So, one of the reasons I had (and have) to dial down a little on blog posts is that there’s loads of other work to do… Not that I’m actually doing it; I went on holiday to Madrid. And yet – even in between tapas, red wine, glorious sights, handsome men and sunny, summery weather, some people have taken their one chance to piss me off on my last day, when I discovered this in the subway:
That’s right. An advertisement for the gastric band. The poster features a naked fat woman, “Marta”, allegedly 28 years old, an architect and – gasp! – single. The poster goes on to say that Marta has difficulties when it comes to social relations, and that she suffers from joint pain and depression (…in that order). In comes the gastric band: it is advertised as “the definite solution,” and one can pay it off by monthly instalments of 177 Euros…
Seriously. Seriously? Where do I begin… First of all, the mere idea of proactively advertising major abdominal surgery (and yes, whereas surgeons try to perform it as minimally invasive as possible – it is still major abdominal surgery) is just mind-boggling to me. You might as well start to advertise appendectomies (because who needs that little stomp and it’s a preemptive strike, right) or tonsillectomies (which are less invasive than a lap band surgery…). Apparently, being fat is such a horrible state of existence that advertisements like these are totally ethically justified. The European Union has established the imprint of warnings on the mortal danger of smoking on every damn cigarette pack around the continent – and yet, lap band advertisements are completely fine. True, it is probably a lot cleverer not to mention the risks, side effects and the utter uselesness of the gastric band in some cases – probably no one would voluntarily do that to hirself, then.
Second, I hope that Marta got a shitload of money posing for this advertisement (and that she actually knew what it was about, just saying…). Obviously, there’s supposed to be a sensationalist and exoticising “ick”-factor implied in her being photographed nude (because why else would you have a naked person advertise for a gastric band? Everything else, even a picture of an actual stapled stomach, would make more sense if this wasn’t about fat-shaming and pointing fingers at rolls). The one thing the ad manages to do (in contrast to the usual Headless Fatty pics) in midst of all the degradation is to give her a hint of personhood: a (real?) name, an age and a job. However, whereas she as a person only deserves a little note, it is immediately emphasised that Marta is single (…all alone!!1!), has difficulties when it comes to social relations and suffers from depression. May I just ask who would not be depressed if they were depicted as she is on this advertisement?!
Most importantly, the link drawn between obesity and depression is not only a usually false, but a potentially dangerous one. Following the advertisement’s logic, Marta is depressed and socially anxious only because she is fat. Not only does that severly oversimplify clinical depression and social anxiety issues, it is also so sanctimonious, it makes you hurl.
Whereas some fat people suffer from depression and/or social anxiety, their weight is hardly the only (and much less the potentially underlying) reason in most cases. Moreover, discriminating behaviour and advertisements that aim at showcasing and pathologising fat people are most certainly not helping in battling depression and/or faciliate the establishment of social relations. This poster is the quintessence of fat-shaming cynicism: It implies that being fat equals being unattractive, unhealthy, unhappy, and, ultimately, unworthy. It is unsurprising, then, that the societal anti-fat mantra and standardised beauty ideals (enthusiastically supported by a whole complex of dieting industries), that are indoctrinatingly repeated daily, cause some people depression and anxiety.
Here’s where the hypocrisy finally reaches its fullest height: Whilst some fat people feel depressed about their weight and unhappy with their life, it’s the same damn people (on this poster and almost everywhere else) at least partially responsible for this problem (which often arises because of constant fat-shaming), who simulteaneously offer its “solution”: the purchase of their products (be it a New South Beach Diet or a gastric band). Hence, if only Marta wasn’t fat anymore, she would have a boyfriend or a girlfriend or both, she would know how to talk to people and establish a circle of friends, she would be successful, beautiful and happy – and, surprise!, for only 177 Euros a month they can get her there, they have the “solución definitiva!” It’s spitefulness, cynicism and degradation on a shiny square poster; even more, one is supposed to spend money on one’s own humiliation and objectification (yet again). FFS – if only I had had a bucket of paint…