A badass lady named Jo Swinson (the Equalities Minister in the UK) suggests that we need to ban fat talk. You know, phrases like “muffin top,” “thunder thighs,” “love handles,” and “bingo wings.” Bingo wings actually sound like something I’d like to bring along with me the next time I join my local senior citizens at the bingo hall, but I get what she’s saying.
“It is depressingly common-place to hear women, and even young girls, insulting their own bodies. Fat talk and body-shaming too easily become a habit and an expectation. We need to promote positive body image so we can increase healthy behaviours. Poor body confidence can have a devastating effect on many aspects of their lives, from achieving at school to succeeding in the workplace.”
I had so many reactions to this news. At first I was like, “Infinities of yes! Ban fat talk! Fat talk is bad!” and then I was like, “Well, what about free speech? I hate fat talk, but I also think people should be able to say whatever they want. Even assholes like the Duck Dynasty dude because hey, the more they talk, the more we’ll know which terrible people to avoid.” But of course, banning body-negative talk is nothing like spouting off hateful homophobia. So then I thought, “But where is Jo Swinson suggesting this kind of talk be banned? In advertisements, in the media, in every day conversation?” Because that matters! Interestingly, Swinson previously banned a heavily-Photoshopped ad for Nivea skin cream in the UK, so she does have the power to influence the images and messages that are disseminated to UK citizens.
Turns out Swinson suggests that “women and children” should ban fat talk from every day conversation. (I’d argue that men, also, could benefit from erasing those phrases from their vocabulary). So it’s not a real “ban” per se, just a suggestion about a more positive way people can live in the world. I’m on board with that, Jo Swinson. I don’t know how and where and when that’s ever going to become accomplished, in the UK or in the US or anywhere in the world, but I think it’s a worthy cause and a noble goal.
Language is powerful; the way we talk about our bodies and other people’s bodies can clearly affect how we see and perceive those bodies. Paying attention to the words you use in every day life can make a difference, even if it is a very small one, compared to the influence of celebrities, the media, and societal standards. But it’s a start, right? It’s a start.
Photo: Getty Images