I love you Philly, but this Billboard sucks.

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Although it has been three years since I relocated to the sunnier space of South Florida, I consider myself a city girl and proud former Philadelphian. My passion for the City of Brotherly Love runs deep; I experienced many “firsts” and essentially entered adulthood in the quaint Center City neighborhoods amid looming brownstones, historic monuments and rustic BYOBs. It is and always will be a city teeming with heart and history. So imagine my concern when I found out that the urban dwelling I hold near and dear was running a deeply disturbing billboard campaign. Generated by the geniuses at the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation one of its current citywide banners outwardly encourages sexism and street harassment.

                       

Unsolicited commentary in public spaces has always sparked a special brand of rage in me. Many a movie clip normalizes the off-handed “Hey baby” shouted into the wind from a passing car. Upon first seeing their prom partner donning formal wear, an affable whistle of approval is innocuous coming from a teenage date floating in a heady hybrid of hormones and hair gel. These conspicuous catcalls, non-verbal noises, evaluative sniggers, even objectifying remarks sheathed in good intentions somehow socially sanction us for acceptance of our bodies as products for consumption.

Long before I identified as a feminist, I was furious at the audacity of certain individuals who presumed they had some implicit right to remark upon my body and appearance while I was simply enroute to my place of employment, school or even my home. I was a human, not an item they were entitled to assess and objectify and then publicly comment upon. I felt silenced, small and scared. I took to mapping circuitous routes throughout the city that would bypass the areas I knew I would be subjected to this sexualized scrutiny. How was it that in a city that boasted being the birthplace of freedom, I was having my basic civil rights violated two steps from my front door on a regular basis?

Only years later after relocating did I hear about Hollaback!, an awe-inspiring initiative, Hollaback!, who currently has an impressive presence in 50 cities, 17 countries and nine different languages. Now a nonprofit, the movement seeks to empower citizens to essentially “hollaback” at open and objectifying commentary, dehumanizing behavior and gender-based harassment. Users are encouraged to share their stories through the organization’s website (or via their iPhone app), including uploading photographs and geographic locations of the perpetrators. Because street harassment is so often tacitly accepted and the offending parties rarely held accountable, Hollaback! serves to encourage women to use their voices in a non-violent manner.

Through Hollaback!’s Philadelphia site, I was alerted to the recent advertisement from the masterminds at VisitPhilly.com. A billboard prominently featured on the iconic Broad Street in downtown Philly (and strategically displayed during the Broad Street Run, when exposure was heightened) says: “Dear Walking this Way, I like the way you move it, move it”, while cheekily signing off “With Love, Philadelphia XOXO.”

If you could see me at this very moment, you would observe the plumes of steam shooting from my ears. I am so utterly disturbed that such an overtly offensive message was approved and placed in a public sphere. This billboard is dripping with disrespect and practically sanctions street harassment.

Hollaback!Philly in their diligent and amazing activism attempted to show GPTMC the error of their ways. In an email response, Meryl Levitz, the President and CEO weakly defended the ad, citing that it was meant to reference the song, “’I like to Move It, Move It” as “sung in the children’s film, Madagascar 2” and that the collection of letters were meant to be pieces of a larger conversation, the ‘With Love’ lines “meant to be catchy, playful and topical.”

Do I even need to mention that this claim is rendered null and void on two very obvious counts? The first being that they augmented the line “I like to move it, move it” to “I like the way you move it, move it.” Second, please note that anyone old enough to understand the implication of the billboard’s maligned message is much more inclined to associate the song with the 90s House duo, Reel 2 Real, rather than the DreamWorks’ designed Bronx brood. This completely misses the mark of being bold and brazen and instead results in something uninspired and embarrassingly offensive.

A 2010 billboard from the same campaign camp’s shamelessly solicited “fellas”: “The sun is out. So are the Ladies”; the ad then urges the reader to get a front row “spot“ dining al fresco and displays the website for booking. Not only is the ad highly genderized, (there is a prominent LBGQT presence in Philadelphia), but it is one of the most blatant forms of sexist and misogynistic advertising I have ever seen. Despite fervent pleas from HollabackPhilly to the GPTMC for removal, the billboard remained. Its message encouraged and promoted outright objectification in public places and openly sold street harassment and voyeurism as a form of realistic recreation.

What is even more unsettling is that these ads aim to foster tourism. Philadelphia is one of our nation’s richest resources; a city that is home to deep historical significance. These one-liners devalue its prominence and counteract its creative vitality. Surely these campaign managers cannot think that a cheap chuckle on one street corner is an effective selling point or furthermore, a true reflection of a city with so much heart and history?

