifting.

    My genes provide the basic shape. And in that sense, I got lucky. But I have a hell of a lot of control over how I look within that framework, and I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum.

    Is every jogger you pass on the street fatphobic? Is everyone at the gym? Are they all victims of some vast conspiracy? No, they’re doing the best they can with what they’ve got. No, not everyone can get down to the same level of lean, but they can tighten their shit up, and any level of effort is a good thing.

    I was with you on the Special K post, I was with Shakes on the yogurt post, but this one just struck me as going too far. Just because someone’s not marketing to you, doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t find value/humor in the ad. 99% of ads on TV aren’t for me either. Doesn’t mean they have to stop.

    I don’t give two shits about how anyone looks but me. Well, and my wife. And my standards don’t have much room for fat in them. But that’s for me. That’s my preference, it’s what turns me on. Am I not allowed to say that? Does that make me a fatist?

    I completely accept “that people naturally come in different fucking shapes and sizes, period.” It’s a stretch to go from “fitness guy doesn’t want a gut” to “fitness guy hates fat people.” He’s got his own motivation, and it keeps him running.

  16. And that motivation is an insanely overblown fear of fat. Not a good or healthy motivation. Fat people aren’t out to fatten up thin people to our pleasing or to force people to marry fatties. We’re asking for respect and hoping that everyone can learn to accept their bodies for what they are and stop living in fear of fat in whatever form inspires their distaste or hatred. Not only of external fat people, but also of internal and irrational fears of becoming fat.

  17. Rose

    I’ve been reading your posts for a few weeks now, and also other fat acceptance sites. So I wanted to thank you and let you know that you’re making a difference in my life and the lives of others. If only you’d been around when I was a teenager I think it would have saved me so much pain and self-loathing/abuse.

    You’re detractors always pull the same old argument out of their asses every time “But it’s NOT HEALTHY!” Now it’s that a “beer gut” is the most unhealthy thing of all. But many people with big bellies don’t even drink beer. Wouldn’t all people be healthier if they made a choice to be active for strength, not for fear of a big belly?

    Just to let you know a little about me, I’m short, only slightly “overweight” and I carry all my extra weight on my thighs, hips, and butt, which even the experts admit has no adverse health effects.

    But all those “thunder thigh” comments are just to make me healthy, right?

  18. Angelos

    Yeah, that’s right, all these people are “insane.” Or maybe, in every single case, they look better, feel better, and are stronger. They’ve improved themselves.

    Also notice, that they are still not “models” by any means. Look at the second person (Angela). She still weighs 164. No, she won’t be in the next JC Penny swimwear catalog. But she lost 100 fucking pounds, using diet and exercise. Body For Life is a great program with no gimmicks and no excuses. With work and discipline, you see self-reinforcing results, and there’s less inclination to backslide because it’s about real life-changing habits, not some stupid 3-week pill.

    Look at the third person, Becki. She was at 128. She wasn’t about weight, but about fitness. She only lost 10 lbs, but DAMN is she toned. I hope I look half that good when I’m 47.

    You and your projection, BStu, are offensive to me. Again, it’s not about you. The guy running his gut off doesn’t care about you. He cares about himself.

    When I get bored and lazy, I pick up my BFL book, and figure out some new routine or new goal. I’m considering trying the actual challenge, but I’m about to change jobs – the timing may be wrong while I’m adjusting to my new life.

  19. Kate Harding

    Angelos, you’ve made your point. And I’ve explained clearly here and elsewhere why I disagree with it. I just deleted your extra three weight loss links — one was more than enough — and if you keep making the same points over and over, I’ll delete the comments. (You are welcome, however, to make different points. But so far, all you’ve got is, “It’s not bad to work out!” No shit.)

    Rose, I wish I’d had me around as a teenager.

  20. Melissa McEwan

    I just deleted your extra three weight loss links — one was more than enough — and if you keep making the same points over and over, I’ll delete the comments.

    Comments are not edited or deleted at Shakesville unless they become threatening or harassing, which Angelos’ comments clearly are not. Admittedly, Angelos is not quite getting the point here, but I can assure you that Angelos, who has been a Shaker for years, and with whom I’ve disagreed about some things over those years (and vice versa), is not a nasty troll whose sole purpose is to be mean or shaming.

  21. You don’t get it, Angelos. I don’t just care about fat hatred as it effects me. I care about how it effects other people, too. It’s called empathy, not projection. I don’t accept fat hatred directed in any direction. Even inward.

  22. Melissa McEwan

    Angelos, it seems to me that one of the things you may not be fully considering is that not every person who needs to get healthier is motivated by fear, and not every person who needs to get healthier is fat, yet fear and hatred of fat is the constant drumbeat that permeates society. A healthier message would be a man running toward some icon of healthfulness.

    I don’t actually think you and Kate fundamentally disagree. I think you’re both advocates for healthfulness at any size–but you’re arguing past each other.

  23. Kate Harding

    Sorry, Melissa and Angelos, for overstepping my bounds!

    And Angelos, I hope Liss is right that we fundamentally agree.

  24. Melissa McEwan

    Sorry, Melissa and Angelos, for overstepping my bounds!

