Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Shame Doesn't Change People

On my way back from Savannah, GA. last weekend, I saw a childhood obesity billboard in Macon, GA. that featured a little girl who was overweight and the caption said "It's hard to be a little girl when you aren't Little". Farther on down the road, I saw another billboard with a little boy's image and some other tagline. My husband and I were both pretty shocked.

When I got home, I found out that these billboards are a Georgia campaign that has been drawing nation-wide attention. From what I can tell, people seem to be split on the appropriateness of these billboards. I checked out the campaign's website (stopchildhoodobesity.com) and I find that extremely inappropriate as well.

Why feature the children? Notice how they are all scowling? I don't know if they were trying to show them unhappy, but to me, they don't look unhappy - they look mean and that is another stereotype of overweight children. And believe me, I work in the advertising field, and they chose these images for a reason - scowling children will be more attention grabbing than happy children. I guarantee that they directed the children's facial expressions during the photo shoots as well.

The videos on the campaign's website are also demeaning...One little boy (Bobby) talks about how he likes donuts and puts chips under his bed to eat later. In another video a little girl (Tina) talks about how she gets picked on at school - guess what? All of Georgia is now picking on you. Shame on the parents of these children for letting them be a part of this.

My point is that this is not the children's fault, so why bring even MORE shame to them? It may not effect all children in the same way, but there are more positive approaches to this problem that would bring better results. I feel like this campaign is talking about the problem, but what are they DOING about it? The real target is parents. In either case, shame is not what is going to bring about change. Shame causes anger and more denial. If the purpose of this campaign was to make Georgia residents realize that their children are obese, then I think they are causing more problems for themselves.

Another little boy (Carlos) talks about how after school he is alone at home and plays video games rather than going outside to play.

BINGO! We are finally at the heart of part of this problem. Carlos' parents both have to work, therefore, he is at home alone and his parents probably tell him not to go outside and play when they aren't home in order to keep him safe. Personally, I feel like the biggest contributor to childhood obesity is the "new American lifestyle". If a child is lucky enough to have a two-parent household, usually both parents are working and when those parents are home, they don't have time to cook, so children are preparing easy meals for themselves which are typically unhealthy - and their eating habits go unmonitored.  Also, I'm sure there is some kind of link between low-income households and childhood obesity. Unhealthy food is cheap...peanut butter, bread, mac & cheese, pasta, etc... All affordable ways to feed a family. I feel like this "new American lifestyle" is not one that we purposefully choose, but one that many are forced into out of necessity during the economic downturn that we've been experiencing over the last 10 years.

OK, Georgia (and the rest of the nation) time to stop picking on little kids and outing their shortcomings to the world and it's time to start finding solutions. I would love to know what kind of foods are being served in rural Georgia school systems.

Your thoughts?


Justawallflower said...

I believe the main things these advertisements are going to accomplish is an increase in childhood eating disorders! This is sick and sad.

Bonnie said...

It's disgusting and I would be complaining big time if I had to pass those billboards every day.

Beth Ann said...

Amen, amen, amen! Speaking as someone who was an overweight child, kids learn behaviors from their parents. My mom had a horrible self image (even though she was/is beautiful) and she passed that on to me. My mom is not particularly active either, so I learned that too. Plus, we eat a lot.

So, even though I had kick ass parents who loved me SO much, they helped shape my childhood issues. (Now it is my responsibility.) But I don't think they really knew better back then, but now we do know and parents should pay attention.

Loved your post!