Do we really need more fatism and fat shaming?

4 05 2009

Women’s Entertainment Television (WeTV) has a new show called I Want to Save Your Life in which nutrition and public health advocate, Charles Stuart Platkin, aka the Diet Detective, intervenes in the lives of “fat” women to help “save their lives.” Because you know, they need saving from fatness.

Feministing has the promo video where you see several white women walking around or sitting down eating unhealthy foods, like ice cream sundaes, pizza, etc. and Platkin creepily watches from a distance and narrates, “I investigate people. I spy on them. I watch their every move. I dig through their lives. I look inside, so I can help them change the outside.” (Stalker much?) At the end of the 46 second promo video, a woman walks home where her husband and Platkin are sitting at a table and Platkin rises and says to the woman, “I’m here to save your life.”

There are several things problematic with this show (or at least the promo for this show since I haven’t actually seen it):

1. It assumes that women’s bodies are public property and that by not doing femininity “right”, like by being fat, it is completely acceptable for her to be shamed, harassed and stalked for the “error” of their ways. It goes back to policing femininity where women are supposed to conform to a certain (typically white) standard of beauty, otherwise they deserve to be picked on.

2. It assumes and disseminates the idea that people are fat because they secretly stuff their faces with junk food all day long and therefore need to be “saved”. This ties into a lot of fatist stereotypes, like that fat people are lazy and don’t try hard enough. And of course Platkin is portrayed as the hero, the kind and selfless man coming to “save your life” because of course women, especially fat women, need men to intervene and help them control themselves and what they put into their mouths. The title of the show in itself, “I Want to Save Your Life”, is so sensationalizing. Obviously it is important to live a healthy lifestyle and take care of yourself and your body, but really?

3. It promotes fat shaming and makes women feel even more self-conscious about what they eat and the way they look, especially since Platkin may be secretly hiding in his car stalking you and watching your every move. Of course when thin women reach out for a cupcake, ice cream or pizza, they aren’t judged because they’re thin so it’s okay for them to eat unhealthy foods. But when a not-so-thin woman eats unhealthily she is judged.

Perhaps one of the most ridiculous or outrageous things is that no matter how thin you are, you will never be able to perfectly fulfill the impossible beauty standards that society holds us up to. Capitalism thrives off people’s insecurities and thus society will always be sending us messages telling us that we’re not good enough. Our breasts, our butts, our noses, our legs, our thighs, our hair, etc. will never be good enough and will never be able to measure up. No matter how much you weigh, no one can ever completely fulfill the ridiculous beauty standards that we have created. As Renee writes:

Everywhere you look, someone is profiting from fat shaming except those that must deal with the stigma of being reminded continually how far we fall short from the ideal. Women in particular are targeted with the body perfection meme. Who has not looked in the mirror and felt those moments of insecurity and quiet panic? As much as many of us are womanists/feminists who believe that our true value is in who we are as people, we continually fall prey to the patriarchal understanding of ‘woman’ as simply a body to be consumed. So much of womanhood is tied up with appearance that insecurity has become a normal phenomenon.

Indeed. And we don’t need more shows like “I Want to Save Your Life” to prove it.



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