Laurie Toby Edison

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Fat People: We Are Being Stalked

Debbie says:

When you’re fat, it’s easy to believe that people everywhere are eyeing you, just waiting for a chance to tell you how you should improve yourself. And it’s sometimes true.

This week in New York City, it’s truer than usual.

The Ad Council and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are placing tiny T-shirts in dryers throughout [New York City] urging laundry-doers to “Shrink a few sizes.”

The t-shirts direct the innocent laundromat patron (AdWeek calls us “fatties”) to a our-tax-dollars-at-work U.S. government website with portion control advice and daily tips on the brilliant order of “Eat before you’re too hungry.” Do they mention any of the diets-don’t-work data? Of course not.

I’ve lived in New York; I’ve done my laundry in city laundromats. It’s hard to think of anything more upsetting than dragging your laundry down the street in the horrible weather, walking into a dingy, unpleasant setting with hard plastic chairs, opening a machine not in use, and finding a critical message from my government. (When I write it out like this, it sounds like the beginning of a bad computer game.)

Like every fat person, I’ve had complete strangers tell me I should lose weight, I’ve had lectures from friends and family members and co-workers, I’ve been bombarded with ad campaigns and TV commercials. But this feels different … and worse. When I feel into what it would be like to open that machine and find the t-shirt, it feels like being personally stalked.

The campaign is being done “pro bono” (“for the good of the people”) by ad agency McCann-Erickson. What this means, of course, is that they’re not only trying to save me and mine from the fat fate worse than death, they’re also trying to figure out how to best use the public laundromat as an advertising delivery device. So if you don’t have a washing machine where you live, be warned: something is coming down the pike into your laundromat to tell you what to do.

But there is one saving grace: the article says that the nasty t-shirts are “tiny.” I’m imagining that they’re small enough for little dogs, and I am somehow charmed by seeing dozens of New York City chihuahuas and Jack Russell terriers, out for walks in cold weather, wearing t-shirts that say “Shrink a few sizes.”

From badgerbag, who got it from Laura Quilter.

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11 Responses to “Fat People: We Are Being Stalked”

  1. Di Says:

    Wow, the insensitivity of this just begs for a counter-campaign. Although…putting them on dogs…pretty good!

  2. Penny Says:

    Hm, and will they also be suggesting short people “grow a few inches”?

    Oh, but I like thinking about counter campaigns… how about cloth napkins printed with the message “Next time enjoy your meal instead of feeling guilty for eating”?

  3. Patsy Nevins Says:

    Or maybe our own t-shirts (which fit us) proclaiming that our bodies are private property & not the dominion of the government, since that kind of thing is more polite than the first retort which comes to mind. I do laundry at home these days, but should I ever again need to use a laundromat, I will not be thrilled if I have to encounter this kind of crap. Do they mean this advice for all the naturally thin people around & also for the anorexics who can literally die if they “shrink a few sizes” & have they ever opened their minds enough to learn that dieting is an unhealthy & dangerous practice for anyone of any size…& a particularly for those of us who are older? I am almost overwhelmed by not only the invasion of our privacy, but the pure stupidity of this campaign.

  4. janet Says:

    Oh c’mon, this campaign is necessary! I mean, nobody ever tells fat people to lose weight, and without this campaign they might not realize how important it is. Bombarded, as we all are, by media images of fat people as attractive, intelligent, and super-competent, we’re all driven to try to gain weight in order to be socially accepted and esteemed. if only people knew better!

  5. wriggles Says:

    Only the overwhelming arrogance of people who think that all that we need is to hear some more fat hate from them, can make them this stupid. The only thing shrinking here is common sense.

  6. boots Says:

    I wonder if it occurred to the people at McCann-Erickson that this campaign is kind of classist? Do you suppose anyone who helped design this campaign actually washes their clothes at a laundromat?

  7. Sarah Says:

    What a DUMB campaign! I am a marketing lady myself and when I read about this I was surprised at how OUT OF TOUCH these marketers are. How is making someone feel guilty or coming up with some clever play on words (shrink) going to inspire shit from anyone?!

    I think they have it all wrong. You can’t solve a VERY VERY complicated issue with this type of campaign. Well, at the very least it seemed to get attention, whether it was the right attention is up for grabs.

  8. AnnieMcPhee Says:

    In my opinion, Sarah, fat people aren’t a problem that needs to be solved. Nor do they need thinspiration. They need the same respect that other people demand for themselves. And they need to start believing they deserve that respect instead of buying into their own bashing. That’s what I think.

    I’m always disgusted by the ever-more-intrusive government, but that is one problem people contribute to as well by always asking government for something or other. (I’m not talking about handouts or such but always demanding that the government DO something – anything – about whatever perceived problem there is. Bad idea.)

  9. Sarah Says:

    Annie,
    I could agree more; perhaps my comment came off the wrong way. While I don’t think it is a problem that “needs to be solved” I do think in some cases if health is in jeopardy then it makes sense to make changes for a healthier body, not a skinnier body.

  10. Jason Says:

    That campaign is awful!

    We should be charging the obese – not wasting even more on them!

    And most diets -do- work. Not-sticking-to-diets, of course, does not.

  11. Rosa Says:

    The message here is tired and annoying. But the delivery method is downright creepy!

    Keep your grubby hands out of my damn laundry!

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