You may remember a post I wrote about a month ago, about Maria King’s ‘fat-bashing’ Facebook post. Well, this week in the Boston Globe there was an Op-Ed piece championing Ms. King’s viewpoint. The headline reads: “Pro-fat is an unhealthy status quo”. I must say, Globe editors, unless the author, Cathy Young chose that title, it seems like a provocative choice of words. The Globe is fairly consistent about presenting both sides of political issues, but there was no balancing opinion piece on this topic. Which raises the question of whether the American attitude toward fat people is a political concern…
Ms. Young’s point appears to be that the ‘fat acceptance’ movement is dangerous. As she critiques the promotion of ‘fat pride’ and the normalization and celebration of body size acceptance, I would ask Ms. Young to consider three questions.
First and most importantly, as she references the ‘rise in childhood obesity’, I ask, does she mean to say that it is better for children to grow up obese and filled with shame and self-loathing? Does she really believe that it is irresponsible to present children with models of self-acceptance, regardless of body size? She states that fat-bullying is not okay, but in the absence of any positive role models, the fat-bashers (adult & child) would seem to have cultural approval for expressing their negative opinions.
Ms. Young quotes several studies, some which support her p.o.v and another, which she disparages as flawed, which is invoked by ‘pro-fat activists.’ Her reasoning is confusing and frankly, insults the intelligence of the participants in the study. Plus, we all know how easily one can find studies to support or debunk any point of view.
My second question for Ms. Young is whether she has done any research into the role of processed foods in childhood (and adult) obesity? For more than half a century, the processed food industry (with near-silence – or complicity – on the part of our government) has knowingly sold/fed the American public ‘food products’ that contain heavy loads of salt, sugar and fat. These addictive substances have fueled billions of dollars in profits for the processed food and diet industries. I would suggest that Ms. Young read Michael Moss’s Salt Sugar Fat, or at least the opening chapters, and educate herself.
Lastly, Young disparages the ‘the left wing notion that anti-obesity stigma equals bigotry (and patriarchal oppression, when directed at women)’. I’m sorry, but seeing the words ‘left wing’ in this argument made me chuckle. However, I guess in a way she’s right – it is a human rights issue – albeit one that the average progressive individual may not be comfortable espousing. Be that as it may, I ask Ms. Young: do you really, honestly contend that sexism/patriarchal oppression is not a factor in fat stigma? There are thousands of studies that confirm that girls and women are judged on their appearance. They know it, from a terrifyingly young age, and they strive to meet unhealthy standards of ‘beauty’. Yes, fat is a feminist issue, (with a nod to Susie Orbach).
Young closes by likening obesity to alcoholism. There may be parallels, but I would say that to call either ‘condition’ a ‘self-inflicted’ one demonstrates a lack of sensitivity and insight on her part. She is simply incorrect when she closes with the accusation that promoting self-acceptance is ‘assist[ing] in denial’. In my opinion, health, in every meaning of the word, requires a foundation of self-acceptance and pride, not shame.