Ah, you have to love a good cable-news moral panic story. This time, it’s a twofer: CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta tells us that working moms cause childhood obesity!
Gupta starts by coyly acknowledging that mothers get blamed for an awful lot:
CHETRY: This just another case of blame mom for everything? Could working mothers be responsible for kids getting fatter? Well, it’s a controversial theory that Doctor Sanjay Gupta takes a look at in today’s “Fit Nation” report.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, good morning, Kiran. I was a little — talk about blaming women. I have to be a little careful here.
Women have been blamed for everything going back to the Garden of Eden for sure. But we’re taking a look at some — some people believe that working mothers may actually be contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic. We decided to take a look at this controversial theory.
Gee, it’s really not fair to blame mothers for everything, but gosh darn, “some people” are blaming them for something else, and since that something else is the latest moral panic to come down the pike, let’s roll tape!
SINGER: Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’ —
GUPTA (voice over): Working 9 to 5 was a movie and a mantra in the 1980s, as American women entered the workforce en masse. That’s about the same time that American kids started packing on the pounds.
TERRY MASON, CHICAGO PUBLIC HEALTH COMMISSIONER: We saw that started to happen and you could track childhood obesity and there was a direct correlation.
GUPTA: So, did working women lead to chubbier children? Well, 16 percent of children six and older are overweight. That is triple the number from 1980.
Oh, let’s just ignore the fact that women have always worked outside the home, shall we? And let’s further ignore the fact that obesity is prevalent where there is food insecurity or a lack of decent grocery stores. Let’s ignore the food served to the children during the time when they’re in school and the lack of facilities or resources time allotted for physical activity as well. And let’s also ignore the fact that correlation is not causation.
Because it must be a woman’s fault.
Women are blamed for making their kids fat by not making home-cooked meals because they’re working. And for not ensuring that their kids get exercise, because they’re working.
It’s a nice twofer, in terms of moral panic: get back in the kitchen, bitch, because your daring to work outside the home has resulted in your child becoming that most feared and hated of creatures, a fat kid. You probably already doomed the kid to a life of fatness because you didn’t breastfeed, anyhow. Because you were so selfish as to want to WORK!
Mind you, you’re not off the hook if you’re a poor mother, working or not, because the conservatives will blame you for making your kid fat because of food stamps. Everybody loses!
And now that they’ve introduced the moral panic issue because “some people” were making the claim, it’s time to back off:
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that blaming women for childhood obesity is absolutely ridiculous.
GUPTA: Others say obesity may be caused by a variety of factors.
KATHRYN THOMAS, ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON FOUNDATION: At its very simplest, our kids are taking in a lot more calories than they’re burning off, but there are a lot of reasons for that. It’s not just because they’re not eating as many dinners at home.
GUPTA: Regardless of cause, there are steps to help kids stay leaner.
THOMAS: We need to get physical education back in to schools. We need to get the junk foods out of schools. We need make communities safer for kids to walk and bike and play.
It’s harder to do that than it is to say, mom and dad, you’re not doing the right thing. I think mom and dad are doing the best they can.
And watch how Gupta segues from the videotape back in the studio:
GUPTA: You know, eating out of the home seems to be one of the biggest culprits here, Kiran. Studies have shown that when children eat out at restaurants they eat twice as many calories, on average, as they would at home.
So, Kiran, you buying any of this?
CHETRY: You can see how easily it can happen and you do sympathize with people who say — I mean, both mothers and fathers — they are working all day and they come home. And sometimes it’s easier it go through the drive through, but if they are going to attempt to get their kids eating healthier, what do they need to start thinking about?
Let’s place the blame on working mothers for the sake of getting it out there (because “some people” said it might be true!), then turn around, sort of let them off the hook and introduce a fairly standard this-is-how-you-can-eat-healthier-without-resorting-to-takeout bit. But, hey, just giving eating-healthier tips is so unexciting! Better to jazz it up with a little mother-bashing and nostalgia for a time that never really existed!
Besides, if it had been presented straight, you couldn’t have had the following teaser at the top of the hour:
Plus, blame it on the moms?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don’t have the traditional approach of a woman being at home, cooking dinner, taking care of the kids, getting the kids outside, getting the kids exercise.
ROBERTS: Just who is pointing the finger at working moms for America’s surge of chubby children?
On this AMERICAN MORNING.
Who? That would be CNN. Dressed up as “some people.” Pushing retrograde cultural narratives since 1980!
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