So, the long and short of the story I want to discuss is that a woman named Brooke Birmingham submitted an image of herself in a bikini to Shape Magazine. She took this image after losing 170 pounds. Because her body didn’t adhere to what people reading a dieting-ad-subsidized magazine, I guess, think a post-weight loss body is "supposed" to look like, the magazine rejected the image, asking her to submit one in which she was a bit more covered up. She refused and now Shape is like “oh no you misunderstood our request.” Side-eye.
Because we live in a culture in which weight loss is considered a panacea / cure-all for everything from back pain to depression to romances gone wrong (oh, and that chipped tooth and overdue phone bill, that can somehow be cured by weight loss too!), people are drawn to diets and procedures aimed at “changing their lives” through weight loss.
People are taught that weight is a signifier of our ability to be disciplined and good.. a la “how do you expect to find a man/job/happiness/escape from patriarchy if you can’t even put that sammich down?” Otherwise put: “this is all your fault!” But we in the know understand that’s all just a clever way to throw you off the scent of some nasty ass oppression politics.
There’s a little bit of a switcheroo that happens somewhere between the marketing and the public health rhetoric.
Weight loss marketing says you’re doing this for the little black dress.
Public health discourse says you’re doing this to save your life.
We consider all the hostility and condescension toward fat people
as justified by the health rhetoric. We lambast people with images of slender
bodies and then tell them it’s their choice to take control of their destiny. Because “obesity” is threatening our country and fat people are literally committing suicide right before our eyes, don’t you know?!!
All that health talk gets confusing because the actual desired outcome is a particular – and uniform - kind of body.
An oft-neglected part of the weight loss story is the variety of what post
weight loss bodies actually look like.
Let me break this down:
- Magazines like Shape – as well as most other magazines, shows and movies – get paid by advertisers. I know you already knew that. Keep
- Marketing teaches advertisers to “sell to the pain.” For real! Look it up.
- Even the stuff that isn’t an ad has to be in line with the world view that advertisers are trying to create; otherwise, they get mad and the money that's keeping that mag/show/movie afloat goes bye bye.
- Marketers are the same people who perpetuate one single ideal body to create ONE narrative (hello, scarcity!) : "If you lose weight and try real, real
hard for an unknown but definitely lengthy period of time you will inevitably
get the kind of body that’s in a Transformers movie complete with cut-off
shorts, a hero, perky boobs and not a single stretch mark or worry in sight. And if you don't end up with the aforementioned it's not that we're full
of shit; it's that you just didn't want it bad enough."
Well, girl, I’m here to tell you that that shit ain’t real. But good news: I like saggy boobs and a roll a day keeps the bullshit away. Here’s to you, Brooke, and all those who refuse to bow to make-believe stories, manipulation, and hypocrisy.