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Women weigh in on why the scales need to be tipped with body representation in media, society
Women’s weight - and all other pertaining facets - form a multi-billion-dollar industry, a fact that is a stark reality for self-identified plus-sized women like Adrianna Harris and Laura Bradley.
Harris, recently, felt the warmth of limelight hit her when she and her partner were chosen to star in a new reality show airing on TLC called ‘Hot and Heavy.’
“A big reason why I decided to do the show was I grew up feeling really bad about myself for the way I looked,” said Harris, who is from Churchill Falls, NL.
When this opportunity came her way, she said it was a way to show young women that they can, should they choose to, also find love with somebody for who they are as a person.
Grenfell graduate, theatre practitioner, and actor Laura Bradley has lived through teasing and her feelings being treated as jokes, purely due to her weight.
“Growing up, if someone asked you out, you always had to wonder if it was a prank or if it was a dare…you grow up feeling unlovable…you are constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop,” said Bradley, who is from Gander, NL.
What piqued Bradley’s interest about this show is that the women have three partners.
“That’s great, because I think that plus-sized women and slimmer men shouldn’t be stigmatized, they shouldn’t be stared at, laughed at because that ridicule is very damaging. Because being a woman in that circumstance, you wonder ‘is this a joke?’,” said Bradley.
Tipping the scales
Weight representation in media and culture has heavily favoured only a certain body type, something that affected both women in their formative years.
“You always see women with bigger men in sitcoms," Harris said, using Homer and Marge from The Simpsons as an example. "This is an opportunity for us to be represented in the media because I don’t think we are."
Speaking about the classic trope of the overweight husband and a bombshell of a wife, Bradley says, “People expect women to settle and a man – it's like he’s doing (the plus-sized woman) a favour.”
Weight has arrived at an interesting anvil in time.
According to Dr. Guang Sun, a professor of medicine at Memorial University who specializes in nutrigenomics, the genetic, endocrine and nutritional factors, for the first time in human history, a time has arrived when the number of people who are obese has crossed that of those who are malnourished.
“It’s a remarkable milestone in human history,” said Dr. Sun.
As someone who has dedicated to studying obesity, Dr. Sun said that it is a complex issue. Genetics, environmental conditions and nutrition aside, economics in accessibility to healthy food is a real problem. Add to this body expectations from society, obesity becomes a lethal problem – physically and mentally.
“Because society tends to judge someone based on the majority’s perception of you, in terms of body size, it’s the same issue…they don’t think large body sizes are normal….people tend to comment in a way that they (plus sized individuals) don’t feel comfortable,” said Dr. Sun.
The reality weighs heavy
Harris and Bradley have lived the reality that Dr. Sun lays out.
“I think that becoming a plus-sized woman isn’t something that you notice happening. I think it hits you one day….,” said Harris.
Spending a lot of her life grappling with depression and anxiety and feeling uncomfortable with who she was ultimately affected her physically.
As someone who has been acting on stage since Grade 6, Bradley said she played a romantic interest just once. Apart from playing a lot of men and being the comedic relief, what has impacted Bradley the most are the kinds of roles coming her way.
Speaking from experience, she has worked on scripts where insults towards her body type were hurled at her by her co-actors – through dialogues, of course.
“…I know that it's separating art from reality, and you know that these are your friends that care about you and support you, but when you hear it being said to you, and they almost sound like they mean it…when you hear them call you a fat lump of shit, it feels bad. You can’t help it,” said Bradley.
While Bradley is appreciative to see women talking about pertinent issues affecting plus-sized individuals on screen, stage, and television, her fear remains that a show like ‘Hot and Heavy’ will reinforce stereotypes ultimately impacting the roles she receives or has written for her.
Her biggest reservation with the show, apart from fetishization and the objectification of women, is that “it’s taking inside fears and making them real” and making her feel conscious of how the world perceives plus-sized individuals.
For Harris, it's just about judging a book by its cover. She wants people to give the show a chance.
“Come into it with an open mind,” she said.
With obesity and its myriad of issues weigh heavily on Atlantic Canada (https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/pub/82-625-x/2019001/article/00005-eng.pdf?st=s68GAOHH), what remains certain is that a show like ‘Hot and Heavy’ will have an impact many lives.
But, as Dr. Sun noted, whether it will be positive or negative, only time can tell.
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