06 March 2009

Anti-obesity campaigns: how leisure organisations invoke fat panic

I'm going to be giving a presentation at the Leisure Studies Association conference in Canterbury in July and part of my talk is going to be about leisure organisations that have anti-obesity policies as part of their mission. There's a lot of money floating around for obesity prevention programmes in the UK at the moment, and I'm wondering of these clauses are about attempts t cash-in on that. To clarify, I don't mean diet groups or health groups, or places where you would expect to find fat hatred, I'm talking about organisations that don't have an obvious connection to "obesity". Here are three examples:

I've had dealings with The London Cycle Campaign in the past, they used to have an anti-obesity clause in their mission statement. I can't find it now, and they published my guide for fat cyclists in their magazine a while back, but they still can't resist a pop at the fatties, it seems, as demonstrated by the anti-fat bias in their reporting.

The London Pools Campaign is more explicit in their fatphobia, they link to a bunch of fat panic organisations right on their front page. I love swimming and am really sympathetic to their campaign, but I can't bring myself to support them whilst they promote hatred of me and my kind.

I was at a meeting this week, convened by an fatphobic organisation, and a spokesperson from The Ramblers, a member of this organisation, spoke up about their anti-obesity position. The Ramblers! What's the world coming to?!

Anyway, I'd like to hear from you if you know of other organisations like this that have stealth fatphobia in their aims and objectives.


richie79 said...

The Edinburgh Biycle Co-operative are another bike-related on that springs to mind. A while back they plastered buses here in Leeds (and presumably other cities) with posters showing a thin, 'ripped' guy under the line 'bought a bike' contrasted with a fat, shirtless fellow, complete with immense gut overhanging his slouchy jeans who had apparently 'bought a car'. Pity, because I might have been interested in the discounted cycle scheme that they were offering through my employer, but when I saw that I decided that I wanted absolutely nothing to do with them.

You could probably also categorise any company / organisation that's signed up as a partner in the Change4Life obesity campaign as inherently fatphobic, because many fat people feel intimidated and targeted by this campaign and as such any organisation supporting it is disregarding the concerns of a significant sub-group of its customers or users. Strangely enough I haven't actually managed to find a definitive list, but according to this page all the main supermarkets (except Morrisons), ITV (adding to their fat-hating credentials then) and even the London Marathon have jumped on the bandwagon; I'm sure there's many more.

Shoshie said...

Well, you know, those are organization which promote EXERCISE. And you know the fatties hate them some exercise.


SharonC said...

Allotments. Where was it recently that I saw getting involved with allotments being promoted as having the side-effect of weight management?
Some newspaper... hmm, not an organisation, I don't think.

Charlotte Cooper said...

@ richie

Thanks for all this.

Those bike people are the end! So smug in their fatphobia and self-righteousness. I'm a cyclist too and I feel so disenfranchised by organisations that should be speaking up for me.

It didn't occur to me about Change4Life, which I have been avoiding, basically, because it does my brain in. Ew, it's so foul, and the corporate aspect of its support makes me even more nauseous.

Charlotte Cooper said...

@ SharonC

Allotments! No way!

richie79 said...

Yes, the Government's page on allotments doesn't mention obesity directly but espouses their benefits in terms of 'healthy food and exercise' and how the current interest (preoccupation?) with healthy living has increased public interest and waiting lists. And I've certainly read press articles promoting allotment gardening that continue the media propensity to drop in mention of the epi-panic at every possible opportunity.

If you Google allotments + obesity you'll see that lots of local authorities have mentioned weight loss and fighting obesity as one of the benefits of allotment gardening. It's all rather ridiculous really; I recall that when my ex and I briefly had a plot some years back it seemed that fat people were disproportionally represented amongst our neighbouring plot holders (probably because most of them were older, before allotments became the 'in thing' amongst yummy mummies and other young urban types).

Charlotte Cooper said...

@ richie

The world is clearly insane.

SharonC said...

Alas way.

If you google for allotments and obesity you unfortunately get several UK hits which hint at some associations.

e.g. the page I saw was
an article from the Times.

However it could be a case of journalists putting their "obesity stamp" on allotments rather than allotment organisations doing that themselves though. A quick trawl suggests they are more into using phrases such as "healthy lifestyle" and "exercise", which I don't think *have* to be euphemisms.