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The Fat-Hate Epidemic

January 24, 2012

Originally posted on Transmeditations.

As Heard on Entertainment Tonight on January 23, 2012:

“TV’s overweight chefs: can they cook healthy?

TV’s overweight chefs: Is it time they changed their fattening ways?”

Of course, this lovely little story came out because of Paula Deen’s announcement that she has Type II Diabetes.  One of the first phrases the story used was the “obesity epidemic.”  This was after sitting through part of the The Dr. Oz Show, which was about gastric bypass surgery.  The show felt like a paid infomercial, with doctors and patients absolutely beaming about the wonders of this surgery.  In addition, one of the main thrusts of the show was: WLS—it’s not just for the morbidly obese anymore!  Dr. Oz and Co. were absolutely thrilled that only slightly and moderately overweight people are now getting on board to have their stomachs amputated.  In fact, Dr. Oz repeatedly bemoaned the fact that only 1% of those eligible are actually getting gastric bypass.  The good news is that insurers are increasingly covering WLS for more and more people, even those deemed only “moderately” overweight.   Why?  Because it cures diabetes!  Or at least that was the gist of this fat-hating hour of American television guised in concern about “health.”

I think I am particularly sensitive to this (since it is more of the same, standard onslaught) because of the recent Strong4Life campaign. Strong4Life is a defamation project targeting youth of size in Georgia, relying on extreme fat-hate to drive home its alarmist messages.  This hate-campaign includes lovely little lines like this: “Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid.”  Hmmmm, maybe I’m wrong, but isn’t it fate-hate, fatphobic prejudice, and anti-fat bullying that make a kid of size’s life less fun, as any form of abuse or bigotry would tend to do?  Let’s replace “fat” with some other social identity categories, for comparison purposes.  I am not saying all of these identities are the same, but rather strategically deploying them to make a very obvious point:

Being Black takes the fun out of being a kid.

Being Disabled takes the fun out of being a kid.

Being Gay takes the fun out of being a kid.

Being Poor takes the fun out of being a kid.

Being a Girl takes the fun out of being a kid.

Being Transgender takes the fun out of being a kid.

Being Muslim takes the fun out of being a kid.

In case you didn’t catch my very obvious point, here it is: the problem is not with the kid’s disadvantaged social identity.  Being Fat, or Black, or Queer, or Disabled, may well make a kid’s life less fun.  But this is not the fault of the kid who is just trying to live their life.  It is the fault of the systemic weightism, racism, heterosexism, and ableism that are the norm in our social, cultural, political landscape.  The goal should not be to change the fat kid to make them conform to thin-supremacist ideals, but change the culture itself to stop shaming, bullying and oppressing its fat citizens.

The whole campaign is ass-backwards.  But, this is not surprising since this is the problem with the whole “obesity epidemic” to begin with.  The problem is not with the rising weight of the populace, but with the way in which the so-called obesity epidemic is culturally allowed to mask systemic anti-fat discrimination, ubiquitous cultural prejudice, and deep-seated disgust for fatness.  When, oh when, are we going to have a national conversation about the epidemic of anti-fat hatred and anti-fat bullying happening all over our nation and in most of our schools?  While we have yet another discussion about the “obesity epidemic” more fat kids will be harmed by hate.  More fat adults will ponder suicide because they face so much hostility.  More fat people will be denied employment, promotions and raises simply because of their size.  More fat people will receive bigoted medical care and risk never returning to the doctor because they are made to feel so awful from their providers.   More fat people will look to the media for positive images of themselves and be told they are ugly, sexless, and forever single and alone.  It is this epidemic, the fat-hate epidemic, that we must combat with full-frontal force, not some thin-supremacist desire to make everyone the same skinny size.  Hell, I half-expect the next Dr. Oz to take WLS even further:  how about EVERYONE just goes ahead and gets WLS, you know, as a preemptive strike against fatness.  That way thin folks can be assured of a lifetime of slenderness, and not have to eat barely anything to help keep that pesky fear of fat at constant bay.

HELL NO!  Some of us are standing up, and some of us are fighting back.   We will not allow this sick society to make us feel bad about who we are.  To end, I’d like to flip the script on Entertainment Tonight:

TV’s fat-hating media: can they stop producing images that promote prejudice, bigotry and low self-esteem?

TV’s fat-hating media: can they finally realize that people come in all shapes and sizes and stop running reports that stigmatize people of size and promote alarmist hysteria about fatties dropping like flies?  Can they promote Health At Every Size and join forces with the fat movement to fight this cancerous form of hatred known as fatphobia?


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