Today we have a “study” that illustrates two of the truly ridiculous things that often happen in the “science” of weight and health.
1. You can get funding and published for literally any anti-fat study you can imagine
In the tiny study, cells from mice were exposed to dust samples from 11 (not a typo, just eleven) homes to see if they would be linked with metabolic disruption including triglyceride and preadipocyte accumulation.
2. The most scientifically illiterate journalists will be allowed to write about it
A piece about this by Henry Bodkin (who, on the same day, had a piece published titled “Wild boar pictured roaming streets of city centre at night”) appeared in The Telegraph. The headline was ‘Household Dust Makes People Fat, Groundbreaking Research Indicates.” Seriously Hank (can I call you Hank?) WT Actual F are you doing?
Even if we assume that Henry isn’t responsible for the headline, surely he’s responsible for the actual reporting. His piece didn’t bother to link to the actual study nor was it clear about the study’s limitations. But it began, ambitiously, “People should keep their homes spotless if they want to avoid putting on weight, new research suggests.”
That delayed this piece being written by a few hours due to the concussion I experienced from banging my head against my desk.
What the researchers actually said was “Our results delineate a novel potential health threat and identify putative causative SVOCs that are likely contributing to this activity.”
The words “potential,” “putative,” and “likely,” are important here as they all essentially mean “maybe” and do not remotely translate to the ability to suggest – at with with any kind of journalistic integrity – that if your house has dust you’ll become fat.
Now parents (and, let’s be honest, predominantly moms in our misogynist society) of fat kids will be blamed and, perhaps more tragically, blame themselves for not keeping their houses dust-free enough. We need to shut this bullshit down.
Today I’ve seen no less than four articles that included some version of “Is [XYZ] Making Us Fat?” If an article asks that, I immediately ask myself “is this article a fatphobic (and quite likely ableist, classist etc.) piece of shit?” Hint: the answer is probably yes.
People are lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons and I would personally prefer that we affirm the diversity of body sizes and spend research money figuring out how to support the health and happiness of people of all sizes, rather than trying to prevent or eradicate people of a certain size.
If you’re sick of researchers getting funding to figure out how to eradicate fat people, join us at the Fat Activism Conference!
The Fat Activism Conference is all online, so you can listen by phone or on your computer wherever you are. Plus you get recordings and transcripts of each talk so you can listen and read live and/or on your own schedule. The conference is happening October 6-8, 2017!
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