I got a note today that Olympic weight lifter and glorious fat athlete Holley Mangold will be appearing on the next season of The Biggest Loser. This breaks my heart. I don’t know Holley’s reasons for accepting their invitation (or even if she actively pursued it), but I do know one thing: Holley does not accept herself for who she is. If she did, there would be no reason for her to step on the show. I don’t know what she dislikes about herself that she thinks needs improving. I mean – for crying out loud, the woman’s an Olympic champion! She should be on top of the world! But clearly, she feels something is missing, and that it has to do with her body not being what she wishes it were.
So I wrote Holley a note:
Holley, I am so very sorry to hear that you are supporting The Biggest Loser as it continues its reign of hatred degrading and humiliating people who don’t fit society’s vision of perfection.
I don’t know and cannot judge your reasons for doing so, but I can tell you what I see when I look at you.
I see an athlete.
Beyond that, I see a world-class, gold-medal champion athlete, an amazing warrior who has shown the world that you don’t have to be thin to be strong, athletic, fit, and FIERCE. I see a trendsetter who has given so many of us a new role model to look up to and emulate. I see an Amazon Warrior Goddess who didn’t merely break the fragile mold society has tried to fit you into, but who exploded out of it and said, “I’m here and I’m awesome!!”
Sadly, that message will be damaged, perhaps irrevocably, by your willingness to submit to the ugly, bodyshaming pressure of Jillian Michaels. The message you will be sending to boys and girls of all sizes is that others have the right to speak to them hatefully, torture their bodies, and browbeat them into submission to outrageous demands. This message tells kids that fat people do not deserve respect, do not have the right to make their own choices, and do not even have the right to govern their own bodies. (This also lays the groundwork for furthering the notion prevalent in rape culture that a woman’s body is not her own, but that’s a whole ‘nother ball o’ wax.)
I am so sad to think of the message this sends to young female athletes who may also not fit society’s mold. I am really heartbroken to think that they will be learning – or, more accurately, being reinforced in the social belief – that they are not good enough just because they don’t fit an arbitrary societal standard; that their skills and passions and dedication are worth nothing if those things don’t also make them thin. What a sad and pointless message.
I really hope and pray that I’m being melodramatic here and that by some miracle this show comes off with the understanding that fat and fit are not antonyms, but considering their track record, I sorely doubt it.