Hashtag fight WHAT?! (Special K got it all kinds of wrong.)

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed one day (every day, all day, whatever…) and came across this sponsored post that Facebook thought I might enjoy:

Special K ad

Well, you thought right, Facebook! This does sound like something I might be interested in, doesn’t it?

Interested in because I want to rip it a new one!!

But it’s not ok to just rant about something. It’s important to do your homework. So in that moment (that angry, angry moment), I took a screen shot, saved the picture to my phone, and went on with my life until I had time to do some thinking, some reading, some more thinking, some writing, and some posting about it. That time is now.

–cue music–

Special K says they want to #fightfattalk because it “is a barrier to managing our weight…” Mmmm hmmmm…

You know what else is a barrier to “managing our weight”??? Things like television, internet, and print ads that suggest we subsist on nothing but cereal for 2 weeks so that we can lose weight, feel better in a bikini, go to the beach without a cover up, and “gain” other things when we “lose” the weight.

I call BS on this ad. BS on the whole of Special K, and by extension, the entire Kellogg’s brand (sorry, Michigan, I just can’t support this kind of behavior!).

And even if it weren’t for the irony of Special K’s ad campaign, I still don’t like the phrase “fat talk” because it implies that fat is bad. Always. And that to be fat is to be bad, to talk about being fat is to talk about being bad, and that the word fat should be banned from our vernacular entirely just like being fat should be banned from our lives.


People can be fat. They can be thin. They can be skinny, obese, rotund, chunky, sickly, muscular, pale, flabby, large, small, tan, cross-eyed, etc, etc, etc… and all of those things are nothing more than physical descriptors. Not one of them has any inherent value attached to it. Yet, these are the hooks on which we tend to hang our self worth. Why? Well, that’s an entire book. A series, even. But to be sure, media campaigns like this don’t help. And we can’t forget what Special K’s actual purpose is:

To sell cereal.

Special K does not care if you engage in fat talk or not. They do not care whether you are fat or thin. They do not care about any of those physical descriptors listed above. All they care about is you buying their cereal. And if pretending to care about body image is going to help them do that, then by all means, they can pretend.

Not that I can blame Special K for that, really. I mean, it literally is their job to sell cereal… not to look after the mental health and emotional well-being of society. I get that. But maybe Tyra Banks, with her history of issues with body image and all her ginormous scope of influence, could recognize a marketing ploy and not lend her name or her very, very famous face (did you see her smiling… with just her eyes???) to a campaign that is downright damaging.

If you actually go to Special K’s Fight Fat Talk website (slogan “Shhhhut down fat talk”) I think you’ll see what I’m talking about. They suggest that you use social media to tag positive posts with #fightfattalk and they have a little tool that will allow you to scan your Facebook networks to see how common body-focused negative self talk (my phrase, not theirs… like I said, I don’t dig the notion of “fat talk” specifically) is in your social networks. But beyond that? The point of the site is clearly to sell you their cereal… not to improve anyone’s body image by actually promoting body positivity.

First up, a Google search for “Special K fight fat talk” is headed up by an ad for the Special K 2 week diet… you know, the one where you starve yourself on two bowls of cereal and a chicken breast per day.

Special K google search

So then you actually click on the site. It has numbers. Numbers. It says there are over 12.4 million “actual fat talk found online”… ummm, what? Instances of? Where is this number from? How was it curated? I just… I don’t… I can’t… ugh…

Special K website

And all that this site has about actually “fighting” fat talk is right there in front of you. That’s. It. Use our hashtag, eat our cereal, save the world, one sad lady at a time.

Because, you see, when you click on anything else– why they believe positivity matters, the Gains Project (Special K’s famous “What will you gain when you lose?” campaign that asks women to imagine how much better their lives will be if they just weren’t fat anymore…), the “My Special K Plans” link, the products, recipes, and articles. It’s all there to sell you cereal.

And like I said, I can’t really blame Special K for trying this tactic. It’s been working for Dove and body positivity is a hot topic right now… I just hope that women don’t buy into it.

Negative self talk is a problem for everyone, women and men, thin and fat. Fat, per se, is not the problem. Rather, it’s the notion that our identity hinges on something physical or superficial. That’s what we need to fight. And I don’t think we need Special K to help us.






9 thoughts on “Hashtag fight WHAT?! (Special K got it all kinds of wrong.)

  1. great message, Rachel! I JUST read an article about Dove the other day (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/21/dove-real-beauty-campaign-turns-10_n_4575940.html). I benefited from all their free samples in college (got a BAG of shampoo and conditioner samples, which caused me to switch and stop brushing my hair and I didn’t buy deodorant for a year) but I also love some of the videos they put out. I think it’s been a positive force– I know it’s been positive for me. BUT, it also mentioned that they really haven’t made a difference in the parent company’s marketing (Unilever also sells Axe) and questions why they’d still sell something like cellulite-firming lotion if they weren’t capitalizing on women’s insecurities.

    Also, a big difference between Dove and Special K is that Dove isn’t even saying “you’ll look prettier if you use our soap.” Special K’s website is all about getting you to buy their gross cereal (seriously, special K is probably the grossest one I can think of) and for as long as I can remember I’ve known that only eating cereal is not healthy! #Ieatrealfood

    1. I totally agree about Dove! They don’t make the same kind of promises that Special K does. They aren’t prefect, and it still an obvious ploy for sales considering other Unilever brands as you say, BUT I do think they do a MUCH better job than Special K of getting the message right.

      Regardless of their “message” the underlying purpose of every ad is to sell something… so we really can’t rely on corporations of any type to help us feel better about ourselves. It’s just a nice bonus when they do, a la Dove! 🙂

  2. also I just saw that your biggest words in your “tags” box are FAMILY, FRIENDS, KINDNESS and LOVE. Perfect. 🙂

  3. Good post Rachel! Just about all advertising revolves around getting us feel insecure about ourselves and to buy whatever is being pushed to raise our self-esteem.

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