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WALSH: If We Don't Celebrate Anorexia, We Shouldn't Celebrate Morbid Obesity

Not satisfied with the public humiliation it suffered after its "toxic masculinity" ad campaign a few months ago, Gillette has now moved on to celebrating morbid obesity. The company, as part of a new advertisement campaign, posted a photo of an extremely obese woman frolicking in a bikini, with the caption: "Go out there and slay the day."

A follow-up tweet said: "Venus is committed to representing beautiful women of all shapes, sizes, and skin types because ALL types of beautiful skin deserve to be shown. We love Anna because she lives out loud and loves her skin no matter how the 'rules' say she should display it."

Let's leave aside the fact that "lives out loud" is a nonsensical phrase with no discernible meaning. And let's also leave aside the creepy weirdness of "loving your skin." I can't say that I love or hate my skin. It's just my skin. You might as well tell me to love my right lung or my left elbow. I suppose it's good not to hate your body parts, but I'm not sure that falling madly in love with them is a healthy alternative.

But more to the point, it is not an arbitrary set of "rules" that discourages people from becoming morbidly obese. It is basic biology. A very overweight person will have a lifespan, on average, almost 15 years shorter than a non-overweight person. Many will die decades earlier than that. Our bodies simply are not equipped to carry around 100 pounds of extra weight. Our hearts, our lungs, our livers — none of our internal organs are designed to withstand that kind of pressure. And that skin that we are supposed to love? It, too, wasn't meant to be stretched to those limits. It seems the very worst way to show your love for your body is to cover it with excessive amounts of fat.

I do not think that morbidly obese people should hate themselves. I do not think that they should be bullied or mocked. And I do agree that women should not feel pressure to be supermodels. There is nothing wrong with having an average physique. A person can be perfectly healthy and physically attractive even if they are not a runway model or body builder. But there's a rather wide gulf separating, "It's okay if your body fat percentage is more than three," from "it's okay if your body fat percentage is more than fifty." It is possible to refrain from advocating anorexia without also advocating extreme obesity on the other extreme end of the spectrum.

Speaking of anorexia, why is it that these body positivity campaigns never seem to include anorexic women? Why didn't Gillette post an inspirational picture of a skeletally thin 85-pound woman? Why aren't there any body positivity models who regularly post pictures of their protruding rib cages? Why do we celebrate "all shapes and sizes" except for sizes like gaunt and frail?

Well, because anorexia is a dangerous disorder and not something to be applauded. Anorexic people certainly shouldn't be shamed or mocked — and I think most of us have no temptation to engage in that — but they should be lovingly encouraged to seek help and get themselves on the road to better health. Anorexic people, if they remain anorexic, do not live long and healthy lives. They live lives of physical and emotional pain, and then, if they are not treated, they die. There would be nothing "positive" at all about telling someone to embrace this fate. Such a message would be unspeakably cruel.

I fail to see how morbid obesity is any different. It also is dangerous. It also is often the result of an eating disorder. It also will preclude a long and healthy life. It also will kill you. And those who tell the morbidly obese to accept this fate, and enjoy it, are being cruel. They may not intend cruelty — I'm sure they're just trying to engage in a bit of harmless virtue-signaling — but the result, if their advice is followed, is pain and suffering. That's what "body positivity" gets you.

 
 
 

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