Happy “I Hate Fat People” Week!

No, it’s not actually I Hate Fat People week, but it kind of feels like it. A (very questionable) new study says that obesity spreads like a “virus,” and having fat friends can make you fatter. Another says that mothers who work outside the home make their kids fat. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, obese girls are less likely to go to college. And now Dick Cavett has a thing or two to say about obese people daring to show their faces on television (or just about anywhere). It’s an incredibly hateful piece, and it demonstrates just how bigoted people can be towards overweight people — something further illustrated in a recent Zogby survey which found that 26 percent of Americans believe most people would least want to work with a morbidly obese person.

Cavett writes:

It was only a few years ago that I first noticed an obese person in a commercial. Then there were more. Now, like obesity itself, it has gotten out of hand.

This disturbs me in ways I haven’t fully figured out, and in a few that I have. The obese man on the orange bench, the fat pharmacist in the drug store commercial and all of the other heavily larded folks being used to sell products distresses me. Mostly because the message in all this is that its O.K. to be fat.

As we know, it isn’t.

It isn’t, he says, because of the health risks that come with obesity. There are some people who dispute the very idea that obesity is at all related to health issues, but I’m not part of that camp. Yes, being obese is bad for you. Guess what? Most obese people know that! Some extra fat on your thighs does not, in fact, turn your brain to lard. But being overweight does not automatically translate into being unhealthy, any more than being thin automatically translates into living until you’re 100. There are a whole lot of factors. And from my (admittedly limited) research into this issue, it seems that being sedentary and eating crap is a whole lot worse for you than being fat — that is, a thin or average-sized person who never moves and eats crap every day is going to have bigger problems with heart disease, diabetes, and many of the other issues Cavett lists than a person whose BMI puts them into the overweight category but who exercises regularly and eats a balanced diet.

And, as many overweight — and average-weight — people will tell you, dropping pounds isn’t easy. I’m not overweight, I work out four times a week, I eat fairly well, I walk just about everywhere (including up the stairs to my sixth-floor apartment), I have a normal metabolism and I still can’t lose even very small amounts of weight (a few pounds) without some serious effort. Losing 15 or 20 or 30 pounds is certainly no small job. The narrative of “if you only exercise and eat well you’ll be ‘normal’ sized” is a joke — plenty of people do eat well and do exercise and still have BMIs that put them in the “overweight” or “obese” category. Genetics matter, a lot. And it is pretty difficult to change your genetically-determined weight, on either end of things:

The implications were clear. There is a reason that fat people cannot stay thin after they diet and that thin people cannot stay fat when they force themselves to gain weight. The body’s metabolism speeds up or slows down to keep weight within a narrow range. Gain weight and the metabolism can as much as double; lose weight and it can slow to half its original speed.

Losing significant amounts of weight is just as difficult as gaining significant amounts of weight:

It began with studies that were the inspiration of Dr. Ethan Sims at the University of Vermont, who asked what would happen if thin people who had never had a weight problem deliberately got fat.

His subjects were prisoners at a nearby state prison who volunteered to gain weight. With great difficulty, they succeeded, increasing their weight by 20 percent to 25 percent. But it took them four to six months, eating as much as they could every day. Some consumed 10,000 calories a day, an amount so incredible that it would be hard to believe, were it not for the fact that there were attendants present at each meal who dutifully recorded everything the men ate.

Once the men were fat, their metabolisms increased by 50 percent. They needed more than 2,700 calories per square meter of their body surface to stay fat but needed just 1,800 calories per square meter to maintain their normal weight.

When the study ended, the prisoners had no trouble losing weight. Within months, they were back to normal and effortlessly stayed there.

In other words, it’s pretty hard to change what nature gave ya. It’s also worth noting that while obesity is genetic, obesity-related problems like diabetes and heart disease also have genetic factors. So perhaps drawing cause-and-effect lines between obesity and other medical complications isn’t so simple.