HollbackPhilly continues to use their voice at Change.org, where it has started a petition to remove this atrocious ad. To date the GPTMC has acknowledged the outrage and say they are “looking into it”. I shudder when I think of what communication it conveys to our youth, not only about the roles of male and women, but of gender and identity and the limiting narratives we are all forced into. One of Philadelphia’s greatest strengths is its diversity, which this ad outwardly renounces in its alienating and restrictive language. These messages not only devalue the city that so many call home, but they commit silent crimes against their citizens, especially the vulnerable parties that it is exploiting in an attempt to be edgy.

We all deserve to exist in public spaces without harassment and to use our voices to speak up against perpetrators without fear of reprisal. This antiquated idea that ignoring unsolicited attention will lessen its influence is reflective of a larger problem. When we don’t speak up, we become complicit with a global power dynamic that attempts to silence women and other marginalized groups. We need to foster dialogues about how to effectively fight back against public harassment, hold companies accountable who contribute to the problem and build communities that thrive on mutual respect and safety for all citizens.

Pop Culture Paradox: Hunger Games’ Katniss as Barbie?

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A pop culture paradox: Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen as a Barbie

BarbieCollector.com has announced the arrival of the Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen clone, but replicating the character as a Barbie doll feels at odds with the very essence of the character’s power.

 Progressive or Regressive?

Joining the ever-growing pop culture collection, the Katniss emulation is sold alongside other blockbuster-inspired dolls: classic favorites like the belly-baring I Dream of Jeannie doll, royalty replicas of Wedding Will and Kate, and the ubiquitous Twilight duo. Part of this assortment also surprisingly included female versions of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.

So of course the powers that be at mega toy giant Mattel know a good business decision when they see one and the Hunger Games is no exception. To be fair, the actual doll version has Katniss dressed in her Games attire, the pump braid trailing down her back, a mini Mockingjay pin affixed to her coat lapel. She even has her signature bevy of arrows slung in a collection across her back, bow and quiver in hand, combat boot clad and poised for action. With a purchasing limit of five and a price tag of $29.95, the doll isn’t the doe-eyed damsels typically associated with the traditional icon. But, I am still skeptical as to whether or not morphing Katniss into a brand of Barbie is reductive to all the empowerment and aspiration her character represents.

Barbie dolls historically have symbolized deeply embedded female stereotypes, the pinnacle of femininity and arguably a historical pop culture mark of objectification. Not to mention how they model unrealistic body proportions and reinforce specific standards of beauty and attractiveness. While the diversity in terms of race has expanded in years, it is still drastically unequal. The majority of Barbiecollector.com’s offerings pander to the classic collector and are not sold in stores, which is unfortunate. It is the non-traditional dolls that should be adorning shelves, not the countless, carbon copies of the same Malibu crew.

In comparison to the other characters that Mattel has modeled their dolls after, Katniss is ostensibly progressive. Sure, she isn’t a twin of Happy Birthday Barbie in a bejewled ball gown, or her Mermaid cousin clothed in swaths of iridescent shimmer and sporting a frilly fin.

But the aim of the doll isn’t to combat the inherent stereotype deeply embedded into the Barbie identity. But rather as creating designer, Bill Greening told Entertainment Weekly, he “chose to dress her in the outfit she wears during the games, since this is where all the non-stop action takes place and is instantly recognizable by fans.” So, the fact that she is not rivaling her Barbie cohorts in her Reaping dress has less to do with honoring the positive and empowering attributes of her character and more to do with character continuity.

Also what about the anti-corporate beliefs that the character in the film holds and her commitment to rebellion against the Capitol?
Barbie is famously a mark of mass merchandising efforts on so many fronts. Surely Katniss would be against becoming a product in the same way she frequently states that doesn’t want to be an object, a pawn in The Games. Isn’t making her character into a doll, doing the same thing?

Mattel’s aim is certainly more of a calculated business decision rather than any attempt to offer up a more realistic role models or combat traditional stereotypes about their dolls and what they mean for girls and women.

Furthermore, BarbieCollector.com indicates that this is a doll geared towards the adult collector, but the brand is inextricably linked to children. The entire plot of Hunger Games rests on youth death battles which is certainly not kid-friendly.

