Fat-Shaming or Fact-Shaming?

Nike sheds itself of "pushing your limits physically" to join the utopian world.

“Do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out.” 
― G.K. Chesterton

Tanya Gold, a well-respected writer, recently criticized Nike for promoting unhealthy body images. The sports behemoths are currently using mannequins, or, as Gold accurately labeled them, ‘fattequins,’ to advertise plus sized clothing. As Libby Emmons wrote, Gold received “an extra serving of inbox hate for being ‘fatphobic’, and a side order of online death threats with extra malice… and all for speaking the truth about encouraging women to maintain a dangerous weight and buy into unhealthy beauty standards.”

Clearly unenthused by Gold’s writing, Tony Posnanski, a powerlifter and Mixed Martial Arts fighter, tweeted ‘Go fuck yourself, Tanya Gold.’ And who said that chivalry is dead?

For stating the obvious, Gold received an inordinate amount of criticism on social media. Progressive outlets like Refinery29HuffPost (predictably) People and Glamour all attempted to assassinate Gold’s character and credibility. Instead of lauding Gold for her honest concern that Nike was promoting a worrying health standard, these outlets accused her of fat-shaming.

Gold was not fat-shaming; these outlets were fact-shaming.

And what about Nike, a corporation widely lauded for motivating consumers to push the limits physically? This is a company known for slogans like “My better is better than your better” and ““Taking it easy won’t take you anywhere.” Well, when it comes to truth telling, Nike certainly takes it easy.

A truly conscientious organization would warn people about the dangers associated with being overweight – the increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular issues, joint pain, lack of energy, etc. This is Nike, folks, a brand synonymous with athletic prowess. Honesty, we are told, is the best policy.

Obviously, this does not apply to the world of advertising and marketing. After all, honesty might affect profitability. And we wouldn’t want that.

Another brand guilty of disingenuous behavior is Budweiser. In honor of Pride month, the lager manufacturer has decided to produce a range of plastic beer cups with Pride’s nine official ‘flags’ on them, each representing a different section of the LGBT community.

For instance, there’s ‘Genderfluid Pride’, a combination of pink, blue, white, purple and black. If that doesn’t float your virtue signaling boat, there’s an ‘Asexual Pride’ option, where black is for ‘asexuals who don’t feel sexual attraction to anyone. Oh yes, white represents ‘non-asexual allies,’ obviously.

As a marketing exercise, Budweiser’s ‘Fly the Flag’ campaign cannot be aimed at those people who happen to fall into these categories. Why? According to the Williams Institute, about 0.66 per cent of the American population is transgender. There simply aren’t enough of them to actually care.

So, with this being said, who here is really benefiting? The trans community or Budweiser?

The same question can, of course, be asked of Gillette and its recent advertisement involving a father teaching his transgender son how to shave? The advertisement was mushier than a Nicholas Sparks novel. Again, who here is really benefiting?

The answer is rather obvious. What we are dealing with here is bold face deceit masquerading as common decency; bad faith masquerading as a moral conscience.

Bad Faith

Jean-Paul Sartre, the 20th century French philosopher, was a hard man to please. He especially despised inauthenticity. In fact, he had a name for it: mauvaise foi ('bad faith'). He argued, rather persuasively, that it’s much easier to follow the herd, to stick with the safe, easy, default ‘choice' than to actually do something of real merit. Thus, according to the existentialist, the average person is more akin to an object than to a conscious human being.

In a famous example, Sartre describes a waiter in a café. He observes that the waiter’s

movement is quick and forward, a little too precise, a little too rapid. He comes towards the patrons with a step a little too quick. His voice, his eyes express an interest a little too solicitous for the order of the customer. He gives himself the quickness and pitiless rapidity of things. The waiter in the cafe plays with his condition in order to realize it.

Here, the waiter assumes the role of a performer, simply playing to the crowd. This, in Sartre’s view, is a disingenuous display. The waiter is a fake, a fraud, a bad actor. He is acting in an insincere manner.

The waiter, just like Nike, Gillette and Budweiser, is acting inauthentically.

Nevertheless, instead of acknowledging the lies for what they are, too many people, especially agenda driven journalists, let their emotions dictate the narrative. Case in point: Nikki Stamp at the Guardian.

Instead of berating Nike for glamorizing obesity, the writer went on the defensive:

When we are shown bigger bodies, the concern trolls are never far away. They don’t come right out and say they are disgusted by squishy rolls of fat and bigger bottoms. Instead, they feign concern for the health and wellbeing of that person, based solely on their looks. Completely unsolicited, these people dish out advice or blame, under the guise of caring about their health. They’re so prevalent, even being a plastic mannequin in a Nike store doesn’t make you immune from them.

This, again, is disingenuous. Stamp is acting in bad faith, and one assumes that she knows it. These plus-sized mannequins are there for one reason and one reason only: to sell a narrative that big brands care about the average Joe, that the profit-drive CEOs care about our worries and insecurities. The sooner we realize that these companies only care about one thing, namely revenue, the sooner society can start having reasonable discussions.

Show me a brand with a genuine moral conscience, and I’ll show you a carefully crafted lie disguised as truth.