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Shape discrimination ad controversy in Australia
zebra zebra!
definatalie wrote in fatshionista
Over the sea in Australia, fat acceptance hasn't really hit it's strides yet. But lately I've found myself talking about it more and more with people, so something is definitely happening. To my surprise tonight on The Gruen Transfer, a tv show on the ABC (our national broadcaster), an ad created for "The Pitch" was blocked from airing. The Pitch is a segment that sends briefs on a topic to two rival advertising agencies and asks for a solution.

The topic tonight was about ending "shape discrimination" and the ad in question that was banned from airing basically compared a fat joke to a gay joke and two racial jokes, with the [intended] takeaway message that fat discrimination is exactly the same as discrimination based on race or sexuality and that all discrimination is ugly and harmful.

You can view the ad by The Foundry on a special site created by The Gruen Transfer's production company, Zapruder, along with a 15 minute panel discussion of the ad only available online - http://www.antiprejudicead.net/landing.asp

The other ad approaches the issue from humour (using the headless fatty footage) and plays it very safe - you can see it on the ABC website here- http://www.abc.net.au/tv/gruentransfer/thepitch.htm

The most interesting part of this is that people will be talking about fat discrimination tomorrow. I honestly never thought it'd happen in Australia this year.

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I saw this, too, and found it amazing that it was blocked from viewing. But like you, I automatically thought how interesting tomorrow's water cooler (or break-room, natch) conversations are going to be.

I worry, though, the only buzz/conversation this is going to create is a base for fatty-fat-fat jokes and obnoxious letters to the editor. :\

EDIT TO ADD: I urge everyone to watch the commercial in question, as well as the panel. It's one of the few times I've actually seen intelligent conversation based around the issue of fat acceptance, not just a back-handed "oh, it's bad, but this type of discrimination is worse" etc.

Edited at 2009-05-13 01:31 pm (UTC)

I think there will be an uncomfortable period where viewers of the ad whose attitudes were challenged try to come to terms with it. Ending any kind of discrimination isn't as easy as watching an ad and then holding hands and eating cupcakes together, but it's a start... so for that, I am optimistic.

I can't watch the ad or discussion just yet, but I wanted to say I'm very interested to see how they negotiate the difficulty in conflating size discrimination with racism/homophobia. To put it delicately, that sort of approach is often not well-received in the US, but Australian culture around these sorts of conversations is no doubt very different.

Thanks for posting this; fatshionista is (probably understandably, if frustratingly) so UScentric 99% of the time, but I think it's incredibly useful and valuable to see how these conversations evolve around the world.

Edited at 2009-05-13 01:32 pm (UTC)

The creator of the ad (not sure where he is positioned within The Foundry) doesn't make any apologies for equating all four discriminatory jokes. Discrimination is still a very academic thing over here, and I don't really think it's found the grass roots to be honest.

I am swelling with so many emotions right now. Anger that it's taken until 2009 for this to be brought up anywhere. Hope, because people might and have had epiphanies because of it. Glee that he cannot be shrugged off by being put in the "oh well ofcourse he'd say that, he's fat" comments because the creator isn't FAT. And just bloody JUBILANT that this might actually make people realise that discrimination is horrible, regardless of who it's to/about.


People are calling the agency guy fat? Are you shitting me?

Did they just hit play to waste bandwidth or what?!?!?!

I sadly wasn't home to see the Gruen Transfer this evening, but I did read this article earlier today.

Thanks for posting the links for the actual ad and the panels discussion. What I find really irritating is the fact that the ABC chose not to play the "questionable" commercial because it may cause offence to certain people... and as noted in the article I've linked, they were concerned about THREE offensive jokes. The jokes targeting race, religion and sexuality. The fat joke is apparently NOT considered offensive. To me this just highlights the discrimination that fat people face.

It's interesting to read others' comments, particularly theoryofgravity's comments regarding the acceptability of comparing bigotry of different flavours within the US. I do think that in Australia we are MILES behind on the fat acceptance movement, the concept that mocking fat people is in any discriminatory is a radical concept in and of itself. We are still very much at the point of just getting a swell of people to even recognise that fat discrimination happens and matters... while it's not ideal to do that by comparing it to racism or sexism or homophobia, if that's what it takes to make people start thinking that this kind of bigotry does exist then I'm all for it.

It's just such a shame that the ABC completely missed the point of the commercial created for a segment on one of it's programs.

