This has been coming up a lot lately so I thought I would discuss it again today. Let’s start here: the definition of oppression is “the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner; to burden with cruel or unjust impositions or restraints”.
The simplest explanation I can give is that as long as my government is waging a war against me (the War on Obesity) a war in which they are actively trying to involve everyone from employers to restaurants to healthcare providers and insurance companies in my eradication, against my will – and as long as there are people who assert that we should all hope for a world where people who look like me don’t exist because things might be cheaper – I will assert that I am the victim of oppression. I think that society’s attempt to police my body and rid the earth of me and everyone who looks like me, including but not limited to insisting that we risk our lives trying to become not fat, constitutes the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel and unjust manner. I don’t think you can say, “I want a world where no fat people exist” in a non-oppressive manner.
But let’s look at some other examples:
This article discusses workplace weight discrimination (which is legal almost everywhere) -trigger warning for possible victim blaming language
Here is a more scholarly article about workplace weight bias and wage discrimination
Professors who sit on admissions committees feel comfortable tweeting to the world that fat people can’t complete PhD’s based on their stereotypes of our eating habits.
If we work at Whole Foods, we wouldn’t get the same benefits package as my thin co-workers. Companies like Michelin and CVS would be happy to charge health insurance penalties based on how I look. No amount of healthy behaviors or metabolic health could get me the same benefits (which would still be massively problematic), I have to be thin, despite that fact that not a single study has ever achieved long term weight loss for more than a tiny fraction of people. This idea of rewarding thin employees and punishing fat employees at the workplace (aptly nicknamed “Carrot and Stick” benefits) is gaining popularity.
Studies show that 24% of nurses said that they are “repulsed” by fat people. More than half of the 620 primary care doctors questioned described obese patients as “awkward, unattractive, ugly, and unlikely to comply with treatment.”
Access to medical care is a massive issue. I’ve personally had doctors refuse to set my broken toe unless i agreed to go to a class about weight loss surgery, tell me that my strep throat is due to my weight (and admit the lie when confronted, but defend that no matter what was wrong with me I would feel better if I lost weight), try to lie to me about my blood pressure to scare me into weight loss (and try to justify the lie as “for my own good” when confronted). I’ve been prescribed weight loss for anemia, a dislocated shoulder, and strep throat, and I’ve had experimental medicine practiced on me without informed consent or permission and so have most fat people.
I get so much hate mail for being public about loving my body and rejecting diet culture that I created a separate website for it.
We can get almost 400,000 negative messages about our bodies every year.
As a fat woman people feel comfortable making comments about what I eat, mooing at me out of cars, throwing eggs at me while I exercise, blaming me for everything from global warming to world hunger with absolutely no proof, and being unspeakably rude.
Behaviors that are considered unhealthy for thin people are encouraged for me.
People argue that I deserve to be shamed and ridiculed because my body proves that I’m not being personally responsible.
We have to be concerned that professionals who work with us will use their position to enforce their prejudices against us.
People who look like me are not allowed to have any success, except weight loss, without the ridiculous accusation that we are promoting obesity. This creates a situation where people try to make sure that I neither have role models who look like me, nor am I a role model to others.
People posit that because we are fat we are not capable of making decisions for myself and, if not told exactly what to eat, will simply binge on Twinkies and call it healthy eating. Not to mention the fact what we eat is none of anyone’s business and that people who have no desire to have their eating behaviors policed feel justified in suggesting that mine should be policed because of how I look.
We are told that because we are fat we’re not a credible witness to OUR OWN experience and that other people know better than we do how we behave, what we think, and what we truly want
Not to mention that studies funded by people who profit from selling weight loss that make ridiculous claims about fat people, from which they profit, are published as factual news
And again, even for fat people who want to try to sole oppression by giving our oppressors what they want, there is not a shred of evidence that any intervention will be successful at changing our weight long-term.
So yeah, these are my observations and they leave me to believe that fat people are being oppressed. I’m not trying to say we are more or less oppressed than any other group. I don’t believe in wasting time playing the Oppression Olympics. I believe in stepping up and getting involved which is why I do what I do. I think the idea that oppression is too strong a word is one of the things that keeps us oppressed which is why I use it. That said, I don’t speak for all fat people, only myself.
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