This is so the worst thing you're going to read all day.

[Content Note: Fat hatred; disordered eating; bullying.]

My pal Erica Barnett sent me the link to this piece at The Atlantic (note that author Lindsay Abrams is writing critically about this approach): A Case for Shaming Obese People, Tastefully. Subhead: "One bioethicist's modest proposal to combat obesity through socially motivated self-hatred."
People don't hate being fat enough, basically, according to Hastings Center bioethicist Daniel Callahan. In an editorial published in the Hastings Center Report, he argues that nothing -- not diets, drugs, sugeries, nor appeals to our health -- is working, and goes on to make the case for fat-shaming people until they start eating more salad.

"An edgier strategy is needed," is his (earnest and entirely devoid of irony) way of putting it.
HA HA HA. Yes, good call, Callahan. The one thing I don't hear enough is how ashamed of myself I should be for being fat! You are a genius, sir!

I have been down this well-tread path many times before, so I won't spend another afternoon detailing all the many ways in which presuming that fat people are all fat for the same reason, that fat people are axiomatically unhealthy, that diets work, etc. is ignorant bullshit.

I will simply observe that what Callahan is proposing is bullying. Not "an edgier strategy," but the same strategy to which most fat people have been subjected for most of our lives, whether it's straight-up shaming directly to our faces by people who purport to care about us and doctors and perfect strangers, or our experience of virtually never seeing bodies like ours in popular culture except as objects of ridicule.

Leaving aside the discussion that fat is not a behavior for many fat people (and for many more, it is the result of disordered eating started as a behavior responsive to the very sort of fat-shaming Callahan suggests), bullying is not an effective strategy to address self-harming behavior.

Bullying encourages self-harm.

For those fat people whose fatness is a direct and exclusive result of lack of self-care even despite access to food that fulfills their individual needs and capacity for sufficient exercise, shaming them about their bodies and habits—bullying them—is only going to make them hate their bodies even more.

I have been a fat person who hates her body, and let me put this as bluntly as I can: There is no incentive to take care of a body you hate.

How good I feel about my fat body is absolutely and inextricably related to how well I take care of it, from the food I put in it to whether I go see a doctor when there's something wrong. That's not a fat issue: That's a human issue. Many of my thin and in-betweenie friends and colleagues have the same experience around their body image and self-care, because we all live in a garbage culture of judgment that conspires to make everyone feel flawed and inadequate in some way.

If you want fat people—or any people—to treat their bodies well, then encourage them to love their bodies, no matter what they look like.

I say again: No one has ever gotten healthier, in any way, by being constantly treated like garbage. And no one has ever gotten bullied into feeling better about themselves.

Acceptance is only a dangerous idea to those who are hiding aesthetic distaste for fat bodies behind sanctimonious concern trolling about fatties' health. If you want us to be healthy, not fucking bullying us would be a great place to start.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus