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?

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It’s the Little Things…

I was reading up on lower back exercises, when I had the distinct pleasure of coming across this little gem:

Circled text:

In addition to imparting strength to your core back muscles, this exercise, will also keep a tab on your waistline! Isn’t that a great incentive to do this lower back exercise, specially for the fairer sex?

Fat hate in everything, specially for you laydeez. We know you love fatphobia, and specially like keeping a tab (is that like the soda? Cuz that stuff is gross) on your waistline.

This is just one of the too-many examples of fat hate and size restraint/obsession just about everywhere one looks. It’s especially bad during the height of Diet Season, but this stuff is pervasive, regardless of the time of year. It’s only during Diet Season when it’s the focus of every. damn. conversation.

(NOTE: FFS is my favorite internet acronym, “For Fuck’s Sake!” I even use this in RL, lots. But I always speak it longform)

Call for Study Participants!

Hi all,

I’m posting this call for study participants the request of Michaela A. Null, a doctoral student at Purdue. She (and the study) look legitimately very interesting, and I encourage you to participate!

The study details are posted below.

Your friendly liberty-lovin’ size activist, BL


Call for Participants

Hi, my name is Michaela A. Null, and I am a doctoral student in Sociology at
Purdue University. I am doing a study about the embodiment of size-accepting fat
women, with attention to the ways in which gender, race, sexual orientation, and
body size intersect.

I am currently looking for individuals who are interested in volunteering to
participate in my study. If you are interested in volunteering to participate in
an interview, I ask that take an electronic informational survey, which will
take approximately 5 minutes. Please go here
[http://purdue.qualtrics.com/SE?SID=SV_etvIKJ1LFV0gFNi] and complete the
informational survey. After all survey data has been collected, participants
will be selected for interviews, which will be conducted in-person, by phone, or
via internet chat, and will last between an hour and an hour and a half.

Participation is voluntary and participants must be at least 18 years old.

This project has been approved by my university’s Institutional Review Board,
which protects human subjects of research. I will provide confidentiality to all
volunteers and participants will be referred to by a pseudonym in all research
documents.

If you have any questions regarding this study, you can contact me at
mnull@purdue.edu. For more information on me, you can access my university
profile here [http://www.cla.purdue.edu/sociology/directory/?p=Michaela_Null].
You can also contact Professor Eugene Jackson, Assistant Professor of Sociology
at Purdue University, at jacksone@purdue.edu.

Sincerely,

Michaela A. Null, Doctoral Candidate in Sociology, Purdue University

First Lady Releases Child Obesity Recommendations

…largely blames mothers for child’s obesity.

cue shock and surprise

Link to the AP article

Some particular gems (note throughout these that the child omgbesity is referred to, without challenge, as “the problem”):

Mrs. Obama has said she wants to help solve the problem in a generation so babies born today will come of age at a healthy weight. The report says that could happen if childhood obesity rates dropped to 5 percent by 2030.

Read: Non-experts who don’t apparently know anything about statistics, genetics, and the science of size can now control billions of dollars and influence countless lives as long as they’re somehow connected to an influential politician (this is not new, of course, but it can’t be reiterated too many times in my opinion).

Or: Welcome to the moral panic. Check your deviant status—and your children—at the door.

Or: The report says that one can solve the problem in a generation if rates drop to very low in a generation—i.e., one can solve the problem if one solves the problem—i.e., the utter BS non-speak tautologies presented as some kind of ‘revelation’ in order to push an agenda fueled by bias and the politics of crisotunity rather than facts and reasonable outcomes.

The report says a woman’s weight before she becomes pregnant and her weight gain during pregnancy are two of the most important factors that determine, before a child is born, whether he or she will become obese. [bold mine]

Read: Fat women have a higher likelihood of giving birth to fat children. Before driving in the Duh! Truck, realize that they’re not implying here that fat is genetic. In fact there isn’t the single, slightest nod paid to the overwhelming (77%) role genetics plays in the determination of weight. The report is written on the assumption that weight—for a mother before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and then the weight of the child—are completely controllable. Of course, instead of just assuming fat children would become thin children with the ‘proper’ diet, it attempts to correlate some hoo-doo about the physiology of fat mothers and future fat children. If this seems convoluted to you, then you’re on the right track. Instead of talking about genetics or talking about what fuels significant weight gain in pregnancy (someone more expert correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that large pregnancy weight gains in general are most strongly correlated with a concurrent cessation of a calorie-restricted diet), they couch everything in dubious ‘risk factor’ and correlative language.

(As an aside, if anyone has a copy of this actual report, I’d like to read it. I have a feeling it’s just a data dredge survey of some kind)

Something also very interesting to note, for those who have a nose for these public policy scienterrific press releases: the selective use of numbers. Note that the statistical correlations between fat moms (before pregnancy), weight gain (during pregnancy) are just reported as existent, while the correlation between breast-fed and reduction of obesity likelihood is stated outright (apparently 22%, but remember this is an odds ratio, so what that really means is that if the average bottle-fed child has a 15% chance of becoming obese, if they are breast fed then this goes down by 22% of 15% — that is, by 3%. So if the average bottle-fed child has a 15% chance of becoming obese, the average breast-fed child apparently has a 12% chance. The numbers are a bit less scary, no? That’s why they’re reported as odds ratios instead of real probabilities — to inflate their significance).