I completely agree with your assessment. They didn't give a shit about whether fat people might be offended by the fat joke. Nor did it ever occur to the ad's detractors that the black, gay and/or Jewish viewers they were being so protective of might be fat too. It was acknowledged by the ad's creator that racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic jokes are still cracked behind closed doors but the general discomfort was, in my view, down to the fact that it is no longer acceptable for people in the public eye to be seen to support such views - even when the people shown expressing them are made to look as obnoxious and hateful as possible. We have a long long way to go before anyone in the media starts questioning and examining fat prejudice.

Thanks for posting this. After watching both the ad and the discussion, I can see why the "questionable" ad would be challenging--at least I find it challenging. The jokes in the ad were difficult to listen to, but as the creator mentioned--that was his intention.

What I found more surprising was how offensive I found the other ad. In response to a brief about ending shape discrimination, apparently the other agency though an appropriate response was to create a long, audio-visual fat joke. Watching that ad made me cringe, the same way overhearing my co-workers crack fat jokes did. I'm really curious how the panel members would have responded to *this* ad.

The panel voted 3 to 1, choosing the crap ad.

with the takeaway message that fat discrimination is exactly the same as discrimination based on race or sexuality. All discrimination is ugly and harmful.

Yeah but fat discrimination is not exactly the same as racial discrimination or homophobia. There are similarities but they are not exactly the same. No two forms of oppression function in the same way. I'm not saying anyone is worse. I am saying they are not *identical*

Some readings for you:

"Why gay is not the new black"
Even if my son is involved in a brawl on a subway train following a New Year’s celebration, and he is among those rounded up and cuffed on a subway platform, unarmed and face down, after all that, he will be white and face down, not black.
There is analogy, and there is equivalency. I hold fast to the critical value of analogy as a means of opening up understanding. �Frankly, it was the lack of a suitable analogy that made it so hard for my dad — an able-bodied, financially comfortable, non-Jewish white male — to understand what living under misogyny was like for my sister and me.

"There is no hierarchy of oppressions"
I simply do not believe that one aspect of myself can possibly profit from the oppression of any other part of my identity. I know that my people cannot possibly profit from the oppression of any other group which seeks the right to peaceful existence. Rather, we diminish ourselves by denying to others what we have shed blood to obtain for our children. And those children need to learn that they do not have to become like each other in order to work together for a future they will all share.

I'm not a writer, so my attempt at an objective report might have been a bit jumbled - when I say "exactly the same" I meant that was the agency's message.

(Deleted comment)
I feel incredibly hurt and offended by the second ad. I want to write them a letter saying that if this is how they are trying to help us, to just stop. They aren't helping.

On the other side the first one was amazing. I think that he could have picked a more effective fat joke though. What he really needed was a fat joke that was as in your face as the others.

i agree with the second part. i think they should have used something like this: http://bestandworst.com/v/69315.htm

I'm glad you posted this! I watched The Gruen Transfer last night, and the ad that made it to air made me want to throw things at the television screen.

It's also important to note that Australia is way, way behind on these issues, and the discourse on discrimination in our country is often not at the levels a person from the USA might expect. This discussion is really important to have, and I for one am glad that the ABC and The Gruen Transfer brought it up.

Having finally seen the ad and the panel, I don't think it is successful.

I hate the way they act as if they thought up FA themselves, I hate the fact that it is an oppression olympics ad and I want to punch Wil Anderson in his smarmy little face.

I think, personally, that it is a much more successful ad than the other one but that doesn't make it a wonderful or empowering ad. Personally, I think the only watercooler discussion today is going to be "why would anyone equate being fat with those other things? *Insert random Fat Acceptance bingo sayings here i.e. don't you know being fat is unhealthy?, you can choose to be fat, etc etc*"

And, again personally, I think the fact that my fat is thought of being Unsaleable is a kick in the face. Fuck you, Gruen Transfer.

Edited at 2009-05-13 11:07 pm (UTC)

I find both ads revolting. Firstly, the entire original concept of "fat is unsellable" means "omg fat is disgusting, we're so glad we're not FAT" - fat people are both considered disgusting AND not part of the audience. Apart from the oppression stakes, it also completely disregards the idea that people DO tell racist and homophobic jokes and are socially accepted. And, of course, the joke isn't about fat people being normal, it's about fat WOMEN not being sexually acceptable to straight men. Fail.

i think it was more a case of "being fat" being unsellable, given that we have all these anti-obesity task-forces and anti-obesity ads and we're being told that obesity is going to the be the great killer of out generation.

The media has always passed over the fat girl for the skinny girl but lately, rather than "don't like the fat person" it's a constant bombardment of "don't BE the fat person".

