Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Fat People

Update!    Planned Parenthood has responded and removed “obesity” from it’s list of health concerns.  Activism works!  Send a thank you to ppaction at ppvotesnw dot org.

I am a fan of planned parenthood so I was saddened to learn that In a post about about women’s rights in Alaska, Planned Parenthood Northwest stated:

Alaska should not be the place for the next frontier on the national war on women. As a state, we need to focus on continued revenue generation, addressing critical health care issues like obesity, children’s health care, and suicide, and ensuring that all Alaskans are afforded the rights put in place by our constitution regardless of their socioeconomic status.

So let me see if I understand this:

Planned Parenthood Northwest would like to shift the focus from inappropriate attention on women’s reproductive systems to inappropriate attention to fat people’s bodies.

Planned Parenthood Northwest doesn’t want a war on women, but they’re cool with a war on obese people.

PPNW wants to makes sure that people get their constitutional rights unless they are fat, then the want to systematically eradicate us, even against our will.

[Trigger Warning – suicide talk] They list obesity and suicide as two critical health issues, ostensibly at the same level. This is not the first time I’ve seen them talked about as parallel, in addition to having people tell me that being fat is “committing slow suicide” This infuriates me for very personal reasons: I am obese, my brother committed suicide.  I live a fabulous life with amazing friends and wonderful experiences.  My brother does not live at all.  I’m not being flip about this and I hesitated to talk about it here at all, but I think it’s important to realize the distinction –  his death was a tragedy, my body is not.  His suffering and death should never be minimized by comparing them to something that wouldn’t cause me any suffering at all if it weren’t for the bigotry and stigma that I have to deal with, that is being reinforced in PP’s memo.

The Declaration of Independence says “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  I’m ready to get me some of that.  I’m ready to be able to enjoy the world I live in with the body I live in without shame, stigma or humiliation.  I’m ready for the government to stop putting up walls and hurdles to block my pursuit of happiness.  Pursuing happiness and being the subject of a war whose goal is my eradication are competing interests at best. I’d like to live in a world where people challenge an industry that makes $60 billion selling a product for which they have zero proof of long-term efficacy, rather than giving them grants and telling me that I have to buy in or I’m not prioritizing my health. I think that my pursuit of happiness will become a lot easier at precisely the time that the pursuit of fat people as “the enemy” stops.

Activism Opportunity

Tell Planned Parenthood how you feel.  E-mail them at ppaction@ppvotesnw.org

Here’s an example from what I wrote:

I am a long-time support of Planned Parenthood.  As an obese woman who practices Health at Every Size and leads an amazing life, I ask you to reconsider your suggestion that we transfer inappropriate focus on women’s reproductive systems to inappropriate focus on fat people’s bodies. A war on obese people is no better than a war on women.   I would ask that you stop any anti-obesity language and instead support access to healthy foods, safe movement options, and affordable evidence-based medical care for people of all sizes.

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on March 22, 2012 at 9:42 am  Comments (17)  

17 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I need to write more letters to places like this. Great way of wording it as well. It’s quite ridiculous they put so much value on slimming people down.

  2. Alaska should not be the place for the next frontier on the national war on women.

    Presumably, fat women aren’t women.

  3. I watch the show Alaska State Troopers. Suicide is really prevalent due to the main following factors—unemployment and alcohol abuse. Can’t get work, on low incomes, so many drink and domestic issues arise and down the road it goes. Not ONCE has there been a correlation to someone being fat! So that was a great leap on Planned Parenthood’s part!

  4. I don’t get it. Why is obesity suddenly a concern of PP? OK, I recently had a pregnancy scare (fat girls have sex too), and spent a lot of time on PP’s website, making sure my state offered abortion services should I need them. The website was so helpful and I was just so reassured and it helped me finally get the courage to pee on that stick. Luckily I wasn’t pregnant, but I knew that if I had been, I had options available to me and people that wouldn’t stigmitize me for my choices. Nowhere on their website did they address obesity. Or anything else listed above. It was about family planning a women’s reproductive health.

    I mean, what? WHY, PPNW?

    • By the way, I hope no one takes my “fat girls have sex too” comment out of contex. It’s tongue and cheek. It frustrates me when I see only thin woman protrayed as sexual women and I tend to be sarcastic and cynical towards the erroneous idea that only the thin have sex.

  5. Done, and done. Here is a quote from the email I sent them.

    “While I do agree with the point you are trying to make, I feel it would be far less offensive to use actual health issues (re: breast cancer, heart disease, eating disorders) vs. the term “obesity” in your Alaskan press release.

