Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Does the Obesity Task Force Even Have Any Obese People on It?

Posted By on Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 9:33 AM

Tuesday was the Obesity Task Force Day on the Hill. I'll admit that I hadn't really thought much about them -- other than to make fun of whether they were going to help obese people such as myself do tasks, or if they were going to assign tasks to us.

But then I saw that the Obesity Task Force has goals like encouraging people to eat more fruits and vegetables and to exercise more and to breastfeed. And I began to suspect that this was a task force made up of people who are not obese but staring in from the outside.

After randomly sampling the list of members, then googling them and looking up all the heads of committees, I saw some people you might describe as "plump." But I saw no one you'd describe as obese.

This is unsurprising for two reasons.

One, when you set up a dynamic where obesity is a problem that needs to be eradicated -- and obese people are the literal embodiment of grave failure as responsible people and responsible Tennesseans -- and you are the answer-man heroes who will come in and save the day, chances are slim that you will want to hear from people who don't see themselves as an unsightly problem that needs to be removed from our society.

Also, the chances that doctors will want to hear from obese people about the shitty prejudices we face from doctors -- many of whom have preconceived ideas that we're stupid, poor, slovenly liars who just aren't trying hard enough? Probably also pretty slim.

Hell, I could tell you stories -- like the gynecologist who waited until he had his hand jammed up my vagina to tell me how God made it so fat women can't have babies ... because, y'know, back in prehistoric times, we couldn't outrun the angry elephants who wanted to squash us. I couldn't even make a run for it. I just had to sit there and listen to his bizarre theories about why God hates fat chicks because I was in stirrups and he had me by the cooter.

Or the doctor who told me I needed to cut out sugary drinks and start eating more vegetables -- and who flat out called me a liar to my face when I told him that I had done that and gotten a dog, whom I walked every day, yet hadn't lost any weight. (You will be unsurprised to learn that it was another 10 years before a doctor listened to what I was saying and figured out what was wrong with me.)

And you know, when fat people get together and talk, my stories aren't even the worst. They are par for the course.

But I looked all through the Obesity Task Force's documents and I didn't see one damn thing about how fat people are less likely to go to the doctor for routine check-ups (because of the constant hounding and abuse, I suspect), which means that, yes, by the time we go to the doctor, our problems usually are more severe then "regular" people.

Which brings me to Reason Two. At this point, I'm sure any member of the Obesity Task Force reading this is thinking, "How horrible her stories are! But that's not me."

Really, motherfucker?

You didn't post a slide from a talk by a dude who represents your organization

click to enlarge Along with charts and graphs, the Obesity Task Force shares this informative piece of propaganda when discussing fat Tennesseans.
  • Along with charts and graphs, the Obesity Task Force shares this informative piece of propaganda when discussing fat Tennesseans.
on your website (pdf) which depicts obese people as a kind of de-evolution of humankind? Or at least, a disappointing and terrible end for humanity? It wasn't you guys who showed a photo of men dressed up like fat chicks and drinking beers, as if that illustrated some fundamental truth about obesity? (What that truth is, I'm not sure. Is it that being fat will turn everyone into stereotypical barmaids, or that we're as ridiculous as Martin Lawrence in Big Momma's House?) It was some other group that depicts fat children as slouchy messes in clothes that don't fit, as if being fat automatically means you lose the ability to wear clothes the right size?

Do you think obese people don't have eyes to see this shit?

The man who gave this presentation, David G. Schlundt, according to your own website, is an associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt. And I'm expected to believe that this propaganda -- designed to reconfirm to the people you talk to about people like me that people like me are slovenly, stupid and, apparently, prone to bouts of cheesy cross-dressing -- is an accident?

Vanderbilt wouldn't hire a person in its psychology department who didn't understand exactly what he was doing when he put these images together.

Nothing about those images is designed to convey information about real people. Those images are designed to convey a lot of information about the sets of stereotypes you want people to have in their heads when they think of fat people.

And when it's a professor of psychology putting those images together? Don't tell me it's not deliberate.

What obese person would be on this Task Force when you could not be any more clear about how disgusting you think obese people are?

Okay, I'm going to attempt to calm down here and make my point as rationally as possible. People are obese. People. Obesity is not some abstract thing to be studied from afar by people with expertise. It's a type of body that a lot of people in our state have. Yes, often times, it can lead to health problems. But just as often, if not more, it is a symptom of some other issue.

And being obese in this society is not easy, because we get that you think we shouldn't exist how we are. We get that message, loud and clear, all the time.

We know how y'all talk about "health" but you really mean "how you look makes me uncomfortable." We get that message loud and clear, too.

Believe me, if you're not obese, you may think you get what it's like to have a body that so plainly marks you for most people as stupid and lower-class and unwilling to get with the program and unworthy to live unmolested in society. But you do not.

And, frankly, there is no real middle ground here. Once you've made it as plain as you have that you think being fat is disgusting -- and that my very body, which I live in, is some problem which must be eradicated -- your cries of "But your health!" or "But the children!" don't mean much.

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