While browsing Target’s greeting card section last week in search of a wedding card, I was surprised to stumble upon a card filed under the heading “Weight Loss.” I had no idea this was a thing warranting a greeting card. Am I supposed to be tracking my friends and family members’ weight fluctuations? Intrigued, I grabbed the card to look it over and sadly saw a reinforcement of everything I already knew was wrong with the way society views women and their bodies.
Fat shaming is all-encompassing regardless of sex, but one look at the bright pink card makes it pretty clear who it is targeting. The front of the card features a graphic of a scale with the words “Losing Weight and Looking Great” printed over it. The message inside is worse: “So excited for YOU and the WONDERFUL CHANGES you’re making in your life!” The all-caps YOU is printed in the familiar pink from the front of the card. I look around and do not see a similar card in a more masculine blue.
The card conveys a message that if you’re fat and a woman, you’re worthless. Now that you’ve gotten off your fat ass and lost some weight — made all those “wonderful changes” — well, now maybe you’re cool enough and good enough to be noticed and appreciated. I kept imagining some asshat buying this card for poor Cathy in accounting who finally got her life together when she stopped indulging in all those bonbons. Who knows, maybe now she’ll finally find a boyfriend.
Should I chalk up the existence of this card to being a part of the great big greeting card industrial complex? One more “occasion” to celebrate and make money for greeting card companies? Is it wrong for me to see this card as another way to make women feel bad about their bodies? Another little slap in the face to remind us that our overall worth in society is directly tied to our outward appearance.
I posted a photograph of the card on my favorite Facebook moms’ group and was flooded with responses matching my own sentiments that if I was on the receiving end of this card I’d feel hurt, offended, and would want to throat punch the person who gave it to me. It’s one thing to compliment a friend or family member after they’ve lost a significant amount of weight, but to go out and buy a greeting card that essentially says “I value you so much more now that you’re not a fat ass” is rude, insensitive, and wrong.
One group member, who has lost more than 100 pounds in less than a year following gastric bypass surgery, mentioned that when she sends her dad a text about her weight loss progress, he mostly replies with “Keep it up,” indicating to her that it’s good, but not quite good enough. Another mentioned she has dealt with weight fluctuations throughout her life and always feels more validated, appreciated, seen, and admired when she’s thinner.
Another group member said her father continuously expresses concerns about her being “healthy” since she’s gained weight. While growing up, he encouraged her to be a “nice, slim girl.” She says, “I do want to lose weight, but part of me doesn’t because it forces him to have to love me the way I am, overweight and all. He has to see that I’m happy and successful, despite not being a nice, slim girl. He would totally send me that fucking card.”
I am an overweight, fat mom who may never lose the amount of weight that would warrant receiving a weight loss card, yet I get to the gym at least three times a week. It helps that my gym provides two hours of child care while I work out, which is a wonderful deterrent from killing my darling offspring. Not only do I get to work on my physical well-being, I also get a hot shower without being interrupted or worrying my 2-year-old will burn down the house. Add to that free, decent coffee in the lobby, and this fat mom is sold!
As I’ve grown older, I find myself motivated to work out for reasons different than when I was younger. I’m no longer interested in fitting some mold of what an ideal woman should look like. I work out because I’d like to live as long as possible to watch my children grow up. I work out because it is incredibly good for my mental health. I work out because Donald “grab ’em by the pussy” Trump is president, and I am very angry about it. In fact, I often imagine stepping on his stupid, orange face as I run on the treadmill, and it feels incredibly good.
A fellow mom shared that she felt less motivated to lose weight following Trump’s election as she didn’t want to validate his or his supporters’ views of how a woman should look. She got into heavy weight training and discovered a way to avoid this pitfall. She says, “Finally I found something that wasn’t about me becoming as small as possible but instead getting me STRONG for the revolution and the FIGHT! I am now able to fight off zombies and Republicans.” I think it’s time for me to look into heavy weight lifting.
I highly doubt we’ll be seeing a card congratulating men for overcoming their erectile dysfunction anytime soon. Just imagine a bright blue card with “Staying Erect and Ready to Inject” printed over a picture of a boner. Inside is the encouraging message, “So excited for YOUR PENIS and the WONDERFUL ENGORGEMENT it’s making in your pants!”
So what kind of greeting cards would I like to see out there in this great big world of ours? What kind of greeting cards carry a message I can actually get behind? For starters, maybe a card that congratulates parents for raising kind, considerate, mindful children who would never ever buy someone a fucking weight loss card.