Eugenics Rears Its Ugly Head, Again

When you deliver your body to the State, expect the State to start:

  1. Making you do things
  2. Preventing you from doing things

In other words, if you hand your body over to someone else, that someone else will claim the right to control it.

Today I was rudely reminded that eugenics, one of the nasty platforms of famous fascist/socialist states like Nazi Germany, is alive and well (h/t Elizebeth). Eugenics posits that one can (must) improve the species by allowing some people to have children, and disallowing others. In our modern time, it has also become more selective: couples can choose to have children with certain genetic makeups and not others. All in the name of having the ‘best’ child, who will become the ‘best’ kind of citizen and human, and that these ‘best’ people are superior in general to naturally-born, unselected people.

In this current example, The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE)), has recommended practitioners or governments which follow the Society’s recommendations, void the Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for certain classes of people, namely (bolding mine):

1) In view of the risks for the future child, fertility doctors should refuse treatment to women used to more than moderate drinking and who are not willing or able to minimize their alcohol consumption.

2) Treating women with severe or morbid obesity required special justification. The available data suggested that weight loss would incur in a positive reproductive effect, although more data was needed to establish whether assisted reproduction should be made conditional upon prior life-style changes for obese and smoking females.

3) Assisted reproduction should only be conditional upon life style changes, if there was strong evidence that without behavioural modifications there was a risk of serious harm to the child or that the treatment became disproportional in terms of cost-effectiveness or obstetric risks.

4) When making assisted reproduction conditional upon life style modifications, fertility doctors should help patients to achieve the necessary results.

5) More data on obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption as well as other life style factors were necessary to assess reproductive effects. Fertility doctors should continue research in this area.

Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (bolding mine):

Article 16
  1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
  3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

It is my firm belief that being fat is intertwined with racial status, since fat is preponderantly genetic. Therefore, discriminating against fat people is discriminating against them based on their racial status. Again, fat is not a behavior. Fat is not a disease. Fat is a body type, which is preponderantly genetic.

To understand how ridiculous this is, just consider this one fact: the fear of diabetes is one of the largest health ‘risks’ that anti-obesity crusaders tout when trying to get you into a panicked enough state to agree to their fascist ultimatums. And having diabetes in your immediate family is by far the largest risk factor for having diabetes yourself. Yet, women who already have diabetes — or heart disease, or a history of cancer, or any of the other major ills thrown at the doorstep of fatness — aren’t disallowed from getting reproductive help in the article being discussed here.

This isn’t about the future health of the child (a concept right out of eugenics, by the way), or whatever malarkey they’re concocting to get you to go along with their crusade. Or else women with diseases shown to be genetic wouldn’t be allowed to get reproductive help. No, this is a direct attempt to make formal the second-class status of unpopular groups of people.

As a final note, not only should it be a basic human right for a woman to reproduce if she so chooses. It should also be a basic human right to contract with another individual for services that do not violate other basic human rights. In other words, if there’s a doctor willing to contract with you for IVF services, then you have the right to proceed.

When Other People Pay For It, They Can Claim the Right to Control It

I’ve said this several times before, but it bears repeating: when other people can make a reasonable argument that they are paying for the choices you make about your body (even if those choices are only perceived choices), then they can claim the right to have a say in your choices.

Take the furor over the Stupak amendment to the recently passed House healthcare bill. I was walking through Harvard Square last afternoon on my way to my weekly voice lesson, and there were congregated at the mouth of the stairs to the station a group of protesters, who desired to get the Stupak language stricken from the (potentially) reconciled House and Senate bill.

I didn’t stop; I’m rather used to Harvard Square protesters. Let’s just say they’re not a particularly rare occurrence.

But I couldn’t help shaking my head and thinking, as I descended the stairs into the station, how those pro-choice, body-freedom people on the left are finally discovering that the greatest threat to their personal choices and freedoms isn’t some corporation or private entity, but widespread government control.

I’ve long heard fauxgressives waxing philosophical about how greater government control at the federal level would loose certain states from fascist, body-controlling regimes. They claim that those who don’t want to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize abortions in some way are the extreme fringe social conservatives, who I agree are fairly nuts. But this goes way deeper than that. The abortion debate has never really been about fending off nutty social conservatives, in my opinion. And it’s not just about abortion as a choice; it’s a symbol for the much greater question of government control vs. body autonomy.

That question is at the center of the debate on government’s role in healthcare.

The Stupak amendment clearly illustrates that with few votes to pass it, late at night on a Saturday when most people aren’t watching C-SPAN (though I was, dammit), a large swath of your freedom can be subverted. And though the Stupak amendment didn’t go as far as banning abortion outright, it did quite plainly single out a behavior that was unpopular and discriminate against it.

