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Feminspire | April 19, 2014

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“Stop the Fat Talk”? Why Not Fight the Dieting Industry Instead?

“Stop the Fat Talk”? Why Not Fight the Dieting Industry Instead?

| On 30, Dec 2013

One of the things that makes me angriest is condescension. It’s number two on my list of hated behaviors, right after discrimination. So it doesn’t make me happy that the cereal company Kellogg, in all its infinite wisdom, has handed women a big serving of discrimination, dressed up with a topping of condescending paternalism.

What am I talking about? Kellogg’s new campaign, seemingly unrelated to cereal, called “Stop the Fat Talk”. It seems at first glance like a good idea. Expose the fat talk and other body image issues that many women face, and try and decrease the frequency and severity of it. Sounds great, right?

It’s about as great as the Dove artist commercials were earlier this year. Which is to say, not great at all. In fact, hugely problematic. Let’s take a look. If you watch TV, either through a cable or on Hulu, you might have seen this ad:

It starts off with some troubling statistics that generalize about the percentage of women who fat talk. Then the ad proceeds to turn a store that looks suspiciously like Francesca’s into a store filled with hateful messages about body types all over the tags and signs. The women are shocked and angry, then realize that they have been saying the same things to themselves, and are embarrassed, and then immediately become “strong women” who will no longer do such horrible demoralizing things to themselves!

Kellogg, I hate to break it to you, but it’s not that simple. Your created store does not solve the problems of a world of women who have had it pounded into their heads that they aren’t skinny enough or otherwise “good” enough. Creating a store that broadcasts messages of body negativity does not create positive realizations for women–on the contrary, it does the opposite. It makes women hate their bodies, because they are too fat, or too skinny, or too short, or too tall. And if you don’t believe me, just look at the current media climate. Executives rake in money in the fashion and beauty industries, which show us images of unattainable perfection, the weight-loss industry makes its buck on our desperation, and the patriarchy thrives on tearing a woman down if she dares to step out into the public eye with a single hair out of place.

And as if the video wasn’t bad enough, when you look at their website, it’s not just a body image site. Kellogg’s message isn’t about being happy with the body you have. It’s about being happy with the body you have so that you can continue to improve it by going on diets. You can buy Special K Plans, products, and recipes–all to help you diet better. Their slogan says that fat talk is a “barrier to weight management success.” It’s all about how to feel good about losing weight. Which when you think about it makes sense because this company has been marketing weight-loss cereals to women for years, they’re not going to give up now. Boost your body image so that we can keep feeding you diet products and tear you down.

The body positivity movement should be about feeling comfortable with your current body, no matter your weight or shape. If we are going to stop the fat talk, we need to stop it forever, no exceptions. If individuals want to work on losing weight, that’s their decision, and it’s a decision that they should not be pushed on. Body positivity is not a stepping stone to losing weight. It is an end in itself.

Written by Laura Koroski

  • Jessica Hammond

    Great article and great exposé on the way companies like Dove and Special K treat women’s bodies as something to embrace before they totally reinvent it with their products. Just curious as to where the figures behind “Millions of executives rake in money in the fashion and beauty industries …” comes from? Is the number of beauty and fashion companies being counted with an assumption at the number of executives each brand has? I ask because I really enjoy sharing Feminspire’s articles with others, but have found that generalized stats and figures are often pointed out as a way of disengaging with what the rest of the article has to say. If someone could clarify this detail for me, I’d greatly appreciate it!

    • Laura

      Hi Jessica, thanks for pointing out that. It was a generalized statistic, and has been fixed now. I hope that helps with sharing this article!

  • Amy

    kay so we can talk about it. but what’s actionable?