The Media -- Project, Perpetuate and Create --Weight Bias
in Form and Content
The media including all advertising, entertainment and news, provide the primary channel in which notions of what is so-called normal body size, what are the usual behaviors of and health effects of being fat, indeed -- about what causes a person to be fat and how those people should be treated.
As McCluhan coined, “The medium is the message,” in this case the physical, or rather non-physical act of using media itself increases the likelihood of weight gain. We saw this whimsically depicted in the blockbuster Disney children’s film, Wall-E where all the humans waiting in a space ship for Earth to become capable of supporting life again, regardless of race, were very cute, very fat and used personal electronic media “pimped out” hover-lounges rather than their shrunken chubby legs as their only means of transportation. Not only does watching television encourage us to be less active (if we would otherwise be doing physically active things), the constant commercials for junk food are created to trigger cravings and further distort our natural sense of hunger.
Media usage studies show that children spend a whopping 7 hours a day using some form of media and that the media rival peer influence and can supersede parental, church, and school influence on myriad indices including notions of weight. So the media bear the lions’ share of responsibility of weight bias in form and content, especially in a nation where few medical schools even have an “obesities studies” elective option. It’s sad that the majority of medical doctors themselves usually rely on their inaccurate cultural, rather than medical, knowledge of what makes their fat patients big and how health and weight really are connected and not.
Some medical doctors whose research does not support popular weight bias say they find it difficult to get their research published in medical journals because of the weight bias of the editors. Often the authors of the medical studies, and certainly the journalists who use those studies for their headline weight biased studies, are basing their information on flawed weight biases rather than accurate science.
Examples of medical bias include doctors, nurses, nutritionists and other health professionals making derogatory comments and jokes about fat people, viewing us as lazy, lacking self control, non-compliant, unintelligent, weak-willed and dishonest[i]. A useful mini-documentary on weight bias in the health care system is at http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/what_we_do.aspx?id=254
Next Week: Weight Bias is Racist; Fat is a Womanist Media Issue