I often talk about the war on obesity in terms of the way in which it’s goal is to eradicate fat people. Every once in a while someone will object to my use of the term eradication. They say that even though these people are vocal about their desire for a world without fat people, they’re not actually trying to eradicate us since they would allow us to exist in peace if we became thin people.
I disagree. First of all because suggesting that they don’t want to eradicate theoretical thin me (only actual fat me) is some bullshit. I’m not a thin woman covered in fat, I’m a fat woman, and so a world without fat people is a world in which I do not exist.
But a look at the reality of the situation shows pretty quickly that the people who want a war on obesity want a world without fat people by any means necessary – they are ok if we become thin, but they also seem totally fine if we die trying. Let’s look at some examples:
Consider the drug Belviq, which was approved by the FDA and is being prescribed by doctors for weight loss not because it won’t kill fat people, but because killing fat people is deemed an acceptable risk. (You can even get a coupon online – first one’s free!)
Another in the “acceptable risk category,” among its many, many dangerous and life-altering side effects, Weight Loss Surgery also carries a serious risk of dying. “By best estimates, bariatric surgeries likely increase the actual mortality risks for these patients by 7-fold in the first year and by 363% to 250% the first four years.”
Or how about when doctors were trying to convince fat people to eat 500 calories a day and get urine injections?
Then there’s Devon, UK where they decided that in order to save money they would just deny healthcare to fat people.
And that doesn’t even take into account all the fat people’s lives that are put on hold due to the shaming, stigmatizing, bullying, lack of access, and oppression that we face so that even if they don’t manage to eradicate us, they keep us from living the life we dream of.
Often when people object to my use of the term “eradication” they say something like “this isn’t genocide” and I absolutely agree with that. [Edit: Let me reiterate and clarify because there seems to be some confusion – I am not saying that this is genocide, I am not comparing it with atrocities that have happened to other groups, I am only talking about what is happening to fat people now.] This is something different – they want to eradicate fat people, but they want us to do their dirty work for them. You want a world without fat people? Feel free to find another world because I’m not going anywhere. Me and my fat are here to stay.
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37 thoughts on “The War on Obesity – Even if it Kills Us”
I was making the same point about fat eradication, and a Jewish friend of mine got very upset with me, saying her grandparents were in concentration camps and calling the current societal views an “eliminationist campaign” was insulting to her since her family lived with the impacts of a “real” eliminationist campaign. How do you suggest I connect with this friend on this issue? I thought with her family experience she’d have more sympathy for the fat eliminionist thing, but it was exactly the opposite. I’d really like to keep her as a friend.
In making your point about fat eradication did you compare it to the holocaust? If so I think that’s a problem – I would suggest to you that these are not the same thing, and that they should not be compared. In addition to the fact that the call for a world without fat people and the ensuing attempts to make that happen are very different than what happened in concentration camps, it’s also really problematic to use atrocities committed upon another group as an analogy for what’s happening to you. If you were not making a comparison and your friend was saying that it’s no ok to talk about the current attempts at eradication of fat people because it’s different than the holocaust then that’s something different. I think it’s important that we be able to point out what’s happening to us, while acknowledging that different, horrific things have happened to other people (and without comparing the two.)
I didn’t mention anything about wwii, but I can understand her sensitivity, all things considered. I certainly wouldn’t say the two things are comparable (hitter was unspeakably evil). I think the word “elimination” triggered her, which is totally fair and her right. I may just let sleeping dogs lie and not bring it up again around her.
Another difference is that in the Holocaust, the Jews, Romani, Homosexuals and political dissidents were arrested and forced to the concentration camps (or just killed). Fat people are given the “choice” to comply or face horrible bullying. They want us to do the eradication ourselves, by whatever means necessary. They push us and prod us, but very few actually get their hands dirty with outright murder.
Blogs like this also point to another important difference: you have the right to disagree openly with the campaign. It may be hard to get anybody to pay attention, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll face jail or execution because you disagree with the dominant social message.
Just because we aren’t being lined up and forced into showers doesn’t mean any of these people want us to live.
Many ‘lifestyle changes’ that Clearly Are Not Diets today feature allowing people less calories per day than an inmate of Auschwitz. Just think about that for a minute: less calories than will actually starve a person to death… and we’re expected not only to live on that, but to actually CHOOSE IT FOR OURSELVES IN ORDER TO LOOK ‘HEALTHY.’
