For a long time bloggers and commenters in the Fatosphere have observed that when most anti-obesity crusaders talk about ‘obesity,’ they’re really talking about ‘obese people.’ There is no such thing as obesity in a vacuum, there are just people who are obese being looked at on a population-wide scale. And the definition of obese changes far too much for it to be any kind of solid abstraction.
When you realize that obesity means obese people, suddenly the comments being made by anti-obesity crusaders become a lot more grim. For instance, the heart-warmingly positive phrase: “We will eliminate obesity in a decade!” becomes “We will eliminate obese people in a decade.” Yikes.
Obesity = obese people. Say it. Write it. Stop using the word ‘obesity.’ Really expose what this whole moral panic is about.
“We really have declared war on obese people,” said Dr. Kimberly Redding, director of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Program at the Georgia Department of Public Health. … “Targeting obese people is not going to be a quick fix,” Redding said. (bold substitutions, mine. original here)
Also, childhood obesity = obese children. Say it. Write it. Never use the term ‘childhood obesity’ again.
Making the substitution (also, ‘epidemic of childhood obesity’ = ‘obese children’):
Spearheaded by Michelle Obama, a new presidential initiative would reverse the epidemic of obese children.
The goal, as set out in a report from the White House Task Force on Obese Children, is to reduce obese children from 20% to 5% by 2030.
To accomplish this, the plan makes 70 recommendations for early childhood, for parents and caregivers, for school meals and nutrition education, for access to healthy food, and for increasing physical activity.
“For the first time, the nation will have goals, benchmarks, and measurable outcomes that will help us tackle obese children one child, one family, and one community at a time,” Obama says in a news release. (bold substitutions, mine. original)
Um, yeah. Shudder. Finally, some Jamie Oliver to whet your palate for a change in this disturbing discourse:
In 2010 Jamie was awarded the prestigious TED Prize to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obese people.
Having proven himself as a campaigner in the UK, Jamie is fired up about leading the fight against obese people in the USA. The second season of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on ABC is set to air in spring 2011 and will help to refocus the campaign to use cooking skills and fresh food to help end the crisis of obese people in America. (bold substitutions, mine. original)
I’m issuing a challenge to all my readers: Stop using ‘obesity’ and ‘childhood obesity.’ Start saying and writing ‘obese people’ and ‘obese children’ instead. Stop playing the game on their turf, using their mealy-mouthed terms which pretend obesity is some kind of state of being that floats above the populace, or that childhood obesity is like a monster lurking in a child’s closet, rather than the child herself. Say it like it is.
You know the old adage about evil — if you are able to name its nature, then it loses its power.
Who’s with me?