Are Fat People Really Oppressed

Jillian MichaelsThis has been coming up a lot lately so I thought I would discuss it again today.  Let’s start here:  the definition of oppression is “the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner; to burden with cruel or unjust impositions or restraints”.

The simplest explanation I can give is that as long as my government is waging a war against me (the War on Obesity) a war in which they are actively trying to involve everyone from employers to restaurants to healthcare providers and insurance companies in my eradication, against my will  – and as long as there are people who assert that we should all hope for a world where people who look like me don’t exist because things might be cheaper – I will assert that I am the victim of oppression.  I think that society’s attempt to police my body and rid the earth of me and everyone who looks like me, including but not limited to insisting that we risk our lives trying to become not fat, constitutes the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel and unjust manner. I don’t think you can say, “I want a world where no fat people exist” in a non-oppressive manner.

But let’s look at some other examples:

This article discusses workplace weight discrimination (which is legal almost everywhere) -trigger warning for possible victim blaming language

Here is a more scholarly article about workplace weight bias and wage discrimination

Professors who sit on admissions committees feel comfortable tweeting to the world that fat people can’t complete PhD’s based on their stereotypes of our eating habits.

If we work at Whole Foods, we wouldn’t get the same benefits package as my thin co-workers. Companies like Michelin  and CVS would be happy to charge health insurance penalties based on how I look.  No amount of healthy behaviors or metabolic health could get me the same benefits (which would still be massively problematic), I have to be thin, despite that fact that not a single study has ever achieved long term weight loss for more than a tiny fraction of people.  This idea of rewarding thin employees and punishing fat employees at the workplace (aptly nicknamed “Carrot and Stick” benefits) is gaining popularity.

Studies show that 24% of nurses said that they are “repulsed” by fat people. More than half of the 620 primary care doctors questioned described obese patients as “awkward, unattractive, ugly, and unlikely to comply with treatment.”

Access to medical care is a massive issue.  I’ve personally had doctors refuse to set my broken toe unless i agreed to go to a class about weight loss surgery, tell me that my strep throat is due to my weight (and admit the lie when confronted, but defend that no matter what was wrong with me I would feel better if I lost weight), try to lie to me about my blood pressure to scare me into weight loss (and try to justify the lie as “for my own good” when confronted).  I’ve been prescribed weight loss for anemia, a dislocated shoulder, and strep throat, and I’ve had experimental medicine practiced on me without informed consent or permission and so have most fat people.

I get so much hate mail for being public about loving my body and rejecting diet culture that I created a separate website for it.

We can get almost 400,000 negative messages about our bodies every year.

As a fat woman people feel comfortable making comments about what I eat, mooing at me out of cars, throwing eggs at me while I exercise, blaming me for everything from global warming to world hunger with absolutely no proof, and being unspeakably rude.

Behaviors that are considered unhealthy for thin people are encouraged for me.

People argue that I deserve to be shamed and ridiculed because my body proves that I’m not being personally responsible.

We have to be concerned that professionals who work with us will use their position to enforce their prejudices against us.

People who look like me are not allowed to have any success, except weight loss, without the ridiculous accusation that we are promoting obesity. This creates a situation where people try to make sure that I neither have role models who look like me, nor am I a role model to others.

People posit that because we are fat we are not capable of making decisions for myself  and, if not told exactly what to eat, will simply binge on Twinkies and call it healthy eating. Not to mention the fact what we eat is none of anyone’s business and that people who have no desire to have their eating behaviors policed feel justified in suggesting that mine should be policed because of how I look.

We are told that because we are fat we’re not a credible witness to OUR OWN experience and that other people know better than we do how we behave, what we think,  and what we truly want

Not to mention that studies funded by people who profit from selling weight loss that make ridiculous claims about fat people, from which they profit, are published as factual news

And again, even for fat people who want to try to sole oppression by giving our oppressors what they want, there is not a shred of evidence that any intervention will be successful at changing our weight long-term.

So yeah, these are my observations and they leave me to believe that fat people are being oppressed.  I’m not trying to say we are more or less oppressed than any other group.  I don’t believe in wasting time playing the Oppression Olympics. I believe in stepping up and getting involved which is why I do what I do.  I think the idea that oppression is too strong a word is one of the things that keeps us oppressed which is why I use it. That said, I don’t speak for all fat people, only myself.

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Published in: on May 9, 2014 at 8:13 pm  Comments (14)  

14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You speak for me as well. And eloquently so. Thank you, Ragen.

  2. There is NO WAY even I (a very good speaker, writer, etc.) could have said this any better. We (“fat people”) are OPRESSED. It is BIZARE but as I have heard said so many times even by thin people, “it is the last SAFE PREJUDICE.” (Meaning anything goes and is acceptable in today’s society when it comes to demeaning, belittling, oppressing, etc. etc. “fat people” (those society looks at and considers/deems “fat” whomever that may be.
    I have read every post of yours for a long time. I love what you do, I love what you say, I love watching you dance, you are a hero of mine.
    I lost my identical twin sister 1-30-2014 after 2 hospital stays with upper respiratory infection I believe because the doctors were negligent, because they not only considered her “fat,” but because she was an outspoken nurse who did not always agree with them and let them know it.
    She should not have died. I do believe in God and am catholic, as was she. We do not know when our time will be up nor how, but we will all die. But I do not even go out nor visit my husband’s family times together because I am fat, and they cannot stand me for it.
    This is after being married to this man for 36 years, their son, brother…
    I am sick, and I am tired, and I will not have the operation Greenville, NC here where I live is so well known for (The Greenville Gastric Bypass)…
    Well I digress.
    God bless you for being who you are and speaking about being fat today.

