The “fatties keep out” bill

Unless you were living under a rock or had something better to do than read fat blogs yesterday, you already know about the absurd piece of stunt legislation being proposed in Mississippi, which would require (not allow; require) restaurants to deny service to fat people. (Here’s JoGeek, The Rotund, Big Fat Blog, Lindsay, Rachel, Thoughtracer… did I miss anyone?) Of course this is a farcical suggestion, especially as they propose sending restaurants written material on determining whether someone is too fat to eat in public. Presumably this means “advanced eyeballing notes,” since diagnosing “obesity” requires at very least a scale and a ruler, neither of which qualifies as written material. And we all know how effective eyeballing is at determining where someone falls on the BMI scale.

As I said on Rachel’s post about the bill, I bet Alexandra Erin is kicking herself that she didn’t come up with this first. It is truly surreal, and its sponsors (not so thin themselves) appear to be absolutely serious. Of course, being a total miscarriage of both human rights and practicality, the bill will never pass (regrettably probably more for the second reason than the first). But it’s being proposed to make a point, and so to make a point we should respond. JoGeek at Unapologetically Fat has helpfully collected the contact information of the bill’s sponsors, so you can explain to them why this move is not only nonsensical but bigoted and cruel. Feel free to post your letters below, especially if you don’t mind people using them as templates. (I know it can be really daunting to try to compose a Letter To Your Congressman, and I often wait until I’ve seen some more reasonable people write them first, otherwise I spend all my time just taking out the bad words). And there’s great discussion going on in the threads linked above, if you need to marshal your thoughts.

109 thoughts on “The “fatties keep out” bill

  1. Does this mean that macrobiotic restaurants, which serve nothing but vegetables and whole grains, can’t serve fat people either?

  2. keshmeshi, if I’m understanding the bill correctly, the only restaurants that would be exempted are restaurants that aren’t required to get a permit from the department of health, don’t operate in an enclosed facility, or can’t seat more than five people. Everyone else would presumably be included.

    Besides, we all know fatties can’t even be trusted eating macrobiotic foods. They’d probably have too big portions, or eat some cough drops and fuck it all up.

  3. The thing that concerns me is that they might be sending this up to make future proposed bills seem less ridiculous in comparison.

    “They’re proposing a bill that will make obese people pay an extra tax on fast food? well, at least they’re not telling them they can’t eat out anymore, yanno?”

  4. Lindsay, yeah, someone suggested that on BFB too and I think it’s pretty astute. They claim that they’re just trying to “make people aware of how much obesity costs Medicare,” but please: a) who doesn’t hear this all the time and b) by banning them from restaurants? What?

    (Also, just because I think this is a delightful fact: I researched this, and obese seniors cost Medicare the same as underweight seniors per year, but a lot more in the long term because underweight people die at a much faster rate.)

    Anyway, so there’s clearly another agenda. Interesting that the one I linked to is listed as a “pharmacist,” huh?

  5. Mississippi is proposing this? How about they focus on their real problems? Like, poverty, public education, etc.

  6. “There’d be only one upside to this: it would act sort of like Kate’s BMI project… There’d be “banned” people that would be a shock to their friends and family.”

    – comment by Arwen at The-F-word.org

    Reminds me of when someone gets “outed”. I guess we can’t just hide in the closet anymore, eh? Well, since I can’t legally go out anymore, I may as well go hide in the — waaaait a minute……

  7. fillyjonk, one of those writers is listed as “businessman”.

    You know, i’ve known a lot of shady people who called themselves the same damn thing.

  8. Good god, a businessman and a “pharmacist”? What’s the other one, a bariatric surgeon? An advertiser? An “obesity expert”?

  9. I would just like to say WHAT THE FUCK.

    How about we stop selling guns to people who live in cities with a high crime rate? Or I know, we could stop selling cigarettes to people after they start having lung problems. We could stop selling toys to people with more than 5 kids or entertainment electronics to people who are low income.

    Just one more example for my family and friends who don’t believe in fat discrimination.

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  11. Here’s my letter. I think I went a bit heavy on the “good-fatty” polite side of things, but I didn’t want his staff to ignore it on the grounds of snark.

    Feel free to adapt at will:

    While I am not from Mississippi, I felt that I had to write to express my strong opposition to the bill that you have introduced to prohibit food establishments from serving food to fat people. It is discrimination, plain and simple, and though you yourself have admitted it has little chance of passage, the bill does much to increase the already painful and damaging stigmatization that fat people face on a daily basis.

    You may feel that you can disregard my words because I am fat and would therefore be a target of this legislation, but I beg your indulgence.

    I have been conscious of being fat since the age of five. I went on my first formal diet at the age of seven. My parents did everything “right”–I was not allowed to drink soda; we did not eat in fast food restaurants; we avoided sugar and fatty snacks; I was restricted to two hours of television per week; I was required to participate in organized physical activities outside of school, and I even attained a black belt in karate by my early teens.

    Through all of that, I remained–and remain–fat. It is my firm conviction that shame and stigmatization did much to increase my weight throughout the years, as did the extreme dieting that I undertook for more than 20 years. That dieting has completely destroyed my metabolism, meaning that I can eat barely more than 1200 calories per day without gaining additional weight. Even so, I have maintained a stable weight for three years by learning to listen to and love my body as well as through regular exercise.