In the free market, if there’s demand, there’s availability. In a controlled market, there’s a hell of a lot more white noise between demand and supply. It’s not enough that you and your neighborhood wants it, your representative has to want it, too. And then he’s got to be powerful enough that he can band up with other reps, who need to be part of a majority in the country. And that’s assuming that your reps are listening to you at all, and you’re not a lonely city in a gerrymandered district that is locked into political representation with which you fundamentally disagree.

In a free market, if you buy a boat and never use it, and you have a mariner neighbor who would love a boat but can’t afford one for whatever reason, that neighbor can’t blame you for his lack of a boat. However, in a system controlled by the government, there’s a single pie. If you take a bigger piece, you’re necessarily taking from somebody. So your mariner neighbor could claim that you did, in fact, diminish his ability to buy a boat. He might then be in favor of a law which only allows boats to be sold to mariners, since that would be his only recourse. In a free market, next season you might find out that they replaced expensive parts with less expensive parts, and turned out a model of boat that was more affordable, because they realized there was an untapped market for cheaper boats. Everyone wins.

In a free market, if I ruin my health due to various behaviors, my neighbor has no stake in it. If I get an abortion, it doesn’t affect my neighbor at all. If I eat ten steak-and-donut sandwiches a day and suck down more opium than oxygen, it doesn’t make a single bit of financial difference to my neighbor.*

The point of all of this is, those of you who really believe that giving government greater control over healthcare is going to give you more freedom over your body and health choices can take the Stupak amendment as a warning shot. And if you think they’re not going to come for the fatties next or soon, you’re dreaming. As soon as costs rise (and the projected healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP will rise if the current bills on the table pass), and people are getting taxed at higher rates, fined for not having acceptable coverage, or even thrown in prison with up to a fine of $250,000 for not having acceptable coverage, they’re going to clamor that costs can be forced down by regulating the behavior of those with perceived preventable conditions.

Healthcare reform isn’t a fantasy; there are real reforms that can be made which would make buying plans cheaper, give greater access, and yes, even help cover those who have slipped through the cracks, without shackling citizens to some bureaucracy with the threat of imprisonment if they don’t comply (though there’s certainly a larger Constitutional question in all that). But what’s being put forward by Reid and Pelosi isn’t healthcare reform. It’s a giant grab for power and a threat to your freedom to choose.

REFERENCES**

My Body, Their Choice – Reason.com

House Bill Increases Healthcare Costs – Politico.com

Listing the New Taxes in the Senate Healthcare Bill – Wall Street Journal

Mandatory Insurance is Unconstitutional – Wall Street Journal

Stupak Amendment Threatens the Rights of Every American – The Huffington Post

Rationing’s First Step – Investor’s Business Daily

* Those who assume the insurance system we have now is a free market system are way off the mark, so arguments about the current state of insurance risk-pooling are irrelevant. Additionally, the argument that the uninsured rack up hospital costs for the rest of us ignores that emergency rooms are required to treat those who can’t pay, which is government, not market, intervention.

** Please do not poison the well.

Unfriending the Bigots

Ah, Facebook bigotry.

Guaranteed to be even more awkward than your ordinary brand of internet bigotry, as it usually involves family, friends, classmates, or coworkers.

I recently got into a bit of an exchange with a person I’ve met all of once, who thought it necessary to masturbate his fat-hate onto my Facebook wall. Seriously, I can just picture some of these bigots with pleasure-faces as their hate oozes out into the world, delighted as pigs in shit often are to root publicly, messily, and splashing it up on you if you’re not careful to stand far enough away.

I shot back with a link to the heritability study and told him that “even if adiposity measures health in some kind of reasonable way (which *hasn’t* been conclusively shown, despite “common” knowledge), your health isn’t someone else’s business, so bugger out of their life. Trust me, fat people know they’re fat. No, really. They do.”

Yeah, a bit grammatically incorrect. I don’t deign to be that careful with my sentence construction when I’m addressing hateful morons that really, really need to bugger off with their hate, oh, yesterday.

I’m rather pissed. And do you want to know the earth-shattering, oh-so-deviant, gravity-defying status update to which the douchebag above was referring?

Body obsession occupies women’s time and minds, as a tool of patriarchy to pin us down. What if we could put this energy into politics, poetry, science, or art?

And his response (get out your bingo cards!):

Well, I guess we’d be a race of super advanced fat people, like in WALL-E… 🙂
Obsession is always bad, I agree. That said, from a health perspective, we do let ourselves go quite a bit, women and men, and I think it’s very easy to over eat and under exercise. I also find it funny and a little pathetic that one of the biggest research fund hogs in the world right now is a pill to make you lose weight. Seriously? Is it *that* hard to go to a gym 3 times a week?

Gah.

What’s your story of fat-related Facebook/MySpace asshattery? Or rather, have you noticed the sheer determination of bigots to be bigots in *your* space?

(oh yeah, and I totally unfriended his ass. Hence the title of this post!)