Gosh, it’s been an interesting week in the fatosphere. First there was this bit of garbage: http://todayhealth.today.com/_news/2013/01/24/16664866-fat-shaming-may-curb-obesity-bioethicist-says?lite
Bioethecist my ass. Ethicist-of-any-sort my ass. Fatties United (http://fattiesunited.wordpress.com/2013/01/26/for-shame/) pretty much covered what there is to be said:
Anyway, what research does he cite? I looked at his paper (I don’t really want to link to it, but you can find it on the Web), and he has 15 references, but most of these are ethics papers, not research. There’s an article (not research paper) saying that programs to reduce childhood fatness “seem to work”, and four research papers that are not actually about public health campaigns. So no actual evidence.
Quips ASDAH and NAAFA member (and our hero) Deb Burgard, “For him to argue that we need more stigma, I don’t know what world he’s living in,” and “He must not have any contact with actual free-range fat people.”
Also, isn’t bioethics supposed to actually consider, um, ethics? What exactly is ethical about saying nasty things to fat people? About deliberately hurting people “for their own good”? Here’s a hint, dude: Even if it works (it doesn’t), IT’S STILL WRONG!
Well, maybe I do have a couple of things to say. History certainly indicates that beating children teaches them to be peaceful adults who would never hit a child, and throwing minor criminals in with major criminals teaches them all to just get along and burning witches helped…what exactly was that supposed to help? FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, when will humans learn that being mean to each other just perpetuates being mean? I figure this guy Daniel Callahan (not to be confused with the lovely prof. of Medieval History, Daniel Callahan, here at Pretty Good U) is Jillian Michaels’s cousin or Pat Robertson’s love child. In which case, we can perhaps blame his assholicity on genetics.
And then, *big sigh*, there’s the generally-better-than-this Boston Globe’s little treasure of journalistic probity: http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/health/2013/01/26/penalties-for-smokers-and-the-obese-make-sense/eXVtWoiAlhM5MyXKQ3b75M/story.html. This monument to critical thinking cites “various researchers” as proof of the health cataclysms that are obesity and smoking (lumping together a condition and a behavior, so logically mucked up from the get-go), and in passing lists other behaviors (not wearing motorcycle and/or bicycle helmets) that unjustly cost others more than their “fair” share of the insurance pot and the healthcare system’s time&money. The article basically just parrots Daniel Callahan’s words, which essentially mirror the right-wingnut arguments about any number of things: we (the good, white, skinny, rich people) shouldn’t have to contribute anything to the general good because we nevernevernever take anything from the guvment (other than, oh, roads, water, schools, police, Social Security, and, and, and and we don’t want the dirty guvment’s hands on our property or gunnnnz, but we’re more than happy to force your daughter to have unnecessary invasive medical procedures in order to make her feel even worse about wanting an abortion than she already does). Callahan just puts things a little more (very little more) elegantly, if no more truthfully. He beats the tired drum of Those Trashy Poor People Are Using Up Our Goodies (since there is a statistically significant proportion of the fat and smokers who are on the lower end of the scale, though not all of us are there, by any means):
National obesity rates are essentially static, and public health campaigns that gently try to educate people about the benefits of exercise and healthy eating just aren’t working, Callahan argued. We need to get obese people to change their behavior. If they are angry or hurt by it, so be it, he said.
‘‘Emotions are what really count in this world,’’ he said.
You could drown in the irony of that last statement.
Dear Mr. Callahan. While I realize that I do not constitute a scientific sample (which I doubt you’d recognize, anyway), I will tell you that my father and many, many others have shamed, guilted, harassed, and battered me about my weight for decades. Didn’t work, unless its real intention was to scar several levels of my psyche. My father actually beat me for not losing weight, well past the age when he should have been laying hands on me for anything other than the occasional hug. Wanna guess how that worked out?
Here’s the note that came from my skinny friend Adam, along with the urls:
Yeah, I was pleased with the Post for publishing a thoughtful piece, and it was shocking that the Globe on the same day would print something so obscene. In such a wealthy society (granted, most is allocated to blowing people up), I can’t believe we are even asking whether to “just let people die,” even if we accept the basic premise (I don’t) that they “did it to themselves”.
That is really free market capitalism at work, known also as social Darwinism.
Also known as A Really Bad Idea. Ayn Rand didn’t invent it, but she certainly preached it and jerks all over this country buy into the weird hybrid of Randism and Puritanism that is GOP today. Oy.
The Washington Post piece he’s talking about is here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-size-profiling-harms-overweight-patients/2013/01/25/7dc9ed3a-602e-11e2-b05a-605528f6b712_story_1.html
It is, indeed, a measured and sensible piece that treats the issue humanely and logically. Kudos to the WP. The OpEd concludes:
Other studies have shown that individuals who think people can control their weight are more likely to believe that weight-based discrimination is justified. And my research has found that news media discussions of obesity overwhelmingly blame personal choices — rather than social or biological factors — for Americans’ rising weights.
In our rush to cure the obesity epidemic, we are not only ignoring but may be worsening anti-fat prejudice and size profiling. If medical professionals want to improve public health, they might start by renewing their pledge to “first, do no harm” by treating patients of all sizes with dignity and respect.
The thing that strikes me is that no one mentions what is, at least according to much of what I’ve read, is an actual health crisis of sorts–one that is costing the federal health system gajillions and which nobody, apparently can talk about without Sarah Palin going all foamy-lipped about “Death Panels:” end-of-life costs. Of course we don’t talk about it. The wingnuts start accusing the awful liberals of wanting to off granny at the first sign of serious illness, and the for-profit medical companies of various stripes (yep, I’m bitching about The Corporations again) have no incentive to not continue to extend life beyond, well, life in order to reap the megabucks that it costs to keep folks in hospitals and plugged in and in pain and, and, and, and. End of life, not obesity. And we could talk about the zillions of people whose lives are vastly less healthy because they’re unable to afford any sort of decent time in therapy (many insurers seem to believe that major trauma can be dealt with in 6 weeks, because only self-indulgent weaklings can’t get-it-done in 6 weeks). And we could talk a bout the vast sums it costs us to have a large chunk of our population using our Emergency Departments for primary care. Or we could discuss the fact that we haven’t just plain outlawed smoking. Or we could discuss the real costs of The War on Drugs. But it’s much, much easier to be mean to fat people. There’s a real zing of righteousness in it for the not-fat.
We could do a lot of things that would make sense, but they wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as blaming it on fat people. Or black people. Or uppity women.
We do love our “Other”s.
God forgive me, but I do kind of hope that some thing goes wonky with Daniel Callahan’s metabolism and he gets seriously fat. Okay, maybe not actually hope, but…