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Let's all take a pause before commenting on someone's weight, fictional character or not

Disney's short about a ballerina's triumph revealed an undercurrent of cruelty about obesity that needs to end.

obesity, weight, body image
Mark Production/Canva

People with obesity should be able to express joy and confidence without shame and criticism.

Folks, we need to talk.

Last week, I wrote an article about Disney’s new short, “Reflect,” which had been creating some buzz. The 2 1/2 minute film about a larger-than-average ballerina who triumphs over the mirror by dancing with joy and confidence is an ode to the body image struggle so many people face. It’s sweet, positive and inspiring.

But many people’s reactions to the film—or even just the idea of the film—were not.


Commentary has been mixed, as is often the case, but I’ve been stunned by the casual cruelty people throw around when it comes to weight. I’ve been writing on the internet for a long time and am fairly immune to trollish comments, but these comments feel different. These aren't trolls being outrageous to get a reaction; these are people voicing their genuine prejudices.

I’m a thin person and found it disheartening, but when I put myself into the shoes of an overweight/obese/larger-than-average person, the comments came off as utterly crushing.

First, there were a lot of sarcastic “Oh great, let’s glorify/celebrate obesity,” comments. Nothing in this film celebrated obesity. The only things being celebrated were the joy of expression through dance and a young woman finding she had power over her own insecurities. Celebrating those things through a large-bodied character is not glorifying obesity; it’s merely showing that people who don't fit the standard mold can express themselves joyfully and don’t have to be held back by insecurity. Those are objectively good messages.

Second, there were a surprising number of “fat people are just lazy” comments. Um, this film is literally depicting a fat person exercising. Like, she's dancing the whole time. The opposite of lazy. What more do people want?

Third, “We should focus on teaching kids to eat right and exercise instead of trying to make people feel good about being fat." Hmm. Helping people feel confident in their bodies, whatever shape or size they are, is not the same as making people "feel good about being fat." The logical corollary here is "people should feel bad about themselves if they are above a certain [totally arbitrary] size or weight or shape," which is ridiculous. Shame is counterproductive. More on that in a moment.

But in terms of education about eating well, how about we walk and chew gum at the same time? How about we encourage healthy living and make sure people know their worth isn't wrapped up in their weight? How about we recognize that there are plenty of thin people who eat crappy food and don’t exercise much and that weight is not always an indicator that someone doesn't eat well?

There are actually a lot of ands that we all need to internalize when it comes to bodies and fat. Obesity in general is associated with health problems and not all weight issues are due to not eating right or exercising enough and thin people can be just as unhealthy as obese people and fat people deserve support and compassion (or at least just be allowed to "be") and someone else's body size really is nobody else's business to comment on.

"But it's a character! It's not even a real person!" It doesn't matter.

Commenting critically or cruelly on a fictional character's body primarily does two things:

1) It reinforces common biases and stigmas surrounding people who are overweight, which is dangerous. Harvard University has shared research showing that bias against obesity can cause doctors to assume a patient's symptoms are due to weight and prevent them from investigating further, which can lead to missed diagnoses. Additionally, many doctors are not well-trained in what causes obesity or how to treat it, so patients who are overweight can be impacted by both bias and a lack of knowledge and understanding about their bodies.

(Side note: Obesity is not as simple as "calories in/calories out"—that's an antiquated myth according to Harvard obesity expert Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford. What you eat matters, of course, but it's just one piece of a large, multifaceted puzzle.)

2) It actually discourages people from losing weight. Cruelty is discouraging and judgments are demotivating. That's not just a guess—research backs that up. And real people who see themselves in the character you are mocking or criticizing will see themselves in your comment. If you genuinely care about other people's health and want to do something about obesity as a health issue, making gross assumptions and mean comments about fat people is 100% NOT the way to address it. It's counterproductive.

"But obesity is unhealthy!"So is negativity—literally. But negativity comes with the side effect of bringing down everyone else around you, which can impact their health as well, so which is worse?

Every obese person has surely heard it all before, so critical comments aren't telling them anything they don't already know. It's not kind, it's not helpful and it does far more harm than good.

Joy and confidence, on the other hand, are motivating. When people feel good about themselves, they are more likely to be successful in whatever endeavors they undertake, whether their goal is to create healthful habits or perfect a tricky dance move.

That's what makes the message of "Reflect" so powerful. And that's why complaints about a character with obesity being portrayed in a positive light completely miss the point. We all deserve the freedom to express ourselves with joy and confidence, no matter what shape or size body we are in.

Pop Culture

Here’s a paycheck for a McDonald’s worker. And here's my jaw dropping to the floor.

