Stef (firecat) wrote,

Talking back to ridiculous, fear-mongering notions about how much people weigh

National Public Radio (NPR) has a web page asking for comments on the topic "What does it mean to live in a nation where one out of every three people is obese." (The nation in question is the United States.)

The lead-in to the comment section says:
Americans are getting bigger. And it's not just changing our health, but our nation's infrastructure, spending habits, economy and state of mind. What changes have you noticed to the way we live? 

Tell us here. Your response will help shape a national reporting project on obesity.
Here are the comments I left them.

What conversations do you have - or avoid having - about weight?

As a fat activist, I regularly have conversations about how fat hatred is a major weapon in keeping women, people of color, and people in poverty from gaining power; about how fat hatred in medical professionals and in society in general harms people; about how fat is not the health risk most people think it is; and about the beauty of people of all size. I encourage people to investigate Health at Every Size and I encourage people affected by fat hatred to group together, because having other people around who share the view that fatness is no big deal helps a person resist the hateful messages. I maintain a web site of fat friendly health professionals and a web site of clothing resources for fat people.

How, if at all, has our country's collective weight gain affected what you buy, how you travel or how you work and play?

A few providers of goods and services have recognized that fat people are a significant economic force and have changed their offerings to accommodate fat people. It's still difficult for fat people to find clothing and travel accommodations but it's easier than it used to be a couple of decades ago.

But mostly, people's gaining weight does not affect me at all. What affects me are the messages of hatred about weight gain. I avoid buying or otherwise exposing myself to products and services that promote fat hatred. I've given up watching TV partly because of all the fat hating messages I see on TV.

What, if any, other changes to your daily life have you noticed that you didn't mention above?

The moral panic called the "obesity epidemic" has gone hand in hand with increased popularity of the notion that a person's health status determines their worth, that their weight determines their health status, and that their weight is 100% controllable—therefore, that you can tell someone's moral worth by looking at them (thin=good, worthy; fat=bad, unworthy). I encounter messages like this every day and I feel sad and frustrated about them, because I believe they are harming people and their relationships with others, and because they are distracting people from seeing and working on solutions to social problems that might really benefit the world.

Anything else you'd like to tell us about this topic?

I'm disappointed in NPR for promoting fat-phobia with its spin on this topic. "What does it mean to live in a nation where one out of every three people is obese?" It means that the government and people of this nation have created an arbitrary and meaningless label that has nothing to do with health, worth, or anything else of value, and have burdened the whole citizenry with it: Not just the one out of every three people that get stuck with the label, but also all the people who worry about gaining weight (and possibly develop eating disorders) and who worry about their friends and relatives who are stuck with the label.

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