Now, there are obviously a variety of factors that lead to weight gain and loss. According to research cited in many of these articles, there’s about a 30-pound range that most people naturally fall into. That is, a person’s weight will naturally fall between, say, 110-140 pounds, and they can move between those two extremes without drastic measures. But if you’re already in the upper range of your natural weight and you’re unable to access the kinds of things that will allow you to eat better and maintain physical activity, it’ll be harder to move back down, and easier to continue inching up.

While it’s cruel and simply inaccurate to blame weight gain solely on food and lack of physical activity, it’s foolish to ignore the structural issues that contribute to obesity and general unhealth. Obesity rates fall along socio-economic lines, with the poor shouldering much of the burden. If you’re living on a tight budget, you’re going to buy cheap and filling foods — pasta, ramen and frozen vegetables as opposed to fresh greens and fish. If you’re on a tight budget and you’re busy (working full time, raising kids, etc), McDonald’s is going to make a lot more sense than coming home and cooking. And if you’re poor, you probably aren’t going to purchase a gym membership. You may not live in a place where it’s safe to go for a long walk. You may have so much else to do that taking a leisurely stroll or taking a jog isn’t an option. And there are a million other factors that make it very, very difficult for low-income people to afford the healthiest food and engage in the kind of physical activity necessary to lose a significant amount of weight.

In fact, socio-economic status is highly correlated with health in general. Surprise, surprise. Poor people get the short end of the stick on just about everything — and our cultural myth of “if you work hard you’ll do well” only worsens the situation by demonizing both poor people and fat people. Instead of helping people get healthy, we shame them for the factors that are making them sick. And being poor is often what makes you sick:

Over time, research linking health and wealth became more nuanced. It turns out that “what matters in determining mortality and health in a society is less the overall wealth of that society and more how evenly wealth is distributed. The more equally wealth is distributed, the better the health of that society,” according to the editors of the April 20, 1996 issue of the British Medical Journal. In that issue, American epidemiologist George Kaplan and his colleagues showed that the disparity of income in each of the individual U.S. states, rather than the average income per state, predicted the death rate.

“The People’s Epidemiologists,” an article in the March/April 2006 issue of Harvard Magazine, takes the analysis a step further. Fundamental social forces such as “poverty, discrimination, stressful jobs, marketing-driven global food companies, substandard housing, dangerous neighborhoods and so on” actually cause individuals to become ill, according to the studies cited in the article. Nancy Krieger, the epidemiologist featured in the article, has shown that poverty and other social determinants are as formidable as hostile microbes or personal habits when it comes to making us sick. This may seem obvious, but it is a revolutionary idea: the public generally believes that poor lifestyle choices, faulty genes, infectious agents, and poisons are the major factors that give rise to illness.

Fat-shaming is an easy way to avoid actually doing anything about our broken health care system. It enables all of us to shift the blame to people who we can blame for being lazy or gluttonous, instead of taking a hard look at the inequitable system that allocates more health-related resources to some than others. It also allows a lot of people to feel morally superior for no good reason.

Which brings me back to Cavett. Dick Cavett does not like fat people. The vitriol he levels at them is unbelievable. And so I have to wonder if it’s because fatness is threatening. Unlike, say, smokers — a group it’s also generally acceptable to dislike — fat people represent something you could be if you aren’t careful (or so says the diet industry). The truth, of course, is that if you are a thin person and your parents are thin people, you are probably not going to be obese. But our social construction of fatness revolves around an idea of personal failing, and of self-control — watch what you eat, or you’ll end up looking like that. Smoking isn’t something you slip into, it’s something you choose. According to the dominant cultural myth, fatness is something that happens to you if you don’t check yourself. Fat people just didn’t check themselves. They weren’t as careful as you are. If you fear fat, that’s a more tolerable way of approaching life than recognizing that fatness is a complex social issue, dictated largely by things beyond your immediate control.

