Marilyn Wann discovered this ad in her hometown and shared it on her Facebook page after posting a letter next to it, complete with an open list for signatures, that states:
“This ad promotes negative stereotypes and prejudice about weight, race [and] class. Children deserve respect [and] joy. That’s what we think.”
(The physical list has since been taken down/removed by an unknown source.)
Some of her followers (notably Lynn Novak) also discovered that the ad included a heavily photoshopped photo that included darkening the little girl’s skin and fattening her appearance, replacing the milk in her hand with a packet of juice.
You can also see the original image on their homepage:
Now, I work in the advertising world. I sit in a gaggle of creative people who are directed to do things like this by clients, or who may genuinely feel there is nothing wrong with the harmful perpetuation of stereotypes this sort of work represents.
But I know better.
Labeling foods as “healthy” and “unhealthy” is inaccurate, especially when these messages of ill-health are being directly correlated with images of fat bodies, feeding into the kind of hysteria and fear of obesity that breeds hate and body shaming.
The bottom line is that different foods, drinks, and sugars effect different bodies in different ways.
If corporations and government organizations want to have a discussion about health and sugary drinks, that’s one thing - but there is no doubt that these messages can be expressed without pulling fat bodies into the equation, or feeding into harmful stereotypes about fatness and health.
There is so much more to be said about this ad regarding implications about diabetes, class, and race - But I will save that for those who may be better equipped to add to the conversation.
It is no coincidence that government agencies (and diet companies) are now targeting communities of color with “obesity prevention” campaigns. The photo/ad above is only one example, but what you see are agencies going into these communities and instead of trying to solve systemic racism or poverty, which has a far larger impact on health than body size, they are only pushing to eradicate fat people.
This is aside from the photoshopping of the original image to create a child that not only looks older, darker and cartoonish is incredibly dehumanizing, fat phobic, and racist.