If a stranger approached you with questions about your body size, would you answer them? What if the questions were being asked by a radio talk-show host with thousands of people listening?
If you’re not already uncomfortable, consider this:
What if, based on a series of superficial questions about your job, eating habits and sex life, thousands of people guessed whether you were “fat” or “skinny”?
That’s the horrifying premise of the game “Fat Chick/Skinny Chick” on Alt 98.7’s “The Woody Show,” a Los Angeles-based weekday morning show that purports to “talk about the things that are important to all of us.” But since when is judging and publicly degrading a woman based on her size something that’s important to anyone?
The game starts with the DJs asking the participant a series of questions, and then filing the answers under a “fat” or “skinny” column. During one show, for example, they rationalized that if you’re married, you’re more likely to be skinny, while if you feel confident with your oral sex skills, you’re probably fat, since skinny girls “won’t do that stuff.” Listeners then text in their votes (fat or skinny) and the DJs open a picture of the participant and reveal whether they guessed “correctly”.
After hearing this segment for the first time this month (though it has been on the radio since at least 2014), I emailed the producer and strongly suggested the station take it off the air. As a graduate student in the public health field who actively works to reduce stigmas, this show only perpetuates them. What does the impressionable 15-year-old girl, who might not be the skinniest, think after she listens to this? Does she need to start giving oral sex in order to get a boy to like her? Should she stop eating if she ever wants to get married? My email included questions like these, and urged the producers to use their show to encourage healthy lifestyles rather than perpetuate negative stereotypes about women.
At work the next day, I received an onslaught of texts from friends telling me to turn on the radio: The show was responding to my email on-air. The responses included the following: “Go make me some bacon and eggs”; “Get the fuck out”; “You’re either on-board with this kind of humor and take things with a grain of salt … or you’re not allowed to listen anymore”; “I’m not going to apologize for having the lowest common denominator simple kind of fun”; “Get that stick out of there”, and my personal favorite, “How do people like Allison get through life if they can’t understand nuance, subtlety and tone?” “The Woody Show” DJs further responded by posting to their Twitter account a screenshot of a Facebook post—from my private account—in which I express my frustration with the segment. The post exposed my full name and photo, and prompted the show’s followers to berate me for calling out their distorted idea of “fun.”
Here’s the thing: I understand nuance, subtlety and tone, and I think the DJs on “The Woody Show” truly believe that they understand them, too. But what these DJs fail to recognize is the impact their voices have. Many of their listeners don’t take what the DJs say with a grain of salt. Instead, they take what these DJs say as tacit permission to emulate their behavior in words and actions, whether it’s a quick sexist comment or a more serious offense, like sexual assault.
At the end of my initial email, I wrote that my friends and I pledged not to listen to “The Woody Show” anymore, which made the DJs snicker. I only have so many friends to join my boycott, so I’m asking as many allies as possible to boycott the show until Alt 98.7 cancels “Fat Chick/Skinny Chick” permanently. Please help stand up to misogyny and sexism and get that game off the air. Sign my petition today!