Friday, November 18, 2011

"Headless Fatties"

I came upon this quite brilliant essay on Charlotte Cooper's website, about how the media often portrays fat people by cropping their heads out of the picture and how that practice is dehumanizing.

In the top image, their eyes are blacked out like criminals - at the bottom, they're seen as "Headless Fatties"

As we're on the verge of celebrating Thanksgiving, which here in the USA is very much about FOOD, I thought it was a great opportunity to think, as Charlotte urges us to, about the people in those photos - we've all seen these "Headless Fatties" on the news, and in print, and on billboards.  Here's a bit of what Charlotte writes:

"As Headless Fatties, the body becomes symbolic: we are there but we have no voice, not even a mouth in a head, no brain, no thoughts or opinions. Instead we are reduced and dehumanised as symbols of cultural fear: the body, the belly, the arse, food. There's a symbolism, too, in the way that the people in these photographs have been beheaded. It's as though we have been punished for existing, our right to speak has been removed by a prurient gaze, our headless images accompany articles that assume a world without people like us would be a better world altogether.

Yet these are real people who look as though they've been photographed without their knowledge, consent, or payment of any kind, for commercial photographs that are then marketed and sold by photographers and agencies. I wonder what it must feel like to open the paper one morning, or click onto a news site, and see a headless version of yourself there, against a headline decrying people who look like you."

Go read Charlotte's "Headless Fatties" article. It's thought-provoking, and challenged me. Why hadn't I thought about this before? It's not just Fat people who should stand up against their being mocked and dehumanized. It's all of us who should.

I mean, check out this billboard image I came across:

I'm a vegetarian, but frankly, I'm offended for fat people. For the judgements our culture makes. And I'm embarrassed that I didn't really notice all this before.

Food for thought, huh?



Sarah Stevenson said...

Oh, wow. I honestly hadn't thought about the effect of the media in terms of visual portrayals and what they imply about fear and revulsion and, I suppose, a desire to dissociate from fatness. Not that we ought not be concerned about rising obesity rates--but that concern should come from a perspective of love and caring for our own health and well-being and that of others, not from fear.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Sadly, here's a very recent example of the "headless fatties" approach by our media - an article in Salon about a fat child being removed from his parent's home by the government: