Dear Fat Person: You’re Not Welcome


Author’s note: Characters are purely fictional. Trigger warnings for the kind of rank hate and annoyance fat people put up with every day. 

Dear fat person,

1. You’re not welcome to have this job, though you’re the most qualified applicant we’ve seen. Calories in = calories out is so simple, and so obviously true. You being fat means you’re stupid and lazy, despite your qualifications and experience. What we will do if we have to fly you places, pay double? We also can’t afford someone like you on the company insurance plan. I mean, you’ve got to be pretty unhealthy being so big, right? But we’d be happy to have you as long as you sign a contract to be part of our voluntary Biggest Loser program.

2. You’re not welcome at the reunion. Don’t you realize fatness means you’ve failed, regardless of what you’ve accomplished since high school/college? I mean, look at your old best friend–she’s still super hot. What, you won a Pulitzer? Neat. Whatever. Isn’t your friend hot?

3. You’re not welcome in this fertility clinic. Don’t you realize people like you shouldn’t get pregnant? That you’re putting your baby at gigantic risk at all stages of its development? You will surely get diabetes and have a huge baby and need a c-section, and later you’ll overfeed your child and let it watch TV all day. People like you are ruining the next generation. However, we will sterilize you.

4. You’re not welcome to respond to my online dating profile. What made you think I’d be okay with dating a fat person? You need to make your profile all about how you’re fat, otherwise it’s false advertising, baby. You’re just trying to trick awesome people like moi into dating you. Like that would ever happen. I’ll still have sex with you, though. But only because I’m in a dry spell. You know how it is.

5. You’re not welcome at this audition. It doesn’t matter how good your acting/dancing/singing/modeling is. You’re an eyesore. Who wants to look at you jiggling up there, too-large, lacking so much grace by virtue of your fat (though your form is impeccable)? It’s unfair to the other actors and singers, darling. How can you expect them to be able to work with someone of your…proportions? You’re talented, so I’ll make a deal with you: come back when you’ve lost some weight, and we’ll talk. Kisses!

6. You’re not welcome to exist as fat, especially if you want to walk around in public, or to comment on the kinds of blogs or articles I like to comment on. What would happen if a workaday troll like me didn’t harass you, didn’t let you know how unwanted you are? You might get to thinking you’re, I dunno, accepted or something, like you’re not some big ugly problem, or that–heaven forfend–you have the same right to respect as nonfat folks or dieters. Hey, don’t blame me. It’s your fault for daring to be fat at us.

7. You’re not welcome to decide how to take care of yourself, if that decision doesn’t place weight loss first and foremost. I know. I’m a doctor.

8. You’re not welcome in this society, though we expect you to keep making contributions to programs you’ll be barred from using, and paying taxes for a war against people like yourself. Oh, and I’ll appreciate your vote this November, thanks!

Poetry is for Beautiful People?

Start spreading the news…

Here is a fascinating interview with poet Eduardo C. Corral, who touches on the beauty paradigm (which in this case also means thin paradigm) in the queer poetry community in New York City. It’s sad that fat seems to automatically equal not-beautiful, or that physical beauty is a requirement to fit into an arts community.

A quote from the end of the interview with Corral:

EC: Beauty is on my mind these days. The queer poetry community in New York City is full of beautiful people, which makes me an outsider. I’m not beautiful. I’m overweight. I’m unfashionable. I live in the wrong neighborhood. But let me add: I’m happy. I love myself. I love my life in New York City.

I’m disappointed in many of my queer peers. So many of them want to be part of the hipster crowd. So many of them value looks over talent. The cool kids form clubs, become gatekeepers. So many of my peers are clamoring to be let in. I don’t want in. I want to write poems, I want to read, I want to support others. I believe in community, but I’m hesitant to reach out to some of my peers because I’ve already been spurned by a few. One young man told me, “You don’t look like the rest of us.” But I’m not going to let narrow minds ruin my time in the city. I will continue to show up at readings, at poetry events. I’m here. I’m queer. I’m big. Get used to it! (bold mine)

The interview started a firestorm of sorts when  responded to inform Corral that beautiful poet Anne Sexton is awesome and it concerns him when people in the poetry community want to devalue his beauty and style…or something:

Though I’m impressed by Corral’s candor, and lament his experience of exclusion because of his appearance, I bristled when I read this. I found myself worrying that this sort of attitude, taken a bit further, could lead to the devaluation of something important to me—namely, fashion and beauty. Moreover, I’m afraid such an attitude sets up a false dichotomy: looks or talent, style or substance. I refuse to settle for one or the other. Silly as it might sound, I want to be beautiful and I want to write beautiful poems.

I’m not, of course, arguing poets need (or should) be good-looking, nor do I advocate exclusion within the gay poetry community on any basis. I’m certainly not claiming the hunger for celebrity I share with [Anne] Sexton is noble. But this is the truth of my life: I’ve wanted to be famous longer than I’ve wanted to be a poet. And I’m apprehensive about what happens when we privilege one experience of the world over any other. I may be young, I may be an aesthete—I may one day recall my great longing to be desired as frivolous—but I don’t believe that makes my experience any less worthy of artistic representation. (bold mine)

Fitzpatrick is calling out Corral for privileging the lives of non-beautiful, non-stylish poets over the lives of beautiful, stylish poets. In so doing he cleanly misses the point of Corral’s critique: that men like Fitzpatrick are already privileged and that Corral thinks that’s a problem. Fitzpatrick’s is yet another (albeit beautifully written) example of the privileged biting back when someone has the temerity to point out their vaunted social status.

