How will we talk about weight in 2011? First, let's recap what we learned last year: Many people are too thin, while others are simply too fat! And no one's ever "just right" (according to the media, at least).
Whole Foods Offers Employee Discounts Based On BMI
In January 2010, we learned that Whole Foods was implementing a new program offering non-smoking employees with lower BMIs, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure up to a 30% discount. Employees who refused to lose weight or stop having a chronic disease would only receive the usual 20% discount, even though CEO John Mackey acknowledged these numbers don't actually reflect your overall health.
Apparently it never occurred to anyone at Whole Foods that this policy may be controversial, but it quickly developed into a media shitstorm and Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries expressed "serious concerns" about the program's legality. According to our top-secret sources (read: a guy we know who works at Whole Foods) the policy is still in effect.
Kevin Smith Kicked Off Southwest For Being "Too Fat To Fly"
In February, Kevin Smith was asked to get off a Southwest flight after he'd boarded because the captain said he was a "safety risk" due to his size. Smith explained he had originally booked two seats, then decided to fly standby on an earlier flight that only had one seat left. He explained to the Southwest rep who he bought the ticke from, "I only needed one seat & that I didn't buy an extra seat because I'm fat (which I am), but because I'm anti-social and didn't want to sit next to someone & possibly have to make convo." Though Smith showed the flight attendant he could put both armrests down, which is the airline's test for who needs to buy two seats, he was still forced to get off the plane.
Afterward, Smith launched an epic Twitter campaign against Southwest, and other portly fliers came forward with similar stories. An rep later said that while mistakes may have been made during the Kevin Smith incident,
Southwest, like most carriers, has a policy to assist passengers who need two seats onboard an aircraft. The policy is an important one for the comfort and safety of all passengers aboard a plane, and we stand by that 25-year-old policy. This has our attention, and we will be reviewing how and when this delicate policy is implemented.
Upon reviewing the policy, Southwest concluded that its small, cramped seats are uncomfortable for customers of all sizes. Furthermore, the entire experience of flying is an attack on human dignity. The airlines proceeded to install larger seats, slash prices, and give everyone a free flight to Disney World. (Okay, in reality everyone forgot about Kevin Smith's plight and Southwest didn't change a thing.)
Read More: Kevin Smith Takes To Twitter After Being Thrown Off Southwest Flight
Kevin Smith Isn't The First Person Southwest Deemed "Too Fat To Fly"
Will Airlines Ever Change Their Customer Of Size Policies?
Southwest Gave Me The Kevin Smith Treatment
World Reacts To Gabourey Sidibe Not Being A Size 2
Gabourey Sidibe was nominated for an Oscar in 2010, but rather than celebrating the success of a new star who's funny and talented, various media personalities took the opportunity to tell her's she's too fat. They were just concerned about her health, you see! (Or they found the idea of a woman daring to act, walk the red carpet, and live her life without making apologies for her size subconsciously disturbing.)
Shortly after attending the Academy Awards, some shady company selling diet supplements offered Gabby an endorsement deal. Then '90s weight loss guru Susan Powter cautioned that she's, "in an industry where you're going to be judged microscopically" — often by people like '90s weight loss guru Susan Powter! And most notably, Howard Stern made a lot of fat jokes at Gabby's expense, said she'd never work again, and offered this unsolicited heath advice: "go get yourself thin, you're gonna die in like three years."
We got so sick of talking about Gabby's weight that we had to call a time out, but it seems she was too busy to engage in this petty bickering. In 2010 the woman who would "never work in Hollywood again" was filming The Big C, the drama Yelling To The Sky, and the Eddie Murphy/Ben Stiller comedy Tower Heist.
Read More: Sidibe's Weight Becomes Publicity Stunt For Supplement Marketers
Weight Loss Lady Slams Gabby Sidibe; Justin Bieber Disses Mariah Carey
Howard Stern Hates On Gabourey, Insiders Advise Her To Lose Weight
Enough About Sidibe's Weight Already
Networks Pull Lane Bryant Ad
While no one would bat an eyelash at a Victoria's Secret Angel writhing around in just her panties during prime time, in April Fox and ABC decided this Lane Bryant ad was too racy for TV. Clearly, plus-size model Ashley Graham is no angel; Unlike a Victoria's Secret model, she isn't wearing her bra a size too small to create the illusion that her breasts might spill out at any moment.
According to Lane Bryant's blog,
ABC restricted our airtime and refused to show the commercial during "Dancing with the Stars." Fox demanded excessive re-edits and rebuffed it three times before relenting to air it during the final 10 minutes of "American Idol," but only after we threatened to pull the ad buy.
Fox eventually agreed to run the ad during American Idol, but a Lane Bryant source said that Fox had asked the company to cut down on shots of the model's body. Lane Bryant released documents that showed ABC banned the spot from Dancing With the Stars, and would only allow the ads to run during daytime TV or after 9 pm. Thank goodness DWTS viewers weren't forced to see women prancing around in lacy, barely-there outfits!