In some ways it’s even more insidious than an actual campaign of blatant genocide. Why? Because in this version, we do it to ourselves. Their hands are ‘clean.’ All they wanted was to make us healthy, after all. It isn’t their fault if we die. It’s ours.
ACtually I didn’t say that. I don’t think that the principle is the same. I would never compare the war on obesity to genocide, the holocaust, internment camps etc. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t trying to eradicate us, they absolutely are, but it’s not the same thing.
I think it’s more like–not just like, but comparable to–declaring war on homelessness and then writing laws that criminalize being homeless, or declaring war on poverty and forbidding the public square to those who are visibly poor. Make a lot of noise about a problem, punish people for having that problem, and pat yourself on the back for your valor.
Except that being fatter than is currently socially accepted is not a problem that needs to be cured, of course.
I agree. It’s all about appearance, and nothing to do with the base problem.
The base problem of poverty is that people are poor, and need help with employment (if possible), or financial assistance (if employment is not a valid option for that person).
The base problem of homelessness is that some people have no homes, and need help with getting homes, or else with getting safe shelters if a permanent home is not an option for those individuals.
The base problem of obesity is the bullies need to shut the &*#& UP and accept that people come in different sizes and that’s OK.
I do get your point, and I wish more people could make these same points without bringing the Holocaust into it.
The threading seems to be a FUBAR here, Ragen. I did try to thank you below for this comment, though.
As a Jewish person, it is incredibly offensive to me to suggest that being on Weight Watchers is literally worse than being murdered in Auschwitz. Your comment is way out of line.
Yeah. I don’t know why people feel the need to do this. It’s not helpful. DX
Genocide is the murder of a people, or in the case of our modern genetics, a genetic trait. We are indeed a people, and we are expected to go willingly to death, without complaint.
Anti-semitism is still around, and the modern form of it intersects with anti-mental illness, anti-poverty, anti-black, and a lot of other things. Some groups (including uni. profs) think that if we could only get rid of the Jews, money would grow on trees and we’d never had to work another day in out lives. This was the general idea stated by one such prof I had, who was a real piece of work.
This is similar to the view that if only there weren’t any poor people, we wouldn’t have to fund social programs, or druggies we wouldn’t have to fund rehab clinics (omg, the crime rate will increase in our district!), or fat people the health care costs will increase. We’re all in this together, as social justice applies to all. If one person can’t make the minimum standards in society, then that society isn’t taking care of their own.
And I’ve read a couple times on here about patient experiences, as well as on First Do No Harm, that doctors are of the opinion concerning concentration camp survivors as “at least they didn’t come out fat”. Held up like some glorious ideal we should all aspire to.
Reading the first part of the book, Nazi Doctors, the same principles drive modern medicine, unchanged (the drive to make a better human). Some of those doctors realized early on they were part of something bad. It was kind of horrifying so I haven’t read any more, but maybe someday I will continue, but it led me to understand where we’re going.
I normally love your posts, T. But really, it’s better if you don’t go there. Especially since the more insidious forms of Anti-Semitism really are still alive and well, IRL and on the internet. Often in places where you wouldn’t expect to see them.
I’ve actually had to work alongside a couple of obnoxious people who did do the whole “500 Calories a day and urine injections” thing. But even if they felt pressured to make snake oil weight loss plans their choice, they still made a choice. Almost nobody declared by the Nazis to be part of a “degenerate race” had the option or ability to change their oppressors’ minds. Some went in disguise to survive, or had help to escape their oppressors. But they were a very select few.
I was trying to verbalize this yesterday in response to a comment that popped up on an older post of yours, and couldn’t quite get my words together. But that’s exactly it — it’s worse than them trying to eradicate us, because they expect us to do it to ourselves while they keep their hands clean and tut about their concern for our “poor health”.
I once participated in a diet plan that required you eat 600 calories a day for a week, 1,200 calories a day for a few days, and 900 calories for a week and a half, or something to that effect. I’m horrified, looking back, that I went along willingly and happily with a diet plan that had to be detrimental to my health, just because I was so convinced that nothing was worse than being fat.
Well, making fat people magically thin is still eradicating them, since nobody will have to cope with the presence of a fat person.
If we managed to give every human the exact same skin, hair and eyes, we would also be eradicating all the individual groupings.