Fitzpatrick wants to be his version of beautiful and stylish and a poet — fine. But acknowledging a poetry community privileges one version of beauty and style over another isn’t about taking away one’s ability to be whomever he wants, but an attempt to broaden the space for other interpretations of what it means to look like a poet. Fighting against broadening a space is fighting for the status quo, the existing definition that privileges one set of people over another.

Other reasons why fat person cost calculations are bogus

Ragen has a great article out today, please take a look if you haven’t seen it already:

The True Cost of Fatties

In her post, Ragen talks about how the back of the envelope ‘study’ done a couple of years ago that suggests fat people are killing the planet with all the extra gas we consume, and the usual shady numbers we see about how much extra healthcare dollars fat people consume. Apparently fat fatties eat money just like they eat Twinkies — in excess, and uncaring as to how it effects anyone else in their lives. We’re truly terrible people, a costly evil scourge that must be eradicated…at all costs.

Which leads me to my first additional point to Ragen’s post:

When we hear fat person cost calculations, there’s an ever-present underlying assumption that if fatties were thinnies or normals, we wouldn’t consume those extra resources. However, overwhelming evidence shows that in order to maintain a significant amount of weight loss down from a natural setpoint of significantly higher, individuals need to dedicate something like a part-time job to it: exercising for several hours a day, paying for expensive diet plans or special meals or therapies, measuring and weighing and planning and special shopping trips and scribbling in a journal–you get the picture. There’s a $60 billion dollar diet industry that derives most of its income from people going on and off temporary diets. If fat people were to do what the above ‘experts’ claim and go on mandatory, permanent, life-long diets, imagine how that number would explode. It would likely eclipse the (shady) amount (badly) estimated spent on fatty healthcare ($147 billion in 2008).

The next part of the fat person cost calculation has to do with absenteeism and the murkily-defined and -exampled presenteeism. Presenteeism is, as defined, when workers show up to work but have much lower levels of productivity than a coworker doing the same job.

…presenteeism was measured and monetized as the lost time between arriving at work and starting work on days when the employee is not feeling well, and the average frequency of losing concentration, repeating a job, working more slowly than usual, feeling fatigued at work, and doing nothing at work. [2]

From what I’ve seen, fat people are accused of presenteeism because they’re assumed to have greater health-related obstructions to doing their job. This would be most pronounced in markets that rely on physical labor. However, the studies I’ve seen that show a ‘significant’ (1% difference! Le gasp!) increase in presenteeism as defined don’t correct for age, which is strongly positively associated with both fatness and decreased productivity in manual jobs.

Fatty presenteeism and absenteeism is estimated to cost employers $73.1 billion annually. My question is, naturally: how much more productive is a starving person? (dieting is indistinguishable from a famine state) How much more productive is someone who spends a part-time job in addition to their full time job keeping off weight? How much would it cost the economy as a whole if we estimated the lost productivity of fat people due to the fact that in order to maintain a thinner state, they would have to dedicate something like 15 – 20 hours a week they could have spent working additional hours, raising up a new generation of workers, or supporting their community and the productivity of others? Methinks that would be a hella more than $73.1 billion a year.

Now for the second point I wanted to add to, or rather stress, in Ragen’s analysis:

You can single out practically any group of people you want and find additional ‘costs’ associated to their ‘lifestyles’ or genetic differences. Thin people are the awesome du jour, but they’ve got their own set of associated costs (if you believe the hype that they’re more active and so on): cost of gas getting back and forth to the gym, athletic injuries, diet plans, they live longer and hoo boy is that expensive, they take more vacations, they tend to be richer and hence de facto consume more resources, and so on. Let’s add that up.

Or parents, as mentioned by Ragen and by me in another forum: parents, especially of unfashionably large families, consume mountains more resources than childless people, have high levels of absenteeism in the workplace, and cost their employers much more in family insurance plans, childcare benefits, and so on. Let’s add that up.

Or people who get tattoos — let’s go after them, shall we? They get sicker more often, as a new tattoo is the same as an open wound. They tend to hang out in edgier clubs, are exposed to the possibility of more violence, and are probably more likely to be drug users (a purely correlative assessment, of course). Let’s add that up. And don’t get me started on people with psychological disorders like depression, bipolar, or those who’ve had traumatic backgrounds, or who are part of prejudicial groups — the extra health costs associated with their therapies and prescriptions and their decreased productivity is nigh-on criminal(big flashing sarcasm meter on all these points, of course)

And so on, and on, and on…

So why fatties? Because we cost so much more than other groups? Nope. Because our costly status is preventable, or cheaper to treat? Nope (see my Truth About Fat: References page). Because:

Fat people are scapegoats.

For what? For a breaking healthcare system, a broken health insurance paradigm, a slowing economy, global warming, hunger in non-Western countries, the declining standard of Western beauty, and pretty much anything else some random person doesn’t like and doesn’t want to either understand or tolerate.

We are in a moral panic, not an epidemic. Fat people ‘cost more’ because we are hated. Fat people destroying the earth, or anything else for that matter, is a proxy for how the moral crusaders believe we are destroying humanity.

References

1. Rising obesity will cost U.S. health care $344 billion a yearUSA TODAY, November 17, 2009.

2. Obese Workers Cost Workplace More Than Medical Expenses, Absenteeism. Duke Global Health Institute, October 7, 2010.

3. Obesity Promotes Global Warming? John Tierney.The New York Times, May 16, 2008, 9:49 AM

4. Wrestling with the ‘Double Burden’: Hunger and ObesityWorld Food Program USA. By Sara Draper-Zivetz  Published on February 18, 2011