Tag Archives: Linda Bacon

An Antidote to Images of Headless Fat People

Lynne Murray says:

Anyone who has ever ground their teeth at the “headless fat people” and other images of fat bodies designed to promote disgust (discussed recently by Debbie here) will be glad to hear of Stocky Photos, a new gallery of positive images of fat bodies.

Linda Bacon, PhD., researcher, professor and advocate of Health at Every Size, pointed this site out in a recent Fat Studies mailing list post.

Categories of images include: individual portraits, hobbies, food, physical activities, relationships and work.


The site name “stocky bodies” must be a pun on the idea of “stock photos” those generic images used and reused, which Webopedia defines as:

… professional photographs of common places, landmarks, nature, events or people that are bought and sold on a royalty-free basis and can be used and reused for commercial design purposes.

Anyone who has ever looked for free or inexpensive images of fat bodies will find that they  are almost invariably presented in snarky, cringe-inducing backgrounds, bursting out of clothing,scowling at scales or drooling over food.

One quote in the Portrait section of the site speaks to the frustration felt by so many fat people at not seeing ourselves depicted as humans, rather than objects of ridicule: “I want my face to be attached to my body. I want you to look at me as a whole, not just a body.”

The “About” page explains:

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.

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.

The Stocky Bodies images present fat bodies with dignity and respect. They are available free as a resource for use by media, health professionals, social marketers, educators and others. The photographs, 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, are of “everyday people who are involved in fat-acceptance communities and keen to see change in the representation of fat bodies.” (More information about Dr. Gurrieri and Mr. Brown can be found here.)

Just seeing these simple, positive images made me feel good. I hope to see them being used often.

Fat Hatred Backfires

Lynne Murray says:

On October 25, Maura Kelly, a blogger at the Marie Claire online magazin,e responded to her editor’s request to look at a positive little article on CNN.com about motion picture and television shows centering on fat characters. Kelly, who has a history of anorexia, found herself disgusted by the idea of fat characters kissing on television.

The original CNN article by Lisa Respers France was entitled “Weight is a big deal for TV, movie characters” and simply reported on the phenomenon of putting fat characters in lead roles. It garnered 212 comments.

By contrast, Maura Kelly’s purposefully inflammatory blog post, entitled “Should “Fatties” Get a Room? (Even on TV?)” had collectd 3768 comments as of today. So fat bashing pays. Or does it?

The Association for Size Diversity and Health just put out a press release applauding the backlash as “a positive sign”:

[Kelly] ended the [Marie Claire] article stating, “What do you guys think? Fat people making out on TV — are you cool with it? Do you think I’m being an insensitive jerk?”

To this question, readers responded with a resounding, “yes”. By Wednesday, thousands of people had written angry letters to Marie Claire, many canceling their subscriptions, and over 3,000 people have posted replies. The blog post has ignited a media storm encompassing blog posts on The Wall Street Journal Blog, Speakeasy, and Jezebel (one post was seen by over 100,000 people), articles in the Boston Phoenix, The New York Daily News and theatlanticwire.com as well as television segments on The View, and CNN. Leaders within ASDAH (The Association for Size Diversity and Health) are pleasantly surprised about the level and kind of public reaction. “Even now, more than 10 days after the original post, the story is still growing,” said Jeanette DePatie, Media Relations Co-Chair for ASDAH. “People are still mad and are still speaking out. We see it as a very healthy sign.”

ASDAH leaders also see countering prejudice in our society as a health issue.

For my part I was charmed by some of the forms that protests took. Ideas such as “public displays of adiposity,” a phrase that seems to have been coined by PDAnation, whose YouTube page is here. Some of the creative protests show up on this page, such as Fat Kiss-Ins in front of the Marie Claire offices and in San Francisco.

I love the idea of body positive playfulness.

For responsible media professionals who wish to become informed about health at every size issues, Linda Bacon has a great resource. Her two-page handout is an excerpt from her book, Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight. It’s entitled “A Message for Journalists/Writers/People in the Media: Covering Weight Concerns” concludes:

Remember that the proliferation of stories about the evils of fat and other misinformation can contribute to an increase in unhealthy weight loss behaviors, painful food and weight preoccupation, damaging cycles of weight loss and regain, poor body image, life-threatening eating disorders, stress, stigmatization, and discrimination. Don’t be part of the problem.

The media hold considerable power. Use yours respectfully.

Of course many journalists and bloggers have no interest in becoming informed, and some purposely wish to air prejudice and stir controversy to reap the maximum amount of attention for the minimum amount of effort. It’s always a pleasure to see such bad intentions reap poetic justice.