I get an email from Salon every day giving me the new articles and trying to entice me to visit their site. And I was actually interested when I saw that today there is an article about the bullying of fat kids. Then I hit the display images option and just…

Screen capture of an email from Salon, with a blurb promoting an article about bullying fat kids illustrated by a very tightly cropped photo of a child's face covered with ice cream - you still can't see the kid's face other than the mouth area

Way to support the article there, Salon. This is no ordinary headless fatty photo – that would be in poor taste! No, instead they’ve chosen a photo cropped so tightly that the image is still completely impersonal and dehumanizing, reducing the child – of completely indeterminate body type because, hey, it isn’t like we can see anything other than a bit of the lower face – to the role of over enthusiastic consumer. It’s not even an active eating shot – it’s the aftermath of greed, ice cream smeared everywhere including the kid’s nose.

Here’s a bit of practical advice: If you are a magazine or other media outlet who wishes to be taken seriously as a neutral source of coverage when it comes to body politics, do not ever use a headless fatty photo or a photo of a supposedly fat person eating.

This hasn’t even got anything to do with the content of the article. I get that some poor web graphics person was given an incredibly vague media description and probably pulled a stock photo that tested high on the cute scale. But come on. Part of the way fat hatred is perpetuated is through unthinking assumptions that fatties must eat all the time with no regard for boundaries (or napkins).


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27 Comments

  1. Natalie L.
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I like the lack of proofreading in the summary (or whatever you call that part underneath the headline), too. What’s a gantlet?

    • TR
      Posted December 7, 2010 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      I know I have typos all the time – but I’m a first draft blogger and I’m NOT a fairly significant media outlet. The lack of proofing going on for blog entries like these is astounding.

    • Agnes
      Posted December 7, 2010 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      According to the Free Dictionary:

      gantlet
      n
      1. (Transport / Railways) a section of a railway where two tracks overlap
      2. (Military) (Clothing & Fashion) US a variant spelling of gauntlet

      Sorry, but spelling nazis drive me crazy. The article had correct spelling in it.

      • TR
        Posted December 7, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        Eh, I think it’s one thing to give people shit in an informal setting – that’s not super cool. But I do hold professional writers in an industry built on words to a higher standard. So it isn’t being a spelling nazi.

        It’s not the customary spelling. I’m not sure what their spelling choice is predicated upon but I do think it’s unusual enough to strike people as a misspelling. And while that might fly in a more academic setting, when the goal is to communicate to a broad audience, as is the case in journalism, I’m not sure that was the proper spelling choice. I mean, you can barely use a damn semicolon in journalism anymore for fear people won’t read it.

        • Posted December 7, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

          I concur. If they wish to be taken seriously as a… arbiter of opinion or whatever, then they need to be held to a higher standard. Which includes having proper spelling and also appropriate photos. I almost didn’t read the article when I saw the icecream. I mean C’MON.

          Mmmmmm semicolons.

        • JupiterPluvius
          Posted December 8, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

          Presumably it’s their style sheet? I think “run the gantlet” is preferred by the major US style sheets, though it’s a long time since I copyedited on a newspaper or magazine.

          • leonore
            Posted December 9, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

            The author of the article, also the author of a published novel, is British. I don´t know how the differences between American English and British English are managed, but a story written by a Brazilian in a Portuguese paper, would, most likely, be published with the Brazilian spelling. Especially, if we´re talking about a fictional piece of writing, not straight-out journalism. I´m a regular reader of Salon and even though there´s much going on there worthy of reproach, i´m inclined to believe this not one of those instances.

    • JupiterPluvius
      Posted December 8, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      Guys, you’re all wrong.

      You don’t run a “gauntlet”, which is a glove. You run a “gantlet”, which is running in between two lines of people with pointed sticks (which is where the railroad usage comes from).

      Salon is using the correct spelling, and you’re all “correcting” them to an error.

      • JupiterPluvius
        Posted December 8, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

        Actually, I am being slightly intemperate–”running the gauntlet” is now an accepted variant spelling. But “running the gantlet” is the original spelling.

        • JupiterPluvius
          Posted December 8, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

          It’s one of those things like “paint the lily” where if you use the original, people write in to tell you that you’re wrong, and it’s “gild the lily.”

  2. drst
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Grrrrrrr.

    Little kids are messy eaters. It’s kind of part of the deal. You’re still learning to refine your hand-eye coordination, you’re gonna be messy, especially with something like an ice cream cone.

    Of course, that image coupled with that article implies that only fat kids do that, rather than most kids, which is bullshit, and offensive, and furthering the stereotypes.

    Rar.

    • TR
      Posted December 7, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      Yeah – and kids often ARE enthusiastic when they are eating something like ice cream. But using the photo, cute as it may be, with that sort of cropping with that sort of context, it’s sending a very specific message.

