Was it a joke? Or are we living in an alternative universe? The by-words of the politically correct used to be, “tolerance,” “diversity,” “no-more-bullying,” and “mean people suck.”
Now, in the name of “but we have to DO something, anything!” comes a proposal for institutionalized bigotry and elevating the shaming of fat people to a moral obligation.
A bioethicist named Daniel Callahan thinks it’s a good idea to shame obese people because they simply don’t know that being fat heaps social disapproval and discrimination upon them. He says they just aren’t aware of how fat they are and we ought to embark on a new era of “zero tolerance for body fat.” He adds that he “can’t see how anyone could possibly have a problem with that.”
A billion dollar weight loss industry hasn’t been able to come up with a one-size-fits-all magic pill that eradicates obesity from the planet and that’s the best he can do? Institutionalized bigotry? Don’t get me wrong. I would like him to stop doing altogether and recognize that he only gets to be in charge of his own body and not everyone else’s.
Among other things Mr. Callahan doesn’t understand is that some people regardless of their age or class, unconsciously use extra weight to set a boundary against exactly the kind of intrusion and cruelty he thinks is in their best interest to tolerate. There are many other complex causes for obesity, none of which respond to shame or one-size-fits-all solutions.
While I don’t recommend it as a coping mechanism, obesity for some represents an unconscious response to sexual abuse. It can be an act of defiance and strength, unlike Mr. Callahan suggests (who is certain that it always means ‘lazy, self-indulgent, lacking in discipline, awkward, unattractive, weak-willed and sloppy.’) There is actually something worse than not looking good, though Mr. Callahan would be hard-pressed to know what that is.
Should Mr. Callahan be the one to force (as if he could) others to remove that protection just so he won’t be offended by their pulchritude?
It’s clear that Callahan and people like him are the ones with the problem. But just as some believe about our waistlines, the problem is growing into an epidemic.
Many people with weight issues have unfortunately been so beaten down by the stigma of which they are very well aware, that they do a great job of hating themselves before others get the chance–almost out of a sense of obligation. The treatment for these patients is to attempt to undo that ugly cycle.
Civil rights, tolerance, “Fat is a Feminist Issue” all appear to have been thrown under the bus in favor of “but don’t we have to DO something?” Where are Bella Abzug and Gloria Steinem when you need them? Or would they have been co-opted onto this new fat-phobia bandwagon too?
There’s one more thing to say to Mr. Callahan: You ought to be ashamed.