So we've all heard the numbers, but what does that mean in reality? Here's one year's wages — yes, *full-time* wages. Woo.

Making a little over 10,000 for a yearly salary.


I've written tons of things about minimum wage, backed up by fact-checkers and economists and scholarly studies. All of them point to raising the minimum wage as a solution to lifting people out of poverty and getting folks off of public assistance. It's slowly happening, and there's much more to be done.

But when it comes right down to it, where the rubber meets the road is what it means for everyday workers who have to live with those wages. I honestly don't know how they do it.


Ask yourself: Could I live on this small of a full-time paycheck? I know what my answer is.

(And note that the minimum wage in many parts of the county is STILL $7.25, so it would be even less than this).

paychecks, McDonalds, corporate power, broken system

One year of work at McDonalds grossed this worker $13,811.18.

assets.rebelmouse.io

This story was written by Brandon Weber and was originally appeared on 02.26.15

Bill Gates in conversation with The Times of India

Bill Gates sure is strict on how his children use the very technology he helped bring to the masses.

In a recent interview with the Mirror, the tech mogul said his children were not allowed to own their own cellphone until the age of 14. "We often set a time after which there is no screen time, and in their case that helps them get to sleep at a reasonable hour," he said. Gates added that the children are not allowed to have cellphones at the table, but are allowed to use them for homework or studying.


The Gates children, now 20, 17 and 14, are all above the minimum age requirement to own a phone, but they are still banned from having any Apple products in the house—thanks to Gates' longtime rivalry with Apple founder Steve Jobs.

smartphones, families, responsible parenting, social media

Bill Gates tasting recycled water.

Image from media.giphy.com.

While the parenting choice may seem harsh, the Gates may be onto something with delaying childhood smartphone ownership. According to the 2016 "Kids & Tech: The Evolution of Today's Digital Natives"report, the average age that a child gets their first smartphone is now 10.3 years.

"I think that age is going to trend even younger, because parents are getting tired of handing their smartphones to their kids," Stacy DeBroff, chief executive of Influence Central, told The New York Times.

James P. Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that reviews content and products for families, additionally told the Times that he too has one strict rule for his children when it comes to cellphones: They get one when they start high school and only when they've proven they have restraint. "No two kids are the same, and there's no magic number," he said. "A kid's age is not as important as his or her own responsibility or maturity level."

PBS Parents also provided a list of questions parents should answer before giving their child their first phone. Check out the entire list below:

  • How independent are your kids?
  • Do your children "need" to be in touch for safety reasons—or social ones?
  • How responsible are they?
  • Can they get behind the concept of limits for minutes talked and apps downloaded?
  • Can they be trusted not to text during class, disturb others with their conversations, and to use the text, photo, and video functions responsibly (and not to embarrass or harass others)?
  • Do they really need a smartphone that is also their music device, a portable movie and game player, and portal to the internet?
  • Do they need something that gives their location information to their friends—and maybe some strangers, too—as some of the new apps allow?
  • And do you want to add all the expenses of new data plans? (Try keeping your temper when they announce that their new smartphone got dropped in the toilet...)


This article originally appeared on 05.01.17

Democracy

This Map Reveals The True Value Of $100 In Each State

Your purchasing power can swing by 30% from state to state.

Image by Tax Foundation.

Map represents the value of 100 dollars.


As the cost of living in large cities continues to rise, more and more people are realizing that the value of a dollar in the United States is a very relative concept. For decades, cost of living indices have sought to address and benchmark the inconsistencies in what money will buy, but they are often so specific as to prevent a holistic picture or the ability to "browse" the data based on geographic location.

The Tax Foundation addressed many of these shortcomings using the most recent (2015) Bureau of Economic Analysis data to provide a familiar map of the United States overlaid with the relative value of what $100 is "worth" in each state. Granted, going state-by-state still introduces a fair amount of "smoothing" into the process — $100 will go farther in Los Angeles than in Fresno, for instance — but it does provide insight into where the value lies.


The map may not subvert one's intuitive assumptions, but it nonetheless quantities and presents the cost of living by geography in a brilliantly simple way. For instance, if you're looking for a beach lifestyle but don't want to pay California prices, try Florida, which is about as close to "average" — in terms of purchasing power, anyway — as any state in the Union. If you happen to find yourself in a "Brewster's Millions"-type situation, head to Hawaii, D.C., or New York. You'll burn through your money in no time.

income, money, economics, national average

The Relative Value of $100 in a state.

Image by Tax Foundation.

If you're quite fond of your cash and would prefer to keep it, get to Mississippi, which boasts a 16.1% premium on your cash from the national average.