Emphasizing that fatness is unattractive or inherently unhealthy does absolutely nothing to improve nation-wide health conditions. It does nothing to help the many people who are declining higher education because their self-esteem and ability to socially function is so thoroughly damaged by a lifetime of shaming and mocking. It does nothing to help people access health care, or even healthy foods. But it can certainly make Dick Cavett feel morally superior. And I suppose that counts for something.


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39 comments for “Happy “I Hate Fat People” Week!

  1. July 26, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    Well put.

    But is there any way you, or someone else, could legally post the full text of Cavett’s piece for those non-premium readers of the NY times?

  2. July 26, 2007 at 11:54 pm

    Yes:

    It was only a few years ago that I first noticed an obese person in a
    commercial. Then there were more. Now, like obesity itself, it has gotten
    out of hand.

    This disturbs me in ways I haven’t fully figured out, and in a few that I
    have. The obese man on the orange bench, the fat pharmacist in the drug
    store commercial and all of the other heavily larded folks being used to
    sell products distresses me. Mostly because the message in all this is
    that its O.K. to be fat.

    As we know, it isn’t.

    It isn’t, mainly, because of the attendant health issues. The risk of several cancers, crippling damage to joints, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and sleep apnea — a much under-publicized life-threatener — defies sense.

    So why is it so prevalent in our culture and in the media? Could it be that the ad agencies — always with our best interests at heart, of course — are making use of the appalling fact that obesity in the United States has doubled and rapidly redoubled to the point where one-third of the population is imperiled by gross poundage? Fat people, the commercial-makers may feel, are entitled to representation. What’s wrong with that?

    Everything.

    Anything seen on TV is, in a subtle and sinister sense, thereby endorsed. I’ve done shows with Ku Klux Klansmen, Mafiosi and Nazis (both domestic and Third Reich). Despite my being not overly cordial to them, always a nagging little voice in me wondered if there wasn’t something wrong with having them on at all. Was it somehow a tacit endorsement, just putting them on television? After all, there’s that sign in the variety store that sits atop the pyramid of schlocky plastic vegetable slicers: AS SEEN ON TV! Just being seen on the tube . . . it’s gotta be good.

    Commercials are not the only exposure that obesity gets on TV. It is by no means a rarity on the wonderful Judge Judy’s show when both plaintiff and accused all but literally fill the screen. I guess a nice person would not point out that Jerry Springer’s guests and audience frequently bring to mind (particularly for those of us from western states) a herd of heifers. But there it is. I’ll try to be nicer.

    Television comedy, in particular, has become an equal opportunity employer of the gigantic. It seems as if nearly every sitcom has a requisite fat, sassy black lady (or man) or a fat, avuncular white Uncle Jim large enough to absorb the scripted fat jokes. I have yet to see one of those Comedy Central shows with multiple standup comics that doesn’t include someone the size of the Hindenburg. Frequently the comic is black or Hispanic — the two groups, according to many studies, currently bearing the brunt of the obesity plague.

    These comics’ routines invariably center on their weight vs. their erotic life — the abundance of former and lack of the latter. When being huge is a jokester’s bread and butter, remaining so becomes a professional necessity as well as an encouragement to over-inflated young would-be performers eager to emulate them. They see that fat is funny. And funny is money.

    (Fat jokes, of course, have long been standard in comedy: When you get on a scale, does a card come out saying, ‘Please, one at a time?’” Long ago, that sort of thing risked offending only a few.)

    When I was a kid in Nebraska and the eagerly anticipated (and wildly politically incorrect) freak show came to town, it starred such favorites as The Cone-Headed Savages; He Has Two Noses; Alzora, The Turtle Girl (if you’re still out there, Alzora, please write to me!); The Pig Man; and, for an extra quarter and behind curtains, something called Is It A Man Or A Woman?

    And, of course, the ever-popular Fat Lady. Dora, in this case. The idea that Dora’s rotundity would be a novelty rare enough that one paid to look at it is sad. (Today, in a two-block walk, I can safely predict seeing at least one woman who could put Dora out of business.)

