Progressive Government has a Big, Fat Branding Problem

Behind the tactics and the war of words, the differences between Republicans and Democrats all tend to hinge on one thing: The Red guys don’t like Big Government. For progressives like me, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Big Government often means more taxation, yes, but it also means more services, more oversight and the opportunity for a fairer distribution of wealth.

We’ve come to the conclusion that Big Government is a good idea … with a branding problem. Would “fuller figure” or “plus-sized” suit her better? Let’s see what we can learn from the body shaming fight.

A Brief History of the Fat Acceptance Movement

In the late 1960s, thinkers started to speak out against the cultural obsession with thinness, holding impromptu sit-ins and “fat pride” marches to challenge their communities’ perceptions of health and body shape. Casting agents and other decision-makers in the arts were pressured to think outside the classic hourglass figure of “28-36” (inches, representing waist and hips) and eventually, more diverse body shapes started to be seen in our media.

For women like me, who have been overweight or obese their whole lives, the movement has helped us in two ways: Creating opportunities for women who look like us in media means we are able to find role models who proved that success doesn’t necessarily come in a size 8 only; and the movement also taught us to reject the body shaming rhetoric that is rife in our schools, social media feeds and our own heads.

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The fat acceptance movement has healed the way many of us feel about our bodies. We need to bring this thinking to the political sphere. Image: Creative Commons, Stage3 Team.

Starving for Change

One of the most insidious things about body shaming is the idea that fat means unhealthy. And while no one is arguing that obesity isn’t harmful to our people, healthcare system and cities, the movement has successfully decoupled the idea of thinness with health.

This is also true of our politics: We need to accept that a lean government isn’t necessarily a healthy one.

When conservatives bring up the specter of Big Government, a common response from progressives is similar to what you might say if Janice in Accounting told you you’d put on a few pounds over the holidays:

  • To hide it: “Oh, no! I knew I shouldn’t have worn these pants.”
  • Or to apologize for it: “Yeah, too much pumpkin pie. But detox starts tomorrow and Monday, it’s back to the gym!”

Hiding and apologizing are dangerous because they both assume, as body shaming does, that what governments are doing is wrong and harmful. A lack of transparency about where and how money is being spent not only breeds contempt and challenge, but also creates opportunities for the kind of funds mismanagement that conservatives are implying.

But you know what? Doing good work costs money. Infrastructure investment is not free, and neither is quality education or health care. Looking after our most vulnerable people can be costly but not as much as patching them up in hospital, or locking them up under archaic minor drug and three-strikes laws.

Well, we say it’s time for proponents of big government to own it. Shed your layers of excuses and don’t be ashamed to show your true self when you walk to the voting booth and march for the things you believe in. It takes a large government to come up with grand ideas – and goodness knows, we need them now.

Big is beautiful. Be proud.

Featured image: Documentary filmmaker Kira Nerusskaya, who has been a leader in the fat acceptance movement. Picture: Creative Commons, David Shankbone

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