Sure, Katniss is a welcomed sight among the sparkly swimsuits and glittering garbs that adorn many of the other selections on the site, but isn’t reducing her to a Barbie to begin with problematic? Mattel has been complicit with culturally commodifying women for decades. Now when they appear to softly step outside the box to capitalize on Katniss and grab a slice of the prosperous pie that is the Hunger Games, they to be lauded? I don’t think so.

While the doll’s dress resembles Katniss, her proportions still remain ridiculously unrepresentative of reality. Little girls who play with Barbie’s are still subconsciously receiving the message of an ideal body type and definition of attractiveness. Under those cool clothes, Katniss is still a plastic product of unattainable perfection.


Do you think this doll reinforces stereotypes or combats them? Should we give credit to a company who unintentionally produces products that go against a stereotype they have spent decades creating and reinforcing? Is this is a zero sum game; same “Barbie”, different “cover”?

Don’t be fooled: beneath the warrior wear is the same manufactured mold.

It’s a “Yaeba” dabba DO: Cosmetic Trends in Japan

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Orthodontia and the pursuit of correcting crooked choppers is big business here in the US and Western cultures. While certainly used for reasons other than aesthetics, the primary purpose for seeing an orthodontist is to correct a misaligned mouth.

Yaeba: Another way to infantilize women and sexualize child-like appearances.

Historically, a straight smile was a status symbol, implying that those bearing braces or corrective devices came from families of financial means.The actual word “orthodontia” comes from the Greek word orthos, meaning “straight” or “proper” or “perfect” and odus from “tooth.”

In Japan, dental beauty trends are quite different, where a popular look called Yaeba is desirable. Yaeba means “double tooth” in Japanese and describes a sort of “fang effect” where teeth are crowded to the point of pushing the incisors into a prominent display in the mouth. A multitude of dental “salons” in Japan offer cosmetic procedures by which dentists actually implant artificial teeth to induce overcrowding, forcing the incisors into a more prominent place in the mouth or adhering plastic covers to the tooth to lengthen and sharpen it.

 

The process of crowding the teeth to create this desired look.

This vampire look is cited as attractive and desirable and celebrated by Japanese culture. Celebrities showcase this look and women endure pricey procedures to achieve it. Creating these intentional imperfections is meant to make a woman appear more endearing and approachable.

Naturally, Yaeba occurs in young children and babies whose teeth have not fully developed and who have small mouths. While Western trends eschew overcrowding and aim for picket-fence, pearly whites, our society also idealizes youthfulness. These intentional imperfections are really the same beast dressed in a different outfit: a way to infantilize women and sexualize child-like appearances.

I think it is important to draw the parallel that focuses on infantilizing women, idealizing innocence, and pushing procedures that aim for a more youthful appearance, but I also believe there is a bigger, more basic issue at hand.

I also acknowledge that my own cultural context puts me at a disadvantage in terms of being able to objectively evaluate this trend. It is easy to magnify differences in cultural definitions of beauty. While I appreciate and am fascinated by the measures of attractiveness and standards of beauty in other countries, one thing remains glaringly obvious: Everywhere, women are in the business of changing our bodies and appearance to fit some ideal. This is a transnational epidemic.

Cosmetic procedures that aim to create Yaeba are not too different from breast augmentation, plastic surgery, or liposuction. It is still attempts to alter one’s natural self, subjecting the body to risky and costly cosmetic procedures in the pursuit of perfection, or in this case, imperfection.

 ~ My post originally posted at About.Face.org: The “Yaeba” trend in Japan is not so different from American Cosmetic Trends

Forever 21 thinks our Kneecaps are Ugly

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My newest piece at About-Face.org – Let our Knees Be (Knees!)

Sweatshop famed discount fashion retailer Forever21 is adding another item on the drop-down menu of “body parts to feel self-conscious about”: knee caps.

The website featuring their skirt purchasing options has over 100 items in which the kneecaps of the model’s are completely airbrushed out, or are cleverly obscured so only a hint of curvature is detectable. These photos atrocity is compounded by the fact that they list the model’s measurements, as a very ineffective and pernicious piece of sizing guidance.

As if our consumer culture doesn’t do a good enough job of providing us with an endless stream of warnings about how our organic bodies are inherently flawed, we now need to turn a curious eye to our knees to see how presentable they may appear.

Sure, this idea of feeling insecure about the appearance of my kneecaps seems a tad comical and over the top, but it’s the larger implication that does the most damage. Not only are you forced to come eye-to-eye the unattainable measurements of the model appearing in the photo and her matchstick lower limbs, but a cursory view of the photo itself still lends itself to another way in which we don’t look like the models in the photos, implication being that we are somehow less than. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking anyone whose bodies healthily resemble this model, I’m just calling attention to the fact that every shot showcases similar stems that are highly unrepresentative of the larger whole of consumers that likely purchase these clothes.