    In the playground, did you too have the nasty little ditty beginning, “Fatty, Fatty, Two by Four”? In Nebraska, we had the song –­ but no one to torment with it. No one was fat. Sounds incredible now, doesn’t it, in the midst of our current tragedy.

    More recently I found myself in Tiananmen Square, and a Chinese guide pointed to a bus unloading what seemed to be half a mile away.

    Americans, he said.

    How can you tell from here? I naively asked.

    Fannies, he said, making the wide gesture with both hands.

    Every summer Irish girls come to Montauk, L. I., to work. Some years ago, when obesity was getting into surge mode, I asked two of them if they noticed any difference in America from year to year. They sort of giggled and conferred, not sure if they should say it, but then they did: “You are so huge!”

    But it’s no longer true that Europe and Asia can point to America and smugly sing, “Fatty, Fatty.” We’ve exported our revolution with our fast-food chains. Japan now has obese children for the first time in its thousand-year history. Mad for anything American, young Japanese have made McDonald’s (charmingly: “ma-ca-do-naru-doz”) their second –­ if not first –­ home, partaking there more than once a day.

    But fear not: we still have the lead. And in a future column, perhaps, we can explore just why an ever-growing portion of America’s population treats the body as if it were a Strasbourg goose.

  3. Nenena
    July 27, 2007 at 12:11 am

    Shorter Cavett: Looking at fat people is like endorsing the KKK! And oh no, there’s too many fat people to make fun of, whatever shall I do?!

    Also: There were fat Japanese people 1000 years ago, idiot. And where the hell did he pull that once-a-day McDonald’s stat from? Try once-a-month, and only if the kids are really whining for it! /living in Japan

  4. July 27, 2007 at 12:20 am

    Wow. Cavett can’t stand to look at fat people even when their only purpose is to be the butt of jokes. That’s taking fat-hatred pretty far.

  5. July 27, 2007 at 12:27 am

    Thanks for this post, Jill. It’s great to see progressives who aren’t fat activists writing about this stuff.

    I do have one quibble, with this:
    There are some people who dispute the very idea that obesity is at all related to health issues, but I’m not part of that camp. Yes, being obese is bad for you.

    First, I don’t know of anyone, even among fat activists, who would claim that obesity has absolutely nothing to do with health. Extreme obesity definitely increases one’s risk for health problems — but that’s extreme obesity, which affects less than 5% of the population. And, for instance, the relationship between fat and insulin resistance is complicated and unclear; it’s not as simple as “fat makes you diabetic,” but unlike pretty much all of the other “health risks” pinned on fat, diabetes might actually have something to do with fat itself.

    BUT… I wouldn’t be so quick to say “being obese is bad for you.” First, you need to define “obese.” If you’re talking about that 30), I’m obese. This is me.

    I’m active. I eat well. I’m still fat. I’ve lost over 100 lbs. on diets and gained it all back, and not because I “gave up” and started hoovering Oreos; because I couldn’t tolerate starving, which is what it took to make me thin. If I eat what I’m craving when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full, and do exercise I love several times a week, this is where my body lands… in the “obese” category.

    And I’m not an anomaly.

    Study after study shows that the BMI category with the lowest mortality rate is the “overweight” one. The categories you (I’m guessing) and I are in — the “healthy” and “obese” categories, respectively — have very similar mortality rates. Serious health problems that can be attributed to weight itself only come up at the extremes — “underweight” and “morbidly obese.” Those categories represent a very small portion of the population. Yet all the focus is on how so many Americans are “overweight” and “obese” — we’re all at risk! — even though there’s virtually no credible evidence that merely falling into those BMI categories carries health risks. (There are many health risks associated with a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle, which of course are sometimes correlated with “overweight” and “obesity.” But not always, and not only. The conflation of “fat” with overeating and not moving is incredibly misleading, for a lot of reasons.)

    Sorry about the long comment and the soapbox. Again, I really appreciate this post. But with the way you phrased that statement, you’re perpetuating the misinformation that’s most often used to justify fat hatred. And from what I know of you (as a longtime reader, if a quiet one), I don’t think you want to do that.