The Tax Foundation notes that if you're using this map for a practical purpose, bear in mind that incomes also tend to rise in similar fashion, so one could safely assume that wages in these states are roughly inverse to the purchasing power $100 represents.


This article originally appeared on 08.17.17

What dog is best for you?


PawsLikeMe might know you better than you know yourself.

Hello from the other siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide!!! I'm a dog and I love youuuuuuuu!!!

Because PawsLikeMe knows about your dreams.

Your DOG dreams, that is.

How? A dog-human personality quiz!

A sophisticated one, too! From their website:

"The personality assessment is based on 4 core personality traits that influence the human-canine bond; energy, focus, confidence, and independence."

It also takes into account environmental factors and other special circumstances as well.

It's not uncommon for dogs that are adopted to be returned because they just aren't compatible with their owner's life.



PawsLikeMe aims to stop dog-owner mismatch by playing dog matchmaker! Its goal is to help people find the right dog for them.

Need a dog that's friendly with kids but loves learning tricks and is also house-trained? DONE. Have other specific requirements? DONE!

Ya got options.

When you go on the website, you can opt to just answer the four most important questions in a dog owner's life:

1. What's your energy level?

2. What kind of parties do you like?

3. What kind of dog personality do you want?

4. What is your personality like?

After those four questions, you can begin searching for a doggie match.

Or you can opt for the full questionnaire (you should) ... and basically feel very, VERY understood.

I took the full PawsLikeMe quiz, and when I saw the results I was kindof taken aback:


PawsLikeMe GETS ME!

Then I was the whisked away to dogs who are just ready to love me.

Listen. My apartment in NYC doesn't allow dogs. But if it did? I'd be 91% ready to adopt Carli. She's perfect, and I love her. CUE ADELE and her songs of lost opportunities to love!

With all the 80 gajillion personality quizzes out there in the world, this one is hands down THE BEST.

Take it for yourself! You won't regret it.


This article originally appeared on 11.06.15


New baby and a happy dad.


When San Francisco photographer Lisa Robinson was about to have her second child, she was both excited and nervous.

Sure, those are the feelings most moms-to-be experience before giving birth, but Lisa's nerves were tied to something different.

She and her husband already had a 9-year-old son but desperately wanted another baby. They spent years trying to get pregnant again, but after countless failed attempts and two miscarriages, they decided to stop trying.


Of course, that's when Lisa ended up becoming pregnant with her daughter, Anora. Since it was such a miraculous pregnancy, Lisa wanted to do something special to commemorate her daughter's birth.

So she turned to her craft — photography — as a way to both commemorate the special day, and keep herself calm and focused throughout the birthing process.

Normally, Lisa takes portraits and does wedding photography, so she knew the logistics of being her own birth photographer would be a somewhat precarious new adventure — to say the least.

pregnancy, hospital, giving birth, POV

She initially suggested the idea to her husband Alec as a joke.

Photo by Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

"After some thought," she says, "I figured I would try it out and that it could capture some amazing memories for us and our daughter."

In the end, she says, Alec was supportive and thought it would be great if she could pull it off. Her doctors and nurses were all for Lisa taking pictures, too, especially because it really seemed to help her manage the pain and stress.

In the hospital, she realized it was a lot harder to hold her camera steady than she initially thought it would be.

tocodynamometer, labor, selfies

She had labor shakes but would periodically take pictures between contractions.

Photo by Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

"Eventually when it was time to push and I was able to take the photos as I was pushing, I focused on my daughter and my husband and not so much the camera," she says.

"I didn't know if I was in focus or capturing everything but it was amazing to do.”

The shots she ended up getting speak for themselves:

nurse, strangers, medical care,

Warm and encouraging smiles from the nurse.

Photo by Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

experiment, images, capture, document, record

Newborn Anora's first experience with breastfeeding.

Photo by Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

"Everybody was supportive and kind of surprised that I was able to capture things throughout. I even remember laughing along with them at one point as I was pushing," Lisa recalled.

In the end, Lisa was so glad she went through with her experiment. She got incredible pictures — and it actually did make her labor easier.

Would she recommend every mom-to-be document their birth in this way? Absolutely not. What works for one person may not work at all for another.

However, if you do have a hobby that relaxes you, figuring out how to incorporate it into one of the most stressful moments in your life is a pretty good way to keep yourself calm and focused.

Expecting and love the idea of documenting your own birthing process?

Take some advice from Lisa: "Don't put pressure on yourself to get 'the shot'" she says, "and enjoy the moment as much as you can.”

Lisa's mom took this last one.

grandma, hobby, birthing process

Mom and daughter earned the rest.

Photo via Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

This article originally appeared on 06.30.16