Headless fatties no more

One of my big complaints about the media coverage of obesity is the tendency to include pictures of headless fat people. It’s as if there were no fat people, just fat torsos. It’s as if no fat person would be willing to have their face associated with their body next to an article about fatness. But that’s just not true.

Along comes Stocky Bodies, a great new take (and pun) on stock photography. There’s loads of great images: fat people riding bikes, doing scuba, making crafts, using computers, and even (gasp) eating.

From their website:

The ‘Stocky Bodies’ image library was created in response to the stigmatised representations of overweight and obese people in the media and popular culture.

Such depictions tend to dehumanise by portraying subjects as headless, slovenly or vulnerable and reinforce stereotypes by presenting subjects as engaged in unhealthy eating practices or sedentary conduct.

Our library of stock photos was created to provide positive and diverse representations of the lived experience of fat that begin to break down the typecasting that heightens weight stigma. This is an important objective as research has strongly associated weight prejudice with widespread social and material inequalities, unfair treatment and heightened body esteem issues.

The photographs for the image library are the outcome of an interdisciplinary project between Dr Lauren Gurrieri of the Griffith Business School and Mr Isaac Brown of the Queensland College of Art. The participants are everyday people who are involved in fat-acceptance communities and keen to see change in the representation of fat bodies.

Our images challenge oversimplified and demeaning representations of weight prejudice by showing subjects engaged in everyday activities, such as bike riding, shopping for fashionable clothes and performing their jobs. The documentary imagery to be shown through the library is a non-stigmatising view of what it is to be fat and live an affirmative life.

‘Stocky Bodies’ is a free resource that can be used by the media, health professionals, social marketers, educators and others.

Thanks KR!

16 thoughts on “Headless fatties no more

  1. How can this be reconciled with “War Against Obesity” and the endless, vicious fat-shaming in the media? I’m fed up (so to speak) with the self-righteous hypocricy and self-deception: these beautiful people who are contemptuous of us because we offend them aesthetically but pretend that they’re interested in “health.” Screw you beautiful people: you don’t like me because I’m ugly. Admit it. You’re jerks.

  2. I agree there would be a disconnect between the fat shaming tone of many of these articles and the happy, non-ashamed faces in the photos! I like that. It also takes away one excuse I hear from journalist friends about the use of stock imagery, namely that there aren’t any photos of overweight people they can use to illustrate these articles. Yes, there are. Here are some. So there.

  3. For another example, some here may be interested in this month’s “Real Sports” on HBO. There is a profile on a female athlete whose body type does not fit the typical mold associated with female athletes.

  4. Being obese is bad for your health. The epidemic of obesity in developed world is a major societal challenge. It’s comparable to the AIDS epidemic before antiretrovirals in terms of the harm caused.

    Most Americans are overweight, so there should ideally be very little “shaming” in the sense that people are being singled out or condemned as morally inferior. Doubtless many journalists say stupid things. But the fact remains that the vast majority of Americans need to eat less and exercise more. “Fat acceptance” is not a reasonable expectation, nor is it a worthy goal, any more than “coronary artery disease acceptance” or “stroke acceptance” are.

  5. This is bs. Most of us who are overweight DON’T pig out, and most of us DO exercise. I’m genetically disposed to obesity. To maintain a normal weight I have to (1) take thyroid pills (2) exercise vigorously an hour every day–half flat out arobics and half weights and (3) starve myself. I am on a perpetual starvation diet just to maintain a normal weight. When I was overweight, I ate like a normal person, and worked out 3 days a week–I didn’t eat junk food or eat a lot, but I was still fat. Most of us who are genetically inclined to obesity are not eating any more than people of normal weight.

    There is an “obesity epidemic” because we humans evolved to deal with scarcity, to gorge when we could get it. So currently, where food is readily avallable and we do what comes naturally most of us will get fat. It’s only a lucky minority who can eat normally and NOT get fat. And I’m sick of hearing that lucky minority’s self-righteous contempt for the rest of us who are genetically disposed to being fat and have to take heroic measures to avoid it.

  6. I don’t think anyone’s argued for fat acceptance, so much as person-acceptance. Although Americans generally indulge in large portions, exercise is far more important than food-portion sizes according to many measures.

