Good job California. So you passed Proposition 10 to collect a fifty-cent tax on every pack of cigarettes. You’ve used that money to create First 5 California, also known as the California Children and Families Commission which is:
dedicated to improving the lives of California’s young children and their families through a comprehensive system of education, health services, childcare, and other crucial programs.
And the commission you created with this money, chooses to use those resources to drastically retouch a picture of a little girl to make her look fat for an ad campaign designed to scare parents into limiting the amount of sugar they feed their kids.
Here’s the original photo, next to the retouched version:
First of all, whatever amount of state tax money that was used to do that image retouching is waaaay too much. I could get far better design work than that done on fiverr.com for $5 USD.
Next, I have to ask, why would we spend any amount of state tax money on shaming fat parents and fat kids in the face of the fact it just doesn’t work? In fact study after study shows that stigmatizing and bullying kids about their weight not only fails to create thinner kids, but also tends to trigger more participation in unhealthy behaviors like smoking, drinking, substance abuse, binge eating and other forms of disordered eating.
So why exactly are we spending state tax money to create ads aimed at preventing childhood obesity that are actually more likely to increase levels of childhood obesity while at the same time encouraging our kids to engage in higher levels of destructive behavior?
I’m sure that some of the fear-mongering, hand-wringing, head-shaking folks that created this glorious ad campaign will ask you to “think about the children”. They will cite statistics about childhood obesity and suggest that something must be done to protect the health of these poor kids.
To which I would reply, “Yes. All kids deserve to be healthy. So let’s focus on stuff that does that.” Shaming kids does not make them thinner or healthier. But there are some things we can do. In fact, in honor of First 5, I’ll give you five suggestions:
1. How about making sure kids have a safe place to play?
2. How about reinstating some of the physical education programs that have been cut from schools for lack of budget?
3. How about making sure that kids of all sizes have access to a variety of high-quality, nutritionally dense foods?
4. How about we help fat kids learn to accept and love themselves so that they are more likely to exercise and treat themselves well?
5. How about we add “body size” as a category for school anti-bullying programs.
Sure, these programs would be more difficult than cranking out a basic bus shelter advertisement. And undoubtedly some of these programs would cost more than hiring the world’s worst graphic designer to “fatten up” the image of an innocent kid. But given the fact that some of these programs might, I don’t know, help some kids live healthier lives, maybe we should just fund those instead.
As a final note, the folks at First 5 may find themselves facing some pretty well-organized and powerful opposition. It’s already started in the form of an awesome homemade protest flyer at the site of one of the bus shelters:
But as some folks in Georgia found out, folks can get pretty riled up and do some pretty amazing things when you shame and frighten their children.
So maybe we should take a step back and a deep breath and try again. I’m sure, upon some calm reflection, we can find better ways to promote good health for children of all sizes.
The Fat Chick
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