Monday, 1 August 2016

Pokémon Go and Fat People

Landon

Landon the Landwhale is not an official Pokemon, but I think he should be! Thanks to the always awesome Jeanette DePatie  who had him made for me.

If you are not familiar, the basic concept of Pokémon is that there are monsters everywhere, and they can be caught, trained, and then engage in battle with other Pokémon.  Its incarnations including a television show, card game, and video games.  Now, there is an augmented reality game called Pokémon Go. Basically the app allows players to use their phone’s GPS to find and capture monsters as they travel around. They can also go to designated Pokestops to get items and interact, and take their monsters to locations designated as “gyms” to train and battle other people’s Pokémon. (Correct me if I’m wrong Pokémon playing peeps!)

 

There is much talk about how the game encourages people to get out of the house and walk around (there are also concerns about accessibility and ableism related to this.) Of course we can’t have anything without dragging the whole “war on obesity” thing into it (this is why we can’t have nice things…)  which has led to countless memes about how Pokemon Go will “end obesity” or “prevent obesity.”  This is bad for a bunch of reasons.

First of all, it contributes to the stereotype that you can tell how active someone is by their size. Some fat people aren’t active, some are very active, and some are in between the extremes – just like thin people. Nobody is obligated to be “active” by any definition, and being “active” by any definition is not even close to a guarantee of having a thin body, and making wild guesses about people based on how they look is a shitty thing to do.

Using “preventing obesity” language creates a situation where you are trying to motivate some participants by telling them that they should participate so that they don’t become like other (larger bodied) participants which can be stigmatizing to larger bodied participants and make them them less likely to want to be involved. Not to mention that there’s no reason to believe that people who play the game won’t become fat.

Using “eradicating obesity” language suggests that other people playing the game should see fat players as problems that have not yet been solved, or as people who must not be playing the game “right” or “enough” since they are still fat.  This creates an environment that is less than welcoming.

 

Even if people do choose to play the game as a way to support their health (knowing that health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances) the research shows that activity has health benefits for people of all sizes.  If we mislead people to believe that it’s only improving their health if it makes them thinner, and they are only playing the game for health, then people will quit when they don’t lose weight, and they’ll lose the actual health benefits they might have gained.

Finally, if you hope that people will participate in a game, it may be helpful to note that people are less likely to participate in activities if they see them as punishment for their body size, rather than as something fun to do. So why don’t we cut the fatphobic bullshit and just invite people of all sizes to have fun playing the game.

REGISTER FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers. This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

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