Oppression asserts itself in a lot of ways. Fat people aren't reminded of our second class status just by all of the breathless news reports declaring us a threat to national security. These are direct and disempowering. They also empower fat bashers who think we have no place thinking diets are wrong and want to shout us into submission. Nevertheless, they also provide an easy basis of response. If we're not really going to drop dead any second now, that challenges these attacks. If diets don't work, that challenges these attacks.
What do we do about the ways we are made invisible, though? Fat people are only "seen" through these attacks. We can try to refute them, but there often isn't a fall-back position in our culture. Fat people are either sight gags of a walking epidemic. Beyond that, we simply don't exist. We are excluded and denied any identity.
This often seems meaningless. What does it matter if fat people aren't characters on some Fox melodrama? What does it matter if you don't see fat people in ads?
It does matter, though. It reinforces cultural disgust of fat people. When you don't see fat people, it reinforces the notion that fat people shouldn't be seen. It "justifies" discrimination of fat people who want to work in public situations. No, no. We have to be behind the back, out of sight. I mean, do you see fat people working on TV or in magazines or in movies?
It matters because of the subtle ways people are coached to value thinness and devalue fatness from an early age. Through their toys and cartoons and books. Fat people are either jokes, villains, or simply not there. The value of beauty and thinness is reinforced to girls and boys alike.
So, for the next few posts, I'm going to examine the Toys "R" Us Big Toy Book with an eye to its implications on fat people. How does something as innocuous as a toy catalog reflect and reinforce cultural standards of beauty and body size? What kinds of messages is it sending? We'll see a few things coming up.