    I am 34 years old, the mother of one (with a little girl on the way), and have had no health problems. My blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol are all excellent. I also have a BMI that puts me well into “obese”.

    My story is in many ways typical of the fat people I know, but there is no way to know by looking at someone whether they are healthy–thin or fat. Thin people may subsist on junk food and never exercise and have sky-high cholesterol; fat people may eat a balanced, healthy diet and exercise regularly and have good health. There’s just no way to know, short of demanding that everyone who wants to dine out or purchase prepared food produce their latest lab results and EKG.

    In any case, health should not be a prerequisite for humane treatment. Ice cream may not be the best food for someone suffering from breast cancer, but would you deny a cancer patient the right to go into a Baskin-Robbins?

    I would urge you to withdraw your bill and take a hard look at the hatred that you are propagating. An extreme bill like yours only makes it more likely that future bills seen as “less” extreme–denying fat people the right to adopt or taking fat children away from their parents, for example, both of which have already been done–find acceptance in the political landscape.

  12. I commented about this over in Rachel’s blog, but I just can’t say enough about this. As a 20 something black female, I never thought that I’d ever encounter such obvious, in your face discrimination in this day and age. They obviously can’t discriminate against race or gender, because that’s wrong…but discriminating against fat is perfectly acceptable. My race and gender aren’t a crime; my fat shouldn’t be either.

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  14. Here’s a verse from “Here’s to the State of Missisippi” by the late folk singer, Phil Ochs. The song is about racism, but I think it applies here.

    “And here’s to the laws of Mississippi
    Congressmen will gather in a circus of delay
    While the Constitution is drowning in an ocean of decay
    Unwed mothers should be sterilized, I’ve even heard them say
    Yes, corruption can be classic in the Mississippi way
    Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
    Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of”

  15. Like I said somewhere else…what are they going to do next…pass a law that fat people can’t buy but a certain number of things at the grocery store. I mean, if they banned them from eating out they would have to eat in right? Then what, RFID chip them so the state guberment can make sure they aren’t buying twinkies and make sure they are at least trying to diet? Then after that are they going to require obesity surgery…at the person’s expense?

    Like I said before…who cares if I am “fat and unhealthy”…you gotta die of something, may as well enjoy myself until then.

  16. What confuses me is that one of the co-authors (Rep. John Read) would probably be denied entrance to restaurants based on his own bill. I know you can’t tell what someone weighs based on a photo, but if it’s up to the average after-school-teen working hostess at the Waffle House eyeball estimating customers, he’d probably get turned away. Also, don’t any of these officials have fat family or friends? Why would they want to hurt them? crazy.

    I agree that it’s probably a desensitizing tactic to push milder anti-fat legislation later on.

  17. It is truly INSANE how someone would even THINK about doing something like this. I’m glad the fatosphere has other writers, because if I had to post on this, I’d be all “Mississippi legislator is mind-bogglingly stoopid, yet surprisingly bipedal.” And I’d link it to his name. What an ass.

    It frightens me, though, how hateful politics have become in the last few years – so much scapegoating and bigotry and hate mongering. Ick.

  18. “Mississippi legislator is mind-bogglingly stoopid, yet surprisingly bipedal.”

    Bwahaha!

    Yeah, that’s why I like to see other people’s letters, so I get better ideas than just writing “HOW DO YOU EVEN FIND THE DOOR YOU’RE SO STUPID.”

  19. Does anyone have a citation and number for the average change in Americans’ weights over the past 20 years (or whatever)? I have read it’s not much but am having a ton of trouble finding the number. I want to include it in my letter. Thanks in advance…

  20. *sigh* I think I’ve used up all my Sanity Watchers points for the month reading about this. Every time I try to comment I find myself ending up frothing at the mouth. Time for baby-flavored donuts.

    Every time I think I’ve seen the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen, someone finds a way to beat it.

  21. I routinely live under a rock. I scuttle out now and then and this is what’s become of the world?! I fail to see how this will solve their obesity crisis at all. Its like they went into panic mode “OMG hide all the fat peoples!!!!1″

    for some reason it kind of reminds me of futurama, how the mutant people live under the city where no one has to look at them.

  22. Man, it took me for-freakin’-ever to come up with a way to cover this on THIN. It’s… well, a couple years back I tried doing a satirical blog based on Ann Coulter. I had to give it up because I couldn’t do it any better than she was.

  23. You did a fucking great job, though, AE. I loled as soon as I saw the headline.

    One quibble, though: when they say “certain restaurants,” they totally don’t mean “certain categories of food.” They basically mean “any restaurant that is in a building and not a cart.”

  24. I didn’t put tons of effort into this, just dashed it off, but what the hell.
    ________________________________

    Hello, Mr. Mayhall,

    I read today about your sponsorship of House Bill 282,
    prohibiting people defined as “obese” from being
    served in Mississippi’s restaurants.

    I regularly travel to and through Mississippi by car.
    I spend money in Mississippi on gasoline, food, and
    hotels. But as I am obese, I clearly cannot travel to
    Mississippi anymore as I will not be permitted to eat
    there. I will therefore plan my trips in order to
    avoid Mississippi. I am sure that the businesses of
    Louisiana, Tennessee, and Alabama will appreciate the
    additional revenue I will bring to them rather than to
    those of your state.