Until I read another article that highlighted this oddity, I never really took much notice of the knees of models in skirt shots, but that seems to be the point. It is these pernicious ways in which we are exposed to altered body parts that we unknowingly internalize and contribute to the unattainable and illusory ideal by which women measure themselves against and unfailingly come up short. It’s another bit by which our bodies are shamed for their natural state.

I would be remiss if I did not also mention how horrifyingly unvaried the choice of models are for these pictures. We all know the fashion industry is notorious for reinforcing a specific standard of beauty, but the lack of lower body representation is especially evident in these screen shots. This further reinforces the idea that only individuals that are facsimiles of these models can wear and look good in these clothes. I don’t know that I see many retailers providing lower body diversity while presenting their products online, which just shines a light into another corner of the ways in which the thin ideal is unknowingly reinforced.

In writing this piece, I look down at my own knee-caps, sheathed in ruddy skin,  bearing several discernible scars, battle wounds from youthful adventures. I take a moment of gratitude that they are operational and remember that is how they look. If only we could all feel that way about the totality of our bodies – thankful for all they allow us to do, instead of being constantly exposed to damaging messages about how innately inept we all are. So, Forever 21, I implore you to stop digitally altering your models in this way. Also, your labor practices are abhorrent. (See the clip from the documentary

Made in LA and rethink using your dollars at their fine and fair establishment).

And most importantly:  let’s let our knees be knees, please!

Glamour’s Jennifer Lawrence is not what I’m “hunger”ing for

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My latest from About-face:

Cleavage-clad Jennifer Lawrence on Glamour cover is not what we’re “hunger”ing for

The cover of Glamour’s April issue features Jennifer Lawrence, the actress who portrays the Hunger Games‘ heroine Katniss Everdeen, in a bosom-bearing one piece outfit. In the book, Katniss is a symbol of strength, but this photo subdues that strength with a side dish of sexy.
Is it not enough to be a strong female, that we must sexualize Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen?

The upcoming movie adaptation of the first installment of the behemoth book trilogy, The Hunger Games, is set to open this week. While the Glamour piece is obviously showcasing the actress (not the character), the prop she’s holding (a bow) blurs the line.

The central plot of the novel involves a futuristic nation, Panem, where the government creates an annual, reality show-esque game involving two individuals under 18, randomly selected from each of the nation’s 12 districts, to complete in a fantastical death match where only one victor comes home alive.

I’m only on the second book, but I have yet to come across a description of an outfit resembling the one featured in this picture. Sure this feature is giving us Jennifer Lawrence and the article is about her, but, really, Glamour? We could see this in a men’s magazine, many of which notoriously disarm powerful women with some element of sexualization.

I was drawn to The Hunger Games because of the heroine. Katniss was resourceful, and lauded for her strength and skill, not for her beauty or body. There was little emphasis appearance. In fact, the book makes a point to say that thinness is equated with poverty, as many of the geographic sectors do not have easy access to food. Katniss hunts, using her archery acumen to provide for her family, until her little sister’s name is drawn during the annual “reaping.” Katniss offers herself up in her sister’s place.

The only references made to “beautifying” are related to the prep work she must undergo prior to her public appearances, where the aim is to make a splash in the memories of viewers. The author describes these beauty regimens as painful, not glamorous; a process of being scrubbed and plucked after which she is fitted into outrageous outfits conjured up by her innovative stylist, Cinna.

The prospect of a movie adaptation with a young, female protagonist (and a female producer too!) whose success came from determination and courage thrilled me. Here was a strong, positive paradigm for young women. However, photos like that on Glamour‘s cover are reductive, given the otherwise positive role.

 Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen: Embodying strength and skill.

The series falls into the Young Adult genre, so undoubtedly, millions of girls will be looking to emulate this actress. This shot is objectifying; when a young girl sees a photo like this, it reinforces the fusing of self-worth to appearance, a connection to a specific standard of beauty and attractiveness that is unconsciously strengthened through repetition. The pervasiveness of media messages and how many we are exposed to from birth makes this deeply disturbing. It contributes to the sexualizing of females and supports the normalizing of self-rejection.

There is also a clear double standard at work: It is not enough to simply be a strong female — you must also be sexy in a very specific way.