    ‘Cause when you’re fat, every week is “I Hate Fat People Week.”

  6. July 27, 2007 at 12:30 am

    Part of my comment disappeared. This

    First, you need to define “obese.” If you’re talking about that 30)

    should have read: If you’re talking about that less than 5%, then yes, it’s fair to say that their weight might very well cause health problems. But that’s not how doctors, the media, or our government define obesity (i.e., BMI greater than 30). According to them, I’m obese.

  7. July 27, 2007 at 12:35 am

    I found the Zogby poll results interesting:

    * On Disability: When asked to choose whom they believe most Americans would least want to work with, 26% of respondents said someone who is morbidly obese. Twenty-two percent said someone with a facial disfigurement. Respondents thought Americans would object much less to deaf (3%) and blind (1%) co-workers.

    I wonder how many Americans have a reliable sense of just how fat “morbidly obese” actually is? Even with the highly flawed BMI metric, only 2% of Americans actually fall into the mobidly obese category.

    I bet there’s a lot of people conflating any obesity, and even simply being overweight, with morbid obesity.

  8. July 27, 2007 at 12:41 am

    Thanks for the great piece.

    One suggestion— “overweight” is not a value-neutral synonym to “fat”. I know most people consider “fat” a pejorative, but we don’t have to accept that. It’s simply descriptive. I’m fat. That’s not a value judgement.

    “Overweight” is. The term means someone is taking up too much space.

    Compare it with “tall”. “Tall” is simply a descriptor; we don’t say “overheight”. We don’t imply that people are taking up too much vertical space; they’re just tall.

  9. July 27, 2007 at 12:51 am

    And in a future column, perhaps, we can explore just why an ever-growing portion of America’s population treats the body as if it were a Strasbourg goose.

    Oooh, nice one, dick. Very picturesque. Kinda classy, kinda continental.

    I can’t believe the New York Times is giving this asshole a column.

  10. July 27, 2007 at 1:29 am

    I think it’s about time the New York Times stopped publishing nonsensical, hateful op-eds, merely because they were written by a former celebrity.

  11. synclaire
    July 27, 2007 at 1:32 am

    That Cavett piece was a real hateful piece of work. Pisses me off that it’s still ok in this society to hate on the fatty and is seen as socially acceptable.

  12. prairielily
    July 27, 2007 at 2:51 am

    How could there not have been fat people in Japanese history? Does he think sumo wrestlers are clever robots? Oh, the wacky Japanese, always building robots…

  13. July 27, 2007 at 3:42 am

    what a hateful hateful man. mixed in with the fatphobia was an impressive amount of hatred of all things “other”, women, poc, poor people (the springer/judge judy reference), hell, during the description of the “freakshow” you could practically see his rubbing his hands together gleefully wishing he could still make fun of the “freaks” and have it be acceptable.

    im so incredibly happy that up until this article i had never even heard of this guy, eff him.

  14. FashionablyEvil
    July 27, 2007 at 9:23 am

    Thanks so much for writing about this. I was stunned to read Cavett’s column (I’ve liked some of his other ones) and the level of hatred that was just spewing *everywhere*. Count me as another person who firmly believes that environment makes a huge difference in a person’s weight.

    The Times has also given Stanley Fish and Ann Althouse columns, so they don’t have the best track record…

  15. evil_fizz
    July 27, 2007 at 10:05 am

    I think Cavett is actually disappointed that he didn’t get to mock fat people as a kid. It’s gross beyond belief. As, of course, are a number of the comments on the NYT site. It’s an exercise in fucking civility is what it is.

  16. July 27, 2007 at 10:10 am

    I wonder if Dick holds shares in Jenny Craig or the like. The more you make fat people feel unworthy, the more likely they are to run to the nearest diet centre and the greater his financial investment would be.

    And since the failure rate is 95%, you just know they’ll keep coming back.

  17. Tricia(freya)
    July 27, 2007 at 10:29 am

    Our local news virtually ignored a week of radical-hate-spewing abortion protestors — but the “friends will make you fat study” is headlining on the evening news. gaaahhh!