The briefs on "the pitch" are always things that are difficult to sell, that go against the grain of how things are now. Now= oh noes, death by fat. So the brief was to make being fat acceptable/desired.

I didn't like either ad.
In the first ad, the fat joke wasn't nearly as serious/offensive as the others. The others had to deal with death and means of torture while the fat joke was about sex. I agree with the panel with the other jokes just being distracting from the overall message, I'm still reeling from the first joke and anti-Semitic joke. My initial reaction to the ad was that it was trying to equate fat discrimination to other forms of discrimination as though all forms of discrimination are the same. It should have just focused on fat discrimination only, by using the jokes/forms of discrimination it watered down the effect that the ad could have had.
The second ad just seemed like it was aiming to make fun of fat people, not help stop discrimination. It also dehumanizes fat people imo and makes them seem like a funny cartoon.
Honestly, an add discussing body image or just focusing on the effect of fat discrimination would have been much more effective.

"Honestly, an add discussing body image or just focusing on the effect of fat discrimination would have been much more effective."
But probably not in Australia, it wouldn't.

I've only just seen the second ad and fail to see how it was supposed to answer the brief they were given in any way. It's lazy, patronizing, and dripping with insincerity; the entire concept hangs on exactly the kind of stereotypes that fuel fat discrimination in the first place - the most obvious being that fat people are all insatiable gutbuckets. Plus some of the points they tried to present humorously, "it's because of you that farmers grow more crops/airlines burn more fuel to get you off the ground", are points fat bashers routinely use to shame us. Throw in the shot of stumbling headless fatties on the beach, (ungainly, possibly even suffering with fat related joint problems), and you've got the very reason a hard-hitting ad like the Foundry's is needed in the first place. The JWT ad fails to even acknowledge the problem they've been briefed to address. In short, it's a fat joke itself.

The Foundry ad is shocking and I think it needs to be. Sizism is largely unexamined by the majority and I believe they do need to be educated that it is a form of bigotry as worthy of consideration as any other form - not least in a cultural climate in which it is actively encouraged. I know I'm going to get it in the neck for this, (most probably from Julia), but I'm from the UK where FA receives little or no press and garners no public support whatsoever. I speak as I find - and as a fat Jew brought up in London I can tell you that I've experienced infinitely more sizism than anti-Semitism in my life. This doesn't mean I think it doesn't exist in other parts of the country or indeed the world, or doesn't impact on other people's lives, (I know perfectly well that it does), or that I think sizism is worse than Nazi genocide, (how could I for pity's sake?), simply that society has evolved sufficiently for it to be commonly recognised that publicly hating on Jews is not acceptable in the society in which I live. I do not, for instance, wake up every day hearing Jews blamed for everything from child abuse to global warming on the news. And I can rest relatively safe in the knowledge that if some member of parliament opined it was a good thing to take Jewish kids away from their parents to de-Jewify them for their own good, there would be considerable public outcry. Likewise things are far from perfect for POC or the LGBQ community but at least there is some kind of progress, (civil partnerships recognised by law), and discourse, (institutional racism in the army and the Metropolitan Police Force), springing up around these forms of discrimination whereas fat discrimination is simply not recognised in my country. When a UK member of Big Fat Blog attempted to get 200 signatures on a government petition concerning discrimination against fat people wishing to foster or adopt children, he barely got 20. That is how little support and awareness there is for FA here.

I'm not trying to say that fat discrimination is worse than racism, anti-Semitism or homophobia nor am I trying to say it's exactly the same in nature. They're all different, they're all life-blighting and they all stink. What I am saying is that here, in my country, and in my experience, sizism has yet to be recognised as a form of discrimination per se - by the media, politicians, the medical profession or anybody else save a handful of us who experience it. There is no public discourse, no glimmer of change on the horizon, no change in the law, which given that we we make up half the UK population is shameful. That doesn't make sizism more important than other forms of discrimination, it simply means there's an awful lot of work to be done before it's taken as seriously. One thing that's often noted in the fat-o-sphere is how often the most appalling anti-fat invective is spewed by those who would otherwise consider themselves liberal. These, in my opinion, are the very people most likely to benefit from seeing the Foundry Ad and the most likely to get it. Eventually.

Updated article on the guy who created the controversial ad - turns out he has a line of t-shirts which in the past have had anti-fat-chick slogans on them, and because of his work on this ad he says it was like a light went on in his brain of just how offensive that was, and he will never use fat jokes as a selling point again, no more fat gags for him.


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