Thursday, March 19, 2009

Junk Food and Stereotypical Images of Indians: Bad for you!


rebecca said...

Hi Debbie,

Could you explain the point(s) you're making in using the junk food images here, beyond the "bad for you" phrase?


Debbie Reese said...


Research studies have shown that...

Junk food is bad for the body. Among their bad effects are that they contribute to heart disease and obesity.

Stereotypical images of American Indians are bad because they contribute to ignorance. They are harmful to Native students whose self-esteem is depressed after seeing them, and they are harmful to non-Native students whose self-esteem is elevated after seeing them. I am applying Stephanie Fryberg's research here. In her studies, students are shown images of Pocahontas (which many view as a positive image) and Chief Wahoo (which is a negative one). Whether positive or negative, it didn't matter. The outcome was the same.

Junk food and stereotypes of American Indians are easy to find.

What are your thoughts, Rebecca?

rebecca said...

Thanks for answering and asking, Debbie.

I agree 100% about the harmfulness of stereotypical images of American Indians. They're poisonous all around, and poisonous to a vastly higher degree to the Indian kids (and adults) who see them. And they're viral -- their wrongness goes out into mainstream culture and reinscribes racism all over the place.

I'm not sure the junk food comparison works for me, because although some people eat "too much" junk food and it is readily available, there are also plenty of people worrying "too much" -- to the detriment of their self esteem and the rest of their life -- about eating healthfully.

I know I disagree with the junk food comparison now that you've brough the concept of "obesity" into the mix. The supposed "obesity crisis" is rife with myths. Unhealthful eating habits do not always cause fatness, and you can't tell anything about a fat person's lifestyle (eating, exercise, etc) just by looking at them. The idea that fat people exist because of junk food and overeating is patently wrong. Fat people exist because some bodies are thin and some are fat. Fat people in our culture suffer heinous stereotyping and material discrimination; kids are bullied every day for being fat, on the playground and by doctors and teachers.

I invite you to look at a blog called Shapely Prose, especially an entry called But Don't You Realize Fat Is Unhealthy?, and also any entry on the blog Junkfood Science, which debunks myths about fatness and exposes the corporations and medical biases behind the myths.


hschinske said...

Debbie, have you seen this?


Debbie Reese said...


No, I hadn't seen that. I've seen plenty of the trucks, though... And all manner of such imagery when we drive from Illinois to New Mexico.