Plus-Size Women, Reality TV: Is the Exposure Always Good?

The problem may be that until such a woman graces reality TV with her presence --former, feisty "America's Next Top Model" contestant Toccara Jones may be her closest cousin, though despite her curve confidence, she ended up on VH1's "Celebrity Fit Club: Boot Camp" shortly after the competition -- the market is flooded with full-figured females bemoaning their pant size and/or lack of dates.

"Dance Your A** Off" aims to make contestants have fun while losing weight.

To Feministing editor Mukhopadhyay, that perpetuates the impression that these women are to be pitied and fetishized for their size.

"On one level, it's good to have more images of larger women on TV because that act alone changes the way we look at people," she said. "But so many of them have low self-esteem, they're self-loathing, they talk about how no one loves them. It becomes this sort of spectacle. You really do wonder if all the stereotypes you've heard of fat people are true. On that level I do think it's exploitive."

But for Emme, executive producer Salsano and other advocates of seeing something other than skinny and slender profiles on TV, how plus-size women on reality TV are perceived isn't as important as the fact that they're on the air in increasing numbers.

"It's a thin line between exploitation and appreciation, but I feel the exposure is generally very positive," said Village Voice cultural critic Michael Musto. "You can't control the nasty comments of armchair critics out there in the dark."

"I'm convinced it increases acceptance," Salsano added. "We think they're being perceived in a positive light. We think they're a good influence. I mean, this is what our country looks like. And hopefully, people who watch this show, if they see a large woman on the beach in a bikini, they won't make fun of her."

Advocates of "More to Love" and similar series say showcasing plus-size women increases their acceptance.

If a random viewer chooses to chortle at a size 14 cha-cha-ing away her waistline or sneer at a single lady finding out her finger doesn't have to be bone thin for someone to put a ring on it, so be it. In the end, these women are where they want to be and with their presence, television's becoming a better reflection of what society actually looks like.

"Of course it would be great to see more plus-size women on TV," said Esther Rothblum, professor of women's studies at San Diego State University and co-editor of the soon-to-be released collection of essays, "The Fat Studies Reader." "It would be great to see them on sitcoms, reading the news, on advertisements -- the way we see people in general. Not to see them in negative ways, not to see them unhappy, not to see them trying to lose weight, but to see them as they are, as people."

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