Crystal Renn Gets Slimmed Down Via Photoshop
Over the summer, images of Crystal Renn looking much thinner surfaced online. Many Renn fans saw this as a betrayal, since she's probably the most famous "plus-size" model working today. However, as we pointed out at the time, Renn shouldn't be criticized for her weight fluctuations:
If we want to see more physical diversity in the fashion industry, less fetishization of uber-thin body types, and a loosening of strict standards of beauty, then we need to give her - and all other women - a break. We've got to stop the intense scrutinization of any and all sizes. When we try to force a model (or ourselves) to fit into precise molds or live up to random expectations, no one wins.
Also, the photos bear no resemblance to what Renn actually looks like. Photographer Nicholas Routzen explained that the photos were "taken from a higher angle with a wider lens," and then he "shaped her." Yes, our old foe excessive retouching was to blame! A reader submitted photographic evidence that proves Renn was drastically Photoshopped. In the end, we all learned some important lessons: Other people's weight fluctuations are none of our business, and we can never, ever, trust any image we see. Looking at fashion photography these days is like staring into a disorienting funhouse mirror.
Huge Challenges Stereotypes, Gets Canceled
This summer, Huge, a groundbreaking show about teens at a weight-loss camp, premiered on ABC Family. It was written by My So-Called Life creator Winnie Holzman and her daughter Savannah Dooley, and starred Nikki Blonsky. While usually overweight actors are limited to playing the sassy best friend on TV, the heavy characters on Huge were treated like people — thus, it was not long for this world. It was canceled in October after its first season.
From our review of the show's finale:
Whether Huge will return is unclear. But it was an engaging, thoughtful, heartwarming show that should have gotten more attention than it did. The program gave us a chance to talk about weight in a different way from Dance Your Ass Off, The Biggest Loser or More To Love. The characters (based on those in the book Huge by Sasha Paley) were not only painted in a human way, but a humane way. The plotlines didn't just explore weight as something to lose, but the despair, optimism, guilt, awkwardness, parents, siblings and everyday baggage that these overweight people carry as they function in the world.
Though we launched a petition to save the show, it seems it's gone for good.
Marie Claire Blogger Offended By "Fatties" On TV
In response to Mike and Molly, another show about overweight people, Marie Claire blogger Maura Kelly wrote a post titled "Should 'Fatties' Get A Room? (Even On TV?)" She said:
No one who is as fat as Mike and Molly can be healthy. And obesity is costing our country far more in terms of all the related health problems we are paying for, by way of our insurance, than any other health problem, even cancer.
So anyway, yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room - just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.
Later in the piece, Kelly assures readers that despite the shockingly cruel and uninformed things she writes about fat people, "I'm not a sizeist jerk." In fact, she has, "a few friends who could be called plump."
The post sparked a huge controversy, and even a protest outside Marie Claire offices. Kelly apologized and explained, "Though I don't think of myself as anorexic any more, being freaked out by obesity to the insensitive, even cruel, point that I was is certainly a vestige of the anorexic mindset."
Sadly, there are plenty of fat-phobic bloggers; what separates Kelly's piece is that it was published on the website of a mainstream women's magazine. Marie Claire editor Joanna Coles stood by the article, calling it "provocative" and "an opinion piece." In all likelihood, Coles didn't read the post until the magazine received 28,000 e-mails on the topic. We never figured out the identity of the editor who assigned Kelly the topic of being "grossed out" by "fatties," but it's probably safe to assume she's still working for the magazine.
Read More: What Was Marie Claire Thinking With This "Fatties" Piece?
Marie Claire Responds To Fatties Controversy
If You're Fat-Phobic, You're Also An Ignorant, Bigoted Idiot
Here's A Question: Who The Hell Is The "Fatties" Editor?
Did Marie Claire Remove The Fatties Piece?
Dance Critic Calls Ballerina Fat
In the New York Times' review of the New York City Ballet's performance of The Nutcracker, Alastair Macaulay wrote:
This didn't feel, however, like an opening night. Jenifer Ringer, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, looked as if she'd eaten one sugar plum too many; and Jared Angle, as the Cavalier, seems to have been sampling half the Sweet realm. They're among the few City Ballet principals who dance like adults, but without adult depth or complexity.
Though of course, bodies matter in ballet, the comment seemed unnecessarily harsh, particularly because Ringer once struggled with anorexia and compulsive eating. Later Macaulay tried to clarify his remarks, saying:
If you want to make your appearance irrelevant to criticism, do not choose ballet as a career. The body in ballet becomes a subject of the keenest observation and the most intense discussion.
Which still doesn't really explain how Ringer's alleged weight gain hindered her performance.
So, what can we learn from 2010? We did see more "plus-size" models and actresses, and a few shows that treated overweight people like human beings made it to the air. However, we still heard plenty of bigoted comments from people who think weight and appearance are indicative of overall health. It looks like in 2011, we'll still be taking on fat-phobes and trying to get the idea across that your weight is nobody's business but your own.