I Want to Horrify the Fatphobics

It’s almost Memorial Day in New England, USA, the time when us sun-starved mavens of snow crawl out of our log cabins and head to the beaches. There are lots of beaches in New England: great big lakes, rivers, and of course the Atlantic Ocean on which all but two of the six NE states have beaches.

For lots of fat people, or anyone who doesn’t have a so-called bikini body, this can be a stressful time. What kind of swimsuit should I buy? Why in the hell don’t they make swimsuits with longer skirts, is it some kind of rule of swimming that you have a vagina you’re required to show hella thigh? Should I just not bother (again) this year, since I really don’t want to be parading my lumpy, pale self in some skirted, ill-fitting black, navy-blue, or brown swimsuit in front of the hard-bodies and cruel teenagers?

This is doubly ridic for me because I live all of two minutes from Cape Cod. In fact, I live under two miles from the ocean (I only know this because it jacks up the insurance on my house). I love the beach, sitting on it, reading, soaking up sun, then fighting with the subzero surf to get out again, teeth chattering, for more sun-and-book time. My favorite vaca spot when I was ‘thin’ was Hampton Beach.

But since I’ve gained – so for about four years – the number of times I’ve gone to the beach?

Once. Once. I live under two miles from the ocean. The beach-towns of Cape Cod are just a hop-skip down the highway. So what’s the dealio? I’m a big bad fat-fatty acceptance acceptor, aren’t I? I constantly root on other fatties who go to the beach, or pose for pics in swimsuits. I think they look awesome, I think they are awesome. So what the big frickin-frick?

But this season, something changed. I don’t know what, I’m really not sure. But I think I might be going through Stage 1 of fat-beach-goer-acceptance, at long last. Why? Because I found myself wanting to go to the beach — in order to horrify the fatphobics. Yep, to deliver a big pudgy Fuck You to every pair of roving, judgmental eyes.

I know very well this isn’t where I want to be with this, ultimately. Ultimately going to the beach can’t be about the other people at the beach. When I was ‘thin’ I didn’t care about them so much, but I knew I was hot shit, so it was kind of about them as much as it was about my own enjoyment (in that the two impulses often interacted, their perception of my hotness reinforcing my enjoyment or at least putting my mind at ease. Thin privilege, folks!). It shouldn’t be about the other people now, either, but the writer in me sees a golden opportunity to really tap into that hate often elicited by the Public Fat. I think it would be better if I had a friend to go with, but I don’t know any other self-accepting fatties in the area, so I’d have to go it alone. It might be better that way, I think people might be more willing to catcall the lone fatty than fatties in groups.

Right, so this all sounds horrifying and masochistic. But I’ve noticed something else happening over the years I’ve been in fat acceptance: the old insults just don’t really hurt anymore. Some old chestnuts (like cal-in-cal-out) have even reached ‘curiosity’ status — in that, when people utter them, it’s like a fascinating live demonstration of the efficacy of socialization. I think that’s what I’d be going for, here.

Still, it’s kind of scary. Both the going and likely being catcalled, and this power, this anger pushing me to do it.

So, right. This summer, at some point, I’m going to the beach. I’m going to go by myself; and I will record the response to my Public Fatness.

Some S. Florida Gynos Refusing to Take Overweight Patients

…because they’re afraid of getting sued. No, really. Apparently the medical malpractice laws in Florida are so stringent that they are in effect making blanket pronouncements (and proscriptions against) ‘overweight’ women because they are deemed to be generally too ‘high-risk.’ There’s some blather and blah about not having the equipment to handle fat ladies, but that’s bunk because only a tiny percentage of fat ladies are large enough to need special equipment.

Report: Doctors Refusing to Treat Overweight Patients (CNSNews)

“People don’t realize the risk we’re taking by taking care of these patients,” the newspaper quoted Dr. Albert Triana of South Miami as saying. “There’s more risk of something going wrong and more risk of getting sued. Everything is more complicated with an obese patient in GYN surgeries and in [pregnancies],” he told the newspaper.

People don’t realize the RISK we’re taking by taking care of these patients, sobbed Dr. Someone about those horrible fat people. Don’t you realize they’re ticking time bombs? And I don’t have the insurance money to cover cleaning all that adipose tissue off my exam room walls, you dig?

I dig, brother. Thankfully, the article doesn’t go on to shame and blame fat people, and ends on a reasonably reflective note:

It is not illegal for doctors to refuse overweight patients, but it has medical ethicists worried. So far, the weight cutoffs have been enacted only by South Florida ob-gyns, who have long complained about high numbers of lawsuits after difficult births and high rates for medical-malpractice insurance.

And I don’t even have to be a medical ethicist to be concerned about the ethical implications of suggesting that people be turned away from medical care for a characteristic that is 77% hereditary.

Big Calorie Brother is Watching You, Fat Kids

In the annals of creepy monitoring of calorie counts, this expensive taxpayer-funded measure to study the calorie intake of children via photographing their lunch trays and ‘their leftovers’ is way up there:

Calorie Camera: Schools Photographing Students’ Lunch Trays

Health officials trying to reduce obesity and improve eating habits at five San Antonio elementary schools unveiled a $2 million research project Wednesday that will photograph students’ lunch trays before they sit down to eat and later take a snapshot of the leftovers.

Parents will receive the data for their children, and researchers hope eating habits at home will change once moms and dads see what their kids are choosing in school. The data also will be used to study what foods children are likely to choose and how much they’re eating.