    • We’ve had this discussion on here a bit. I think it’s a safe OPEN prejudice, not the last acceptable one. Anti-Semitism still runs high in N. America, so does racism, but those are hush hush discriminations.

      • Not so hush-hush at all. I’ve been on boards where they’re actually both quite popular pastimes. For every poster that writes that shit, there’s ten or twenty more to cheer the shit on with upvotes. I’d like a dime for every prejudice that’s still publicly acceptable online, personally.

    • Read the comments on just about any online news article relating to race, literally anything from the latest on Donald Sterling to a scholarship awarded to a Black high student, and tell me prejudice against fat people is the last safe/acceptable prejudice. Oh please!

  3. The oppression is so deeply ingrained that far too many fat people expect nothing else, in a health care setting at least, and tell me, unprompted, that they *know* their weight is part of the problem, or they *know* they need to lose weight, or they’ve tried to go on a diet but they must have been doing it wrong because it doesn’t seem to be working.

    And far too many fat people, and even people who aren’t all that fat, have never heard, “Let’s get this clear, I’m not going to nag you about your weight, I’d rather just deal with your health problems,” or, “I believe you when you say you’re not a big eater and I’m not going to ask you to tolerate being hungry,” or, “Your [insert any of many chronic diseases] isn’t caused by your weight and changing your weight by dieting won’t make it better.” And I’ve got a special benevolent glare for people who say, in response to the question I ask everyone where it might be relevant to their condition, “Ha ha, do I LOOK as if I do any sports?” For people of all sizes do all sorts of sports at all sorts of levels.

    HEAS practice is quite straightforward, but I sometimes find it challenging to accept that health, or health-promoting behaviour, is not an obligation, because promoting healthy behaviours is written into my job description. But I’m getting there – when it comes down to it, denying people health care because they engage in behaviours that seem self-destrucive is every bit as bad as bullying people because of their size. And when all is said and done, I love doing the sort of sports where I’m always just one slip away from paraplegia, so who am I to judge?

  4. Has there been any research on diagnosis by BMI?

  5. THANK YOU for posting this, Ragen. I haven’t been to a doctor since my last one (who was very supportive and non-judgemental) moved to Charlotte, because I don’t want to go through the hell of being judged and dehumanized because of my size by a new doctor, like I did before I finally found Dr. Rounds.😦

  6. Reblogged this on SonWorshiper and commented:
    I’ve seen many of the items on this list happen to my wife, sadly. And there are close similarities to how people in the military have treated overweight members (me at times, but mostly stuff I’ve seen done to or said about others). This socially-acceptable shaming and bullying needs to stop.

  7. But oh no. Fat Oppression doesn’t exist. It’s not A Thing. And even if such A Thing existed, it would be for our own good because everyone is just concerned about our well-being.

    Which is shown in Fat Oppression and Hatred.

    Which doesn’t exist.

    Aiiiee…isn’t this where I came in?

  8. My husband is currently in a regular hospital (because there are no open psychiatric beds in our county, but that’s another story). He has been in restraints to prevent wandering, solely because there is no room in the appropriate setting. Needless to say, I’m unhappy about this arrangement.

    Yesterday I spoke to the ARNP managing his meds. I thought we would be talking about his psych meds. Instead she smiled and told me how “smart” he was to have lap band and that I would be “smart” to have it too, no matter the cost or insurance coverage, because it would cure my diabetes.

    Yes, he did have lap band several years ago and his diabetes is in remission. However, she knew nothing about the various complications he’s had. Some of them contribute to his psychiatric problems as he often throws up his meds & has also now lost too much weight & the muscle mass to go with it. His surgery was “medically indicated” and covered by insurance he had at the time, but “smart” is debatable.

    Yes, I am a type II diabetic, but I’m fairly sure you can’t tell by looking at me. It’s none of her business, but I didn’t develop it until I was 45 years & 300 lbs (a younger & lighter than I am now).

    This is oppression. This was a totally abusive discussion. I was there to support and help care for my seriously ill spouse, not to discuss my weight. I was forced to nod and smile because at the moment she has my husband’s fate in her hands. This was an unsubtle show of power. I can’t wait until his Press-Ganey survey comes in the mail…

    • . . . I wonder sometimes whether the professionals who hold our health or the health of our loved ones hostage to their neuroses about weight realize that they are in effect doing so. And is it worse if they do this will full knowledge of their abuse of power, or if they are too caught up in fat panic to understand what they are doing?

      I have no idea what a Press-Ganey survey is, but I hope it allows you to write what you just posted, verbatim, and send it off to somebody who can read that ARNP the riot act!

  9. Off the picture for this post, there’s a tell-all by a Biggest Loser contestant near the top of the queue at Cracked right now. Not sure how she got out of her NDA.

  10. Thank you for writing this. I hate that this is happening. I cannot imagine how you feel every day. What really bugs me, is that there is always one group in society, that it’s “OK” to pick on and it never teaches us. And while I’d welcome government advice if it was health focused and it recognised, that fat does not equal unhealthy, I just hate that all these advice is based solely on one’s looks.


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