I posted something on the UK Fat Studies board a couple of weeks ago about an emerging trend, and I'm restating it here in the hopes of generating a discussion.
Twice in the past few weeks I've had emails from people who wouldn't normally get involved in fat stuff. They've sent me links to news stories in case I've missed them, because they've noticed something fatphobic in the press and are perhaps aghast at it.
The two stories that have generated the most consternation are the pieces about BeautifulPeople.com and Whole Foods. I'll recap briefly:
a) BeautifulPeople.com is a dating site and in January they issued a press release stating that they were kicking people off their site if it appeared that they had gained weight over the holiday period. I won't get into how they might know if people have gained weight. Perhaps they pay people to sift through their users' pictures and select the 5,000 fattest for the chop? As I said on FSUK: Do they even have any staffers? I bet it's a really small operation. Do they even have 5,000 members? Where's the evidence? The whole thing sounds completely made up and fishy. I think they're just trying to build a brand that they hope will appeal to 'phobes. This also interests me! Are fatphobes now a niche market?
b) Whole Foods is an upmarket grocery chain in the US that has an outlet in London and possibly does business elsewhere (sorry, I can't be bothered to look it up). This week the CEO said that employees who maintained a low BMI would get increased staff discounts.
Being obnoxious to grab attention is not a new marketing strategy, especially not where fatties are involved. But what I think is different is that it's not just people like me refuting the claims of BeautifulPeople or Whole Foods, but regular people who aren't obsessed by fat stuff in the way that I am. You know, nice, normal people. Both of these companies have managed to grab everyone's attention quite powerfully, everyone's talking about their brands, with minimal outlay. They're the ultimate winners in a sea of hand-wringing.
So I'm wondering if both companies are using both common-or-garden fatphobia as well as public opprobrium against fatphobia to attract publicity on the cheap.