  3. Posted December 7, 2010 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    OFFS. Seriously, Salon?

  4. JonelB
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    It’s almost like they gave as little thought as possible to the actual picture.
    Couldn’t they have taken a picture of a scale or measuring tape or other symbol of the dieting obsession?
    What irks me the most is that I’ve had people think that all fats actually eat this way, and when they notice how dainty and obsessively clean I am, they’re -so- surprised.
    Thanks media, for making people assume that I eat like an animal.

    • Posted December 7, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      I totally know what you mean – when I was younger and was binging damn near EVERY DAY, yet only topped out at a certain weight, I had a really hard time comprehending how people could be fatter than me. I mean, I was eating until I was literally in pain and could eat no more. I thought, how were these people managing to be 100 or even 200 pounds heavier than me?

      Now that I’m older, and have lived with (and currently live with) fat roommates, and have seen their eating habits first-hand, I know better, and am really upset that I was taught to think otherwise.

      Conversely, I also thought that thin people were ALWAYS on a diet, did rigorous exercise EVERY DAY, and were constantly watching their weight. I was convinced that they MUST be, because even when I was eating “normally”, I still wasn’t thin.

      Sigh.

  5. fluffysparkle
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I wonder if there are any “laughing around a wine table” stock pictures of people of size. How different a message that would send.

    I’m giving them too much credit by wondering if they thought publishing a photo of a nicely dressed young lady (or young man) of size calmly putting their spoons into a bowl of ANYTHING OTHER THAN LETTUCE, would have been criticized as making fun.

  6. Chutti
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Thanks for putting in words my disgust. The article this was supporting was just OK, but not great; apparently a preview of what sounds like a serious personal narrative.

    I used to be a HUGE fan of Salon way back when. It was for a time, my major media outlet and first source for news. I appreciated their more nuanced coverage during 9/11, and their practice of running the major news wires down the right margin for a quick counterpoint. I was pleased to subscribe and read daily.

    I at one time was a regular commenter and used to see great value in the comments. The trolls creeped in slowly at first, but there was always a pretty strong anti-fat sentiment there. One of the first stories I responded to was a nice one about a man with a fat wife who stood up to his colleagues telling fat jokes. Wish I could find it-he was amazing!

    In general, they were never fat-positive. I briefly tried their dating site and had some weird interactions once people saw I really was as fat as I said.
    Anyway. The end of moderating comments was the end of Salon. During the 2006 elections Butch Bumbugger and his pals led lots of right wing bigots over to disrupt them godless lib’rals by trolling.

    I don’t even check them once a week anymore. But caught this yesterday and considered it par for the course. The book might actually be OK, but who will know? I didn’t even try to look at the comments….I know what is lurking there.

    Just sad. Hope this book gets the right attention and audience. Grrrr.

    • littlem
      Posted December 8, 2010 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

      ” One of the first stories I responded to was a nice one about a man with a fat wife who stood up to his colleagues telling fat jokes. Wish I could find it-he was amazing!”

      Is this the one you meant?

  7. Posted December 7, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    (sputters in incoherent rage)

  8. Posted December 7, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    I have to say, when I saw that picture, I didn’t think “That’s a fat kid eating ice cream.” I just saw, “That’s a normal small child who just had some tasty ice cream. Messy, sure, but all kids are sloppy eaters.” Inappropriate for the article still, but something I would assume to be offensive. Now if it were an obviously fat child, then yeah I would see that as a slap in the face to the article and the whole point behind it.

    • Posted December 7, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

      I meant “not something I would assume to be offensive”

    • JupiterPluvius
      Posted December 8, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      But Ashley, here’s the thing.

      When you illustrate an article about “I was a fat child” with a picture of a child who is eating a dessert sloppily, it reinforces the ‘FAT PEOPLE ARE ALL FAT BECAUSE THEY EAT LIKE HOGS’ nonsensical stereotype.

  9. Posted December 11, 2010 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    I had the exact same thoughts.

    Plus that’s a creepy-arse photo.

  10. hsofia
    Posted December 12, 2010 at 4:09 am | Permalink

    You know what would be nice? A photo of a smiling happy fat child – face and all. Maybe, even a photo of a smiling happy fat child with their friends. Or their family. Or their dog. Or playing the piano. Or riding a skateboard. Or reading a book. It’s not like fat kids spend their entire childhoods alone, crying as they shovel ice cream into their faces, while skinny kids run past them into the future.

  11. Mmarie
    Posted December 13, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Mouths and food…that’s all fat people are, apparently.

    Thanks, Salon.

  12. DKChicago
    Posted December 18, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Did any of you actually READ the article??? The author likely had no say in the page design. If you’d read the article you would have seen that Rebecca Golden grew up as the fat girl in school, but defiant and determined to be respected, educated, and happy. She remains angry that society would seek to define her by her weight.

    She’s also not British. She just happened to sell a book to a foreign publisher.

    • TR
      Posted December 20, 2010 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      No one has a problem with the writer of the article or the article itself. Did YOU actually read the post or the comments here? The Salon editor is the one who chose the image, we know that and I think we’ve been pretty clear in addressing ourselves to Salon rather than to the author. That doesn’t mean it’s okay. So I’m not sure what your problem is here.

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