A new book by Erin Nieto inspired me to revive this post on bodies and BMI.

Click here to see a flickr slide show of dozens of people, starting with those below, with their BMI label (“underweight,” “normal,” “overweight,” “obese,” and “morbidly obese”). There’s something about seeing all these nice looking people with these judgmental labels applied to them that reveals that the BMI is a social construction. Also it’s a good illustration of the Foucauldian idea that knowledge (discourse, or even “science”) is used to label and control people, especially when it is internalized.

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Erin Nieto’s project, How Much Do You Weigh, also puts the body front-and-center, challenging us re-think what numbers mean.  She counterposes photographs of volunteers with the number on the scale.  These women model a refusal to be embarrassed by their weight and show us the imprecision of the number itself.

See more images at Nieto’s tumblr.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
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