Tears of pain and laughter

23rd July 2004 at 01:00
I was pleased to have my article printed in Talkback (TES, Friday magazine, July 9). My article, my name - and that cartoon. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. In the end I did both.

The cartoon which accompanied my article about combating an eating disorder and obesity to raise money for my daughter's skating team was funny, but so painful.

The fact that The TES deemed it acceptable to laugh at a fat woman so desperately craving food that she would eat someone else's shopping undermines both the point I wanted to make and my own self-esteem. The humour was aimed at the uncontrollable compulsion to eat, which is the shameful, humiliating core of an eating disorder. I feel that this was, at best, insensitive.

Amid the cacophony of voices slamming the obese, I wanted to present an alternative vision, to speak for those of us who are obese not because of laziness and greed but because of real problems with food. I hoped to counteract the stereotypes of fat women lazing around guzzling chocolate and feeding junk food to their couch-potato kids by portraying my struggle, my pain, my efforts to keep fit, and my determination to help my daughter in her very active pursuits. I feel the cartoon both subverted this attempt and reinforced the stereotype which I wished to oppose.

I wonder if you would have thought more carefully about the target of your humour had I been anorexic rather than obese, or had I been trying to counteract stereotypes about Muslims, fundamentalist Christians or black, inner-city kids?

Jo Lally Havant college New Road, Havant, Hampshire

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