The Toronto Transit Commission created a campaign about public transportation that juxtaposed public transportation backgrounds with dancers from the National Ballet of Canada. Fat activist Jill Andrew pointed out that the campaign falls short on inclusivity and representation when it comes to who uses the TTC. She explained:
We can’t deny that there is a lot of body-based discrimination that happens … within our moves around the city…My experience as a racialized woman, as a fat woman, I’ve been called an f-ing fat black b—- on the TTC, is this video really moving me? Is this video at all depicting me on the move? The body types of most ballet dancers do not adequately represent those of most Canadians and, I dare say, most TTC users. This is simply an opportunity to reflect on who is being left out by an ad campaign such as this.
Predictably someone wrote an article to whine that Jill is being “too sensitive” (with thanks to the always amazing Tigress Osborn for making me aware of this.) That someone is Erin Davis who wrote about this for Notable.com in a piece in which she prefaces an attempt to discredit the words of a fat activist by saying “I am all for the ever-important body positivity movement.” Right. Out of curiosity Erin, what would this piece have looked like if you weren’t “all for the ever-important body positivity movement?” You know what, never mind.
When requests for inclusivity and representation are met with shouts of “oversensitive” and “too-PC” it’s a pretty good bet that it’s being done by someone who is not thinking critically. As if to make it crystal clear that she just doesn’t get it, Erin makes the common mistake of confusing logic for fatphobia when she “explains” the lack body diversity of the ballet dancers in the ads saying: “Dancers look the way they do because they’re dancers.”
Except that’s not actually true at all. The truth is that dancers look the way they do because if they don’t look that way they have almost no chance of being employed regardless of how talented they are because of the rampant fatphobia that exists in the dance world.
So Erin has actually been duped by the very lack of representation that Jill Andrews is pointing out and that Erin is trying to shout down as being “over-sensitive.” Priceless.
Representation is important, and it’s important to think about who creates the images that we see in the media, what their own prejudices and/or profit motives might be, and it’s important to question that lack of representation not just of fat bodies, but also of People of Color, disabled people/people with disabilities, and other under-represented groups and those with multiple marginalized identities.
So while I don’t love Erin’s article, I do appreciate the great job that she did of proving my (and, as far as I’m concerned, Jill Andrew’s) point: Representation Matters.
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