Tag Archives: Georgia Children’s Health Alliance

Fighting Billboards with Billboards: I STAND Conjures Grassroots Viral Magic

Lynne Murray says:

An amazing online effort raised $12,083 in the 24 hours of February 2nd to set up billboards with positive images and messages aimed at fostering health through self-esteem to fight hateful billboards targeting fat kids.

It all started in spring of 2011 with the billboards in Georgia aimed at humiliating fat kids in the supposed name of “health.”

Advocates of Heath at Every Size, including Body Impolitic, saw the billboards as an invitation to bully fat kids. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) “called for the removal of these damaging billboards in March, 2011.” But a recent NAAFA press release says, “since that time” we have learned that Georgia Children’s Health Alliance has committed to spending $5 million over the next five years on this negative Strong4Life campaign.”

Then, like a miracle of grassroots magic the I STAND campaign began and mustered a virtual digital army of positive images and messages in an effort to counter the bullying billboards.

Pattie Thomas at New Year’s Revolutions Resources invited people to “Join us in showing the world there is better use of Photoshop® than telling bullies it is okay to target fat kids.”

Jennifer Johanssen has created a video slideshow derived from the I STAND photos. It’s long at 18 minutes, but the images and statements were so powerful, I couldn’t stop watching.

I STAND! from Jennifer Jonassen on Vimeo.

Jennifer says:

This is my thank you to Marilyn Wann, Ragen Chastain, Atchka Fatty, and everyone involved with the I STAND movement who are making history! I dedicate this to anyone out there being bullied or in pain. Take strength in these images! They are the tip of the iceberg and represent only a few of the people out there who support you. YOU ARE PERFECT AS YOU ARE.

For those who don’t do online video, Carrie Padian has created (and often updated) a Tumblr page for the images at I Stand Against Weight Bullying.

Kickboxing fat woman, caption: I stand for loving yourself today.

Carrie says:

What I DO know is that kids everywhere cannot be hated for their own good, that you cannot shame someone to health and happiness. This is true for adults and especially true for kids; once they start on the cycle of shame, diets, unreal expectations and all the rest, it’s very difficult to get away from.

The “I STAND…” responses moved and inspired me with the inclusiveness of the support–i.e, no one was considered too fat/thin/young/old/heathy/disabled to offer supportive images and statements (including a rolling spotted fat kitty, who won my heart).

The idea of putting up counter billboards seemed impossible, but viral media and several hundred positive-minded activists begged to disagree!

SF Weekly took note of the controversy and the activist response. I can testify that the activists are located all over and not limited to the SF Bay area.

Ragen Chastain at Dances With Fat puts it well when she says:

Bullies count on our fear and their money. Putting up a billboard sends the message that we aren’t scared, and that we can accomplish something big. It tells these bullies that they can’t take our lunch money any more.

100% of the money raised goes directly to the project. Our billboards need to go up, and theirs need to come down.

I am so proud of and inspired by these efforts.

Painting a Target on Fat Kids

Lynne Murray says:

Thanks to Georgia Children’s Health Alliance’s portrayal of fat children (and their parents) as criminals, it is more dangerous to be a fat kid in Georgia this month than it was last month.

photographs of four fat children with warnings of their early death or disease

In a March 12, 2011 press release, “Georgia Fat Kids Portrayed as Criminals,” the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA)

“…demands that the Georgia Children’s Health Alliance immediately remove their billboards targeting fat children. Billboards depicting fat kids are extraordinarily harmful to the very kids they are supposedly trying to help.”

Childhood obesity has been getting a lot of media attention recently. Ironically “health” oriented initiatives that target fat children co-exist with the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA), an anti-bullying measure, which does not include any mention of physical attributes (such as fat, thin, tall, or short) among the characteristics of children it would protect from bullying.

In a March 16th press release , “New “Anti-Bullying Act” Missing a Few Teeth,” NAAFA Press Release, March 16, 2011 NAAFA urges that weight and height be added to the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) and describes some of the reasons that this is essential.

Multiple studies indicate that fat children are the group being most bullied. NAAFA believes leaving any group without protection will remove protection for all and ultimately lead to the failure of the SSIA as a whole. The bullying must end!

