Saturday, August 29, 2009

Loving the hate

Tonight, for the first time ever, I found an article in mainstream news magazine that addresses the prejudice against fat people in America. My initial reaction was wow. I've read articles like this before from different sources, but they have all had a stated Fat Acceptance agenda. There's certainly nothing wrong with that. With the exception of anti-all-weight-loss-diet dogma, I fall into that camp myself. This is Newsweek though. I see national news magazines as at least holding to the illusion if not the real goal of objectivity.

When I read the article, I have to admit that I was impressed. It addressed the general size of our population, the multiplicity of reasons behind obesity, the complexity and unrealistic expectations of weight loss, that good health and healthy lifestyles are found among the fat as well as the thin, that the rudeness fat people receive often drives them to avoid seeking medical treatment for non-weight related issues and that too much weight can have medical consequences. One of its links discusses the fallacy of the use of BMI as a health index and mentions a study that shows having a few extra pounds can add to one's life expectancy.

Then I started reading the comments about the article, and the migraine I thought I'd beaten into submission early this morning flared up with a huge spike of pain. One and a half pages into the comments, I had to give up. I almost chose not to write about this at all. I had to go back to the article though and read through the editor recommended links. Good stuff there as well, including some very interesting news about the institutionalization of fat prejudice. The comments on the main article, from what I read just proved one of the points that the article made. People love to hate fat people.

As one of the hated, I've done a lifetime of thinking about this. One of my current ideas is that our culture has a history of prejudice. It used to be something that was acceptable. What we now see as bigotry and hatred used to be called common knowledge. However, we, as a country and a culture, have had to go through a lot of growing pains to get to that point. We are supposed to have learned from the struggles, the unfairness, the bloodshed, the outright atrocities of the past.

This is especially true for the educated. Prejudice is something for the uncultivated, narrow mind, but the habits of prejudice have been ingrained by generations of practice. Maybe it's generations of seeing the first kid in class to know the answer be seen as the smart one, but reaching a quick conclusion, regardless of the complexity or factual data of a situation, has come to be regarded as a sign of intelligence. That alone can be powerful feedback. Add to that the enjoyment of hatred mentioned in the Newsweek article, and why wouldn't people enjoy prejudice and want to keep it around?

The old prejudices though are just no longer acceptable. We've learned too much. We have too much class to accept racial, ethnic and sexual bigotry as a culture (except for when we do but count on people to speak up), but we still want the comfort of a socially acceptable prejudice. Right now, fat people fill that niche.

It still ain't right. It's still wrong thinking, and there's a lot to be learned about weight, health and size.


Blogger Virginia said...

Oh Cynthia, don't read the comments. There is just too much lousy thinking out there. For me, with the onset of diabetes I lost a lot of weight and for the life of me, I could not get some people (friends) to stop telling me "how good" I looked, even when I begged them to stop saying this to me. It was more important to them that I was thinner than it was that it was due to illness. Illness was good as long as I was thinner. I guess they preferred me ill. I lost friends over this.

There is just no getting through to people. Don't read the comments, it will only disappoint you. Just surround yourself with quality people.

Peace, Virginia

August 29, 2009 4:12 PM  
Anonymous Juliann said...

Having been at both ends of the weight spectrum, I have seen the prejudice from both sides. The ignorance fueled prejudice towards people who are considered above a healthy weight is simply sad. If people could express concern not followed by condemnation, that would at least be a step in the right direction.

It seems people are content to make sweeping generalizations regarding obesity, as if it were a black and white issue. There are genetic reasons, emotional reasons and medical reasons that can be attributed to a person's size. Sadly, when it comes to weight, the lesser minded find the path of least resistance is the easiest to take and blame it on laziness and a lack of self control. I refuse to give any of those people credit for intelligence.

At some point in almost all our lives we face some sort of weight battle and the only way to win is with support, understanding and a belief in ourselves that we are worth being as healthy as possible.

Sometimes being healthy means being a size 4. And sometimes being healthy means being a size 14. Healthy was not in the cards for me at size 24. Now being in the middle of the 4 and the 14, if I had to choose, I'd rather be the 14.

Keep believing in yourself, Cynthia. When you reach your goal you can set the record straight with your poignant and relatable writing and your spot on knowledge. You've come so far and done so well and you deserve every bit of praise for your accomplishments. I think it's safe to say you have motivated many of your readers and made it so they allowed themselves hope.

August 30, 2009 5:20 PM  
Blogger Nelle said...

Cynthia I used to have a very nice figure. Once I had radiation treatments for cancer, and my thyroid was irradiated I quickly gained weight. Over the years I put on more. One of my best friends from childhood has said so many unkind, hurtful things in regard to that. She has a very heavy mother who she refers to in very negative ways. I have distanced myself greatly. Since being diabetic I have lost a little weight but even doctors want to harp on every problem as being weight related. It gets so frustrating. Prejudice is always born out of ignorance and the need for some people to feel superior to others. We need to educate ourselves and be open minded and accepting of others no matter their color, shape, size or any other box we want to categorize them into. Live and let live!!!! Great post.

September 03, 2009 8:30 PM  

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