Some people might like that, provided their own skin etc was the type chosen for everyone.
Even if we could magically make these changes, there would still be bullying, since, as someone pointed out on the post about bullying, someone will find something to complain about.
Maybe we should all just be clones.
If I see any parallel to the “War On Obesity,” it would be the “War On Drugs.” Not because I think food = drugs. However, in both cases, marketers know deep down that the “war” is actually not winnable. At least, not as they’ve decided to conduct it. If they accepted innate human differences as a fact of life, that would be “surrender,” and a threat to their power and wealth. Hence, they have to keep pretending that their goals are reasonable and that the “war” is winnable. No matter what the cost is to the rest of society.
In both cases, it’s noteworthy that the same people who pitch the “war” also sell the “weapons” to both sides. Corporations sell us both junk food and “diet” food. Partnership For A Drug-Free America is heavily funded by manufacturers of tobacco and alcohol products. Capitalism sure does know how to bring us the laughs.
Oh, and the War on Drugs may be waged against “bad” drugs that make people addicted, but it also includes cold medicine, as well as pain medicine, and makes lives miserable for NON-addicts, who just have various health issues that would be aided by the unhindered access to these helpful drugs. I read a news story about a nitwit who was pushing to ban BAKING SODA, because drug dealers could use it to cut cocaine. It’s gone that far off the rails.
Has America learned nothing from the Prohibition? It didn’t work then, and it’s not working now.
If you want to discourage people from using “bad” drugs, and from becoming addicted, try addressing the people directly and individually, with real education and compassion, and realize that most, if not all, of those “bad” drugs have at least one valid medical use, when used correctly. By all means, encourage people to use them properly, when needed, and discourage the idea of “recreational” drug use. Drugs are a tool, and serve a purpose. But you shouldn’t swing a hammer around, when you have no nails to be driven.
The whole simplification of “drugs = bad” is so similar to “fat = bad,” with no nuance or individuality, or even thoughts about far-reaching effects of a world without those elements.
I’ll take a world WITH Mama Cass and Fats Domino, please.
In some Lefty circles I hang in, it’s popular to regard any use of drugs for the treatment of mental illness as unnecessary. People can’t seem to believe anything halfway: if someone somewhere got the wrong medicine at the wrong time, that is obviously the case for everyone taking the meds and they all ought to just quit. [sigh] I’ve given up arguing with them about it, just as I try to ignore the shitty things they sometimes say about fat people.
My own experiences with anti-depressants went poorly, and after several false starts I quit them. But I don’t use myself as the standard against which everyone else with a mental issue must be measured. That would be ridiculous.
OMG I HATE that! I am grateful to have my social anxiety under control and I always want to thump people who say all mental illness drugs are unnecessary.
I know they don’t always work for everyone, which makes me sad, but I hope eventually there will be more improvements.
Did you ever read Good Omens? Three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are doing various things in the world. Famine invents diet food which does not actually have any calories or nutritional value. Then he creates a version of the diet food which contains fat and sugar but no other nutritional value. Some pre-packaged foods make me think of that scene.
It’s been too long since I read those, damn it. 😀
My grandmother made lovely quilts. I have known many quilters, and I think they would all agree: If all your pieces look alike, the quilt will be nothing more than a bunch of scraps sewn together to make a blanket. Warm, perhaps, but with no artistry or joy in it, at all.
Different colors, different prints and weaves and styles of fabric mixed together make for a wonderful, beautiful, and cheerful blanket.
When I was reading the part of your post about people’s lives being put on hold, I expected there to be something about suicide as well. (That’s where my thought process went, not a criticism.) Do you know if the suicide rate is any higher among fat people than the general population?
I believe the suicide rate is higher among people with restrictive eating disorders. So, the push to eradicate the fat has led some people to kill themselves.
However, due to the idea that you can’t even HAVE a restrictive eating disorder while still being fat, it’s kind of hard to find good statistics involving both fat people and ED.
As for fat people and suicide, I’ve never seen any statistics on that, at all. It’s like they never bothered to count it.
I’ve read that the death rate in general is highest for RED’s compared to all other mental illnesses combined, with 40% of deaths being suicides. Not getting enough calories leads to you taking your own life. But I think they are less likely to fund research and treatment to prevent it due to the number of fats who suicide too: as long as the fats are doing it, then that’s one less fat in the world. It puts a hierarchy on our heads.
