'Muffin Top' Billboard Inspires Ire — and Vandalism
A billboard advertising the services of a plastic surgeon in Michigan has sparked a discussion of body image around the globe after it was given a facelift by vandals over the weekend. “Friends don’t let friends muffin top,” declares the Ann Arbor Plastic Surgery ad, which refers to the popular term for belly flab that hangs over the waistband of tight pants and features an image of muffins sitting in tins designed to look like jeans. But some anti-fat-shaming scofflaws crossed out the original message with purple spray paint, scrawling, “You’re beautiful!” across the top and adding smiley faces to each muffin, raising both ire and approval online.
“How are women ever supposed to feel good about themselves, or young women not diet to the point of anorexia, when you have the medical profession putting up billboards such as these?” wrote one commenter on Michigan news site MLive.com, which first reported the vandalism story. Others seized the opportunity to lob insults, such as the commenter who wrote, “Muffin tops are NOT beautiful! It’s a bunch of EXCESS body fat hanging out over the top of your pants! Gross! Get a grip people.”
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The story of the body-positive vandalism has been picked up by publications and tweeters from Alabama to the U.K., with commenters pretty much evenly split on whether the ad was funny or mean-spirited.
It was not the first time Ann Arbor Plastic Surgery, the business of Dr. Pramit Malhotra with offices in the cities of Ann Arbor and Jackson (where the billboard is located), sparked controversy with its message. The muffin-top billboard drew a slew of critical comments when it was unveiled on the company’s Facebook page in May. “Not a fan. I still think it makes people feel bad about their appearance,” wrote one woman, while another noted, “Your ads only perpetuate our culture’s mental illness… It’s not funny. It’s sad,” while a man added, “Personally it is distasteful. I am an overweight individual and strongly opposed to this type of service offered.” Other descriptions included “tacky,” “insulting,” and “body shaming,” with one person suggesting that the business advertise something “positive,” such as “reconstructive surgery after massive weight loss, burn scars, skin deformations from sickness or surgery…cleft palate.”
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