the worst article ever written
June 28, 2004 12:05 PM

If you're on any size acceptance lists or boards (on a side note, it's remarkable how all these sites focus their discussion on more or less the same things, and just have different approaches to the same issues), you've probably seen the worst article ever written.

The author says a lot of unfounded, rather mean things about fat people. And poor people. And southerners. It would be funny if it weren't clear she thought these things were true.

I think the point she started out wanting to make was this: poorer folk really are getting fatter and possibly less healthy, and we fail to recognize the class issues in this; also, the people who are most concerned with dieting these days seem to be wealthier people who have been duped into believing they're fat when they're not. I think she's actually wrong on the latter point, but if she'd actually written an article about these two competing trends instead of trying to be as clever as possible in her "editorializing", it might have been an interesting read.

And yet, what is the point she actually makes? That poor people are icky and slaggardly, and fat people don't read.

I find this interesting, because the source is a Charleston, WVA resident. Charleston is a coal town, a town with an overwhelming feeling of industry and poverty and at least one giant Wal-Mart. Experientially, it seems like the people of Charleston are fatter than average. It also feels like they're a lot poorer than average, and that the rest of the world ought to be paying attention to this.

Maybe we should be doing some more research.

Like, what are the statistics on people in industrial towns getting on weight loss drugs like Metabolife and such? It seems like my midwestern fat relatives have done that, and weightloss surgery and fad diets a hundred times. The influx of the South Beach and Atkins diets into my "higher class" professional workplace is relatively recent, but my aunts were on Scarsdale decades ago. Is it possible that diet marketing has a class consciousness? I don't know, because I tend to tune it out. But I wouldn't be surprised.

Like, how much do wages affect health or weight gain? I don't know how many of the fat folk in Charleston work more than one job, or weird hours, or whatever. I don't know how changes in the energy market around America impact their coal and manufacturing jobs and pensions and the care they get to give their kids. And I don't know if they're just fat, or if they're also unhealthy.

I don't know if it even matters that poor people are getting fat and rich people are getting more diet-obsessed (if that's even true). But if you're going to talk about it, you ought to present some information or at least ask some questions.

Cause otherwise, you're just rewriting the worst article ever written.

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your wicked thoughts

The author of The Obesity Myth was recently interviewed on salon.com (I pointed you to the article over at a girly blog too) and he had some interesting comments about weight and class:

"Overconsumption in America is closely equated with class: The higher up you go the more you consume. The only area in which consumption is inversely related to class is caloric overconsumption. So the American elite project anxiety about the fact that they're massively overconsuming economically and materially through a disgust for fat, lower-class people.

America is just too big. We throw our weight around, our cars are too big, our shopping malls are too big, our houses are too big. Our anxiety about fat is our anxiety about our own bigness. But it's a projection that is so inappropriate when our cars weigh 700 pounds more than they did 15 years ago -- which is politically and economically and environmentally far more troubling than the fact that our bodies on average weigh eight pounds more than they used to 15 years ago."

these are the thoughts of Kimberly on July 1, 2004 05:37 PM

The difference is access. Thinner people make more money - we know that. They can afford gym memberships, fresh vegetables, proper health care, beauty treatments. Poor people eat cheap cuts of meat, chicken and pork that are laden with growth hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides. Think about it. America's obesity problem started when the factory farms starting using chemicals to increase production. We got bigger at the same rate as the cows, chickens and pigs. No one tells us this because two powerful industries - factory farming and the diet industry - depend on us staying fat. Unless they grow their own food, any vegetables a poor family gets are likely to be canned or frozen.

If we get sick, we suffer unless it's an emergency. I have permanent health problems from conditions that went untreated when I worked full time but had no health coverage. There were times when I had a full-time job with the government when I couldn't come up with a $5.00 co-pay.

One operation can bankrupt a poor family. They work longer hours for less money, so they don't have time or energy to work out or pamper themselves. What she calls icky and slaggardly, anyone who pays attention would call sick, malnourished, overworked and neglected. They are also more likely to stay in abusive or violent situations because they have no economic alternatives, so add traumatized to that list. We have an entire underclass of people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who probably won't have access to therapy unless they commit a crime.

Even if they get access to education, they are given less attention than their thinner, richer counterparts and have less access to extras like tutors and study aids. I got a B.A., but spring break just meant going home for a couple of weeks to recover from exams. I didn't know it was supposed to be a beach vacation until MTV. The culture shock I went through as an Appalachian kid going to school in Detroit or living and working on the East Coast was far worse than I experienced as an exchange student in Mexico or France. There are very real cultural differences within the bounds of our own country, but no one thinks you need help with social adjustment if you're poor and (sort of) white. There's far more difference in rich people and poor people than there is in white people and black, hispanic, asian or native people.

It's not that fat people don't read or write, it's that no one wants to hear what we have to say. If you aren't thin and attractive, no one wants to buy your book. People in any position of power will look through you. I have plenty to say, I'm generally well dressed, but I can't make myself taller, thinner or whiter, so my opportunities to express myself are limited. I didn't expect that to be the case when I went out in the world, but that was my experience. It's why I'm often so angry. Every now and then, I forget about it and act as if I'm the same as everyone else, but something or someone will eventually remind me. My most recent snub came from Peter Jennings. He didn't even try to pretend to be courteous. He just said "nice to meet you", turned his back and talked to other people. I didn't press the point. I knew there was nothing I could do - the opinion had already been formed, so nothing I said was going to have impact.

Sorry this comment is so long.

these are the thoughts of Morgaine Swann on July 4, 2004 10:01 PM
















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