Saturday, July 28, 2007

careful, it's catching...

If you have been anywhere on planet Earth in the last couple of days you have probably heard that fat is contagious. Yup, you read it right, it has been discovered that you can catch fat. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has claimed that if you have fat friends, then you too are going to become fat. Now there are so many fundamental flaws in this study (not to mention the reporting of it) that it is difficult to even know where to begin so I shall refer you to this entry at Peggy Elam's blog On the Whole. She says it all so much succinctly that I could. Plus she covers all the salient points so why reinvent the wheel? I am fat remember and we all know fat people are lazy...

The brou-ha-ha that the release of these apparent findings (or more what they claim are the findings) has stirred up, has only served to reinforce my strong belief that fat has become the new evil. Well, actually to be more accurate, fat hatred has been around for a long time. It just seems to be even more socially acceptable to hate fat people these days. Trendy almost. Come on people, get with the times - hate a fattie today!

I have battled with my weight for the majority of my adult life. And for most of my childhood as well. That story is a whole other post. But the upshot of it is that I know first hand what it is like to have people dislike you, or even hate you, because you are fat. This is not to say I have ever understood that mindset, but I have experienced it many times. I have also had many close friends who have been thin. Some more than slim, some positively tiny. Thank the gods that some people can see past physical exteriors. Unfortunately, there are way too many people who can't seem to do that and it is those people that are the problem. And to make it worse, their prejudice and outright hatred of fat people is now being reinforced by such craptastic studies as the one mention above.

Why do some people have such an intense reaction to fat people and the idea of fat in general? This is something I have thought about for many years and it is just lately that I have started to come up with some answers. Fat haters directly associate fat people with gluttony and laziness. It is automatically assumed that if you are fat that you eat too much and you are not active enough. Of course both of these assumptions are not always right (yes, they are sometimes right but not always, probably not even often if the fat people I know are anything to go by). Obviously fat haters find the concepts of gluttony and sloth too much to deal with and are terribly threatened by them. Puritans that they are... It seems to be about excess. Fat haters cannot deal with the excess that they believe fat entails. They can't handle the thought (as misguided as it is) that we fatties eat more, that we lie around more and that we take up more room. And even worse, that our clothing takes up more fabric! (Didn't you know that the mere availability of plus size clothing encourages fatties to stay fat?) And this hatred of excess (even perceived excess) pierces our puritanical friends to the very core.

One of the more recent reasons for hating fat people that I have come across is the "because of the strain your fat related illnesses places on the health system, I have to pay more for services that I don't even use!". OK, so following that train of thought, none of my tax dollars should go toward the fire brigade, the private education system or Indigenous services simply because I have never had a house fire, neither I nor my children attend private school and I am not Indigenous? Yup, I can see the sense in that. NOT. It's akin to people complaining about their tax dollars going towards welfare payments. When you break it down, the actual dollar value that you as an individual are contributing is negligible. Personally I don't like it that any of my taxes go toward politician's international junkets but cest la vie. And if we are going to cut off health services to fat people because they "chose to be fat" why don't we cut off services to anyone with substance abuse issues, sexually transmitted diseases, smoking related health issues, sports injuries, car accident victims and anyone with anything else that was caught or caused by an activity they chose to take part it?

Personally I do not understand the idea of hating someone based on the way they look. I don't understand why some people hate people of color, I don't understand why the Nazis wanted racial cleansing and I don't understand why my fat causes such a reaction fat haters. Sure, they might not find it aesthetically appealing to have to lay their eyes on my wobbly bits but I don't always like everything I see either. And there is always the option to LOOK AWAY if it upsets you that much. But I always come back to thinking, it's fat. It isn't gangrene. It's fat. It doesn't make me a bad person. It doesn't even necessarily mean I am gluttonous and slothful. It just means I am fat. And if I can live with it, then so can you.