Guest post by sajbrfem.
Fat acceptance has recently beeped on my radar, despite living the majority of my life one or two dress sizes outside a convenient mainstream shopping experience, I had not been aware of this movement until now. My new awareness is largely due to Kate Harding, and of course the amazing Hoydens. This article by Harding about sticking firm to the use of the word ‘fat’ in naming a fat acceptance political position (rather than ‘body’ or ‘size’ acceptance, which I think are also good things, but just not the same), in particular has me thinking. Her reasoning is very similar to my position on using the term ‘feminism’ as opposed to ‘humanism’ or ‘equalism’ ““ mitigating the term is a veiled expression of hatred in itself.
This has me thinking about the word ‘fat’. Harding quite rightly suggests that the word ‘fat’ is just an adjective ““ a description of visible fact, nothing more nothing less.
“First, it’s important to me to reclaim the word “fat.” It’s not a bad word. It’s not intrinsically insulting. All it tells you is that this person has more visible fat on her frame than a thin person does “” and since in my case, that’s the plain truth, I don’t have any problem with being described that way. I have a problem with people who would describe me that way with the intention to wound, but not with the word itself. I’m short, I’m blonde, I’m pale, I’m hourglass-shaped, I’m fat. “
This makes sense, and yet I have always shied away from the word ‘fat’, preferring to soften the description to ‘overweight’. Unlike the word fat, however, ‘overweight’ is more than just a description, it is a comparison. The word overweight implies a deviation from ‘normal’. Over-the-normal-weight. It seems to me that my attempts to be polite (even to myself) unwittingly sabotage my self-acceptance.
And just as I am chanting to my self ‘iamfatandthatsokay’ and beginning to make friends with the word a story about a woman who has been told to lose 50 kilos before she is an acceptable carer/role model for a child comes across my electronic desk. Outrageous to say the least. And I do the maths based on the formula given in the article and realise that apparently *I* am too ‘overweight’ to raise a child. What a horrible example of ill-founded fat hatred.
But the reality is that *I am* ninety odd kilos and *I am* raising a child quite happily ““ all the while joyfully unaware that I was too deviant to do so. I am so grateful to have discovered fat acceptance in the blogosphere, because damn do I need a voice of sanity when I read articles like the above. Thanks Harding and Hoydens, your writing makes the world of difference to me.
Categories: Culture, gender & feminism
This is an excellent point.
That story is so sad. I think it’s wonderful that she wanted to adopt – in the US, it frustrates me that a lot of people shell out $$$$ to conceive on their own*, while there are many children who are born who need homes, largely as a result of our terrible poverty and health policies.
Re: fat, fat is very subjective. I am not medically overweight, but I am “fat” compared to beautiful women and compared to my ethnic group (East Asians). Considering that in the US and in many other developed countries, that the vast majority of people are “overweight” I guess that the “average weight”/”normal weight” definition (as neither skinny nor fat) is somewhat obsolete.
* And I’m not saying that all people who use IVF are selfish. Some of them are, and for others, it’s the best option they’ve got.
Sajbrfem, thanks so much for the kind words! I’m so pleased that you’re getting something out of the blog. In fact, since I’m a Guest Hoyden this week, I’ll take this opportunity to say I’m chuffed. 🙂
Oh, duh, that was me, still logged in as Guest Hoyden.
Heh. I might just have to change to username to Guest Hoyden now.
When I was growing up, a woman like Kylie Lannigan would have been described as “matronly”. “Matron” meant a mature woman, who would be presumed to be a mother.
Mothers portrayed in fiction in those days were very likely to be round and “matronly”. It would have been deemed the essence of motherly, suitable to mother.
Thanks tigtog, and thanks for having me as a guest Hoyden too, it is awesome to be here!
And thanks Kate 🙂
littoralmermaid, I agree that the perception of average or ‘normal’ weight is probably very warped. This is demonstrated to me often when clothes retailers say to me again and again “gee, we always sell out of the larger sizes so fast” and yet don’t take this as a sign of where a lot of the market really is. However even if she was really very “above average” I would still think that the request to lose weight was horrible, baseless discrimination, and I hope the couple are taking legal action.
re: IVF vs adoption, it is awful to know that there are so many children in the world in need of homes, though (in)fertility is such a complex issue that I would never say that IVF is any indicator of selfishness (or of anything really). The context is a bit different in Australia also, there are very few children in need of adoption here and for many people it is IVF or nothing. I have a fair bit of experience in this area; I have been an anonymous egg donor 3 times – hmmm… perhaps there is another post in that for me 🙂
I vote “Mystery Hoyden”. [insert dramatic-chipmunk music here]
I’m looking forward to this!
“Considering that in the US and in many other developed countries, that the vast majority of people are “overweight” I guess that the “average weight”/”normal weight” definition (as neither skinny nor fat) is somewhat obsolete.”
The average may well be obsolete. But I don’t think that what constitutes a healthy height/weight ratio has changed just because the population has got fatter. And I don’t think that “The word overweight implies a deviation from “normal’. Over-the-normal-weight.”
I think overweight implies a comparison with a healthy weight. It’s not “over-the-normal-weight”, it’s over-a-healthy-weight.
I understand that there are a whole lot of issues tied up here about how women are portrayed in the media, body image issues, etc, etc – but the fundamental fact remains that there is a healthy weight range, both for men and for women, and that if your weight falls outside that you are likely to be less healthy and more susceptible to various diseases. It’s all very well to suggest you can overcome the media/feminist/etc issues by accepting your body – acceptance doesn’t mean you’re any less likely to get cancer, or to develop type-2 diabetes, or to have a stroke or develop heart disease, or any of the many other issues associated with being above a healthy weight.
