The media is obsessed with weight, making a fetish out of fat and feeding. You can’t turn on the TV without seeing endless shows shaming society into be thin such as Fat Families, I Used to be Fat and Supersized vs. Super Skinny. Whilst at the same time, another form of show has become very popular—cooking shows, such as Come Dine With Me, Master Chef and The Great British Bake Off. If you’re not at home watching the news on the latest figures on obesity, you’re reading the latest magazine diet trend followed by celebrities. It’s impossible to escape the need to be thin.
What kind of effect can such an obsession really have on the society? Apart from 165,000 people who have eating disorders in the UK alone and the millions paid to the diet companies in the hope of being a malnourished size zero. This obsession with weight is a constant threat to women in the media and their careers, with women in the spotlight being publicly humiliated for putting on a few pounds over Christmas and some losing their mental wellbeing over this perception of beauty.
Despite there being plenty of men in the news business who are considered overweight, Jennifer Livingston, a Wisconsin television anchor-woman, received an e-mail titled ‘Community Responsibility’. It was from a man who was ‘worried’ about having a large woman on TV and the impact it would do to young children, especially girls. It’s as if the excess weight she was carrying would seep through the TV screen and infect them, or that by seeing a larger woman, children everywhere would suddenly start uncontrollably eating. Fortunately, she hit back at this man, proclaiming that she knew very well she had a weight problem, but she would not stand down to this type of bullying. She carried on to say that she could brush off such comments, but worried about children who didn’t know how to do the same.
“To all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the colour of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability, even the acne on your face, listen to me right now: Do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies. Learn from my experience — that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many,” she said on the air.
But it doesn’t stop there. Good Morning America’s, Tory Johnson, wrote a piece recalling the subtle but unmistakable way she was pressured into losing weight in order to keep her job. Johnson was worried that she’d be fired on the spot after gaining weight. Instead, her superior offered to introduce her to a wardrobe stylist before then slyly added, “I feel much better when I work out.”
Johnson stated that not once was she called fat, or told to lose weight, or had it hinted that her job was in jeopardy. The words “fat,” “overweight” or “obese” never came up, but what she did gather from the meeting with her boss was, “Lose weight, or lose your job.”
With the media’s fetish for weight and its worship of the perfect figure (whatever that is) it has let weight discrimination continue to be acceptable and all too common in our lives. It targets both genders and is now even causing a growing number of men to gain eating disorders. However, it still to this day is mainly a woman’s issue and has become just another way to discriminate against women.