  18. July 27, 2007 at 11:30 am

    This is a great article.

  19. Rose
    July 27, 2007 at 11:38 am

    Thanks for your post. Ditto to Kate Harding’s sentiment that it’s good for progressive blogs to cover things like this. How anyone can call themselves liberals while condoning treating a vast portion of the population as inferior, and doing this openly, I gotta say I don’t get it. I fear that there is a creeping barbarism taking over our nation, maybe residual slime that’s infected many of us from the BushCo era, even those who claim to hate BushCo and all it stands for. If you go for this hateful shit, and do it in the name of “public health” then BushCo’s vile stench is on you.

    I guess I need to come to the defense of the “morbidly obese” as I’m married to a morbidly obese man with a BMI of 46. When Jeff and I sit down to eat, he barely has more than I do, and at the moment I have the magical “normal” BMI of 25! Now I’ll admit that there was a time a long time ago when he was a severe alcholic, and that wreaked serious havoc with his whole system, including his metabolism. He is a diabetic, and he has severe artritis in his knees. So I’m not here to say that he doesn’t have health problems that are connected to his obesity. But here’s some other things about him,

    He’s brilliant
    He’s very creative and artistic
    He’s loving
    He’s the best thing that ever happened to me

    Now that he walks with a cane, people on the street are much less abusive to him. But before that, it was always shocking to me that strangers felt free to make vicious comments to him, as if they were actually angry that he even exisisted in the world, let alone would let himself be seen!

    And it’s wrong. It’s just so wrong. Also, I’d like to note that my father, who has always had a slim, athletic physique, survived a major heart attack at the age of 51. My husband, I will note is over 20 years my senior and almost 59 years old, and his heart and blood pressure are currently fine.

    Thanks again for the post, Jill.

  20. July 27, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Well put, Kate. I mean, being alive is related to health issues. I think “being fat is bad for you” is too simplistic a rendering to be useful. Being a man increases my cancer risk more than being fat does. Does that mean being male is bad for me? Does it mean that having a sex change operation would change those risks? Losing weight is more than “hard work”. Its functionally unachievable for nearly everyone who attempts it. Which is why the hand-wringing of the Dick Cavitt’s of the world is so profoundly unproductive.

  21. July 27, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Didn’t Dick Cavett very famously have people on his show who smoked, drank heavily and did prodigious amounts of recreational chemicals? Wasn’t Sly Stone, for example, infamously ripped out of his gourd when he appeared on Cavett’s show? Didn’t he also have on Janis Joplin and David Crosby and other people who were active junkies? Didn’t people actually even light up on the air during his broadcasts sometimes? What, didn’t Dick get the Surgeon General’s report about how smoking was awful awful for you and should have been discouraged at all costs?

    Whenever I hear people say, “We shouldn’t have fat people on TV or movies because fat is soooooo unheeeealllthhyyyy,” I demand to see what’s on their bookshelves and in their film and music collections and on their TiVo. If they’re going to run that line of smack, they’d better not be watching, reading or listening to anything by practicing alcoholics, drug abusers, chain smokers, people with raging eating disorders, etc.

  22. Roxie
    July 27, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    My idea on why some people have this tremendous, odd, twisted hate for overwieght ppl is that they see it as easy, fixable.

    Everyone has problems, most of which aren’t visable to the naked eye. You have to get to know the person or at least hear their voice, get close enough to smell them or something…but with being overweight these “haters” can see the ‘problem’ 10 feet away. They can’t understand how/why it could happen…basically, if all you had to do was just get up, excercise and eat right to be perfect, then why don’t you just do it!?!?

    And they get infuriated with it.
    That’s my theory, anyway.

  23. pennylane
    July 27, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    Maybe Dick Cavett is on to something. Maybe the fat is something that you can catch not only from your friends but from the TeeVee!

    How the hell did this get published?

