Thursday, February 28th, 2002
I am writing after reading about Jennifer Portnik who was denied a teaching opportunity with Jazzercise solely because Jennifer does not meet the “fit appearance.” I was shocked and outraged to hear about this blatant act of fat prejudice. I am a student of many gym and martial arts classes. I enjoy exercise and have not only appreciated but benefitted from the diversity of backgrounds and talents of all my instructors regardless of their physical appearance. It was my instructors’ presence and spirit that so motivated me to partake in their classes, not the size and shape of their bodies.
More importantly, as the Media Literacy Director of About-Face (www.about-face.org), a nonprofit devoted to addressing the negative images of women in the media through education and activism, we work with Bay Area schools to conduct media literacy workshops. We work with adolescents to help them critically analyze the media images and messages they are bombarded with daily. They learn that media images are digitally enhanced and messages are strategically worded to create a sense of dissatisfaction- all for consumer purchase. We try to convey to adolescents to focus on their abilities and not let their physical appearance stop them from pursuing their goals. It is such an uphill battle for adolescents to feel good about themselves. Therefore, learning about Jennifer Portnik was so crushing to the body image acceptance work we are trying to do for adolescents. It send the wrong message to adolescents, conveying that one’s physical appearance determines the work he/she should do.
Through our About-Face workshops, we encourage adolescents to voice their opinions and write letters about advertising, policy, recent events, etc. they do not like- as I am doing right now. However, after hearing about Jennifer Portnik and seeing that fat prejudice continues to exist, it appears we have alot of work ahead of us to abolish these cruel ways of treating individuals in our society.
Thank you so much for your coverage of this event. Please continue with this coverage.
Marcella Raimondo, MPH
Media Literacy Director