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Monday, 15 December 2014
Fighting the tyranny of thinness: Can media make room for larger women?
Overweight people – or, more accurately,
overweight women – are still discriminated against in fashion,
television, movies and advertising. Israeli activists rate their chances
of finally changing things as far better than slim.
When the artist Haley Morris-Cafiero goes out to take videos of
herself, she does not treat herself as the main subject. Although she is
in the center of most of the clips, causing the drama that they
document, her real subject is something different: the responses of
passersby to her body, which is that of a fat woman. Equipped with a
tripod and accompanied by an assistant, Morris-Cafiero goes out to
crowded places, and her films almost always show a response of disgust –
whether from a group of derisive adolescents, tourists who stare at her
as she eats ice cream, or an on-duty police officer making fun of her
as she stands on the sidewalk, talking on the telephone.
If Israeli journalist and writer Ariana Melamed had a similar artistic
interest, she could have made video clips that were just as damning. If
she had pulled out her cellphone last summer, she could have shown the
stranger who spat in her face as he angrily muttered, “Fat slob.”
Instead, she documented the incident on her Facebook page, using the
weapon she had developed to cope with such incidents: her sharp tongue.
“Fat women are such a terrible threat that they cannot be seen in
advertisements (except for ones about weight loss, right?), filmed for
television or employed as spokespeople or in public relations, create a
positive impression in any job interview or be seen in public with
anyone,” she wrote then, taking the opportunity to start a discussion
about the place – or, more precisely, lack of one – of fat women in the