As reported not too long ago on NPR’s The Salt blog, a new ad from Blue Cross Blue Shield out of Minnesota places the blame for overweight or obese children squarely on the parents.
According to NPR, a lot of people who are honest about their weight problems are upset about the ad. They say it’s a “shaming” campaign. Lindy West, one of the sources in the article, says there are enough daily reminders of how hard–physically and socially–it is to be fat without the government scolding you.
Here’s another ad West talks about, another part of the campaign:
She’s got a point. In a response post she wrote for Jezebel, West describes how hard it was to be an overweight kid–and follows it up with the assertion that, despite what people may think, fat people know about nutrition. She feels this ad campaign is a punishment that serves no real purpose and gets nothing accomplished.
And I can definitely see that. These ads play on a parent’s sense of guilt and helplessness. They do indeed stereotype overweight parents and show them to be weak. They’re cruel.
But on the other hand, I feel like there’s some validity to the ad’s message. Kids do follow their parents’ example, from everything to how to treat customer service representatives on the phone to driving style to food habits. Part of the reason I love yogurt so much is because I watched my mother eat yogurt and flax every morning for years and years.
So there’s a point to be made here: Parents have a lot of power in determining what sort of foods their children are accustomed to eating, which will lead to better food habits and a healthier life later on. That said, I can’t think of a worse way to express this message than the shame tactics at work here.