One of the really interesting things that I notice whenever someone points out that the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not size dependent (and so fat people should be able to exist in fat bodies without being stigmatized, bullies, shamed or oppressed,) or when someone points out the research about the failure rates of dieting, people respond by insisting that what we are saying is “dangerous”. And it’s that specific world “dangerous”. As in “You need to stop spreading these dangerous lies.”
I always think: Well, I’m talking about civil rights and research and you’re talking out of your ass, so remind me again which one of us is telling dangerous lies?
I often notice that that word “dangerous” is used to try to shout down ideas that are progressive. Letting some consenting adults get married is “dangerous”, people questioning the banks is “dangerous”. And it’s not a new thing – suggesting that the Earth revolved around the sun was “dangerous”, women’s suffrage was “dangerous”.
Often the idea is to use fear to interrupt progress by those benefiting from the status quo. Historically it works for a while but the thing about evidence and science and civil rights is that it doesn’t matter if people call them dangerous or ridiculous or stick their fingers in their ears and scream la la la la la or whatever, at the end of the day the truth is still the truth.
What astounds me is the people who aren’t using it as a tactic, but truly believe that “everybody knows” is the same thing as “right and true.” This has happened repeatedly in our history – doctors giving pregnant women thalidomide, or prescribing heroin as a cough suppressant or using lysol as a douche (I know, right!) Scientists have made myriad discoveries that disproved what “everybody knew”, doctors have prescribed things that ended up not working or causing heinous side effects, yet somehow there is a vocal group of people who seem to think it’s not possible for that to have happened again. And so instead of learning from the past, noticing the mistakes faster and changing course with more agility and speed, they cling to “Everybody knows” and call those who disagree with them “dangerous”.
One of the techniques that I use to help me deal with this kind of thing is laughing at how ridiculous it is. Please note, this isn’t for everyone or for every situation – it’s just another arrow for your quiver if you want it to deal with the kind of BS that we (shouldn’t have to) face.
Let’s say that someone suggests I should go on a diet. I just give them a look of disbelief, a quick snort of a laugh and say “Are people still peddling that? I thought everybody knew that weight loss doesn’t work.”
Or someone says “You need to [insert weight loss script] blah blah blah”. I laugh and shake my head. (That typically gets them to stop mid-sentence.) Then I ask “So, how do you reconcile your pro-diet views with the findings of Matheson et.al,?” That gets a confused look. So I give a confused, slightly disbelieving look back and say “Wei et. al.?” Another confused look. Then, with a decent amount of surprise “Really?” (as if I was certain they’d know about that one,) then continue “Bacon and Aphramor, Mann and Tomiyama, the Cooper Institute studies?” I’m prepared to have conversations about all of these, but so far in my experience the people I’ve spoken to, including doctors, haven’t read them and can’t have such a discussion. So then I just say “I’m sorry but it sounds like you haven’t done enough research to be qualified to give me advice on this. I’ll be happy to give you the links though.” If you want to know more about the research just scroll to the bottom of this post.
I don’t think that a multi-billion dollar industry built on lies, stigma, bullying, repeated failure and physical harm is particularly funny, nor do I think that people who shame, stigmatize, bully and oppress fat people are hilarious. But having the ability to laugh in the face of all that crap makes can be a way to declare another small victory. Those small victories add up to bigger victories and before you know it we’ve made major progress and I guess if you’re someone who enjoys bullying fat people, or profiting from selling weight loss, that does make us very “dangerous” people.
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