    Shame on you for sponsoring such a bigoted, short
    sighted, and economically unfeasable bill. You are
    wasting the time of the Mississippi legislature,
    rather than dealing with the very serious issues that
    face your state, and all of our states.

  25. You know… in a way this could be a good thing for the FA movement. It’s something to point to and say: “Look, this, this is why we need to make it illegal to discriminate against fat people.” And it’s something outrageous enough to make even those people who generally couldn’t give a shit about fat rights stop and realise maybe all this hysteria is going too far.

  26. I Googled the names of these legislators and came up with … *no media references* to this appalling, bigoted proposal. Plenty of blog entries though.

    WTH? Mississippi media? Are they just ignoring this?

    If someone has a lot of time and wants to comb through the Web sites of all the major newspapers in MS, go to the News Voyager site. The way to fight this garbage is to drag it out into the open so everyone can see how outrageous it is.

  27. Well, the only thing on Nexis is a wire service story about the Obesity Action Coalition — not exactly an FA group! — calling for them to withdraw the bill.

    I have mixed feelings about this. I agree with you about visibility, Perrin, but on the other hand this is a stunt, so I’m kind of relieved that they’re not getting more publicity.

  28. Fillyjonk sed: Also, just because I think this is a delightful fact: I researched this, and obese seniors cost Medicare the same as underweight seniors per year, but a lot more in the long term because underweight people die at a much faster rate.

    How would one go about researching this? Got any quick and easy links?

  29. Sadly no, I was using an academic library that had access to full-text archives of a lot of journals that aren’t publicly available online.

    That snippet never made it into what I was writing, so I probably don’t have the citation… I should find it again, though, because it’s a great tidbit.

  30. But wait– since EVERYONE KNOWS that fatties are just big fat liars, who’s to say they wouldn’t get a skinny friend to go get them their “fix”?

    Gaaa. STFU fatty-hiding jackholes!

  31. @toggle – since I was the one who said about forced outing part at F-Word, I just want to point out it was with sick, horrified cynicism. Not that I think it’s *actually* a good thing.

  32. OK, here’s my email. I decided to leave out the average weight gain stat because I couldn’t find a good source.

    **********************************
    Rep. Mayhall:

    I am writing to express my outrage at the bill you recently proposed in the Mississippi state legislature to require restaurant owners to deny service to customers over a certain weight or body size.

    The primary issue, of course, is one of basic human rights for all Americans. Fat Americans have every right to spend their money in whatever way they see fit; and in turn, restaurant owners have a similar right to conduct business with whomever they please. It seems almost incredible that in 2008 I should have to underscore these basic facts to an individual who has been entrusted by his constituents to protect their rights and freedoms.

    However, even were this bill not in direct conflict with basic legal rights, it is important to note that it is scientifically unfounded, as well as potentially classist. Despite the alarmist coverage of the so-called “obesity epidemic” in the mainstream media, significant research exists to indicate that higher weight alone, without consideration of nutrition or exercise habits, is not a good predictor of negative health outcomes (see for example the 2005 study by Flegal, et al., published in the Journal of the American Medical Association).

    Poverty is also correlated with obesity, which means that your bill would disproportionately affect poor citizens. It is nothing short of criminal to limit further the already inadequate options these citizens have to feed their families.

    I do not consider it a coincidence that you and one of your co-sponsors are associated with the pharmaceutical industry, which profits hugely each year from sales of weight-loss products of questionable value. I want to assure you that these ulterior motives have been noted by myself and others and reflect poorly on your character.

    Furthermore, I and other like-minded people know that you are aware that this bill will never pass, and that you likely intend to use its shock value to pave the way for future anti-fat legislation. Be assured that I and numerous other Americans are watching you and will be just as vigorously opposed to any future legislation that attempts to limit the basic rights of Mississippi citizens, regardless of whether it is marginally “less bad” than your current publicity stunt.

    After learning of this proposed travesty of basic rights for people you deem “too fat” to eat in restaurants–not to mention of your own party’s purported ideals of individual rights and keeping government out of private life–I am, to say the least, thankful that I don’t live in Mississippi. By all appearances, instead of doing your job as a public servant, you have chosen to fritter away taxpayer-sponsored work hours promoting an outrageous Big Brother-style proposal that ultimately serves only as a temporary distraction from the real issues facing your state. I pity your constituents.
    *************************************

  33. for some reason it kind of reminds me of futurama, how the mutant people live under the city where no one has to look at them.

    Oh, dear, Stevie, we can only hope that nobody in the Mississippi legislature sees those episodes.

  34. scg, I love it! Especially this:

    I want to assure you that these ulterior motives have been noted by myself and others and reflect poorly on your character.

    Damn. So cold.

  35. I say we go to Missisippi and have an Eat In. Discrimination is discrimination.

    Maybe an Eat Out would make the point more…a whole load of fat people descending on every restaurant in the middle of Jackson, getting their meals (while they still can, before this thing gets passed) and then taking them outside and eating them on the sidewalk.

