Doctor’s E-mails Expose Their Fatphobia

Dear Fatphobic DoctorsToday in an online group that is supposed to be about maternity care, two doctors decided that they would rather show why they are incapable of providing ethical treatment to fat patients.

It started with a notice that group members could participate in an upcoming “ob*sity” conference.  So already they are endorsing a conference that is predicated on ideas that routinely harm and kill fat patients.

Firat, J came in with this hot take:

What I want to know is what kind of goodies will be served during the breaks at an ob*sity conference.  Cookies and brownies downed with coffee & half-n-half or Coca-Cola?
Best,

— J, family doc in Upstate NY

LOLOMGLMFAO Get it? Because fat people eat cookies, brownies, soda and *gasp* half- n-half in their coffee. Good thing that thin people don’t eat or drink those things or J would be looking like a stereotyping bigot right about now.

Also, I wouldn’t be too sure dude, an “ob*sity” conference once made it more difficult for disabled people to navigate their conference space just to prove their allegiance to ableism and stereotypes. I imagine it will be nothing but diet coke and celery sticks (no ranch!) as far as the eye can see.

Then, a hero steps in:

I’m wondering why you made these comments about the food being served at an ob*sity conference. Is it because you think that’s what ob*se people are eating? The impact of reading this is hurtful and offensive and doesn’t seem professionally inclusive or supportive. Perhaps I am missing something though…thus, I am asking why you wrote these comments.

Best,
N

J is right there with the expected response

Sorry.  I wrote this comment to be humorous.  I apologize.  I’ll aim to be humorous only when I have a better chance of being clearly funny and less chance of causing offense.

— J

Maybe aim to be humorous…never. I don’t think it’s your thing man.

Another hero, into the fray

I found your comment entirely unfunny and offensive, J.  Will also bring to your attention list etiquette rule #9

9. Jokes and frivolous postings are not appropriate.

-H

Here comes the mod:

Hello everyone,

As others have pointed out, this comment was inappropriate and now J has apologized. As moderator, I now consider this matter closed. I would like to remind us all that one of the things that keeps this listserv functioning is respect for each other, keeping the posts informative not frivolous and maintenance of decorum. We should all re-read our posts before posting to ensure that each post brings new information to the topic at hand.

Thank you,

Dr. K

I could have used a stronger statement about how weight-based stigma is utterly inappropriate, but it could be worse. A solid B- to Dr. K and the matter is closed.

JUST KIDDING! Almost 8 hours later, Dr. L jumps in:

sorry you got piled on—

remember, this group has a lot of non-physicians in it, more easily offended.

Cheers

-L

Let me translate from Fatphobic Doctor into English:

Sorry you got called out on your terrible behavior.
Remember that other doctors will support you in your bigotry, but non-doctors might not put up with fatphobia. I’ve got your back though by trying to make them wrong, and make you the victim.

Your partner in fatphobic crime,

L

Also, it was two people and the second one gave different information, so calm down.

Oh, but it didn’t stop there. Turns out, Dr. L didn’t mean to expose her fatphobia to the entire group, so she sent another message to double down (I’ll give you the entire message and then I’ll break it down.

follow up–

didn’t actually mean to send that to the whole group so I’ll clarify my comment before I get piled on myself–

There’s a sort of “gallows humor” that physicians tend to have, and I think this comment was mildly within that category. The reality is that as physicians we do see people, day in and day out, who make unhealthy choices and then suffer the consequences. I think J and I are both well aware that there’s more to obesity than just unhealthy choices, but it is a large part of it often. It can get frustrating treating patients over and over who seem to be sabotaging themselves, but we try–and then sometimes when in what we think is a safe space, will vent in a way that maybe wouldn’t be understood outside.

However suffice it to say I think physicians in this group need to understand that many professionals in this group would take this the wrong way, (ie, we really do care–but sometimes get a little fed up and deal with it via humor, sometimes not in the best taste) especially if they are not dealing with this problem over and over on the front lines. I note that many commenters in the past are not actually even involved in direct patient care.