Okay, fine, so this is just a study, right? Surely this isn’t about trying to socially engineer a marginalized class of people to conform to the ‘better’ characteristics of the elites, right? Wrong:

Researches selected poor, minority campuses where obesity rates and diabetes risk are higher. Among those is White Elementary, which is just off a busy interstate highway on the city’s poor east side, on a street dotted with fast-food restaurants and taquerias.

I like how they say “obesity rates and diabetes risk” are higher. You know they wanted to put “incidence of diabetes” is higher, but instead they had to use a redundant statement to get the word DIABETES in there. Because we all know that despite a very low real incidence of Type II Diabetes in children DIABETES is the bread-and-butter scare-word used to frighten parents and get concerned public activists in a righteous huff over the ‘childhood obesity epidemic’ (which isn’t confined to childhood, nor does ‘obese’ have much meaning since the growth charts are all comparative, and which isn’t an epidemic by any stretch of the imagination).

However, the article does have this refreshing insight which, in the context of the article, would seem to suggest such an expensive taxpayer-funded project in these dark times of deep deficits is short-sighted to say the least:

Researchers warn that obesity is not always the result of children eating too many calories. A previous study by the nonprofit center reported that 44 percent of children studied consumed calories below daily minimum requirements, but nearly one-third were still obese. Seven percent screened positive for type 2 diabetes.

If you as a parent don’t want to consent to having your child’s food photographed and nitpicked? Well, you’re just stupid and ignorant, says the school’s principal (who was very sure to get his name/school in the national news, I’m sure):

Mark Davis, the school’s principal, said getting consent from parents hasn’t been a problem. He suspects the small number of parents who withhold consent don’t understand the project, perhaps thinking it limits what their child can eat at school.

My prediction: next study will be recording the BMIs of students as well as the contents of their eaten lunch.

On Mother’s Day 2011, Hate for Fat Moms in Abundance

I’ve been tweeting up a storm this Mother’s Day morning, all on the #thingsfatpeoplearetold hashtag. Not about anything particularly new, or some fat-hating piece released this morning, but rather on the messages about fat motherhood and mothering fat children I’ve heard in some context or another during the past few years.

Full disclosure: I’m not a bio mom. I have three stepchildren between the ages of 17 and 21. I’ve been in their lives since the youngest was 12. None of them are fat; all three are quite thin and conventionally attractive. My husband and I can’t have kids the traditional way, since he’s got a 15 year-old vasectomy. A couple years ago (when I was a fledging size activist) I started looking into non-traditional ways of having kids. I quickly learned there were two huge barriers: sizism, and ageism. My husband is 24 years older than I am, turning 53 this year after I turn 29. Adoption agencies, both local and international, discriminate against couples who have at least one member over the age of 50 (sometimes even 40). But also? Couples with at least one ‘obese’ or ‘morbidly obese’ member are discriminated against as well. Given that many private adoption agencies in the US are Christian, and I’m not Christian, there’s another roadblock.

So we considered artificial insemination or some other procedure. They are very expensive, not something we could even dream of affording in the short term. Also? Some fertility clinics put up major obstacles (i.e., charge you much higher fees) if you’re over a BMI of about 33, or just outright disallow it, though there’s no real evidence that the IVF limit is justified in any medical sense (though we can be sure the social engineers have their justifications).

But the final nail in the coffin of my desire to have children (at least, in the short term) was the barrage of negative/othering messages directed at fat moms, moms of fat kids — which my child has a decent chance of becoming, given that body size is 77% heritable.

Some of the messages our enlightened age given in regards to fat motherhood:

Fat children are a symptom of bad parenting.

Didn’t you hear? If you’re a mom who works (like most moms do), you’re making your kids fat. But if you shelter your kids too much and cater too much to their wants and needs? You’re also making your kids fat. And you’re ignorant, too; moms of fat kids don’t understand it’s just calories in/calories out, stupid.

Becoming a mom while fat is irresponsible and dangerous to both you and your child.

Maternal obesity is the plague of the land, didn’t you know? It’s causing the obesity epidemic (which surely exists, am I right?). Fat pregnancies result in fat children. Or maybe it’s being too thin while pregnant. Or maybe it’s dieting while pregnant. Or maybe it’s eating too many fats. Or it could be that you didn’t control your weight gain while both fat and pregnant. But it’s definitely your fault! Couldn’t be that pesky 77% heritability. Certainly not.

Fat moms are a burden to society.

You cost more in hospital resources, fatty! It couldn’t be that C-sections are way over-prescribed for fat pregnancies relative to thinner populations, given that fat pregnancies almost automatically get slapped with the ‘high-risk’ label despite the individual health of the mother (hello, failure of population study research to apply to the individual).

Fat moms are embarrassing to their children and husbands.

Kids can be cruel, can’t they? But is it really the kids, or a combination of their youthful urge to categorize and understand the world, including complex social mores, in the context of what they hear from their parents, see on TV, read in magazines and the internet, and hear from their friends? Children are wonderful, tragic barometers for the bigotries of our age. So is it so surprising when a mother hears that her child is being teased because she has a fat mom? And, moreover, that her child wants to transfer that bigotry to her mother to stop the teasing? Or that her husband doesn’t want her to participate in public activity because he’s embarrassed of her size?

Fat moms are guilty of child abuse, and should have their kids taken away from them.

This one, more than any other, made me change my mind about having kids. Having been abused by other people in my life, the idea of being categorized as one of them — whether justified or not — was too much to bear. There are many other examples of this, please Google it if you’re interested (and have banked the requisite Sanity Watcher’s points).

I want to issue special Mother’s Day good-wishes to fat moms, given the above, and everything else they must put up with to survive in a society who hates and blames them at every turn.

What other messages directed at fat moms have you heard, both from the media and in your own life?