    Sheesh. You know, on bad days when I’m being a Sanity Watchers masochist, I’ve seen plenty of commenters over here in the UK say that fat people should be banned from eating in public, the way we now ban smoking in public. I never thought anyone would take it seriously…

  36. Oh fer fuck’s sake!

    Aside from the pure, blatant, hateful discrimination, I can’t believe the restaurant industry isn’t having a fit over this one!

    If the Rethuglican who proposed this is also (as no doubt he is) a believer in the wonders of capitalism, and he believes the hype that 1/3 of Americans are “obese” and 2/3rds are “overweight” — all fatty-fat-fatties who eat constantly (probably at restaurants), then how can he justify cutting restaurant potential customers by a third?

    Unless: A restauranteur who would go along with it would have to be one of the people who know that fat people don’t eat more (buy more) than thin people. Which knocks the whole fucking hype of the “obesity epidemic” out of the water.

    I think this is great, in one way — we’ve been saying all along that fat-phobia is commercially-driven and hatred-based. Whenever I’ve argued this with fat-phobics, they’ve cited all sorts of “conditionals”, and insisted that their phobia is not hate-related — this proposal is a perfect example of what happens when we excuse ourselves on the slippery-slope of discrimination.

  37. Thanks, FJ! I’m not sure how sincerely I buy into the “ideals of your party” and “wasting taxpayers’ money” stuff. But he’s going to care little enough what I think anyway, and then I’m a liberal from Michigan which would make him care even less, so I had to try to “relate” to him somehow. :)

  38. scg, I think that’s what I like so much about it. I’m always impressed when people can manage to speak someone else’s (totally foreign) language without selling out their main points.

  39. It doesn’t reassure me that something this wouldn’t pass. The point wasn’t to pass it. IMO it was to send up a trial balloon; to see what kind of opposition they *would* get.

    The point, too, is that they thought of it *at all,* and felt comfortable in this day and age to put it down boldly on paper.

    I’m beginning to think that we’re due for an amendment to the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act, to add something similar to Michigan law, which forbids discrimination on size.

  40. Um, ok… with a war on and a recession looming there are people trying to pass discriminatory laws about who can eat in public…. don’t we have anything better to do

    I have a theory that in order to feel secure when times are uncertain people look for things they think they can control in order to feel safe. We can’t control our economy or the terrorists… but we’re supposed to be able to control our weight. Therefor even though our society is going to shit, everything will be better if we aren’t a bunch of fatties.

    Ugh. And you know the people who proposed this bill probably didn’t consult a single doctor. They have the audacity to think that just because they think something is right that must make it so.

  41. I think SCG’s letter said it best, but I felt the need to write to them as well.

    I think it’s a good idea to email them as much as possible, so if anyone wants to cut and paste mine to save time, feel free.

    Representatives Mayhall, Shows, and Read:

    I am writing in opposition to House Bill 282.

    As members of the Mississippi House of Representatives, you are duty bound to not only uphold the Mississippi Constitution, but to represent your constituency, many of whom, assuredly, are fat. You have failed on both counts by introducing the above bill. Instead, you have shown your support for hate-mongering, discrimination, and representing the interests of the pharmaceutical lobby above the needs of your own constituency.

    If you are really concerned about the health of Mississippians, why not support subsidies for organic farmers, work to improve the quality of school lunches, increase after school programs, support governmental programs that might allow people to work less and spend more time preparing healthy meals, etc.?

    Even though the list of bills that one could support to help people live healthier lives is nearly endless, you chose to support a bill of which your lobbyists would approve. Whether it passes or not, you have given free advertising to the pharmaceutical companies. You’ve helped herald the message that being fat is so dangerous and socially unacceptable that fat people must take pharmaceuticals or get surgery (since all fat people know that dieting, and even healthy eating and exercise, does not make most of us thin) if we want to be seen in public.

    Remember that you are representatives of a state with a long history of supporting discrimination against its own citizens. This bill is no exception. I would urge you to retract that bill as a step toward continuing to free Mississippi from that history.

  42. Thanks guys. I agree, the more people respond in no uncertain terms, the better. I am going to copy the MS ACLU as well on a suggestion from upthread. I am not from there, but at least it will give them a lead to look into.

    O.C.’s letter makes me wish I currently had any occasion to do business in MS, so I would have a concrete dollars-and-cents argument to make to Mayhall. As PD said, it is almost mind-boggling that this man could think it a good idea to forcibly take huge numbers of customers away from businesses in his district. I think that and Goldie’s point about supporting bills that might actually help people be healthier are great points to underscore in emails/letters to these guys.

    I forgot to say so but as Goldie said, to save time, feel free to use all or any parts of my email that might be of use when you are putting yours together.

  43. Everyone’s saying this is discriminatory, and that’s absolutely right. I just want to chime in here with some legal jargon to back that up, even though Mississippi doesn’t have any explicit legal protections for size discrimination.

    This law is clearly unconstitutional. Laws that single out groups that don’t have a historical or explicit Constitutional basis for protection (meaning other than race, religion, or gender) get what’s called “rational basis review.” This is developed based on the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.

    For a law to pass rational basis review, it has to be 1) a legitimate governmental purpose, and 2) a regulation that is rationally related to that purpose. I know that most fat acceptance activists are going to say that preventing obesity is not a legitimate government interest, but I think the Supreme Court would, so let’s just grant that.