I just feel badly that J’s attempt at humor had this effect–I think many of us can understand where he was coming from even if we might not have dared say it ourselves.

I’ve probably not helped myself but anyway…maybe i’ve helped J.

And before you pile on me that i’ve insulted non-doctors, I’ve sat on this list for 20 years and watched physicians get insulted by everyone else left right and centre.

I’m going to take this piece by piece:

didn’t actually mean to send that to the whole group so I’ll clarify my comment before I get piled on myself–

Translation: OhShitOhShitOhShitOhShitOhShitOhShit I totally got caught, must pre-empt totally reasonable backlash by taking a victim stance, and then stating a bunch of gibberish.

Also “held accountable” and “piled on” are not the same thing, just so you know.

There’s a sort of “gallows humor” that physicians tend to have, and I think this comment was mildly within that category. The reality is that as physicians we do see people, day in and day out, who make unhealthy choices and then suffer the consequences. I think J and I are both well aware that there’s more to obesity than just unhealthy choices, but it is a large part of it often. It can get frustrating treating patients over and over who seem to be sabotaging themselves, but we try–and then sometimes when in what we think is a safe space, will vent in a way that maybe wouldn’t be understood outside.

Nope. The gallows is where you go to die (and has a history mired in oppression but that’s a subject for another time.) “Gallows humor” is appropriate for, say, hospice nurses who are dealing with death, and helping their clients face death, every day. It is not for doctors who are asked to give fat patients competent, ethical medical care. If that causes you to feel like you need “gallows humor” then it’s time to pack it in and change careers.

There is not a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people succeed at significant long-term weight loss, and yet doctors continue to prescribe weight loss to fat people – generally regardless of what we came in for, always to our detriment, sometimes to our death.

We aren’t sabotaging ourselves, they are sabotaging us.

Also, the unmitigated gall to defend a clearly fatphobic comment by doubling down on stereotyping fat people, then lament that it’s not a “safe space?” We don’t need a safe space FOR you Dr. L, we need a safe space FROM you.

However suffice it to say I think physicians in this group need to understand that many professionals in this group would take this the wrong way, (ie, we really do care–but sometimes get a little fed up and deal with it via humor, sometimes not in the best taste) especially if they are not dealing with this problem over and over on the front lines. I note that many commenters in the past are not actually even involved in direct patient care.

Just splashing around in her bath of bigotry now. FAT PEOPLE ARE NOT A PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED. Her use of “on the front lines” is a pretty good indicator that she sees fat bodies as an enemy – which all too often translates to “it’s worth killing them to try to make them thin.”

If that’s how you see fat patients, you need to get all the way out of doctoring.  The problem isn’t that fat people react to your attempts to make us thin PRECISELY as all the research says we will (by losing weight temporarily and then gaining it all back, often plus more…) The problem is that you keep putting us through an intervention that has been shown to have the opposite of the intended effect the majority of the time.

The problem here isn’t that there is a diversity of body sizes and that, as a doctor, you are expected to treat all of them. The problem is that you are a bigot. The problem is that you think that being a doctor gives you some kind of “Get out of bigotry free” card. You are a danger to your fat patients.

I just feel badly that J’s attempt at humor had this effect–I think many of us can understand where he was coming from even if we might not have dared say it ourselves.

Let’s be clear – she is sad that J’s blatant fatphobia had the consequence of people politely pointing out his fatphobia, and how it specifically broke the rules of the community that he had agreed to. I am overcome with sadness at the plight of J – #Won’tSomebodyThinkOfTheFatphobes

“might not have dared say it” – Ah, yes. The tremendous bravery of being openly bigoted. I’m sure J and L are heroes to fatphobic doctors everywhere who wish they could be more open about how they treat their patients from a place of stereotyping, bigotry, and gross negligence.

