Natalie

Not unless I’m swapping lifestyles with Oprah

We get a bit of mail at Axis of Fat through our contact form and a lot of the messages we get are wonderful, supportive and thankful and make us feel really good about our writing and motivate us to continue to blog about being fat Aussies. On the odd occasion there are media requests too, and Nick fields those because I’m not really interested in making a fool of myself in print or on air and he does such a fantastic job speaking as a fat advocate. I’m really proud of our blogging efforts, and even though I haven’t been blogging as much due to being busy with my other endeavours, I’m really chuffed to see the blog chugging along and continuing the conversation about being fat in Australia.

Today Nick got a media request from a current affairs program requesting one of us appear in a story that involved swapping “lifestyles” with a “gymbunny” for a period of time. The opportunity (and I use that word ever so loosely) was turned down straight away by those of us on the Axis team who have access to our emails during the day, with much booing. We found out that the journalist has approached a number of fat acceptance bloggers today regarding the same story only to be met with similar responses. No thank you. We’d prefer not to consent to being demonised on national television. But thanks. Besides, I would feel awfully dishonest pegging myself at the fat/ bad end of the good-fat lifestyle paradigm because while I am fat and I just ate lemon pudding, I also go to the gym and eat vegetables!

This kind of “lifestyle swap” story is tired and hackneyed, and I really question the value of stories like this – other than acting as stocking stuffers on slow news days. I follow Source Bottle on twitter and at least a few times a week there are call outs for fatties to participate in “lifestyle swaps”. I’m starting to think that there are very few fat journalists and producers in Australian media, because you’d have to be completely unobservant or even mired in your own thin privilege to fail to see that people of all different shapes participate in different lifestyles. Unless they’re only observing what’s published by mainstream media – in that case you’d go for months (maybe even years) without seeing any kind of positive representation of a fat person’s lifestyle.

I wrote a FA101 post on my blog just the other day and I said, “The truth is, healthful and not-so-healthful behaviours are performed by EVERY sort of body.” I guess that’s just not an interesting enough news story for these journalists, when they get more ratings out of pumping out manufactured stories that fuel hurtful assumptions about people’s body types and the kind of lifestyles those bodies lead. The media characterises fat people as lazy, disorganised and unattractive and a “lifestyle swap” story would only serve to make a fat person complicit in this characterisation, something we think is dishonest, reprehensible and irresponsible. It’s just not an accurate reflection of society. I guess “URGENT BULLETIN: WE’RE ALL DIFFERENT. In related news, fat people have heads and feelings.” is the kind of headline I can only envision in fits of mirth and delusion.

We at Axis of Fat are, sadly, rare kinds of publicly and unashamedly fat individuals, and it’s natural that we’d be approached to represent fat people. When the angle is as damaging as this, we will not be complicit. What kind of person would submit to having their character slighted in such a way? To the current affairs program we turned down – we aren’t regretful not to take part in this story, and we hope that no fat person agrees to participate in this “lifestyle swap” segment. I’m pretty sure you’ll have terrible luck scouting talent from fat acceptance blogs anyway. However, if you’ve got time to fill on a slow news day we’d love to talk to you about producing a fair and positive story about visible fatties fighting social injustice.

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  • Me

    http://www.sho.com/site/video/brightcove/series

    GOOD episode of Penn & Teller with Meme Roth!!

  • Staci

    I'm not sure I understand your objection to this story idea. If you want to promote the idea that fat people work out, and can be just as fit as non-fat people, why not go for it?

  • nivcharayahel

    I think the objection here is to the idea of this being a “lifestyle swap” story. If it's a swap, then that means that what the piece is really saying is “fat people don't usually exercise or eat healthfully, but thin people do”–not “fat people work out and can be fit.”

  • http://www.definatalie.com definatalie

    In accepting to go on the show, a fat person would be submitting to being characterised as lazy and inactive, countering the characterisation of the “gymbunny”. The representation would be negative, and would finish with the fat person “seeing the error in their ways” and pledging to adopt a more active lifestyle. There is no scope within the segment pitched to us for the fat person to assume the “gymbunny” character, it simply was not offered to us. There's no advantage for us in agreeing to appear on the show – we are disallowed from turning the characterisation around within the scope of this segment.

  • http://www.project-kathryn.com kathryn

    I actually read one lifestyle swap story where the “healthy” one ended up losing, so to speak. Her healthy lifestyle consisted of extreme obsession over food and she realised that cutting out a major food group like carbs wasn't so great.

    It's so rare to see a story that takes such a balanced view of things though, and current affairs programs aren't exactly keen on challenging people's opinions.

  • Joojooluv

    i want a thin person to swap my lifestyle for a week! I am a cycle commuter vegan fast-food avoiding fat-ass. I would love to see a random thin person ride 10 miles in 90 degree heat.

    I hate the kind of assumptions that fat people are lazy…..or that we need to exercize because we “owe” society something!

  • drst

    We found out that the journalist has approached a number of fat acceptance bloggers today regarding the same story only to be met with similar responses

    And the “I Missed The Entire Point Of This Movement” Award goes to…

  • Niki Mccusker

    i've just started reading this blog, and first of all: you guys are made of win and smothered in awesomesauce.
    secondly: i was planning to watch one of those “oh noes! what is in our food/householdproducts/bodies?!?” shows last night, when my darling boyfriend turned to me and wisely, in his scientist-voice, told me: “You know what shows like this are designed to tell you? That you are doing something wrong, no matter what you are doing.” and you know what, i think this applies to that proposed segment and every other lifestyle-swap show: whatever you're doing, you're doing it wrong, and they're going to spend the next half hour telling you why.

  • reebocks

    I realise I’m a little late to this party- but I just thought I’d share that on one of the bulimia/anorexia boards (I am a complicated person) I frequent there’s a company trying to drum up “drunkorexics”- people who restrict their eating specifically to “save calories” for drinking binges. So really, just when you think that t.v. can’t get more despicable and ill-thought out….

  • reebocks

    I realise I'm a little late to this party- but I just thought I'd share that on one of the bulimia/anorexia boards (I am a complicated person) I frequent there's a company trying to drum up “drunkorexics”- people who restrict their eating specifically to “save calories” for drinking binges. So really, just when you think that t.v. can't get more despicable and ill-thought out….

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