I was walking through the student union the other day when I saw a poster advertising some event on campus involving the Nintendo Wii. The tagline was something to the effect of “get your boyfriend off the couch”. While I could write a whole other post about how that’s a fascinating example of sexism used intentionally as a form of rhetoric to catch the attention of both genders, that wasn’t what struck me about this particular poster. What struck me was the picture.
It was one of those “headless fatty” shots that the media loves to use when talking about anything obesity-related; you’ve probably seen it before if you’ve read any significant amount of information in the fatosphere. It’s a shot of a person of unknown gender, shot (and here the violence of that term seems appropriate) from behind, who is seated in a folding chair that is too small to fit the person, resulting in the person’s sides overhanging the edge of the chair. For the curious, it’s one of the images on the page linked above.
In all honesty, if I hadn’t seen this particular image before, I might not have noticed its use on the flier. But instead of just glancing over it, I found myself becoming very angry with the people (most likely students) who had designed this particular flier. My first impulse was to rip the sign down. But what good would that do? There were surely more scattered all across campus, and even on the remote chance they noticed, nobody would ever know why that particular flier was removed.
My next impulse was to take a moment to add some comments to the flier. I didn’t, because a) I didn’t have a pen, and b) I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I’m working on fighting off the fear of being noticed, and I’ve started carrying a pen. But if I could go back and write on that flier (probably long gone by now), I would say something like this:
Who is this person? Do you think they consented to have their picture taken? To have it used to advertise this event? How do you think they feel about having their picture used this way? Would you want the same thing done to you? Fat prejudice is real.
And then perhaps a link to Kate Harding. Or someone. But it’s not enough to just let things pass without comment, because then nobody will notice anything is wrong.