If you’ve been to New York City lately, you may well have seen these billboards telling us all that if we drink large sodas, we will get diabetes and have to have our legs amputated. It shows a headless fat man with crutches and his right leg amputated below the knee behind a row of growing soda cups, and informs us that eating less is the way to avoid developing diabetes.
Never mind that (a) no direct causal link between drinking soda and developing diabetes has ever been proven, (b) no direct causal link has ever been proven between eating anything in any amount and developing diabetes, (c) no mention is made of the fact that the bar has been lowered for diagnosing diabetes (much like several other ‘fat peoples’ diseases’ such as hypertension) in the past few years, or (d) the vast majority of people with diabetes will never face amputation of anything at all, there’s another aspect that’s even more shameful about this ad: the man in it has all his limbs.
You see, several years ago, California actor Cleo Barry agreed to sit for a professional photographer for $500.00. As part of the contract, Barry signed a release form that allowed the photographer to distribute or sell the images as he saw fit. The photographer sold this image (sans crutches, Photoshop amputation, or scare tactic message) to Image Source, a stock photo company.
Fast forward, and the New York City Department of Health chose Barry’s photo to buy for their diabetes awareness campaign. After all, what could be more likely to hammer the message home than a picture of a fat, young, black man… once they did a bit of digital surgery?
And young does enter into the equation. The vast majority of amputations among diabetes patients? Happen to people who have been living with diabetes for literally decades. They aren’t performed on people in their twenties, like Barry, but people in their sixties and upwards, who have had poorly controlled blood sugar for twenty, thirty, forty years. Even then, the rate is very small compared to people living with diabetes. You know, people like Mr. Twistie who was diagnosed nineteen years ago and yet still has all his limbs and his eyesight.
When Barry became aware of the ad, he was horrified. In fact, he stared at his computer screen and cried. He feared what this ad would do to his acting career.
But he has decided to fight back, folks. In a move to both bring attention to how exploitive this ad campaign is and bolster his career at the same time, Barry has made the following offer: he will lower his usual pay rate to any soda company willing to use his unaltered image in their ad campaign. He even says he’ll sing and dance ‘without charging an arm and a leg.’
In other news about fighting back, you may have heard about the Billboard Project. If you haven’t heard the news, Ragen Chastain at Dances with Fat (and if you aren’t reading her blog, I absolutely encourage you to do so last week!) has started a campaign to raise funds for an alternate billboard to put up in Georgia to rebut those appalling billboards telling fat children they are sick and bullied, but they bring it on themselves by being fat. On thursday, the Go Fund Me page opened for business. Ragen and those working with her on the fund were hoping to raise $10,000.00. That goal has been kicked to the curb, folks! It was beaten inside of twenty four hours. The new goal is $15,000.00 to fund not only the original billboard, but a host of other ways of getting out the body love message. There’s just over a thousand dollars left to go to meet the new goal.
But wait! There’s more! And it isn’t an incredible Ginsu steak knife.
More of Me to Love has offered $5,000.00 in matching funds… but there’s a catch. While the monetary goal was reached quite a while back, they stipulated that there must be a minimum of one thousand unique donors to unlock those funds. This is an incredible offer, and I love the fact that the agreement includes building a truly grassroots movement that includes a lot of people, rather than a few donations from people with a lot to spare. But as of Ragen’s last update, the project still needs nearly three hundred donors to unlock the More of Me to Love funds.
So please, if you have anything to spare, go to the Go Fund Me page and make a donation. Anything from five dollars up is accepted at Go Fund Me. If you cannot spare that much, or would rather use PayPal, you can go here to donate Solidarity Dollars, starting at quite literally one dollar donations.
Remember, every dollar is another blow against body shame and publicly funded bullying.
And every dollar, every refusal to buckle under, every act of individual body love is another chip in the wall of hate and prejudice. Let’s take that wall down!