Are Shonda and Dove the Power Couple That Can Kill Fat?

June 28th, 2017

Shonda Rhimes is a power player. She can make things happen. Dove is a household name, and one that increasingly stands for caring about women and their self-image, although their recent ‘multi-shaped bottles to connote the various shapes of women campaign’ went over with a resounding thud.

This pair claims to be about to “reclaim a word that has caused pain and self-doubt for millions of Americans: Fat.” No one applauds this effort more than I. That word, and everyone who has ever used it to denigrate others should disappear forever. I’m just having trouble comprehending how this will occur.

As I understand it, Shonda is going to make it happen by asking “real women” to share their stories. Perhaps she feels that getting to know these women will enable us to step away from their physicality and focus on their humanity. That would be wonderful, maybe too good to be true?

In addition, Ms. Rhimes and Dove have formed an alliance with Catherine Meredith, the writer who founded Fat Girls Dance, a website which features some very talented dancers.

As I watched the Fat Girls Dance video it occurred to me that it was at least as enjoyable to watch as a video of very thin dancers, perhaps even more so because the rhythm reverberated throughout these women in a way that melded with their bodies. It wasn’t just a bunch of rigid figures moving to the music, the entire body was fluid and very much a part of the movement. Their bodies were rhythmic, a graceful extension of the music. Am I alone in this observation?

“Reclaiming fat” is a challenging but important mission for many reasons. I am adamantly against all forms of body shaming, but also hopeful that the mission will take root and enable us to bloom into a culture that doesn’t just avoid the word “fat” in public, but one that no longer believes that a body with a variance from “average” weight is abhorrent.

Let’s face it, the word “fat” is already on the extremely un-PC list, so how will Dove and Shonda make the situation better, more intrinsic to our very culture? Is it even possible?

There are many who feel that this type of prejudice, an aversion to “fat people,” is justifiable because carrying excessive weight is known to be unhealthy. In fact, the renowned Cheryl Tiegs was heard to criticize a plus-sized model, speaking out against her appearance in ads. When admonished, Tiegs was quick to point out that glamorizing someone of excess weight was tantamount to encouraging unhealthy behavior. She felt it was sending the wrong message although she had nothing against the model herself.

This is not a simple issue. Obesity is not healthy. But those who live with obesity have so many other issues with which to contend. There are very few, if any, overweight individuals that are not aware of a plethora of health risks. For every health risk, there are multiple physical and emotional challenges to losing the excess weight. Is it acceptable to also make these people feel like pariahs in our society?

I will applaud Shonda, Dove and Fat Girls Dance if their effort to disenfranchise the word “fat” is a home run, but I will not hesitate to call a strike if their efforts amount to nothing more than a PR ploy leaving the plus-sized community out in the cold.