A video of plus-size model Tess Holliday plunging her fork into the middle of a cake printed with her on the cover of Cosmo magazine is making its way around social media, and everyone has a take on it.
“As Britain battles an ever-worsening obesity crisis, this is the new cover of Cosmo,” TV presenter Piers Morgan said on Instagram regarding the August cover of the women’s magazine. “Apparently we’re supposed to view it as a ‘huge step forward for body positivity.’ What a load of old baloney. This cover is just as dangerous & misguided as celebrating size zero models.”
Apparently Holliday thought she could stick it to Morgan and the rest of the naysayers by posting a video on Instagram of her eating the cake while grooving to “Covergirl” by celebrity drag queen RuPaul.
“People who think I’m glorifying obesity are glorifying stupidity. I am pretty glorious though,” she wrote. It’s not exactly a Ben Shapiro-level Piers smackdown. Basically this statement is an admission that she is glorifying obesity.
The size 22 model made waves earlier this year with a nude photo her husband posted on Instagram. “Women deserve respect, whether they are completely naked or covered head to toe,” she wrote in January. Now, she’s made the cover of Cosmo. “My body is a Cosmo body, which is why they picked me,” she said.
Holliday has made morbid obesity into her identity. She’s soaking up the praise and pushing everyone to get on board with fat positivity. Anyone who’s not is just a “hater.”
“The more people hate it and talk about it, the more [social media] followers I get,” she told Us Weekly. “And those are people that could actually see my cover and move things forward and actually change things, so I embrace it.”
If this whole media circus about a fashion and lifestyle magazine cover feels oddly familiar, let me jog your memory with a couple questions: Who else garnered international media attention by making an alternative lifestyle into their core identity? Who else graced the cover of a national magazine for “putting herself out there,” and “being true to herself” and “being a hero” for a marginalized lifestyle group?
If you guessed Caitlyn Jenner, give yourself a pat on the back. If the irony of Holliday dancing to a drag queen’s track just hit you, add a few brownie points.
Transgender ideology and fat positivity share much in common besides the way their champions have been idolized. Since Jenner posed awkwardly on the cover of Vanity Fair, rates of youth referrals to gender identity clinics in the UK skyrocketed, doubling for 2015 and 2016 and rising another 42 percent in 2016 and 2017, and rising another 25 percent over the past year. Jenner’s cover can’t be said to have caused the gender dysphoria epidemic, but the timing is interesting to note. As a celebrity and former Olympian, Jenner is an outsized influencer and he embraced the media coverage to boost transgender ideology. That must have at least some impact on how people, particularly teenagers, view gender identity.
A study out of Brown University made headlines recently for its controversial finding that transgenderism appears to spread like a social contagion among children and young adults, sometimes infecting entire peer groups. While the study is fairly small and more research is definitely needed, the social contagion effect would explain the steep rise in the number of people who identify as transgender, and in children who are struggling with gender identity. It’s certainly a much more plausible explanation than the idea that this same percentage was mostly “repressed” and now they just feel more free to “come out” as a different gender.
Social contagion, the term for how behavior spreads like a contagion through social networks, is now a well-documented phenomenon. As The New York Times reported almost a decade ago, behaviors “pass from friend to friend almost as if they were contagious viruses … clusters of friends appeared to ‘infect’ each other with obesity, unhappiness and smoking.”
Social contagions spread through normalizing behaviors. People take “cues” as to what is normal or acceptable from the people around them. For instance, when the person next to you is eating a big meal, you’re likely to eat more, too. You can even pass along a contagion without being affected by it yourself. The authors of the study, James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis, theorize that behaviors, such as those that promote obesity, in one social circle (say, work friends) might affect what you perceive to be normal. That mindset can then subtly influence people in other social circles without you, the contagion-carrier, ever gaining a single pound.
If you think I’m making too much fuss over Holliday’s Cosmo cover and her status as an influencer and “role model,” consider this: If obesity-causing behaviors are contagious, and even transgenderism, which requires a huge commitment even just to outward behavior and appearances (makeup, clothes, adjusting speech style, etc.), is contagious, how much more contagious would a convenient justification for obesity be? If the transgender fad can infect behavior as deeply rooted as gender expression, how much more easily would fat positivity spread among impressionable young women?