    As an obese woman who is happy with my size (no matter what it is) I don’t like to feel as though the “war” has shifted from my sex to my size. Trust me, I am battlesore on both fronts.”

    Keep up the great work, Regan!

  6. Could you link to the press release or source for the PP quote? I’m trying to find it to quote it in my e-mail to PP, but it’s not on the site. Is it possible that they’ve already realized the error and taken it down?

  7. Ragen, the talk I did at the endangered species: women summit last year (you saw the video at ASDAH conference) shared the incident that happened with my daughter when we went to planned parenthood to get birth control pills to control excessive bleeding from her period (first period lasted 8 weeks!) As the Dr handed my 12 year old, size 14 daughter, who was more than freaked out about the crazy period, she said “and you need to lose weight.” My daughter, now almost 15, still has anxiety about that visit and says she will never go to PP again. Now I love PP as an organization and have been a big supporter for many years and will continue to support them. without PP many women would go without health care, reproductive care or cancer screenings. However I think we need to help them get this piece right. I will respond to them and send them the link to my talk! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScMZXSANqdU

  8. First of all, thank you Ragen, for being willing to share such deeply personal information so that we can better understand the impact of the message that PP is sending here.

    I like what Cindy said too: “I feel it would be far less offensive to use actual health issues (re: breast cancer, heart disease, eating disorders) vs. the term ‘obesity'”

    It sounds like what they’re talking about is offering a broader selection of services related to primary care (which is what many of their clinics already do; they’re just not as well known for it).

    I think I’ll write and suggest that they say that instead.

  9. Ragen, what an inspirational post! Sorkin would be proud :)

    Also, thank you for sharing about your brother. Talking about suicide lessens stigma for the survivors, increases understanding and empathy, and lets people who are contemplating it know that there are real casualties other than themselves. It is a tragedy and it’s wrong for anyone to equate it with fat. You state this so eloquently.

    I’ll get on that letter momentarily…

  10. Never posted here before, but I’ve been reading for a few months. Thank you for sharing your personal experience with your brother’s suicide. Though I did not address suicide in my message to planned parenthood, I though I would post what I sent here:

    Re: The National War on Women’s Bodies

    Dear Planned Parenthood Northwest,

    As a north-westerner, pro-choice feminist, sometimes user of Planned Parenthood services, and sometimes donor, I applaud your efforts to set the terms of the debate and refocus our national attention on truly urgent healthcare issues that affect women.

    That said, I would encourage you to do some research into the evidenced-based Health at Every Size movement. If you do, I am sure you will see that the war on obesity is a part of the larger war on women. This manufactured epidemic creates a toxic social environment which has real mental, emotional, and physical health consequences for women of every size. Every day women’s health suffers because of the war on obesity. For example, many women of all sizes develop eating problems, which can have short and long term life-threatening health consequences. Other women avoid going to the doctor for fear of being weighed, judged, or chastised about problems that are really structural rather than individual. Such women are not getting much needed health care and may evade early detection of numerous treatable health conditions. It is not fat women that are unhealthy, but the environment which the war on obesity creates that is absolutely toxic. Please stop using anti-obesity language and instead support women’s access to healthy food, safe movement (exercise) options, and affordable evidence-based medical care in a judgement free environment.

    Thanks again, for all you do. I hope you will do some research and broaden your awareness of the full extent of the war that is currently being waged on women so that Planned Parenthood can avoid unconsciously participating in that very war.

    • Well said! Thank you! And Ragen, thanks for sharing your excellent words and bringing this to light. Your site is a daily highlight for me and a much-needed voice of sanity.

    • If you do, I am sure you will see that the war on obesity is a part of the larger war on women.

      Good point. ‘obesity’ trades on women’s status as less sentient and meaningfully human and facilitates the erasure of fat people’s voices-as a whole.

  11. Email sent. I’m approaching this from another facet of the comparison, in that I’m a fat woman who has planned and attempted suicide myself. And I don’t appreciate the comparison between my healthy-and-fat body, and my potentially-deadly mental illness. My body doesn’t cause even a tenth of the problems to my health that my brain does.

    Well, here’s hoping they listen.

    • Amen! I too live with mental illness. It has caused far worse problems for me than being fat ever did. Although I suppose one could say that my being fat contributes to my mental health problems, because dealing with bigoted idiots tends to make me crazy! ;-)

  12. This is definitely good news. It’d be great if we lived in a world where it wasn’t fat people versus skinny people.


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