Here’s a fun fact: These days, your average Aussie woman weighs in at about 70kgs and is about 163cm tall.
Last year, Body & Soul decided to take those statistics and perform a little experiment. They found a model that was 163cm tall and weighed about 70kg. Her name was Melanie Ward, and she was 35-years-old.
Body & Soul photographed Melanie in a crop top and a pair of shorts, and took a poster of her to the streets. They then crowd-sourced opinions, asking passers-by about whether they thought the model (name: Melanie, age: 33) was overweight.
Take a look at Melanie:
Interestingly, when the story ran, the majority of people said that Melanie was overweight. One woman called her fat. Another even asked, “how can this be the norm? How do people feel comfortable in such a state?”
And now, Melanie is back in the news again, after a federal Liberal MP discovered the story from last June, and reposted it on his Facebook page last week – voicing very similar opinions to those originally published in the article.
The MP is a not-particularly-well-known Queenslander named Andrew Laming. Mr Laming is also a doctor, and is evidently passionate about the the weight of Australians. When posting the link, he wrote: “So, is it OK to be overweight, if it is now average?”
Understandably, the debate was re-ignited. Women commented, accusing him of fat-shaming Melanie.
Federal Labor MP Kate Ellis said that it was an “appalling attack” and told Network Ten that we don’t need the government criticising women’s bodies – “we’ve got health experts and many others who will do that, and women themselves.”
While the original post has been deleted, Mr Laming has since defended himself on both his Facebook page and in the media. He told AAP: “I made no judgements about obesity… I haven’t made any comment at all on the image of the person. I simply asked a question to promote debate. I haven’t taken sides.”
He added on his Facebook page: “With rates of overweight/obesity increasing in Australia how do developed economies respond to this serious health issue given the fact that our average weight/height dimensions have crept outside of the normal BMI range?”
Admittedly, I can see what Laming was attempting to say by posting the original link. The rates of obesity are increasing in Australia, and this, in turn, has various repercussions on various systems. It’s absolutely an issue that would interest a Liberal MP, particularly one that is a doctor.
But I don’t support the idea of dismissing someone as overweight, and therefore unhealthy, based entirely on how they look.
After all – the original Body & Soul article article asked random people to make a judgement call about Melanie’s health, based on absolutely nothing except her appearance.
They didn’t inform people about her exercise habits, or her eating habits, or her medical history. They simply put up a big picture of her in a crop top and asked people to judge away.
Which is a seriously shitty thing to do, considering that you can really tell very little about a person’s health simply by looking at them.