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PlaygroundEquipment Blog
Monday, September 22, 2014

Let's End Fat-Shaming among Kids, Shall We?

“What do you weigh? Like 400 pounds? It’s like running into a snowplow.”
-Marcus, Fat Kid Rules the World

“Oh, at least you don't look like some kind of a bloated roadside piƱata! You should really go on a diet!”
-Puss in Boots, Shrek the Third
                 
“ Am I really that Fat?”
- Buzz Lightyear,Toy Story 2

"Lilo, have you been eating okay? Coz you're looking all round and you're rolling over people. It's not nice." - Lilo and Stitch

Admit it, you laughed at the jokes and you even laughed at the fat guy or kid in the show. For some reasons, cartoons and movies have been bombarded with fat jokes, have depicted fat people as funny or, if not, the antagonist in the movie. From the big screen, cartoon movies such as Shrek, Wall-E, Up, Little Mermaid, to television series such as the Biggest Loser, to movies like Bridget Jones’ Diary and Shallow Hal, and even commercial ads like that of PEPSI Obesity ad, they think they’re educating the people about obesity. The thing is, they are educating people that being fat is NOT good.


Photo by Michael Cramer via Flickr, Creative Commons

As a parent, whether it’s in the cartoons or in the playground, the bias that media is presenting to children at an early age is an alarming sight. Fat shaming is a process where fat people are stigmatized, bullied, and discriminated just so they would be somehow motivated to lose weight. Obesity is indeed an issue for all ages. The sad part is, we do not realize that even at a young age, we are shaming them, putting down their confidence in the process of educating them.

Children see movies about fat kids being laughed at or even left out during playtime in the playground. Other ads even portray fat children with a text that says "Chubby kids may not outlive their parents" or another that says "Big bones didn't make me this way. Big meals did." Wherever you turn to these days, it seems that fat shaming is something we are interested in. For some, this fat-shaming epidemic running across media aims to educate people about healthy eating, but does it really work?

Fat Jokes and Fat Humor
In an article by Romeo Vitelli, Ph.D. he says: “When it comes to reinforcing negative attitudes about minorities, laughter isn't always the best medicine.”

A recent study titled "Weight-Related Humor in the Media: Appreciation, Distaste and Anti-Fat Attitudes," featured in the June issue of Psychology of Popular Media Culture, revealed that "Although disparaging jokes about physical disability, religion and ethnicity are often considered to be in poor taste or not politically correct, obesity stands out as a condition that is commonly made fun of in entertainment media." This entertainment labeled as “fattertainment” is gaining popularity on its funny fat jokes and even celebrated.


Photo by Pete Thomas via Flickr, Creative Commons

Long before fat shaming, body shaming has been introduced by the media whereby people are being judged based on their physical appearance, being too tall, too skinny, too short, too smart, just about everything that’s too much. Fat shaming is specifically targeted to fat people, including children. Some parents think of fat shaming as a way to battle obesity effectively that they support ads and campaigns so people would be more conscious of healthy eating. At a very young age, parents are cultivating a thinking that being fat is bad, so children tend to hate themselves in the process.

Research from the University of Carolina revealed that 70 percent of children’s films are showing behaviors leading to obesity or the fat stigma. As to why people are too comfortable with the fascination about fat humor, studies revealed that Americans see that obese children are responsible for their situation including the humiliation and the bullying.



Photo by Next TwentyEight via Flickr, Creative Commons

Robyn Silverman, author of “Good Girls Don't Get Fat: How Weight Obsession Is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It,” explains that “Fat-bashing in all its varied forms–criticism, exclusion, shaming, fat talk, self-deprecation, jokes, gossip, bullying–is one of the last acceptable forms of prejudice. From a very young age, before they can walk away or defend themselves, women are taught that they are how they look, not what they do or what they know.”

The Weight of Fat shaming Situation
In the movie Fat Kid Rules the World, Troy Billings is seventeen, overweight, and suicidal. Just as he's about to jump in front of a bus, he's saved by Marcus, a charming high school dropout/street musician. But it’s not always the case. Some children who suffer from fat jokes tend to be depressed and anxious. Stigmatization does not work.

Statistics show two of every three Americans are obese. The prevalence of obesity in the country has increased by 50 percent and is spreading to all ages, even children. Obesity account for one in every ten deaths which could reduce the society to $223 billion people a year. Although this is a serious issue, the media had successfully altered the view of people from serious to making it funny. Research shows that fat humor and “fattertainment” have an equally unfavorable impact on public perceptions about obese people. Most of them claim that what they portray in the movies is actually something that could motivate obese children to being healthy.

At a young age, it is alarming that instead of enjoying the food they eat and socializing with other kids in the playground, children opt to become skinny and join in on making fun of fat kids. After all, that’s what is seen in the cartoons and movies, right? The media is promoting fat shaming among obese people and kids, but this is actually harmful for kids.


Photo by Robin Corps via Flickr, Creative Commons

Fat shaming in the media or the growing fattertainment presents the concept of stereotype to children at a young age. J.K. Rowling, a mother of two says, ““I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin’. And frankly, I’d rather they didn’t give a gust of stinking chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons.”

Stigmatization does not work
“Fat shaming” does not work. It does not help people lose weight or gain the motivation they need. A recent study from the University College London (UCL) contradicted that fat shaming helps people lose weight. As a matter of fact, fat shaming makes obese people and kids feel bad about their size, 5% of those who experienced the stigma against fat people gained an average of 0.95 kg compared to those who gained 0.71 kg without the discrimination. Instead of encouraging them to exercise and drop the pounds, fat shaming even pulls them toward eating more and more.

Since these people are put in a depressed state, they turn towards comfort food. Accordingly, since the confidence levels of these people have been observed low, their responses vary. Some increases their appetite while others avoid socializing and going out, even joining physical activities. Apparently, this contributes to the shy problem of kids that they would rather spend time indoors than go out and spend time socializing with other kids.

Since these fat shaming movies and cartoons are popular among kids, they are influenced to feel socially awkward with other kids that are not fat. This contributes to the lessening ratio of kids engaging in physical activity. In the process, fat shaming causes fat kids to be socially awkward around other people and prefer not to engage in any physical activity. Director of the Cancer Research UK Health Behavior Center in UCL, Prof. Jane Wardle said: “Weight discrimination is part of the obesity problem and not the solution.”

What Should You Do about It?
The media presents an increasing fat shaming culture and it is troubling. Here’s what you should do about it:
  • Love your children unconditionally.
  • Fight obesity and not obese people.
  • Introduce your child to exercise through various playground equipments.
  • Encourage healthy eating by setting an example.
  • Proper parental guidance while feeding information from the media.
  • Drop the fat humor alongside fat shaming shows. 


Photo by Matthias Ripp via Flickr, Creative Commons

At present, there is an alarming increase of children suffering bullying and fat shaming by their peers. Fat shaming in the media had introduced a culture that being fat is not healthy-living. If only media has properly conveyed the situation without having to raise the stigma against fat people, then obesity would have been cured appropriately. Healthy eating and proper playground exercise must be the stereotype the media should show kids to have a healthier lifestyle instead of bashing fat people. For more healthful and helpful information about playground for your kids or students, get in touch with PlaygroundEquipment.com, today!



Learn about the author: Jennifer Holmes

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