Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Theory of Fat Relativity: Cultural Assumptions

Have you ever noticed how the definition of fat is relative? I'm not just referring to your feeling "fat" when you roll out of bed in the morning after a luxurious night of partying and pigging out, knowing that you've exceeded the maximum possible weight gain in a day for any human (10 pounds). And I'm not pinning down the concept that fat "is in the eye of the beholder," which is an understatement. (Of course it is, especially when you, your husband on a bad day, a snide relative or vicious co-worker is doing the beholding.) And I am not referring to the clinical definition of fat/obese/overweight as registered on the BMI calculator. (http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/ )

No! Actually, I think that how fat is defined depends upon culture/ethnic background, race, region of the country, economic class, profession or industry and population density of an area, and maybe even sexual preference (though I am not going to go there at this point). Don't think this concept has validity? Well, let's see. Each week I will cover a different category. Depending upon feedback and any research contributed by viewers, or myself, we will gauge the variations. It will be fun, and the perceptions and attitudes may be surprising.

OK. Let's begin with the Fashion Industry. Using the BMI calculator categories for Underweight, Normal, Overweight, Obese, Morbidly Obese (http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi) what would you imagine would be considered "fat" for a High Fashion Runway model? So the cultural assumption question would be:

A High Fashion Runway Model needs to register "Underweight" on the BMI calculator to be considered normal for the industry, with the given that her height is over 5'7". If she registers "Normal" on the BMI calculator, she would be considered "too fat" to be hired.

a)strongly disagree   b)somewhat disagree   c)somewhat agree      d)strongly agree   e)unsure

Well? What do you think? With your response, if you would like, include any demographics about yourself that you think would help gauge American perceptions, attitudes and values.

Next week, I will discuss any comments/results and pose the next question related to another category.


Margo Dill said...

This is such an interesting concept and I think you are right. I never really thought about it before except for with genders. In society, men can get away with a lot more "Extra weight" than women can. I STRONGLY AGREE with you that a fashion model would need to register as underweight on the BMI calculator or she would be overweight for her industry. That's sad, isn't it?


Carole Di Tosti said...

Unfortunately, I would have to strongly agree also. Sometimes I watch Project Runway. OMG. The models are soooo thin even for TV. But the designers love it that way. If they have a special project designing for an "Average" sized woman, they have a fit.