    Still, there is no way on earth that this law would meet the second criterion: there is no rational relationship between banning fat people from restaurants and preventing obesity. As keshmeshi pointed out, it would prevent fat people from eating at health food restaurants, and as Sandy pointed out, it wouldn’t do anything to prevent fat people from eating unlimited junk food from grocery stores. The legal term is “overbroad.”

    The ACLU isn’t quite the right group to call on yet – they would get involved, I bet, if this passed (God forbid), as soon as there was a good test case.

    Sorry for the long-winded explanation, but this kind of lecturing is what I do for a living, and people were asking for formal language to put in letters. I hope this helps.

  44. The story got a 30 second slot on our 10pm news in Oklahoma. it was hardly enough time to actually understand what the story was about, but its a start.

  45. Dear Sirs:

    I write to protest your introduction of and support for House Bill 282. I understand your concern about the rising costs of obesity and the welfare of the people of Mississippi, and that you desire to call attention to those issues. Your support for H.B. 282′s bright-line, socially exclusionary approach leaves me concerned, however, that you do not realize the extraordinarily harmful nature of the underlying message you are sending.

    Let me introduce myself…. I am nearly twenty-nine years old. I weigh three hundred and seventy-five pounds, and I have been significantly overweight as long as I can remember. House Bill 282, and your comments in support, send the message that because of my weight alone, I am nothing more than a burden to society and those around me, and that because of my weight, I should not be permitted to enjoy, in public, the pleasure of socialization with family and friends. House Bill 282, by its very terms, labels me less than valuable – nothing more than dead weight.

    Please look again, Representatives, and consider this:

    I was class president twice in high school. I held leads in the school plays. I sang in the choir. I was the youth representative for my church. I earned fully paid merit-based scholarships… for my undergraduate degrees, … for a Masters in Public Policy, and [for a law degree]. [My undergraduate institution awarded me] the highest honor bestowed on any graduating senior. I have worked as an actor and a stage manager. I have worked for NASA, the Congressional Research Service, and the Office of Management and Budget. After graduating from law school in 2005, I spent two years clerking for a federal judge in New Orleans. I shared, like so many others, the trauma Hurricane Katrina wreaked along the entire Gulf Coast. I now work for a major international law firm. I do not think that life is fair, and I think it is our job to change that as much as we can, with the talents we have.

    I play the piano. I speak fluent Spanish. I plant trees. I want to lose weight, for the benefit of my health, but consider the how and when of that effort strictly my personal concern. I have volunteered my time driving rescue dogs to foster homes in Biloxi and rebuilding local farmers’ markets. I have climbed mountains and gone swimming in waterfalls. I’ve set foot on the Great Wall of China. I write, I sing, and I love my friends and family. I am stubborn. I am loyal. I am imperfect, like the rest of humanity. I am going to find a way to change the world.

    House Bill 282, if enacted, would literally slam doors in my face. It reduces the entirety of my person – all of the complexity and potential of a human being – into nothing more than a burden on society. I reject that characterization.

    In your desire to call attention to valid problems, you have lost sight of what is, in the end, the most fundamental underpinning of our society.: basic respect for the individual. Every person deserves that respect, regardless of what they look like or where they come from or how they got to where they find themselves. Yes, as a legislator, you have been elected to fix problems. Yes, obesity raises a myriad of concerns – but it is also tied to emotional, physical, and socioeconomic factors. And any solution that achieves its goal – any goal – by making someone – anyone, for any reason – feel small, or humiliated, or worth less than their full potential, is no kind of solution at all.

    Ostracism and exclusion solve nothing. Yes, obesity is a social concern – but that does not change the fact that everyone deserves to be treated as an individual and valued in his or her own right. I write not to protest the issue of obesity, but to protest that you see nothing wrong with proposing this solution even if the bill should pass.

    I refuse to accept such a callous, careless approach to solving problems. I demand leaders that aspire to thoughtful problem-solving, not knee-jerk reactions. I demand a society that doesn’t value the greater good by dollar-value alone. I demand fellow citizens who think about their actions and who don’t equate disagreement with disrespect. And my leaders, my society, my fellow citizens, should demand the same of me.

    It is a question of respect for each other. H.B. 282 is fundamentally disrespectful of the humanity of the very people it hopes to help. When such values are built into even small, attention-getting proposals, they aggregate into a far larger message about what we consider right and proper and just in our society. I reject that possibility. Rather, I demand a world that understands the value of respect and demands that we respect each other. Others have the right to demand that of me, and I will demand it of them in turn.

    I write now to demand it of you. Withdraw the bill. Turn your attention to the broader causes of the problems you seek to fight. Value practical, effective problem-solving over the quick and easy flash in the pan. Your state and your constituents deserve nothing less.

    Sincerely,

  46. WTF??!!!! such blatant fatcism. Cancel my travels to Mississippi. Clearly their economy doesn’t need my travel bucks.

  47. I just saw a teaser for this being covered on our local news here in LA.

    I’m so impressed with all of you and your well written letters. I feel really lucky to have folks like you on my side!

  48. And never mind the fact that the Health Department would have to create a whole new department just for this. They would have to come up with and enforce the regulations when they barely have enough staff to do the standard health inspections.