To me, the issue should be self-acceptance, not fat acceptance, and a recognition that if you’re overweight that’s actually something you need to try to change, not accept. And I hate to say it, but I can see why they’ve asked the woman who wants to adopt to lose weight. Firstly, she’s well above a healthy weight, and therefore more likely to get sick. Secondly, if she’s eating a diet that keeps her at her current weight, what do you think the child will end up eating? You can keep them on a different diet from you when they’re tiny, perhaps, but after that – good luck stopping them from eating junk if you do.
And I know women who conceive naturally don’t have to comply with these sorts of rules – but neither do they have to comply with any of the other rules of adoption, like medical, police and finance checks and a home assessment. So it’s different anyway.
Rebekka, it seems you take a keen interest in this subject. Can I suggest some further reading that will extend your knowledge considerably – firstly Kate Harding’s guest post here (and the comments), and then Kate’s entire blog, here. Check out her blogroll, too.
I read Kate’s guest post already.
I understand that fat is not as bad for you as smoking. But that doesn’t make being obese healthy, either.
It may be a different magnitude of badness, but no-one would ever suggest that it’s okay to be a smoker as long as you’re accepting of the fact that you’re a smoker. Nor would anyone suggest that it’s okay for an alcoholic to keep drinking as long as they’re accepting of being an alcoholic.
The issues to do with the pressure to be “perfect”, and how women are portrayed in the media, etc, need to be separated from the fact that being obese is not a healthy state to live in.
The pressure that women face every time we open a magazine or watch TV, to be unhealthily thin is bad. But so is the idea that it’s okay to be fat. The woman who wanted to adopt was told she needed to lose more than 50kgs to get to a healthy BMI – that is morbid obesity, not being a healthy size forteen. There’s a happy medium there somewhere – and I really think we need to be focusing on accepting ourselves, and on trying to be healthy, and NOT on accepting fat.
BMI is a very flawed measure, Rebekka. Most professional rugby/gridiron footballers are clinically obese if you just look at BMI. Shaquille O’Neill is grotesquely obese according to BMI. People in the overweight category according to the BMI actually have a better morbidity/mortality rate than people within the “acceptable” range (Kate has the cite for that one).
Just because her BMI was above the acceptable level doesn’t mean she was unhealthy, so long as she ate healthy food and did sufficient aerobic exercise every week. What was her cholesterol, her blood sugar, her various other metabolite levels? What was her heart rate and blood pressure? There’s no empirical evidence to support the assumption that simply by being fat she was unhealthy.
As Tigtog Said There’s no empirical evidence to support the assumption that simply by being fat she was unhealthy.
In fact, the reporter clearly writes in the article “They had medical, police and finance checks and a home assessment… “I walk to work and Tafe everyday. I have been tested for heart disease and diabetes and I am okay.” ” (emphasis mine)
Secondly, if she’s eating a diet that keeps her at her current weight, what do you think the child will end up eating?
I have a few problems with what this rhetorical question is implying. Firstly it unfairly assumes that unhealthy food is being eaten in the household, yet her husband, who has not been asked to lose any weight and has been deemed an acceptable weight by the assessors, is living in the same household. I have no idea about their eating habits but this tells me that either he is eating the same food and it is not effecting him in the same way weight wise (suggesting other factors such as PCOS or genetics are having an impact on her weight), or that it is possible for two people to live in the same household and eat different food. Secondly it implies that if the child were to be fat that this would be a terrible outcome. Thirdly it suggests that a diet obsessed mother would be a better influence on a child than a fat one.
Ok, whether or not BMI is a flawed indicator, there is plenty of evidence that being obsese is not good for you. The fact that this woman did not currently have diabetes does not mean she is not at greater risk of developing it, and other, obesity-related diseases. And I was – as I have previously made clear – talking about *obesity* and not people who are a little bit “overweight”.
And I accept that there are people who are obese because of a medical condition, but the fact remains that most people are obese because they eat more kilojoules than they burn off. To become more than 50 kgs overweight by eating nothing but healthy foods is extremely unlikely. Ockham’s Razor.
And while it is possible to live in the same house as someone and eat a different diet, it is not possible to live in the same house as a child and effectively restrict them from eating chips, chocolate and biscuits if you eat them. It will work, as I previously said, when they are tiny. It will not work after that.
“Secondly it implies that if the child were to be fat that this would be a terrible outcome. Thirdly it suggests that a diet obsessed mother would be a better influence on a child than a fat one.”
Fat kids are at a greater risk of various diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, etc – diseases which are increasingly showing up in younger and younger kids as childhood obesity increases. Surely you can’t be suggesting that this *isn’t* a bad outcome??
And eating healthily doesn’t make you diet-obsessed. I am pretty careful about eating healthily – in terms of making sure the bulk of my diet consists largely of vegetables and fruit, and that I don’t eat processed foods. There’s a world of difference between that and obsessively counting calories, or eating a diet that contains, as most do, too much crap. Happy medium, people.
Is someone keeping score?
Really, Rebekkah, if you’d like more information on this, read the past couple of months’ archives at Kate’s blog to catch up. She has addressed around 100% of the points you’re trying to make.
Sorry, but disputing the facts and suggesting that perhaps it’s not entirely healthy to be obese does not mean I hate fat people – suggesting this is the case is specious.
I don’t have time to go read several months worth of blog archives, so I guess we’ll just have to leave it there, given that no-one appears willing to have a rational discussion without accusing people of “hate”.
Oh, and there’s no H on the end of my name.