Brace Yourselves, Fatsronauts

During the President's State of the Union address, he announced that First Lady Michelle Obama would soon be launching a national anti-obesity campaign centered on childhood obesity. Lynn Sweet reports that the campaign will be elaborately debuted tomorrow:
Mrs. Obama's East Wing said she will be "joined by members of the president's cabinet, as well as media, sports, entertainment, and business leaders," plus mayors, member of the medical community and others at the White House event. On Tuesday evening, Mrs. Obama will sit down with CNN's Larry King for an interview about obesity and her first year as first lady. She will take questions from viewers.

"Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled; nearly one third of children in America are now overweight or obese," the East Wing said in a statement. "The First Lady will announce the elements of the nationwide campaign, which will put us on track to solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation."
Right from the get-go, the messaging on this is flatly atrocious. Positioning this as an "anti-obesity" campaign is just going to reinforce—and justify—fat hatred. Obama (and anti-obesity crusaders like her) can argue from here to Kingdom Come and back again that "anti-obesity" campaigns aren't about hating fat people, but the reality is that "obesity" doesn't exist outwith people. And, unlike a disease like, say, diabetes, there's an endemic institutional prejudice against fat people. There's a reason why "fat joke" is a term with which everyone's familiar, and "diabetic joke" isn't.

Recently, Iain—who is fat, diabetic, and athletic—began training for the Chicago Marathon. To me, this is wholly unremarkable, because I know how fit he is. But of those who know him and have expressed surprised, their shock was not that a diabetic person who has experienced symmetrical peripheral polyneuropathy was training for a marathon, but that a fat person was training for a marathon.

"Obesity" simply defines fat people in a way that most other physical differences (rightly or wrongly) called disease don't.

I am a fat person; being fat is a defining part of who I am because fat-hatred is something with which I contend on a regular basis—and my reaction to it determines how I am perceived by the world.

That's not something over which I, or any fat person, has any control.

And as long as we are externally defined by our fatness, "anti-obesity" is, quite literally, an attack on a part of us, on us.

"Anti-obesity" will remain functionally indistinguishable from "anti-obese person."

How about an "anti high-fructose corn syrup" campaign? How about an "anti feeding families shitty food is cheaper than feeding families healthy food" campaign? How about an "anti farm subsidies" campaign?

Oh. Right. Because that might hurt the feelings of corporations. Better that we spare the delicate fee-fees of corporations and make life even harder for fat kids.

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