    Why is it that our legislators don’t think anymore??

  49. Are they doing this because they think fat people will eat the restaurants out of business. I have some friends that are stick thin and can eat 4 times the about i can in one setting. They eat in one day the same amount I eat in 3-5 days. One I’ve know since we were 8. And this is how she has always eatten. Hell many times she finished my plates because I couldn’t eat it all. It’s so *uhhhhh………* I can’t even think of what to say to this………..

  50. I live in MS and want to crawl under a rock right now and die of embarrassment. As if we Mississippians needed any more negative publicity! We’ve already won the “least educated and poorest state” award. Let’s just throw in “least friendly to fat people” to boot. Not to mention our less-than-stellar racial relations history.
    By the way, Oprah had her official “Best Life” kickoff in my hometown of Meridian MS last month. It aired on her show and everything. She said she was “inspired” to come down after hearing MS was the “fattest state in the nation.”
    I went downtown the day she came just to witness all the hype. She basically gave all the fatties a good shamin, signed a few autographs, and left.
    We also had a CITY sponsored weight loss contest last year called “Just Lose It Meridian.” I think Oprah had gotten wind of that as well and it is partly the reason she chose Meridian to kick off her anti-fat campaign.
    In other words: this has not been a good last few months ANYWAY for fat people in MS. And now this bill — my GOD! I don’t think it will pass, but again, it’s more just an embarrassment for the intelligent, progressive people who just happen to live here.

  51. My letter-

    Rep. Mayhall:

    I am writing to express my profound disgust with your sponsorship of House Bill 282, which would prohibit restaurants from serving patrons with a BMI over 30. I cannot believe that a state representative would sign his name to a bill as blatantly discriminatory as this one.

    H.B. 282 is a disgusting, dehumanizing bill that would punish obese people simply for being obese while doing absolutely nothing to correct the health problems that you are ostensibly so concerned about. I cannot imagine that you are unaware of this, and your lack of concern for the basic human rights of your obese constituents is, frankly, horrifying. The bill you are proposing will not address issues of exercise, or the availability of affordable, healthy food. It will not address heart disease, Type II diabetes, the way overweight and obese patients are treated in the health industry. It would simply punish obese individuals for existing by denying them the social pleasures of eating out. You are not proposing a bill to encourage obese individuals to choose healthy food selections; you are proposing a bill to prevent obese individuals from eating. I cannot imagine what you hope to achieve with such a thing.

    I am absolutely certain that there are important issues facing your constituency right now. I suggest that you direct your attention to those issues rather than wasting your taxpayer-funded time with hateful publicity stunts.

    I am not a citizen of Mississippi, nor am I overweight, but you can rest assured that should this bill pass, I will not be taking myself or my business into a state that discriminates against so many of my family, friends, and colleagues.

    Sincerely,

    [aebhel]

  52. Pingback: the fshk blog » quickies: dumb state legislation edition

  53. Aebhel, that is great! Concise and to the point, and hits the sponsors in the wallet. I hate that you have to mention that you’re not overweight, but unfortunately it will probably make you seem much more credible to them, so it was smart to include that.

  54. spacedcowgirl, thanks. I sort of struggled with adding in the ‘not overweight’ thing, but I think it’s important to let these people know that it’s not just fat people they’re alienating with this bullshit.

  55. FWIW I think you made the right choice. It sucks that having thin people in the movement is the thing that will legitimize us in the eyes of other thin people, but that’s how it is. Our non-fat members have a special kind of outreach to do.

  56. Being UK-based I doubt anything I said would make the slightest impression on Mr Mayhall or his cohorts – plus, having witnessed a fat, diabetic friend start to go into insulin shock in a Mississippi restaurant, (the staff were swift and extremely helpful), I doubt I could exercise the necessary restraint over my language long enough to write anything coherent.

    Spacedcowgirl, Aebhel, M.Sheer, Goldie, et al, your finely-honed fighting words are formidable and I find it hard to believe they won’t heve some kind of impact. What I also can’t believe is that the fatosphere seems to have got hold of this before the media. This bill is so preposterous, ill-conceived and flagrantly bigoted the press should be all over it and the trolls should be having a field day. Something tells me, however, that even the Daily Mail would have a problem getting this one to hold water.

  57. Yeah, Buffpuff, the silence from the Paid Media has been pretty deafening. People might think we made the whole thing up, but that link from the Miss. legislature looks pretty legitimate to me.

  58. Here’s my letter to the Dept. of Tourism (tinq@mississippi.org):

    You would like me to visit your state…except that I might not be
    able to eat while I’m there because I’m 30 lbs. overweight. Since I do
    feel better when I have access to food on a daily basis, I think I may
    have to vacation somewhere else…but please tell your politicians I
    appreciate their concern for my health!

    Too bad–they’ll get all the fallout because their legislature is full of dumbasses, but it has to start somewhere.

  59. I hereby propose:

    Shapely Prose Bill 101:

    An act to prohibit the election or appointment of ignorant, bigoted and self-serving individuals to local, state or national office; to direct the ‘fatosphere’ to prepare written materials that describe and explain the criteria for determining whether a person displays, promotes or otherwise characterizes extreme disregard for civil rights and to provide those materials to the voting populace; to direct the ‘fatosphere’ to monitor elected or appointed officials for compliance with provisions of the act; and for related purpose. Be it enacted by the members of the Shapely Prose community.

