Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fat fighting 70s Mormon style...

Yesterday, while screwing around on YouTube, I came across a most bizarre film from 1971.  It was evidently put out by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Behold...

A film for "sweet spirits" who could stand to lose a few... or more.  The music on this is nightmare inducing...   

The LDS church has a long history of producing audio visual learning aids.  If you were around in the 70s and 80s, you probably saw some of their ads on television.  I hesitate to refer to them as PSAs, because they were really put out as a means of attracting people to Mormonism.  As someone who was born in 1972, I vividly recall several different ones that were regularly rotated on daytime TV.

I must admit, watching this video makes me cringe.  I'm embarrassed and humiliated for the women who are in it.  Having never been LDS, I can't really speak to what this film was really intended to do, other than remind women that they need to be thin and pretty for the Brethren, so they can find a temple worthy husband who will take them to the Celestial Kingdom.

One woman talks about how she still gets "dates" even though she's fat, so she has no motivation to lose weight.  How sad that is.  The only reason she could possibly have to want to lose weight is to find a man?  What about losing it because you want to?  I also find it very strange that this film makes these women out to be binge and compulsive overeaters.  Yes, it's true that many people are heavy simply because they eat too much, but that's not always true.  The truth is, being overweight is a complex problem that can be caused by a variety of factors.  I am myself overweight, but I don't eat three bowls of ice cream in a sitting, as is depicted in this film.  

As the film continues, the male announcer says...

This is part of our commitment action approach to weight control.  The girls meet weekly in therapy sessions where behavioral change is emphasized.  Overweight people tend to be dishonest, inconsistent, and irresponsible.  How often have we said or heard people say, "I don't know why I can't lose weight.  I hardly eat a thing." or "I was nervous and upset.  I just couldn't help myself."  All kinds of alibis and excuses.  Our sessions together tend to debunk these excuses and instead focus on behavioral consistency, control, and commitment with an emphasis on action.

How sad it must have been for the young LDS women who watched this video.  They are automatically considered "dishonest, inconsistent, and irresponsible" simply because of the way they look.  And consider the fact that the church is very food oriented.  Women in the church are encouraged to be excellent homemakers and cooks.  

The very sexist announcer goes on to say...

Group members help Judy improve the consistency between what she says she wants to do and what she actually does.  If Judy wants to be thin, she has to engage in thin activities, such as eating less and exercising more.  Sometimes she sees the problem as impossible to control.  We try to help her refute this.

Notice too, that it's a man leading this group and he has all the answers.  As if a man really understands why a woman might feel compelled to overeat.  He keeps referring to the women as "girls", too, and talks about them like they're all a bunch of simple minded twits.  

The horrible music continues and they show video footage of heavy women swimming, their fat rolls jiggling underwater.  They show twin little girls laughing openly at a heavy woman biking past them.  Nowadays, someone would be calling CPS on the girls' parents for letting them walk alone in a neighborhood!  They show a fat woman diving into water and when she hits, there's a sound of gunfire, as if the sheer volume of water displaced has moved the earth somehow.  One woman is doing stretches only to get exasperated and give in to the temptation of potato chips.  It's as if the filmmakers are saying "Shame on her for being so weak!"

A woman named Dawn says that she was sick all week and had a sore throat.  She ate ice cream to make her throat feel better.  And, don'tcha know, that's why she's fat!  She could have used ice cubes, you know... as the announcer tells us.  What a dick.  He says, "We try to help her see herself through the eyes of other group members.  To realize her self deceit."

The video is rife with closeups of heavy women eating, shoveling fattening foods into their mouths in a way that is supposed to be disgusting.  I could continue to quote from this nasty little film, but I think you get the picture. 

Apparently, the answer to getting thin is to start dating.  A man will fix everything.  Get yourself a good man and you'll have all the motivation in the world to lose weight.  "Being 'feminine' can be fun.'" the announcer says.  It's a load of nasty bullshit.  

I know this film is 45 years old.  Since I'm 44, it doesn't seem like it's that old.  I guess it is, though.  I have my doubts that the attitudes among church members has necessarily changed a lot, although they are almost certainly less "in your face" about it than they are in this very offensive film.  

Here's another film from BYU...  

More fat shaming, though at least this one isn't leveled strictly at women.