I guess I just didn’t expect such an obvious and gratuitous representation from the mag that touts itself as honoring beauty outside the box of one-size-fits-all. This photo brushes dangerously close to a Maxim-style cover. So, Glamour thinks it’s not okay for Katniss/Jennifer Lawrence (yes, I do realize they are not the same) to simply be bad-ass and not breast-bearing. Because not fetishizing or objectifying her might make her power too potent, right? Oh the horror! Not cool, Glamour; not cool at all.

What are YOU reading?

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What are you reading?

I’m straddling two books right now. The second installment in the behemoth book series, The Hunger Games, that is about to blow up on the big screen. Advanced ticket sales broke records on the first day they were offered. I have a piece coming out on About-face that talks about a recent Glamour photoshoot Jennifer Lawrence did where her cleavage clad jumpsuit was sadly unrepresentative of the character in the book. More on that later!

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 I’m also reading Outdated by Samhita Mukhopadhyay. Touted as a feminist dating book, I am enjoying it more as a research read. I  genuinely like and respect Samhita as a modern feminist so her analysis and insight is well received. She recently started a weekly Feminist podcast with fellow feminist Amanda Marcotte called Opinionated that is broadcast by Citizen Radio.

Her book reinforces the way that this romantic industrial complex”, the system of ideas and reinforced narratives that we unconsciously digest since we enter this world and are what we base and compare our relationships to, that do not necessarily align with reality.

I’ve been passionately railing against this insidious romantic myth for years. Speaking out about the ways that especially Hollywood and its ubiquitous(and in my personal opinion nauseating) Rom Com’s poison the minds of young girls and adult women alike, making them believe that a fairy tale ending is realistic and attainable. This dovetails nicely with our consumer culture that sells us every powder, prescription and potion to make us more attractive to others.

Samhita helps us to deconstruct these treacherous tales we’ve been fed as young girls, pulling back the curtain on the ways that mass media,corporations, cultural norms, familial and even political pressures work   women into thinking that if they don’t devote themselves to finding a mate that they face a death sentence of loneliness and spinsterhood.

It’s incredibly informative and eye-opening and I can’t wait to write more about it here.

What are YOU reading?

Disillusioned By Disney

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Oh Disney, I am soooooooo deeply disappointed in you!

DisneyWorld/Land, dubbed the happiest place on earth… But only if you’re not an overweight child.

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A recent exhibit at the Epcot Center misses the mark entirety in its shoddy attempt to jump on the bandwagon of “fighting childhood obesity”. Habitat Heroes opened in the beginning of February and incited a stir in the activism and education communities. The exhibit, working in tandem with an interactive online game was housed in a two-building “playspace” where fictional hosts Callie Stenics and Will Power orchestrate a litany of activities that destroy villains so aptly named Sweet Tooth, Lead Bottom, Glutton and The Snacker. As of February 23, the physical exhibit on site had been shutdown in response to the public outcry which speaks to the power of collective voices and activism. (Note: the physical Exhibit was shutdown on the 25th of February, while just yesterday on the 28th the online companion was eliminated and both are rumored to be in a “reworking” stage)

Some of the games within the exhibit include food fights where participants obliterate junk food (to defeat the “villain” by the same name) with healthy ammunition of broccoli and apples, junk food is obliterated. The tour ends with a spot light illuminated dance that induces heart rate and overthrow Lead Bottom.

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Seriously Disney ?!

How can an international family icon create something that plays directly into the hands of harmful media messages and reinforces damaging stereotypes in society? This sort of approach sanctions fat shaming in the classrooms and continues to reinforce negative connotations and weight stigmatization. It straight up uses these insensitively crafted characters to vilify behaviors and basically blame kids for being overweight.

Shaming does not work in any capacity. I am doubly alarmed and disgusted by this irresponsible approach to such a sensitive subject.

What happened to being gentle with our children?

Where is the care and concern for the psychological well-being and overall mental health that is inevitably in jeopardy for adolescents struggling against society’s stigmas?

When did fat shaming become a veritable approach to activism?

The answer is that it is not. It hurts substantially more than it could ever help.

We need to give children and families the resources to reinforce healthy lifestyles, NOT shame them for the way they look.