  60. Maybe Dan Savage would enjoy living in Mississippi.

    If you suggested to Mr. Savage that he was in the same camp as these people, he’d be mortally offended (and probably write a long, overwrought response), but he is, and so is every other fat bigot.

  61. I’m going to let the bill sponsors speak for themselves. Because you couldn’t make this shit up.

    From Mayhall:

    “I do not have any intention of this becoming law,” says the Desoto County Republican. “I don’t think it has a Chinaman’s chance. I’m against intrusive government. I don’t think that’s what we’re here for and what we should be doing.”

    So why draft such controversial legislation?

    “The reason I put the bill in,” says Mayhall, “was to call attention to the seriousness of the obesity epidemic in Mississippi.”

    And from Read:

    “Anybody with any sense knows it’s not going to happen, not going to pass,” said Rep. John Read, R-Gautier, one of the bill’s authors. “Mississippi has been ranked the most obese state in the nation. With all the attention paid to tobacco problems, this was to shed some light on another major problem. This has been at least getting the dialogue going.”
    [...]
    “It’s got people all over stirred up,” Read said. “Nobody was trying to hurt anybody’s feelings here. If anyone’s feelings did get hurt, I apologize.”

    People really say “A Chinaman’s chance”? Politicians? While on the record? Wow.

  62. Furthermore, Rachel, I recommend there should be an Elected Shapeling in every government office to ensure there is no backsliding.

    Hey, a girl can dream.

  63. I just saw this headline, a poll shows that it is now popular for brides to ask their bridesmaids to sign a contract that they will not gain weight during the time of the wedding planning. Apparently, brides are concerned about their friends looking good for the wedding?

    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23155203-2,00.html?from=mostpop

    Really, we can’t eat in restaurants, our “friends” want to restrict our weight for their weddings, Leno can make jokes on national tv on how a woman was rightfully divorced for daring to eat food after her wedding (she gained weight!), etc.

    You can’t tell me that we aren’t discriminated against.

  64. I’m a a little ashamed to admit I’m from MS.

    What a boneheaded bill. I wrote, (thanks for the templates, y’all.) and then called my own personal representative.

    His office staff (they never answer their own phone) assured me that they all believed this bill was “patently ridiculous” and that clearly if we wanted to do anything about medicaid costs, the way to do it was to make preventative care, healthy food, and safe places to exercise more available to low income families, etc. Pretty much told me the same things I was going to say. So that made me feel better. Of course, I live in one of the more liberal parts of the state. (Yes, they exist.)

    My couch is still open as lodging for that Eat In, though. :)

  65. anyone know if a letter from a non-US citizen would help at all? I mean, its not a problem of my country (yet) but this goes beyond the rights of US citizens. It affects the whole of the western world, by example. The culture of the US is one of the most influential, and this really really scares me.

  66. Kim, that appears to be just a survey result, but I can believe that it might really happen. I recently read over here about a bride who asked her two fat sisters to be bridesmaids, but demanded they lose weight first. (They did – and were grateful to her for giving them a ‘wakeup call’.) I’ve heard of fat sisters and ‘best friends’ passed over in favor of thin cousins they barely know by brides who don’t want anyone fat in the photos. (In fact, I’m not absolutely sure this didn’t happen to me at least once.) Weddings are supposed to be joyful, but they actually bring out the craziness and the mean streak in some families.

  67. A woman on a wedding forum I’m on was actually complaining that her friend made her promise NOT to lose weight before the wedding — she didn’t want her bridesmaids to be thinner than her.

  68. Ladies, here’s something more to think about: this bill is salvageable. Here’s the link to the article Salvage Bill 282
    I blogged about it, but talk about using up Sanity Watchers points, you’ll use a couple of years’ worth of them just reading this crap.

  69. Wow, that was ridiculous and very contradictory. So this guy doesn’t want fast food places to sell their highest calorie foods to obese children when they’re alone, but it’s fine if their parents are with them (so the parents won’t get angry for having their children denied that evil Quarter Pounder).

    These people will not get it! You cannot tell by looking at a person’s size what their eating habits are.

    I think we should petition Chris Crocker to do a “Leave the fatties alone!” rant on You Tube.

  70. So, if restaurant food makes people fat, why aren’t all people who eat in restaurants fat?
    Wouldn’t banning the fat people but allowing the not-yet-fat to eat at restaurants mean that, uh, eventually, everyone would be fat?
    I think that many of the people out there who post the sort of comments that eat away at my Sanity Watcher’s points really would support this sort of policy.
    Maybe the restaurant industry will adopt some “voluntary” measures, such as subbing veggie burgers and low-fat cheese and mayo in the sandwiches of people deemed to be “obese.” There could be a sort of obese “panic button” under the counter that would override the order displayed on the register.
    With the drive-thru, there could be some sort of high-tech scanner that determined the biomass inside of the vehicle and calculated the % of bodyfat, and then delivered what a program determines you “should” be eating. So, if you happened to a naturally thin person, a giant burger would greet you at the window even if you wanted a salad.
    Very sci-fi.
    In case it’s hard to tell, I’m being facetious.