There is certainly nothing wrong with eating right and exercising.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight.  What I find offensive is the attitude that a person's character is being judged by what size clothes he or she wears.  It's offensive that a person's worth is being measured by how heavy he or she is.  


  1. Was Thomas S. Monson dishonest, irresponsible, and whatever else they implied fat women were? He may be thinning out a bit, as old people usually do right before they die, but he was overweight for a long time. He's not female, however, so it's probably OK for him to lead the world-wide church while committing the sin of gluttony. It is so very sexist, as though there are no overweight men in the church. I suppose their points are A) sisters wouldn't have to remain single if they would control their weight; and B) men wouldn't have to look at or do other things with other women besides their wives if their baby-machine wives would keep their damned weight under control. It's OK for the men to eat homemade doughnuts and develop Type II diabetes and be as fat as they want, though. And what about Brother Brigham? He looked very much like a Santa Claus whose Cheerios were pissed in by someone.

    I think they're moving away from elevating men to the highest levels of leadership who are too rotund. A couple of the three newest apostles probably didn't meet insurance table guidelines for desired weight, but Dieter the Peter is very fit, and Bednar looks anorexic. I think they may be moving toward thinness straight across the board. That's bad, too, but it's still probably better than putting the burden solely on women.

    It would be interesting to research how long it has been since a general authority has been called whose wife was overweight at the time of her calling? If their husbands are called early, they may beef up a bit later, but when their husbands are called, my guess is that they all have thin builds.

    Interestingly, Barbara Thompson (I think that was her name), a plus-sized woman, was in the Relief Society Presidency a few years ago. She was also single. One reason the brass may have allowed her to be called in spite of her plus-size was to provide a high-profile reminder to single LDS women everywhere that if you're fat, you won't find a husband in the church.

    I'm probably more of a binge eater than are most overweight people. My schedule sometimes doesn't allow me time to eat. Then I'm starved, so I eat as much as I want. (My appetite's not huge, so I don't feel sick afterward.) Still, I don't distribute my food intake throughout a day as one really should. I'm a sinner in that regard as far as The Church is concerned. Perhaps they overlook it because I'm thin. Then again, I'm a sinner in so many ways that my binge-eating is the very least of my problems in their view.

    I want to watch the videos as soon as I get a chance. I'm preparing to scrub for the C-section of the twins. I'll mostly be standing against the back wall out of the way, but I may get to help with apgars and weighing once they're out. I'm excited, but nervous for the mom and babies. There's so much that can go wrong even with one baby. Stick another one in there with its set of cords and it multiplies the danger. My Uncle Jerry is an OBGYN, and he told me that the more he's learned and the more he's seen, he thinks it's nothing short of a miracle that any baby ever makes it out OK.

  2. It's hard to believe any of those "girls" would have agreed to be in "the Fat fighters." I wonder if BYU didn't threaten them with honor code violation or some similar sort of punishment if they refused to be in the "group' and the film. I think it was the first tie it showed a 'group" meeting, the female leader, who wasn't really in charge and was probably just married to the male, the "real" leader, but she sort of shrunk away and recoiled at the girl as she was talking. And all those displays of overweight women under the water in black swimsuits was atrocious. And the whole idea that a person is less of a person simply by virtue of weighing more than someone else. And they mostly couldn't just use overweight people. They mostly had to find ones with bad skin , too, because, you know, that's the way overweight people are, even though in real life many overweight people have beautiful skin. Those little girls laughing . . . The film treated the situation as though it was not more wrong for them to be laughing at an overweight woman riding a bicycle than it was for the overweight woman to be riding a bicycle. Where were LDS values in the '60's (the hairstyles looked late '60's to me; I didn't note any dates, but then, Mormons can be behind the times on things like hairstyles). If the church had any brains, they would bury that video into their vault wherever it is somewhere hidden in the Wasatch Range as deeply as it would go, before first cutting it to shreds. What about that man would make anyone want to come back to his "group"? Since almost no one gets paid for anything, that's what makes me think they extorted those women into participation.

    1. Yeah, I know. It must have been absolutely humiliating to be in that video. I can't imagine that any of them wanted to be showcased like that to God knows how many people.

      It must have been humiliating.


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