There’s a new report out today by the World Health Organization about global increases in diabetes. The news is bad: there’s been a fourfold increase in the number of people with diabetes world wide, and the incidence has increased from 4.7% to 8.5%. Those increases are especially concentrated in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
I’ll be blogging in more wonky detail about recent studies and reports on body weight and global public health concerns on Sunday. But one thing struck me about how this particular news outlet
presented the information (thanks Samantha for sending me the article): the picture they chose to illustrate and identify the news story. It’s at the top of the blog and here.
In case you’re having trouble parsing the image, it appears to be a white woman from a well-resourced country being helped by a white female hospital staff member to put on a hospital gown in an examining room, WHILE WEARING A FAT SUIT.
What? Can someone explain this to me?
This ridiculous nonsensical image conveys the following messages to me:
- Fat people are grotesque.
- Fat people are passive, not able to do things for themselves.
- Fat people need to be in hospitals.
- In order to depict fat people we think it’s more effective to show a person in a fat suit.
The WHO report and other studies
show that type 2 diabetes is affecting Asian and African and middle eastern populations severely, but the picture doesn’t reflect that message. Diabetes also strikes Asian populations at much lower BMIs than in, say, Latino populations. But we don’t see an Asian person or a Latino person at a diabetes clinic. Nope, just that white lady in the fat suit.
I suppose it could be worse– they could’ve depicted her with no head.
Okay, this may seem like just a rant. Well, it IS a rant, but for a reason. Images that represent fat people in these bizarre or scornful or pathologized ways have two bad effects:
1) they stigmatize fat people, causing all kinds of harm;
2) they distract us from the real and pressing global public health issues, like how to deal with increased diabetes globally.
So enough with the weird staged fat suit pictures. And while we’re at it, please put the heads back on those headless fat people– they need them. Thank you.