Some Bullying Facts:

• Children who are obese are more likely to be bullied, regardless of a number of potential socio-demographic, social, and academic confounders. No protective factors were identified. Effective interventions to reduce bullying of obese children need to be identified. [Lumeng, et al, 2010]

• Bullying victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University (Yale University, Office of Public Affairs, “Bullying-Suicide Link Explored in New Study by Researchers at Yale”

• Teasing about body weight is consistently associated with low body satisfaction, low self-esteem, high depressive symptoms, and thinking about and attempting suicide. [Eisenberg, et al, 2003]

A recent YouTube video recorded by some of the schoolyard bullies who had been tormenting 16-year old Casey Heynes about his weight for years shows what happened when Heynes finally snapped and returned the violence. [Trigger Warning: Violence. I found the violence on the few seconds of the clip disturbing, I can only imagine what it would be like to live through it every day for years at school]This video can be viewed (along with the article) here.

In a Daily Beast article, Paul Campos nails the underlying flaws in the “war on childhood obesity” even when it is presented in a way that does not openly demonize fat children. Campos looks at Michelle Obama, who has picked “childhood obesity” as the cause she champions as First Lady, despite pressure from NAAFA and others to think about the effects of this choice.

The first lady would, no doubt, be horrified by the suggestion that her Let’s Move campaign, which is dedicated to trying to create an America without any fat kids, is itself a particularly invidious form of bullying. But practically speaking, that’s exactly what it is. The campaign is in effect arguing that the way to stop the bullying of fat kids is to get rid of fat kids….

Remarkably, debates about whether the government ought to have a role in making American children thinner almost never acknowledge that we have no idea how to do this. Consider the first lady’s major policy goals: She wants children to eat a healthy balance of nutritious food, both in their homes and at school, and she advocates various reforms that will make it easier for kids to be physically active. These are laudable goals in themselves, but there is no evidence that achieving them would result in a thinner population.

Campos’ article, which is well worth reading in its entirety, goes back to the roots of the nonexistent obesity epidemic, a definition of “obesity” created by statistical manipulation by a CDC expert committee chaired by William Dietz

…who has made a career out of fomenting fat panic. The committee decided that the cut-points for defining “overweight” and “obesity” in children would be determined by height-weight growth chart statistics drawn from the 1960s and 1970s, when children were smaller and childhood malnutrition was more common….

These definitions are completely arbitrary. The committee members chose them not on the basis of any demonstrated correlation between the statistical cut-points and increased health risk, but rather because there was no standard definition of overweight and obesity in children, and so they invented one. In other words, the “childhood obesity epidemic” was conjured up by bureaucratic fiat.

The committee did this despite Americans being healthier, by every objective measure, than they’ve ever been: Life expectancy is at an all-time high. … There’s no reason to think that today’s children won’t be healthier as adults than their parents, just as today their parents are healthier than their own parents were at the same age, continuing a pattern that has prevailed since public health records began to be kept in the 19th century. (Tellingly, 50 years ago government officials were issuing dire warnings that a post-World War II explosion of fatness among both American adults and children was going to cause a public health calamity).

In one of many eloquent blog posts, Ragen Chastain (Dancer, Choreographer, Writer, Speaker, Fat Person) addresses the inherent contradiction in fostering health by fighting obesity:

First, I continue to believe that Michelle Obama has the best of intentions with her Let’s Move program. But it’s time for some accountability: Mrs. Obama could have chosen to be FOR children’s health: FOR fun movement options that kids enjoy, FOR healthy lunches, FOR healthy behaviors.

But she didn’t. Instead, Mrs. Obama chose to be AGAINST childhood obesity.

The major problem with this is that you can’t be against childhood obesity without being against obese children….

I speak as someone who was put on my first diet by concerned parents beginning at age nine (including a prescription for amphetamines from the family doctor). I was only slowly was able to unwind the mental and physical damage decades later. Now I am angered as well as saddened to see America attack its own young based on wilful ignorance, bad science and hysterical prejudice against fat.