  24. Tom
    July 27, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Cavett famously mocked the idea of TV influencing violent behavior:

    There’s so much comedy on television. Does that cause comedy in the streets?”

    So now TV does influence behavior?

    And by the way, the answer to his question is “Yes, dumbass.”

  25. FashionablyEvil
    July 27, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    And now William Saletan’s getting in on the game:
    arguing that stigma for fat people is the way to go.

    To resist a fattening norm, you need willpower. To reverse it, you need to promote responsibility, which implies blame. You almost certainly need stigma. And realistically, to add normal or underweight friends to your circle, you have to relegate others who are overweight. That may be bad for your fat ex-friends, who will lose your friendship as well as your thinness. But it’s fine for you, since you’ll have just as many friends as before.

    Maybe it’s not nice to speak these truths. But maybe being nice, when you should be speaking the truth—especially to your friends—is the problem.

    I much preferred Art Caplan’s take on this issue, which was to compare lack of exercise and healthy diet with illiteracy–we don’t shame or stigmatize people who can’t read. We say, “This is problem, please let me help you.”

  26. July 27, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    Oh yeah. If a thin friend rejected me for being fat, the thing that would bug me the most is losing their thinness. Because their physical appearance was the only thing I could possibly have valued about them and the entire reason why I chose their friendship in the first place.

    Like if my boyfriend decided he had no more use for me, I’d be wearing weeds for a year not because I’d miss his love or his affection, but because he was thin, and I so need thin influence in my life. I just don’t get enough pressure to be skinny, that’s the problem. I just don’t know what to do with all the six-and-seven-figure job offers I get, all the people chasing me down the street wanting my friendship, all the people begging to design lovely clothing for me, all because I’m fat.

    And I certainly don’t have enough time on my hands, even being as intractably slothlike as I must be to be so ginormous, to keep up with all the movies and TV shows featuring fat people as objects of desire, love interests, business successes and overall life-winners. Too much respect for me as I am, that’s the whole damn problem. How am I supposed to want to spend all my spare time panting and sweating and eat nothing but free-range meats and organic greens forever, when people just flat-out refuse to burn a cross in my lap when I sit down on the bus?

    GAAAAAHHHH.

  27. July 27, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Okay…

    I just want to say one thing.

    I’ve not been lurking/reading/commenting/pissing people off for long here, but I want to thank everyone on here for the regular posts on body issues.

    My other half has spent the last 5 years trying to teach me to not hate my body, and the best he managed to do was convince me to not care if I think I’m ugly, to accept my perceived hideousness.

    And then I started coming here. And after that, I started visiting ht elinks you post… and the places they link ot… and so on.

    For the first time in my life, I am comfortable in my own body MENTALLY as well physically.

    Again,

    Thank you.

  28. evil fizz
    July 27, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    Fuck you, Will Saletan.

    Here endeth my analysis.

  29. Rose
    July 27, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    I almost clicked on the article #25 cites, but this week has been a bit too much and I think I’ve taken all I can until at least Monday.

    Here’s a letter I wrote to the NY Times:

    I would like to thank Dick Cavett for taking a courageous stand against the bombardment of images of fat people on television. Still, I would suggest that he doesn’t take it far enough.

    As a relatively young woman of 36, I’m finding the rising presence of elderly people in the media a disturbing development. Everyone knows that old age leads to a myriad of health problems, such as cancer and heart disease. The grim truth is that old age leads to death 100% of the time! Elderly people are a serious financial burden on our dwindling Social Security and Medicaid resources. And let’s be totally honest here, their wrinkled skin is far less attractive to look at than the sight of beautiful, firm, young bodies that epitomize health and purity, like for example, Lindsay Lohan. I think it’s about time we younger people take a stand against the ever increasing elderly population and tell them that we’re sick and tired being constantly reminded of our own mortality by being forced to view them not only on television and movies, but on our very streets!

    The hysteria over obesity has opened the door to a very dark side of the American psyche. If we have it in our hearts to hate people for their physique, where will this road lead us? I don’t want to be a nation divided into bullies and their victims. I want to be better than that and I sincerely hope I’m not alone.

