June 12 2013

California Fat Shaming Kids

Julie Gunlock

A California taxpayer-funded interest group called California First 5 says it’s looking out for the kids. The organization’s website states it “…represents an important part of our state’s effort to nurture and protect our most precious resource – our children.”

Yet apparently the organization really only wants to “nurture” and "protect” skinny kids.

In a new and utterly grotesque ad campaign launched last week, very young children (they look to be around 4 or 5 years old) are Photoshopped in a series of print ads so that they appear larger. Naturally, these kids are sipping what’s supposed to be a sugary drink.

Well, I’ll say one thing: at least they didn’t use actual chubby kids like the 2012 ad campaign in Georgia (which I wrote about here) where child actors were made to cry on screen saying they were fat and tormented by their classmates. Nice.

But, really, what’s the point of the California campaign? To fat shame? To connect the nonexistent dots between sugary drinks and diseases while ignoring the very real dots that connect child neglect and bad parenting skills with problems that befall children?

It’s understandable why this is happening. It’s a lot easier to blame big bad business rather than parents. Who wants to lecture parents about their behavior? That’s no fun. People might not like you. They might call you insensitive, thoughtless.

But there’s some good news. The reaction to this ad campaign has been overwhelmingly negative. Much of the negative attention began when one smart mom, Marilyn Wann, saw the ads and, as MSN News reports, posted the offending pictures on her Facebook page which then went viral:

It was so mindblowingly hateful that I Photoshopped them together and posted them on Facebook and on Tumblr," Wann said. "Hate messages are bad for public health. Children of all sizes deserve to be valued as they are and supported in eating and exercising, because these behaviors are fun, feel good, and are good for health. No shame or blame!"

Jezebel writer Laura Beck was merciless in her criticism of the campaign while also making this poignant observation “Don't the adults who come up with these campaigns have any memory of what it was like to be a kid?”

Good question.

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