When the Government decided that too many people were putting a strain on the NHS and Insurance premiums by not wearing seat belts in cars what did they do? They made it socially unacceptable. To not wear a seat belt was putting other people at risk and putting a strain on the NHS, sure there was the “and it may save your life” element too but ultimately if you want to take your own chances in life that’s up to you as an individual surely. No, it was never about your own safety. This was divide and conquer. Shame those that don’t buckle up and the rest will follow and most people now do follow.
(This advert on seatbelt safety went viral in 2010 and shows how a campaign can and should work)
When the Government realised that smoking was bad (indeed it is) for our health and was costing the NHS billions every year they again turned to divide and conquer. Shame the smokers, shove them into the cold and the rest will follow. Slowly but surely the rest are following.
There are other examples but these are perhaps two of the most stark cases.
Today there is a new focus on that same divide and conquer strategy. Being fat. If you’re overweight then you are a strain on the NHS, costing billions every year and it’s something that needs to be stopped. So says the Government. Given enough time the people will follow. This strategy has been in the works for several years now and each year the pressure builds up.
I have seen people medically described as obese and yet in reality they are just overweight. The term ‘obese’ medically has its roots in your BMI levels and a pre-defined level of acceptability as set by the medical industry but the reality is when the word obese is used we all have an image of a 30 stone man being hoisted by crane out of a house and that image is enough to bring anyone’s ego crashing down to the floor. That sense of worthlessness and the public perception of being fat is what will bring about the changes needed by the NHS to stop the high level spend on fat related illnesses.
The thing is, there are health risks to being larger than you need to be. No doubt about that. It’s the tactics of divide and conquer that are the problem.
Unlike smoking or seat belts where ‘things’ are the issue, with being overweight it’s the person that is the issue and there is no quick fix. Click a seat belt in… done. Don’t pick up that cigarette.. done. Stop being fat … doesn’t really work does it?
We all know that the media industry is at the forefront of image control and has been for a very long time. It still amazes me to this day how we have let the music industry get away with so much discrimination. If it was any other institution we would be in uproar but hey, the media industry entertains us so who are we to moan, right?
From child sexploitation to sexist attitudes, from drug addled artists to promoting killing within songs. It’s all there on full display yet no one bats an eyelid. All available for our kids to digest. Of course within all this is image. Too fat and you likely won’t make it big, certainly not in mainstream music. A notable exception is the singer Adele. She is hardly ‘fat’ but it’s something that has been spoken about in the gutter press and it’s clear to see… she is no stick insect. Yet she is however attractive and has huge popularity for her singing talent. She is judged on her ability primarily and that’s always the way it should be. How many times on reality shows have we seen larger men and women dropped clearly because of how they look often because of their size? That is the exception though and it needs to become the norm.
We see time and again artists that lose the plot yet are kept on by their management because..money. Pete Doherty’s drug antics, Amy Winehouse’s drink and drugs issue which ultimately led to her death, Britney Spears’ mental break down more recently the explicit sexualisaton of a young Miley Cyrus and the obvious downward slope she is taking. (Incidentally she is a good singer, but you wouldn’t really know it).
It’s nothing new, Rock and Metal have had its societal issues before pop and R&B did and before that Rock & Roll was seen as the devil’s work but image as such was never an issue like it is today especially with the advent of social media and the easy access teens have to it.
All of the above is by and large seem by a teen-heavy market and that can only influence the next generation and the ones after that. It’s inevitable and we ignore it to our detriment.
This all brings me on to the latest piece to hit the press. Singer and one part of ‘Little Mix’ Jesy Nelson ‘broke down’ on stage a few nights ago (video below) mid concert as she spoke of her weight. Since then Little Mix have cancelled two gigs in Belfast due to an illness Nelson has picked up (at least allegedly). What followed on social network Twitter was heartless. So-called fans began to lay into the singer calling her fat and pushing her to kill herself. (As explained in this article) She will unlikely see these messages directly but just stop and think for a moment. Here is a young girl whisked into the limelight not that long ago via a reality music TV show, already previously mocked for her looks, already having concerns for her weight is this something that is fair.. to publicly mock her weight because a gig was cancelled?
There will always be idiots and teens who think they know everything there is to know. You can’t account for young stupidity it’s part of growing up but what isn’t part of growing up is being exposed to the type of attitudes that are best left to the adult sphere (ironic considering we are meant to be the grown up ones).
What can we do about attitudes though, specifically about attitudes towards weight, when our own government persists in labelling fat people a problem and continues to shame people who are less than the ‘ideal’ weight?
Every health drive including the recent sugar tax implementation in the UK is largely aimed at obesity or related illnesses and with each passing comment about obesity or being fat, is one more day that someone less than ‘perfect’ is contemplating their own place in the world.
With smokers ostracised, seatbeltless drivers vilified and now overweight people shamed, who might be next in line to tackle the NHS budget? One day perfectly normal. The next you’ll be hounded into believing that you are the problem.
There is a difference between targeting a problem that affects people – and making such a noise about it that it sidelines a whole section of the community. What world is it when the first response to not getting what you want is to attack someones weight?
There has always been name calling as children but it shows the lack of progress we have made when our kids are still trotting out the same rubbish as we might have done when we were their age.
If you have been classed as fat, sod them. Stick two fingers up. Change your weight if you want to but if you’re happy, just be YOU. We will all die at some point, everyone from something different. It should not be about how long you live but instead about the quality of the life you lead. So make the most of it, you only get one shot at this, stop worrying about the small things.
It’s down to us to change attitudes and down to our government to set the example.
(Nelson lets it out on stage)