Body shaming as a tool to raise awareness? No, thanks

In Poland, a new street campaign that warns against the consequences of overeating has stirred a heated debate. While some praise its boldness, most commentators believe it to be misguided and discriminatory.

Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko NewsMavens, Poland
Body shaming as a tool to raise awareness? No, thanks - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

Has stigmatization ever triggered a positive social change? Only if you believe that discrimination or violence are positive phenomena. Over the course of history, we’ve witnessed the brutal consequences of social exclusion on the basis of race, religion, age, class and gender. Despite this, a new social campaign by Polish advertising giant AMS, does exactly the same thing to obese people. 

“Eat safely” one poster reads, against an illustration of an overweight person sitting on a small stool. Another poster features a sausage with a lit fuse. One more is a play on the Polish word “żryj” meaning “to wolf up” with one letter crossed out, thus forming the word "żyj" -- “to live” (the pun is untranslatable, but you’re not missing much).


The fact that AMS is resorting to body shaming in a social awareness campaign is not the only eyebrow-raiser here. The authors reduce the problem of obesity to overeating, which goes against the most basic medical knowledge. They also fail to acknowledge that obesity is a structural problem, more prevalent among the least privileged, who cannot always afford to eat healthy and may lack education on the subject.

Sure, it would be great if we all ate only healthy foods. But is AMS really the moral authority here? The company regularly features large scale advertisements of sweets and fast food. The fact that once in a while they launch a social awareness campaign does little to whitewash their actions.

In order to fight obesity, we need more sustainable strategies than body-shaming posters on bus stops.

If the goal of this campaign was to dissuade people from seeking short-lived pleasures, the outcome will cause little but short-lived controversy.


Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
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