All right, I’m way late in getting to the Yale study on discrimination that everybody was talking about last week, but it’s still worth a mention.
The hook most media outlets have been using is “weight discrimination is more common than racial discrimination,” which irritates me, because it plays into the “fat is the last acceptable prejudice” fallacy. So let’s make sure we don’t have any of that here. But let’s at least talk about this:
Losing out on a job or a scholarship, being refused a bank loan, getting poorer service in a restaurant, receiving inferior medical care, and being harassed by police were among the inequities listed by overweight people responding to a national survey whose results appear in the journal Obesity.
That’s one of those things where my response is simultaneously, “No shit, Sherlock” and “Thank Maude someone outside the fatosphere is finally saying it.” I never quite know how to feel about those.
Here’s the most exciting part:
Instead [of an increase in weight explaining the increase in weight-based discrimination] the authors point to media reports and the weight-loss business. Both frame obesity as a matter of personal responsibility requiring individual solutions, they say, citing other studies.
“Attributions about personal responsibility for obesity, whether perpetuated by media coverage or by diet industry marketing, could potentially contribute to higher levels of weight bias and perceived discrimination.” they write.
The authors call for national action to reduce weight discrimination.
I’m kind of stunned that a bunch of researchers not only noticed that discrimination against fat people exists, they correctly identified a major cause of it. (Did hell freeze over while I was neglecting the blog last week?) I am so fucking sick of the phrase “personal responsibility,” which always seems to be used by people who want to justify their prejudices, so I LOVE that they identify that phrase–and the thinking behind it–as the hate-fueling horseshit it is.
And that, I might add, is why this blog continues to work toward busting the myth that all fat people eat non-stop and never exercise. Sure, some fat people do, and they deserve the same respect as any other human beings, but as long as the culture keeps insisting that fatness is a failure of “personal responsibility,” I’m going to keep screaming that there are fat people who live “healthy lifestyles,” and thin people who live “unhealthy lifestyles” (see below for more on that odious framing) and you just can’t know how much “personal responsibility” any given person is taking by looking at them. So, you know, maybe you should shut the fuck up about “personal responsibility.”
Getting people to shut up is only a band-aid, of course, since the ultimate goal is getting everyone to take “personal responsibility” for making the world a kinder, more compassionate place. But you gotta start somewhere.
Speaking of phrases I hate, please check out Debra Sapp-Yarwood–known as DebraSY over at Big Fat Blog–going after the word “lifestyle” in a column for the Kansas City Star. (She reports that her suggested headline was “Why I Hate the Word Lifestyle and You Should too”–so naturally, they replaced that with a headline that makes no sense whatsoever.) Debra’s among the tiny percentage of people who’ve maintained a substantial weight loss for over five years, yet she is smart enough to know that doesn’t automatically mean “You can, too!”
Healthy lifestyle is often code language for the opposite of “fat.” It presents a false choice: If you choose a healthy lifestyle, you won’t be fat. If you are fat you must have chosen the unhealthy, fat lifestyle. How insulting!
And now, Shapelings, over to you. Do you hate the phrases “personal responsibility” and “healthy lifestyle” as much as I do? And have you got any others? Rant away.