I’ve probably not helped myself but anyway…maybe i’ve helped J.
And before you pile on me that i’ve insulted non-doctors, I’ve sat on this list for 20 years and watched physicians get insulted by everyone else left right and centre

That’s a no on both counts there L. The people who helped J were the ones who pointed out that his comment was inappropriate and offensive so that he can, hopefully, learn and grow and dismantle his own bigotry. What you’ve done is reinforced that his bigotry is fine, in the service of defending your own bigotry (which everyone found out about because despite being on the list for 20 years, you don’t know how replies work.)  You are the flame to J’s pile of garbage, well done you.

Once again, try not to say “pile on” when you mean “hold me accountable for my wildly inappropriate behavior.” Mmmkay? Thanks in advance.

And by “get insulted” do you by any chance mean “held accountable for our bigotry and dangerous lack of ethics?” Asking for a friend – who is any fat person who might have to put their lives into your fatphobic hands.

Sadly, this attitude is all too familiar to fat patients who have to deal with it all the time – whether it is spoken or unspoken – diagnosed and treated by doctors who are operating out of stereotypes and bigotry, prescribing body size changes instead of treating our health issues. Seeing our bodies as a war, and themselves on the front lines of fighting them.  Well, if they want a war, we’ll give them one because fat people deserve much better than this.

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6 thoughts on “Doctor’s E-mails Expose Their Fatphobia

  1. “The reality is that as physicians we do see people, day in and day out, who make unhealthy choices and then suffer the consequences.”

    Well, yeah. That’s your fucking JOB, dear DOCTOR. Of course healthy people aren’t going to visit you just for funsies. Nor thin people who eat the same things as you attribute to fat people, nor fat people who eat them too and have good health.

    Yeesh.

    1. Mortician: How can you say obesity doesn’t kill when every fat person I’ve ever embalmed has been dead? Checkmate, fat activists!

  2. Since I’m now 100% sure my original post got lost to the Internet ether (apologies if it does decide to show up in three hours)…

    “What I want to know is what kind of goodies will be served during the breaks at an ob*sity conference. Cookies and brownies downed with coffee & half-n-half or Coca-Cola?”

    …you know this is a self-own, right, J? Because the participants at an “obesity conference” aren’t “obese” people. They’re thin doctors aggressively using their time, expertise, and platform to *eliminate* “obese” people. And you just suggested they spend their off-hours pigging out on brownies and coke.

    Shit, dude, if you’d done that on purpose, it WOULD have been a funny-if-skirting-the-boundaries-of-taste joke about fatphobic hypocrisy. Too bad it’s just a self-own instead.

    And L’s post is just too hateful and infuriating to even get into again, so I’ll summarize what I said in my lost post: if you’re giving lip service to the *documented fact* that weight is complex and not entirely in a person’s control while promoting the stereotype that fat people made themselves fat with gluttony and laziness, you are the fatphobic hypocrisy J accidentally made fun of.

  3. Absolutely! Let’s play numbers. What is the percentage of fat haters who know they do it and don’t care, know they do it and wish to stop doing it, don’t really see they are being hurtful?

    Say 60, 20, 30?

    I hate having to eliminate words in any lexicon. Tip: When you see a sentence followed by a paragraph that begins with: ‘However’, ‘Even though’, ‘But’, ‘In most (many) cases’, it is a sign of awareness that they hold hypocritical views. I’ve heard of weasel words, I guess we have weasel phrases as well.

    This and that and this and this and that is wonderful and true BUT I WON’T HAVE IT! I JUST WON’T HAVE IT!

    At least they…care? Or know to try and cleverly cover their butts?

    Oh and thin people and their ‘eat to live food choices’. Don’t bet on it. The entire fat population of America is not keeping fast food and soda companies or billion dollar candy conglomerates in the black. Not even.

  4. So what I’m getting it that a) doctors know everything and if their patients don’t blindly follow a doctor’s instructions they are sabotsging themselves and b) doctors should be allowed to bitch about how their patients have agency and make their own decisions regarding their bodies and health because it makes the poor doctors feel bad and helpless.

    Never mind that science changes, never mind that people are allowed to make whatever choices feel appropriate to them, never mind that doctors aren’t omniscient.

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