  71. I was actually one of those mythical fat sisters who wasn’t asked to be in her sister’s wedding. My sister was my “maid of honor,” in as much as that can happen in a non-traditional, pagan wedding. 8 or so years later at her wedding, I was not asked to be involved at all. She had 3 women stand up with her, and my son as ring-bearer, but not me. I know why – she didn’t want her pictures ruined. It’s pretty shitty, but so it goes, I guess.

  72. A woman on a wedding forum I’m on was actually complaining that her friend made her promise NOT to lose weight before the wedding — she didn’t want her bridesmaids to be thinner than her.

    A friend of mine was recently a bridesmaid, and the bride’s mom made the bridesmaid’s dresses. My friend’s dress was like 4 sizes too big, and when she asked the mom if she could take it in a little, she said no because: “The bridesmaid can’t look thinner than the bride.” Sad and ridiculous, because the bride was just beautiful.

  73. Regarding “salvaging” the bill — by making it only illegal for obese CHILDREN to be discriminated against — oy.
    I guess that they want to make the arguement that obesity is the result of eating fast food and there couldn’t possibly be any ill effects to the non-obese people/children eating it.
    I mean, aren’t there non-obese people with “naturally,” genetically, high cholesterol? What about those people with “natural,” genetic high blood pressure? Why not require doctor’s notes indicating blood pressure under 120/80 for everyone before they consume high sodium foods? I guess that’s why this law would never stand up, but it surely highlights how insane it is.

  74. I don’t think the bill is salvagable either. Keep in mind, the news article cited above is a self-serving press release published on a site that will print most press releases submitted to it.

    And also keep in mind folks, the restaurant and especially the cattle industry are among some of the biggest supporters of many a Republican political official. I doubt many legislators will rally around this or any other similar and ridiculous bill for fear of alienating those who line their pockets.

  75. HAH! Im obviously setting myself up for failiure then. My fiancé is going to run off with one of my tall, blonde and model slim bridesmaids.

    ..NAAAH.

    (yeah, im getting married. I got proposed to at christmas… up a mountain. at sunset. in norway. with a flask of coffee and biscuits. The wedding date is october the 4th 2008. SQUEE!)

  76. I hope some of these legislators sign up for the next half-marathon I run, just so I get the satisfaction of passing the ones that can actually finish.

    At 5’9″ and *gasp* 230 lbs, I have a BMI of 33, cholesterol at 124, and blood pressure that averages in the 115/75 range. I can run a half-marathon in less than three hours and a 10K in just over an hour. If that’s not healthy, I don’t know what is.

    I know I’m preaching to the choir, but we need to debunk the skinny=fit myth as much as we can. That’s part of the reason I started Running Phat. Peruse at will: runningphat.blogspot.com.

  77. I’ve been upset about this dang law attack all weekend- but my hubby pointed out– when the heck would our lesbian, bi-racial family go to Missiippi anyways? Fat is just one of the 3 reasons we’d never be down there anyways.

    Then of course, I had to remind her- hate laws have a sick way of traveling until they DO impinge upon our lives. I also reminded her, she of the post gastric bypass (and now in supposed “great health”- yeah, read the sarcasm there!), that now this is one entitlement she has over me. (Isn’t it ironic that she can’t even eat enough to warrant going to a restaurant?) That she is thin and acceptable. I reminded her of how I used to be the interface for our family in the world- as I am “femme” and more classically acceptable versus her more masculine apporach to the world— but since she lost the weight 4 years ago, I became invisible and no longer the first one greeted in company. She is.

    I think after our long discussion, she gets it.

  78. That’s great news, but I’m not at all surprised. I’ll buy copies for all my friends for the holidays. And I have several friends!

    Note to Publishers: take a look at the number of hits this site has without being a full year old. We buy books and lots of ‘em – I’m sure all Shaplings will buy a copy for all of their their friends as well! Go bid for the rights of their book now before some other publishing house beats you to it and enjoys all the sweet, sweet profits instead of you.

  79. I think this bill should be looked upon from the same perspective as the smoking ban in the UK. We all do not want our kids to smoke (or start smoking), and the best way to accomplish that is: to forbid people to smoke indoors, and because smoking needs to be done outdoors in the cold make it seriously uncool to smoke. Further, try to force legislation to prevent people from smoking near children everywhere (even at home). This will raise a generation that will hardly smoke: mission accomplished.

    Now, I don’t think anyone wants their kids to become obese. So if you make it seriously uncool to be overweight, we could raise a generation that will be less heavy.

    So no, it is not about discriminating overweight people, it is about protecting the next generation.

  80. So if you make it seriously uncool to be overweight, we could raise a generation that will be less heavy.

    Man, remember high school, when you were really getting the fat-positive enforcement? The Fat Kid Gangs ruled with an iron fist. I can’t even count how many times I saw thin girls running from the gym in tears because of the vicious taunting. Sometimes we fat kids would just go up to some skinny person and be fat at them, just for kicks.

  81. What I can’t get over are the relentless positive images of fat people in entertainment and the media. Don’t they know how important it is to take the coolness away from fat?

  82. Has anyone notified Jill Connor Browne of this ridiculous crap? I cannot believe that the Sweet Potato Queens are not already on this issue.

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