    In any case, the last sentence advances a disanalogy. Coronary disease and stroke are diseases and losses of functions. Fat is not inherently either a disease or a function-loss. To assume it is effectively judges all people with notable fat-deposits to be diseased or diminished in some function, and this is presumptuous. The acceptance and respect argued for, above, would at a minimum require more intellectual humility of those who assume that they “know” some/all fat is as unacceptable as preventable disease.

  7. “Although Americans generally indulge in large portions, exercise is far more important than food-portion sizes according to many measures.”

    Depends on the portions and on the amount of exercise. It’s easy as an American to consume 4,000 – 5,000 calories a day. That’s hard to counter with exercise.

    “Coronary disease and stroke are diseases and losses of functions. Fat is not inherently either a disease or a function-loss.”

    No and no again. Coronary artery disease may be asymptomatic until you have a heart attack and/or drop dead. Strokes may leave few or no residual deficits. On the other hand, the complications of both (angina, MI, hemiplegia, aspiration) are limiting and may be fatal.

    The disease of obesity causes both loss of function, and the risk of further complications causing further morbidity and mortality.

    “those who assume that they “know” some/all fat is as unacceptable as preventable disease.”

    What I know, I know by the study of medical science. Yes “some” (not all) obesity is preventable and/or treatable. In modern American life, many people find science “presumptuous” and demand “humility” from scientists — climate deniers, creationists, and anti-vaccine crusaders are a few examples. Is that the company you want to put yourself in?

  8. Oh, the company argument. Hitler like dogs. This is not a compelling reason to dislike dogs.

    I demand intellectual humility from everyone, as do a lot of scientists and philosophers of science. If the study of medical science taught you that you “know” some/all fat is as unacceptable as preventable disease, then medical science is bad. I suspect this is not actually what medical science teaches.

  9. “I demand intellectual humility from everyone,”

    Except yourself, apparently, since you think what you “suspect” that the science might say if you bothered to look at it > what the science actually, in the reality-based community, says.

    If you’re comfortable in your role as a science denier, there’s isn’t much more to say. I only hope you follow your “medical science is bad” thesis to its logical conclusion, and refrain from making use of us in the future.

  10. You think I’m a science denier? :-) You know, ordinarily we delete posts that go right to personal imputations, but I find this fascinating. I didn’t say medical science is bad. I said if X is true, then medical science is bad. But I implicitly denied the consequent of the “if-then” claim, since I concluded with the affirmation of the antecedent. It was a modus-tollens form of argument. See, like this:

    Explicit premise:
    If the study of medical science taught you X, then medical science is bad.
    Implicit premise:
    (Medical science is obviously not bad.)
    Therefore, I suspect X is not actually what medical science teaches.

    I demand intellectual humility from myself, yes, which is why I wrote “suspect” instead of “know.” But you really don’t see why it’s problematic to say you “know” that all perceptible fat is as unacceptable as preventable disease? Really? I find it odd that you do not see why this statement indicates a lack of intellectual humility.

    OH, hey, it just occurred to me that perhaps you think that if I’m rejecting your absolute claim, then I think the absolute opposite. Is that what you’re thinking? That if I reject “notable fat is always as bad as preventable disease,” then I must be committing to “notable fat is never an indication of anything bad”? Possibly that’s your inference, but that’s not a correct inference. The negation of your absolutist claim merely means that I think SOMETIMES fat is not unacceptable. In other words, ‘not always’ is equivalent to ‘sometimes.’ You’d be mistaken to think that ‘not always’ means I believe ‘never.’

    I’m really not a science denier. :-) I can’t resist the emoticon. The bare idea is just funny to me.

  11. People really overestimate what “science” has to say about obesity. Science is basically confounded by obesity. The studies show observational correlations rather than causation. The “obesity epidemic” is a result of an increasingly health conscious society, the diet industry, and modern obsessions with bodily control. Science is often deployed to confirm these preoccupations. Most cutting-edge research on obesity says that we don’t have a good idea what excess adipose tissue does to overall health. Also, some recent BMI statistics have shown that obesity levels are leveling off–and without any kind of miracle cure. Hard to say it is an epidemic if the tide is stemming. I wonder if it has anything to do with medical authority no longer LOWERING the BMI requirements for obesity, which made millions of people obese overnight. Oh nOez, teh Obeze are coming to get me!

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