It’s just fat, after all. A burger here, a milkshake there, and you can easily gain another ten or twelve pounds year over year with zero concerted effort. If you feel bad about it, supermodel Tess Holliday says, don’t! Your fat positive friends, too, will tell you you don’t need to cave in to “fat shaming” and a “thin-normative culture.” Heck, even your thin friends could nudge you toward embracing the fat-positive identity.
Your thin friends probably aren’t as likely to promote the most radical cultural marxist ideas of fat-positive ideology, though. Thinness is “privilege,” according to many fat-positive advocates, and thin culture is oppressing obese people. Again, you might recognize this warped rhetoric about oppression from LGBTQ2A+ advocates, who insist that “hetero-normative” institutions like fertility clinics offer “de-feminizing” experiences and that the very concept of “vagina” is marginalizing — so medical writers should use the term “front hole” instead.
How long before fat positivists pressure guideline writers to advise medical professionals against bringing up the health hazards of obesity in order to be fat-affirming? Many fat positive people are already seeking out doctors who won’t bring it up at all, and when people of the social justice persuasion (as many fat positivists are) set their minds to change everyone’s opinions, they never content themselves with consumer choice.
Beauty magazines may be full of garbage advice and readily dismissed by political junkies as sideshows, but their editorial stances have an impact on the women who read them — especially young women who, though they may mostly be flipping through them for fashion tips, are subconsciously taking cues on appropriate and praise-worthy appearance, behavior, and worldview.
Couple that with the media’s eagerness to honor those who “speak their truth” (as if truth were completely subjective) and “live their authentic selves,” as they’ve done for trans people, and the soil of a multitude of tender minds is tilled and ready for fat positivity to take root.
While it’s true that size 2 actresses and models still hold a near monopoly in visual media, most women are several sizes removed from that “gold standard” in beauty. In fact, most American women are already plus size, and for women of all sizes, it’s almost always easier to gain a lot of weight than lose even a small, much less moderate amount.
We crave affirmation by one community or another, and that means inertia favors the fat positivists. Again, this means fat positivity could theoretically spread much easier than transgenderism, since “transitioning” between genders requires a concerted effort to change one’s behavior.
The Health Risks of Fat Positivity
Like transgender advocates, fat positivists are promoting a lifestyle with severe health risks and trying to conceal them. Of course, being a size 16 isn’t going to make you sterile and doesn’t encourage you to chop off body parts or take a boatload of hormones that might cause deep depression or other mental health issues in addition to increased risk of heart disease and stroke. The risks to simply affirming one’s identity through fat positivity and being content to stay obese forever are not as severe. Nevertheless, the UK and the U.S. are already suffering ever-increasing rates of obesity and Tess Holliday is promoting a dangerous worldview by glorifying it.
As I wrote earlier this year regarding Holliday’s nude photos:
Extra weight carries significant health risks, something fat positivists like Holliday like to downplay by claiming that right now they are ‘healthy.’ Obesity is linked to cancer of the colon, breast, and kidney. Type 2 diabetes is closely linked with obesity, and being overweight makes you more likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which makes heart disease and stroke more likely. Sleep apnea is common for obese people as well, which further increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and death.
Overweight or obese women also have added risks involved in childbearing, including preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. Obesity during pregnancy carries a 20 percent greater chance of early miscarriage, and obese mothers also have a slightly greater risk for birth defects.
Are these facts to be swept out of the public consciousness so people who daily make bad health choices can feel good about it? Should we censor ourselves so they hear less about these risks and more about how they are living their truth and rebelling against a system of oppression? Of course not.
Holliday is playing a dangerous game not just with her own health, but with the health of potentially millions of other women who are increasingly told by the media that she is a role model. Like the promotion of transgender ideology, this push to make obesity just one among many equally affirmable identities is reckless. If we’ve learned anything from how transgenderism spreads, the momentum behind fat positivity might lead to a wave of new, risky identity conversions.