There is increased likelihood that children struggling with low self esteem issues and size/appearance based bullying are MORE likely to engage in harmful behavior patterns, many of which include using food to cope and assuage that inner pain. This doesn’t lend itself singularly to overeating, but to myriad of other ways that children develop unhealthy relationships with food and demonizing their bodies. Telling children that they need to be most concerned with their size and not overall health is criminal. This encourages kids to do whatever is necessary to shrink their size, including the development of unhealthy behaviors that can very easily segue into full-blown, life threatening eating disorders. In the past several years children seeking treatment for eating disorders has risen 112%!!! That is no longer just a startling statistic, but a national epidemic and cause for concern. Society encourages a sort of pathology surrounding food and gaining weight, but to reinforce this into youngsters when their minds are so malleable and associations so poignant sets the stage for a life-long disconnection from their bodies.

Let’s not forget that 90% of a dependent’s food choices are on the shoulders of the parents. Not to mention the fact that the cheapest and most affordable foods are often the least healthy. Shouldn’t there be some sort of government sanctioned movement to make nutrient rich, whole foods less costly and available? How did the approach of shaming children become even a viable avenue for proposed change? Not that shaming is appropriate for any sort of behavior modification, but I’d put the parents on the chopping block before I even attempted to put the onus on a child.Image

Jennifer Fickley-Baker, the Social Media Manager at Disney holds that the aim is to help “children of all ages to learn healthy lifestyle habits and become more active.” Because the only reason a child is overweight is because they are lazy, right? And if you’re not fitting into society’s one-size-fits all standard of health then you certainly must be a slovenly glutton, right? There needs to be more of a social awareness raised about the fact that you CANNOT determine one’s physical, emotional or mental health strictly based on cursory, appearance based observations. Disney’s exhibits make NO mention of the myriad of complex issues and factors that scientists have elucidated as being at work in determining the weight of children AND adults that scientists have elucidated as being at work. Clearly, Walt’s predecessors did not put their unlimited financial resources to work in research, or they would have surely come across the revered HAES – Health At Every Size.

The online companion seems to have its own bundle of bad approaches. The cast of characters on the interwebs expands to include new names and faces like Drama Queen, Ice Cappuccino and Insecura. Their debuts intend on combating other harmful behaviors. I am probably most enraged by the fact that they have decided to portray insecurity as a “bad habit” rather than a sensitive response to an environment or, more specifically an incidental and natural part of being human. I certainly can tell you in all my years of battling with this demon, it has NEVER been helpful to have someone highlight it as a liability and then attempt to shame me into change.

When I thought there was not another marketing miss that could be as horrifying or brutally inhumane as the Georgia campaign ‘Strong4Life’, I had no idea I would stand corrected by the makers of Mickey Mouse and spectacular magical palace that I had always revered as the youngsters version of the Taj Mahal.

I was originally alerted to this atrocity via the blog Weighty Matters where founder/family doc, Yoni Freedhoff, sounded off about this unfortunate approach. He says: So thanks for being so helpful Disney — I mean if your kid’s not overweight or obese, here’s to Disney reinforcing society’s most hateful negative obesity stereotyping, and if they are overweight or obese — what kid doesn’t want to be made to feel like a personal failure while on a Disney family vacation?”

This is simply not an effective manner by which to encourage healthy lifestyle changes in families and children, by shaming them and reinforcing the stereotypes that contribute to a fat phobic society.

We don’t need the beloved and iconic powers-to-be at Disney sending this malicious message, telling kids that society reveres will power, self control and thinness. This method contributes to cruelty, emboldens bullies and almost encourages and endorses size shaming. It contributes to the humiliation of those who do not fit into the small box publicly painted as “health”. Yes, there are health complications and risks associated with being overweight, but shaming and blaming is not the way to beget change and is certainly no way to encourage healthy eating behaviors or contribute to positive body image. Our culture provides us limitless reasons to feel badly about ourselves and promotes size conformity as a default, without the help of any fat-shaming campaigns. All these things do is contribute to the problem, reinforce negative associations and further support a future relationship with food and one’s body that is rife with painful antagonism.

Children need positive role models and reinforcement in these crucial formative years, NOT another replica of a reason to feel shameful about their bodies or behaviors. These abhorrent avatars do not work.

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Here is to hoping that Disney is revamping its approach to such a sensitive subject and recognizing it as a human rights issue. I remain optimistic that it will own its epic representation in the kidmmunity and realize that this endows it with the responsibility to protect and empower our children at any size and every age. There are enough harmful media message and stereotypes to contend with and the answer to health will never be achieved by blaming and shaming our youth. We need to empower them to love honor and respect themselves and combat these harmful media messages. We need to offer them real tools to make healthy lifestyle choices that foster the development of a positive relationship with their bodies, food and themselves.