Just like during the 1600s and 1700s, the English, French, and Spanish were being enslaved along the coasts by the Algerian and Moroccan corsairs, but the Euro powers did nothing to stop it against their own people, because their enemies were being enslaved too. Anything that makes the enemy less was good. Until the 1800s when Enlightenment values were taken more seriously and widely did they begin to apply one value for all, and then stopped the slave trade of Europeans. But by then over 1 million had been enslaved, and entire seaside towns had been depopulated. Ireland was hit pretty hard too, and they never really recovered, because no one was looking out for the Irish.
It’s times like these I consult my old friend, Stafford’s Heuristic.
“The purpose of a system is what it does.”
None of the prescribed “cures” for obesity we are expected and often coerced to use make us thin. 95% of the fat people who attempt to lose weight either lose nothing or lose temporarily and regain. Many of their “cures” do, however, cause us emotional and physical damage (up to and including death). Even the safest of them, dieting, is explicitly physically harmful at the caloric levels we’re expected to adopt and ineffectual for weight loss at safer levels. Some of the diet drugs were known to be killers when they were given to us – Fen-Phen had been taken off the market for causing fatal heart damage before it was put back on the market to be prescibed to fat people as a weight loss drug. From what statistics I can find, bariatric surgery kills one in every fifty people who have it, and survivors are more likely to have a side effect like hernias and malnutrition than not… without even the guarantee they’ll keep the weight off.
Therefore, *it does not matter whether or not a fatphobe wants to make us thin, or just wants to be rid of us by any means.* It doesn’t matter how sincerely they believe it’s wrong to be fat, or mean for their Utopia without fat people to be one where fatties have all been “cured” and are all eternally happy and grateful and dancing hand-in-hand in the daisies because it’s just that much better to be thin. It doesn’t matter whether they claim to do what they do out of hate or love. All that matters is their actions an the consequences those actions have. The purpose of a system is what it *does.*
How many fat people has the weight loss machine made permanently thin?
How many fat people has the weight loss machine killed or disabled in the pursuit of making them thin?
How many fat people has the weight loss machine made a target of public anger and violence in the pursuit of making them thin?
How many fat people has the weight loss machine estranged from their families and friends in the pursuit of making them thin?
What is the purpose of the weight loss machine?
I’ve learned that WLS has a 1 in 2 death rate in the first year (50%) for those over age 70. Highest risk of death compared to all other surgeries combined.
I am so, so, SOOOOOO incredibly grateful for my non-fat-shaming doctor.
Also, for the record, the Holocaust was not the only genocide in recent history. Rwanda, for example, had one, if I recall correctly.
Personally, I relate it more to the Extermination Order in Missouri, which stated that “The Mormons must be treated as enemies,” and must be driven from the state, or exterminated. So, basically, they didn’t care if the Mormons died, or just moved away, so long as they didn’t have to deal with them, any more.
A genocide is when death is actually the preferred method of getting rid of a specific group of people. So I agree, this isn’t a genocide. It’s just plain awful.
The Armenians suffered 3 genocides from the Ottoman Turks in 1895-7, 1905-7, and 1915-24. 3 million dead, and this was the basis for the Nazi Holocaust (use of trains to transport, marching prisoners, little food, ghettoes). The Turks have never been held accountable, and most deny it ever happened.
Could it be because the Armenians, as a people, are more localized, but the Jews have spread all over the world? Half the time, it seems, they were forced into spreading, by pogroms and the like, but spread they did.
Armenians are not known for a diaspora.
Which, you know, just makes the genocides against them even more awful, because without them spreading around, they are less likely to survive as a people.
That’s horrible! And I never even heard about this in school!
“The Burning Tigris” by Peter Balakian is a good start.
Thanks! I’ll look that up online.
I put it in my Amazon cart.
Ragen and readers: It’s worth considering that eugenics as a “let’s trim off the unfit to make a better species” movement did not begin with National Socialism or its assorted hangers-on. It started right here in the good old U.S. of A. The chosen vehicle for American eugenicists was not murder, but sterilization of the “unfit,” which could mean anything from mentally disabled to not-WASP to poor. Nowadays it’s much more difficult to tie someone’s tubes without their informed consent, but people who are “unfit” for the ideal society still get told that we shouldn’t have children…
I wish I’d known about this blog and started reading it BEFORE I had bariatric surgery….