Leave Fat People Alone

Yeah so I probably come off as a total dick in my last post.

I actually find the stigma against overweight people repellent, especially the way fat-phobic comments come packaged in this utterly styrofoam concern about health.

I’ve been in situations where friends or acquaintances have pointed out obese people on the street to mock them (‘Her poor shoes!’), and I doubt that me saying ‘Actually, I know her. She eats super-healthy, swims twice a week and has cholesterol levels below yours.’ would make them reconsider.

Obese people are stigmatized for the same reason everyone else is: Because they don’t fit our norm of attractiveness. The health thing is just a disguise for primary school-level neener-neenering.

The problem, of course, is that being obese actually is bad for your health, at least generally. The obese woman you’re mocking on the street does, statistically, have a higher chance of heart disease, cancer and osteoperosis than the skinny woman walking the other direction.

The overweight community often wants to downplay this, arguing that its perfectly possible to be healthy and overweight at the same time. It probably is, but it’s not the case that Western countries are growing in size alone. We’re getting fatter, and we’re getting sicker.

None of this, however, is a justification for being shitty to fat people.

The obese woman you’re laughing at probably does, in fact, eat too much and exercise too little. But neither of those things are themselves stigmatized. You don’t point and laugh at someone of normal size who orders two Big Macs for lunch. You don’t mock your friends who never go to the gym or bike to work.

We only care how much someone eats or exercises if its visible on the outside. It’s the display of their unhealth that we find unforgivable, not its content.

2 Comments

Filed under Serious

2 responses to “Leave Fat People Alone

  1. elephantwoman

    I believe we had this discussion when we last saw each other. Although I am of course totally anti-stigmatisation of fat people, I am really anti the “fat pride” movement which dismisses the evidence and believes that it’s okay to be big. It kind of isn’t, actually.

    Interesting to think about this in light of the way smokers have been stigmatized…it’s been arguably unethical to, at times, make people feel like pariahs, even if it’s for their own good. I guess the lesson is we need to be careful how we approach these sensitive issues in our public health campaigns.

  2. Hey Mike, great to have your blog back on a democratic platform.

    Still haven’t had the time to flick through the pictures you sent us about Trento, although I wrote a post beginning from the graffiti one.

    Needless to say, I agree with your political correctness in this piece! By the way-a, I love mocking gym junkies as you 😉

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