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Wrongly or rightly, I think of the Utne Reader as one of the voices of the upper-middle-class self-righteous "progressiver-than-thou" movement, which has so far been more of an enemy of fat activism than an ally. So when I found out that they published two articles that are critical of current rhetoric around fat and obesity, I felt like maybe the message was getting through to some people who are usually anti-fat.

"The Food Police: Why Michael Pollan makes me want to eat Cheetos by Julie Guthman, from Gastronomica has this important comment:
In a course I taught, Politics of Obesity, I was not surprised by the number of students who wrote in their journals of their hidden “fatness” or eating disorders. The number of entries that stated how the course itself had produced body anxiety and intensified concern over diet and exercise, however, was shocking, given that much of the material was critical of obesity talk. The philosopher Michel Foucault might have called this the “productive” power of obesity talk—naming a behavior as a problem intensifies anxiety about that behavior.
This is really true for me and it's why I limit how much I read about fat and obesity—even the positive fat-activist stuff makes me feel uncomfortable sometimes. Every once in a while I'd like to just get through a day without thinking about how my body is at the center of a huge cultural debate about Good and Eeevul.

The article also does a good job getting at the moral angle behind "obesity rhetoric", how fatness has come to stand in for sin and thinness for moral superiority, without reference to how anyone actually behaves. So does this one: Shame on US: How an obsession with obesity turned fat into a moral failing by Hannah Lobel. Excerpt: "We continue to treat obesity as if it’s either an original sin we’re born with and must repent or a cardinal sin we choose to commit."

I did not read the comments on either article. Articles like this tend to attract some fat-hating comments, so approach at your own risk.

Comments

( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
ljgeoff
Feb. 26th, 2008 01:30 am (UTC)
I'm going to be giving a presentation on HAES on campus, in April.

The main thing that I want to get across is that we all control the shape of our bodies about as much as we control the color of our skin. Yeah, we can be a little thinner if we exercise, but it's similar to being a little more or less dark if we decide to tan or not.

I'd appreciate any thoughts you might have on this. I haven't written the presentation yet.

Edited at 2008-02-26 01:31 am (UTC)
firecat
Feb. 26th, 2008 01:44 am (UTC)
I'm going to be giving a presentation on HAES on campus, in April.

Cool!

The main thing that I want to get across is that we all control the shape of our bodies about as much as we control the color of our skin.

Yeah, body shape and size are pretty much genetic.

we can be a little thinner if we exercise

I would say that "some people get thinner when they exercise." But some people don't, and some people gain weight (because muscle is denser than fat). Some people's body shape changes when they exercise - not drastically, but even if they don't lose weight they might find their measurements are different.

But there's no single truth about what happens to people's bodies when they exercise - EXCEPT that it's almost a universal truth that people who exercise regularly have better health indicators than people who don't. And that's true regardless of a person's weight.
cakmpls
Feb. 26th, 2008 01:42 am (UTC)
I dislike all tendencies to frame things as moral issues when they...aren't. Besides this one, I think the most common current one is clutter.

I mean, it's not as if there aren't enough real moral issues to deal with.
firecat
Feb. 26th, 2008 01:45 am (UTC)
And don't forget gardening.
dawnd
Feb. 26th, 2008 04:04 am (UTC)
Wow. This subthread has just clarified why there is so little for me to talk about with my mother -- a thin, conservative Christian woman who spends an inordinate amount of time cleaning and organizing, and thinks that everyone should WANT to garden. No wonder she's obsessed with "saving" me -- and if she can't save me, she'll try to save my children instead. *sigh*
(no subject) - firecat - Feb. 26th, 2008 05:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - prairierabbit - Feb. 26th, 2008 10:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Feb. 26th, 2008 11:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
innerdoggie
Feb. 26th, 2008 11:58 pm (UTC)
Wow, I hadn't known that people were turning clutter into a moral issue. I thought they were turning into a psych disorder (I bought a self-help book on clutter, for example).

I suppose housekeeping has always been something similar to a moral issue, but maybe it was closer to manners than morals.

Recycling is a moral issue, but it sure conflicts with clutter as a moral issue. If I am a Good Recycler, then my house is full of ugly clutter from all my recycling bins.
(no subject) - firecat - Feb. 27th, 2008 12:01 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - innerdoggie - Feb. 27th, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Feb. 27th, 2008 06:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - innerdoggie - Feb. 27th, 2008 11:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
epi_lj
Feb. 26th, 2008 02:00 am (UTC)
Elements of this have really put some things together for me.
firecat
Feb. 26th, 2008 02:02 am (UTC)
I'm curious what things got put together...
(no subject) - epi_lj - Feb. 26th, 2008 02:09 am (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Feb. 26th, 2008 02:16 am (UTC)
Hannal Lobel's article
Pollution causes obesity!! LOL! Not so.

But Hannal's article really wasn't bad. The references could have been more carefully chosen, but it didn't detract from the piece.

dawnd
Feb. 26th, 2008 03:55 am (UTC)
Re: Hannal Lobel's article
Pollution causes obesity!!

You know, I actually went to a talk given by a guy who claimed exactly that--that the toxins in our environment were somehow causing us to become fat. It's amazing what people will try to sell their stuff. What's really sad though, is how many people bought that line of BS, probably mostly because of the cultural self-hatred.
Re: Hannal Lobel's article - firecat - Feb. 26th, 2008 06:06 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hannal Lobel's article - innerdoggie - Feb. 27th, 2008 11:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hannal Lobel's article - bunnybutt - Feb. 26th, 2008 10:19 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hannal Lobel's article - dawnd - Feb. 26th, 2008 04:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hannal Lobel's article - bunnybutt - Feb. 26th, 2008 06:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hannal Lobel's article - firecat - Feb. 26th, 2008 05:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hannal Lobel's article - firecat - Feb. 26th, 2008 05:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hannal Lobel's article - dawnd - Feb. 26th, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hannal Lobel's article - (Anonymous) - Feb. 26th, 2008 07:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hannal Lobel's article - bunnybutt - Feb. 26th, 2008 07:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
anansi133
Feb. 26th, 2008 02:28 am (UTC)
I gave up on Utne when they posted a story extolling the virtues of Wallmart since its PR cleanup campaign. When they first came out, there was some real substance there, but now it's just another lightweight lifestyle magazine.
sarahmichigan
Feb. 26th, 2008 11:55 am (UTC)
I'm glad I'm not the only size/fat activist who needs a break from reading body image/size acceptance stuff occasionally. One of the goals of size acceptance to me, personally, is to make body size a non-issue in most venues (because it's an issue all kinds of places it doesn't *need* to be), and it's hard to make it a non-issue if I'm constantly reading and thinking about it.
dawnd
Feb. 26th, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
You can count me in to this group. I'm barely nibbling at the beginnings of size activism, and I have to do it in cycles. Otherwise I get too depressed and angry.
(Anonymous)
Feb. 26th, 2008 07:43 pm (UTC)
One More From UR
There's one more article in the same section from Utne Reader:

Love Your Fat Self
http://www.utne.com/2008-01-01/Politics/Love-Your-Fat-Self.aspx
innerdoggie
Feb. 27th, 2008 12:01 am (UTC)
Thank you for the links. I'll try to read them.

Somehow the urge to eat Cheetos reminds me of my vegan friend who called Science in the Public Interest the "Don't Eat That Society". Even though he was a strict vegan, he felt they were a bunch of hectoring busy-bodies. And he did like his cheeto-like snax, too.
( 33 comments — Leave a comment )

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