    No apology necessary. I should have mentioned it. It was my fault. 🙂

  25. Angelos

    I just deleted your extra three weight loss links — one was more than enough

    Wouldn’t want any kind of information hanging out there. That would be too scary. That those three links were for three different styles of body transformation was germane to my post. Not everyone can get, or should try to get, to levels we associate with “models” and bodybuilders and fitness/aerobics competitors. But everyone can maximize their body potential, whatever the genetic case may be. It’s not about weight. It’s about the satisfaction of effort/result.

    It’s no different from reading a book to feed your brain. Everyone’s “intelligence” is different too. I am very good at certain types of thinking/writing/creating, not so good at others. When I read baseball-geek SABRmetrics books, or economics books, or the electronics handbook I just got (I’m trying to build a tube amplifier), I’m feeding my strengths while learning something new. While I slog through “A People’s History of the United States” or something philosophy-oriented, I’m working on my weaknesses, stretching my brain in new ways. It’s harder, slower, and frustrating sometimes. I may never get “ripped” in that department, but maybe I can lose some of the “fat.”

    keep making the same points over and over

    As opposed to all the comments on the other side of the table, yours included.

  26. Mhorag

    The funny part of this is that I wasn’t thinking about the guy being fatphobic in the commercial – I was thinking about the *last* running shoe commercial I saw where it was a woman running from a guy in a mask with a chainsaw. It was obviously a satiric comment on slasher flicks – the typical unstoppable monster chasing woman through the dark, dark woods. But I didn’t see it as misogynistic. The woman was not running in terror (no screaming, no arm flailing, no running blindly through brush when there’s a clear path 2 steps to the right, no constant looking back to see if she’s being chased). She was totally focused on getting away, and she OUTRAN THE MONSTER. Yeppers, the chainsaw-wielding maniac actually had to stop chasing her because he ran out of breath and couldn’t catch her!! All because of her running shoes! Buy our shoes and you too can outrun the things trying to hurt you! (At least, that’s the message I got.) The commercial was taken off the air because of the comments received that it was “degrading to women”. I guess I didn’t see it – I would LOVE to be able to run a chainsaw-wielding maniac into the ground. It *totally* goes against formula.

    Same problem here – I don’t necessarily see it as “fatphobic” per se (and I say this as a fat person). Yeah, the monster is a beer belly, and it’s obvious the guy doesn’t want to get caught by it. Classic monster flick formula. Note, however, he doesn’t outrun it (as in the lady running shoe commercial). He *outthinks* it by tricking it into jumping into the river. I think it would have been a better commercial if the guy running had been portrayed a little less afraid of it, and a little more focused on getting rid of it.

    (shrugging) Guess I just have a really twisted sense of humor – I thought it was funny.

  27. Angelos, do you really think that information isn’t “out there”? Improvement through weight loss is a dominant position in our society. I hear Reebok even made a commercial about it. The suggestion is that fat stigmatization isn’t a good thing. That defining self-improvement through pounds lost isn’t a good path to either physical or mental health. That holding fat people up (even just animated portions of fat people) for negative inspiration is extremely damaging. Not just to the fat people used as examples of what not to be, but for the people who are hostile towards their own bodies. Fat stigmatization is nothing new. It is no revealed truth. It’s pretty much been the only acceptable view for decades. “Tweaking it” by making the goal “only” 118lbs doesn’t really count as a fundamental change to what has been the status quo for a very long time. The result of its reign is just more people with hostile relationships with their body, with food, and with exercise. Fat stigmatization has failed by even the standards it laid out for itself. Its hardly extremist to advocate for a different path which doesn’t try to “motivate” with fat loathing.

  28. Melissa McEwan

    Wouldn’t want any kind of information hanging out there. That would be too scary. That those three links were for three different styles of body transformation was germane to my post.

    Angelos, relax. There’s a whole troll-type unique to fat-blogging in which people compulsively drop in links to weight-loss drugs and things (stuff you wouldn’t endorse), just to be nasty. (Remember Jasper and his compulsive dropping in of aborted fetus pictures? Same deal.) You probably didn’t know that; Kate’s new; there’s no reason to turn it into a big thing and accuse Kate of being anti-information.

    Let’s let it go and move on, okay?

  29. Angelos

    The main point of contention here, is really this ad. Shakes is right, kate, that you and I are probably 90% on the same page. I’ve read and enjoyed every one of your posts here, and forwarded your introductory post to all my friends in my daily internet round-up newsletter.

    The other 10% is this: it seems to me that in any advocacy for any cause, there comes a point where I think, “Really? That’s a problem?”

    Most of the time, I suck it up, exercise my empathy muscles, and say OK, maybe I can’t grasp that last 10% because I’m not in that situation myself.

    One of my dearest friends is fat, black, and gay. Talk about a social triple whammy. He and I have discussed the race (he’s 15 years older than me, so he dealt with a lot of race issues in college in the 70s) and the gay to no end. He’s been a huge part of my progressive education over the last 20 years (he was my fraternity’s cook, and we made him a brother we loved him so much). He’s gotten me to that last 10% on those 2 areas. The power of words, etc.

