Well Disney is certainly NOT the “Happiest Place On Earth” for overweight or obese children anymore. I am appalled by the post I read last night by Ragan from Dances With Fat! Disney’s latest attraction “Habit Heroes” where the enemies are “glutton” and “snacker“.
Everyday people send me posts about atrocities committed against people of size all over the word. I get frustrated, I get angry, occasionally yell at my computer, but I usually don’t cry.
That changed today. As I sat in the airport in Gainesville reading an article about Disney’s latest attraction “Habit Heroes” I couldn’t stop the tears.
This is a new game at Epcot wherein kids meet their “Heroes” Will Power and Callie Stenics and fight with them against “Enemies” The Glutton, Lead Bottom and Snacker.
And as I type I’m crying again. Disney is my absolute favorite vacation place. It’s where my Best Friend and I go for a week at a time to bond, go on rides, and watch the Lion King Show. So I’m heartbroken that we may have gone for the last time. I won’t go back now (except possibly in protest) until they get rid of this.
But that isn’t why I’m crying, I’m crying because I know how excited kids get about Disney. Disney is supposed to be the happiest place on Earth and now fat kids – who are subjected to a barrage of shaming, humiliating, stigmatizing, and bullying messages from society on a daily basis – will go on vacation and find out kids who look like them are villains who other kids fight for points and bragging rights. Disney might as well just hold fat kids down and let park guests kick them?
At the end of the ride kids can have their picture taken and e-mailed to them. So what happens when the kids (or their moms, friends) look like the “enemies? What happens to the vacation that they’ve been looking forward to since their parents first said “We’re going to Disney World!”? Shaming kids does not lead to better health, why is that so hard to understand? You can’t tell how healthy someone is, how much they exercise, or what they eat by looking at their bodies, you just can’t.
This ride is in partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Regional Market President Tony Jenkins said: “As an insurance company, we have the information kids need to be healthier. Our challenge was to tell that story in a fun, engaging way, which is what Disney does.” I think I might break my desk with my forehead. What about their mental health? Do we really want to create more fear of being fat when we know that there’s been a 112% increase in the number of hospitalizations for children under 12, UNDER TWELVE, who have ED (eating disorders)? The National Institute for Health just issued a statement that said that programs that shame kids:
carry a great risk of increasing stigma for those children who are overweight or obese which, in turn, can reinforce unhealthy behaviors (e.g., overeating). A number of research studies over the last decade have supported this concern. For example, studies suggest overweight children who are teased about their appearance are more likely to binge eat or use unhealthy weight-control practices, and weight-based victimization has been correlated with lower levels of physical activity. Not surprisingly, stigmatization of obese individuals, particularly adolescents, poses risks to their psychological health.
Other studies show the perception that obesity is solely a matter of personal responsibility, as opposed to understanding the complexity of contributing factors, can increase negative stereotypes of those overweight. It’s important, therefore, that public messages concerning obesity address this complexity when possible.
So the NIH is willing to admit that it doesn’t have all the answers for kids’ health, but Blue Cross Blue Shield thinks that they do?
I’m going to do something,I’m not sure what at this time. I’m very tired now from 13 hours of travel, and deeply saddened that my vacation respite is ruined and that 44,000 people a day are being exposed to weight bigotry and body shaming by the so-called “Happiest Place on Earth”. Should we petition, protest at Epcot , start a letter writing campaign? I’m open to suggestions…
You know, I understand where we are as a civil rights movement and I understand that there will be days like this but it doesn’t always make it easier. In good news, our Georgia billboard campaign got a major article in Huffington Post, some of the commenters even get it!