Fat in the Media

There’s one thing I notice when reading the news that jars me more than dropping the Oxford comma or using non-words like “irregardless” – superfluous mentions of body size. The first flaw can be chalked up to lazy copyediting. The latter is more insidious. I find myself saving pieces to read aloud to my friends and family; holding up pieces of journalism and making sure I’m not the only ones who sees these jabs for cheap filler or non-news. It’s become an obsession.

With that, I bring you a new series:

Each week, I will bring you a new needless, fat-phobic comment from the news. Get excited!

For starters, Newsweek. Now, this is old news by now, but Wills and Kate got married. I know you care/don’t care/have moved on to Kim Kardashian’s epic nuptials, but comments from the Newsweek coverage of said wedding still irk me. Let’s examine:

Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, … is now on his about-to-be third wife and looked almost as relaxed and cheerfully overweight as Elton John. [emphasis added]

Mmkay, so we start off ragging on Earl Spencer for being almost-trice married. Perhaps matrimony’s not his bag. Don’t know, don’t care. What makes my teeth hurt is the end of that sentence where his weight is – rather needlessly – thrown in and we manage to rope in an insult to the Crocodile Rock-er. Well played, Newsweek.

“Cheerfully overweight” tells me nothing about Earl Spencer. Granted, I don’t care to know much about him, but his body size has absolutely zero relevance in the story – especially given that any space given to describing the Earl Spencer’s physical being is space not devoted to our new pretty, pretty Princess.

To the extent I care to read about something like the Royal Wedding in a news magazine (read: very little), I’d prefer to learn the facts and related sociopolitical ramifications. Reporting on the body size tells me more about the reporter than the reported.


About Helena

Helena lives in Chicago with her boyfriend and two cats. Her boyfriend thinks she's awesome. Her cats agree.

Posted on August 23, 2011, in Fat Tuesday and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. We talked about this a bit already on Friday, but you are totally right, and I love that you’re making this a regular feature (with a clever title and all!). Also, the fact that you are a grammar nerd like me makes you even more awesome!

    • I loved talking to you about this issue – it really is everywhere and so unneeded. (Plus, knowing that someone else was interested inspired me to blog!)

  2. While this is somewhat tangential to your main point, I really hate the new Newsweek-Beast-thing. It’s so trashy. I’m embarrassed that I have a subscription now.

    But yes, I totally agree with you on the superfluous size mentions.

    • I’m with you on the being-ashamed-of-Newsweek bandwagon. It’s totally gone to pot. I’m letting my current subscription run out and then we are done.

  3. You make a great point. Fat shaming is just as bad as sexism and racism (with added complexity about health), but waaay more culturally accepted. Thanks for bringing up the topic!

  4. This is an awesome choice for a blog series because the material is boundless. People spew shit like this so thoughtlessly it’s ridiculous.

  5. I LOVE this idea. Great example to start with, and for some reason I really appreciate the fact that it’s about a male subject, proving that the problem is wide-spread and totally unnecessary. And your snarky writing gets me every time. 🙂

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