    But no one in my circle of friends ever discusses weight. When 20 bothers and their wives get together for a Labor Day cookout, there are a hell of a lot of body types there. No one seems to give a shit, and it’s not a political topic we get into.

    So maybe I lack that last 10% in this area, but I also view this ad as so vastly different from the Special K and yogurt ads, which were highly offensive and directly insulting. This sneaker just ad doesn’t trigger that response in me.

    Sorry I got snippy in the last two lines of my previous post. It took me while to put together (I am pretending to work after all), and I missed Shakes’ ensuing peace-keeping efforts.

  30. Kate Harding

    The other 10% is this: it seems to me that in any advocacy for any cause, there comes a point where I think, “Really? That’s a problem?”

    Angelos, me too, frankly. We’re just drawing the line in different places on this particular subject. *shrug*

    Liss is exactly right about why I went apeshit, btw. You were displaying several hallmarks of the classic fat-blog concern troll, and I was profoundly Not In the Mood. Sorry for the misunderstanding — and thanks for the compliments.

    Gotta go get on a bus now, so if you don’t see me back here, it’s not because I’m running away. 🙂 I trust my fellow fatties will smack down any misinformation or boneheaded statements in my absence.

  31. "Fair and Balanced" Dave

    Was I the only person to think of a certain Woody Allen sex farce? (Except in that case, the marauding body part was a giant breast instead of a giant belly.)

    Maybe it’s just my age, but the first thing that came to my mind was Rover from the 60’s television series “The Prisoner”

  32. Mhorag

    Yeah! The Prisoner! I had the worst crush on Patrick McGoohan for *years* after that show. 🙂

    And the Rovers were really, really creepy. (shudder)

  33. While I definitely understand where you’re coming from — my partner has one of those buddha bellies and I hate that he has to deal with size judgement — I’d be lying if I said that the beer belly on the motorcycle didn’t crack me up.

  34. Winchell

    The problem is, it’s one more message telling us fat is something terrifying

    Yes, why should we be afraid of harmless old fat anyway? Especially fat around the midsection or “belly”, which was the protaganist in the commercial. Well, let’s see.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/10/AR2006041001277.html

    Look, I understand the whole thing about how some individual’s bodies are not likely to dramatically change no matter how they eat or excercise. Some people will always be rail thin, and some will be heavier. From what I hear, some people can be healthy either way. But, I think you are forgetting the third class of people who fit into neither of those categories. The people who’s weight does fluctuate depending upon how much, and what type of food they consume in conjunction with how sedentary their lives are. The last year and a half of high school or so I put on a good amount of weight. Oh, round-about 25-30 pounds or so…I stopped playing a whole lot of sports. Instead, there was hardly a party I missed. I drank and ate out alot, and otherwise didn’t get a whole lot of excercise. I definitely felt sluggish and had less energy.
    Skip forward to freshman year of college. I walked to school every day. I was too poor to buy an excessive amount of food. I lost all that weight and then some. It’s been a few years since then, and I’ve had fluctuations up and down depending upon how much excercise I get.

    While I’m not claiming this commercial is some brilliantly motivating weight-loss message, it does drive a simple point home. Literally, run away from your gut. That message rings true for me.

  35. Most people’s weight doesn’t fluctuate significantly with exercise. Studies have shown that adopting a healthy lifestyle may result in an average loss of less than 10lbs. That’s average. Meaning, maybe one person out of 100 lost 100lbs and the rest didn’t lose anything. But everyone saw dramatic improvement in health. Guess who is the “success story”, though? Weight and fat just aren’t good barometers of health, so running from fat isn’t running to good health.

  36. Rose

    Winchell – there’s an article in the Washington Post saying that fat is dangerous and will kill ya??? Really??? Wow! Thanks for pointing it out because all the news in the mainstream press these days have been about how we should accept our bodies just the way we are and concentrate on good eating habits and exercise to improve our strengh and health, forget about how you look. Also, there’s so much concern out there about young girls taking care of there health and not wreaking terrible havoc on their young, developing bodies through anorexia and crash dieting.

    So this is really an eye-opener, I’m so glad you sent it, really gives me a different perspective on things!

    FYI – I’m new to posting here, so please note that was all sarcasm.

  37. Melissa McEwan

    I’m new to posting here, so please note that was all sarcasm.

    LOL! Coming through loud and clear, Rose.

    (Which is, naturally, a compliment.) 😉

  38. Winchell

    Rose, this isn’t the mainstream press. That article is contrast to the theme of this thread that fat isn’t all that bad afterall, as was my posting. That is the reason I posted it.

    Are you sure that sarcasm? Lemme go back and check.

    FYI-that last line was also sarcasm. duh.

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  40. wriggles

    This ad sums up exactly how the whole tedious edifice of losing weight had run its course with me. I began to perceive fitness etc., as trying to outrun something as opposed to progressing toward something.

    I used to feel good about ‘getting fit’ and ‘healthy eating’ now I just feel queasy about them.
    However, I’m not the only one feeling somewhat jaded,I note that a lot of fitness lovers have taken to throwing around ‘healthful’.

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