  30. Tina
    July 27, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    This article proves it. We’re in the middle of fat-hating month. Feel free to click, but if you don’t, here’s a synopsis. A 500 pound man in MO and his wife (size not mentioned) have had their foster-child (their cousin) taken away because (drumroll…) he’s too fat to foster a child.

    The link was sent to me by a friend after our lunchtime discussion of the new Alli drug. We were giggling over the concept that it’s more socially acceptable to crap your pants at random intervals than to be overweight. When she sent me the link, she commented “I guess it is better to mess yourself than to be fat.” According to one judge, I guess it is.

  31. Rose
    July 27, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    I suspect that the noice level being turned up to 11 on this recently is in response to SICKO.

    Michael Moore is pushing socialized healthcare coverage for Americans. If this in enacted it will cut into corporate America’s most favorite thing in the world – profit making!

    So are we sick because of a profit-driven health care sytem? The ever-increasing economic gap between the haves and the have nots? Cheap and unhealthy ingredients in our food supply?

    No, no, no! Sez these articles. Our problem is fat people. We’ve given them a free ride to eat and not exercise, and you know, yeesh, the sloth, THE SLOTH!!! (notice that “sloth” has taken the place of “lust” has most super hated, doubleplus ungood sin that we have no tolerance for)

    So what the hell do we need universal health care for? All we need is to stop the fatties, and we’re cool. We’ll go from #38 to #1 in the world in healthcare overnight if they’d just stop with the fatness. And we’re Americans, damnit! Aren’t we entitled to be #1? Wasn’t that our birthright? Damn fatties, stealin’ our birthright!

    And that’s why it’s called propaganda!

  32. Rose
    July 27, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    “noise level” not “noice level” and I can see now it ain’t my only typo! Ooops!

    Blame it on lotsa typing today! I’m losing my coordination, perhaps my fingers are too fat????

  33. July 27, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Rose, my fingers actually are too fat to reliably text message. I don’t know what hurts my social life more, my disgusting and apparently communicable rotundity or my slow poke texting ways.

  34. July 27, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    Cavett’s an old Viagran. Him and his buddy Harrison Ford. Who wants to look at those moldy old creeps?

  35. Janis
    July 27, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    I say we start a campaign against butt-ugly old white bastards who look like freeze-dried ferrets in the media. They’re everywhere! I mean, look at Dick Cavett!

    o_O

    That study pissed me off for another reason, though — FWIG, if you actually look at it, it says that this “fat friends” thing only seems to be indicated for males. For women, the societal pressure to be thin swamps any effect that one’s associates have on weight.

    And yet how is it reported? Girls! Ditch your fat friends! One frigging article even used the feminine pronoun for the whole damned thing, as if men didn’t even HAVE a BMI.

    Sometimes I seriously think women should be required to gain ten pounds, and men to lose forty. I’m serious. I’m sick of the goddamned gendering of fat, particularly when women are the ones who can benefit from a few extra pounds the most. I can say that, and I’m built like a damned garden rake. I’m sick not of the fatphobia, but of fatWOMANphobia.

  36. preying mantis
    July 27, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    “I say we start a campaign against butt-ugly old white bastards who look like freeze-dried ferrets in the media.”

    That’s not very nice–ferrets are adorable even when freeze-dried. Can’t we just start a campaign against guys that look too much like Christopher Walken?

  37. zuzu
    July 28, 2007 at 1:43 am

    No! Christopher Walken is awesome.

  38. SunlessNick
    July 28, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Indeed. That scrotum definitely has ovaries.*

    [* http://thehathorlegacy.info/mailbag-32907/%5D

  39. August 2, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Wow, seeing a fat person on a commercial is equal to backing the KKK! Crazy world we live in.

    Great post Jill. People like Dick make it obvious that a lot of the vitriol toward fat people is because somehow obesity causes a moral panic. They could give 2 shits less about our health.

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