August 4, 2012
I really liked OXJane’s An Open Letter to the Guy Who Helpfully Announced “Daaaaamn Bitch, You Fat!” to Me in the Target Parking Lot this Morning.
The author reasonably wonders why anyone would feel the need/right to inform her that she’s fat and comments on the ubiquity of fat shaming in the US.
I find fat shaming extremely unfortunate. I understand some people find a slim body more aesthetically pleasing. I understand that fatness is associated with poorer health, and many people just want the best for others, which they consider to be a “healthy” weight.
But aesthetics are subjective. And the correlation between body weight and health is far from perfect. Many fat people are much healthier than many thin people. And even if fat shamers could prove that skinny is objectively better than fat — which they can’t, but let’s just say — many people are either genuinely not in control of their body weight or at a huge disadvantage in keeping thin due to prescription drug side effects or diseases.
So to shame someone for not conforming to your own personal, subjective ideal, when they may or may not even be physically capable of conforming, is the height of douche-itude.
But I want to deal with the mindset that it’s okay to fat shame when you’re having to shoulder the burden of someone’s lifestyle choices in the form of medical bills.
I’ll let Reason explain why it’s factually incorrect that obese people cost slim people money.
Far be it from me to deny the undeniable, but the fact that obese people have higher annual health care costs does not mean they have higher lifetime costs. It therefore does not follow that reducing obesity would reduce total medical spending in the long run. In fact, a study published last year in PLoS Medicine reached the opposite conclusion: Because obese people tend to die sooner than thin people do, the researchers found, eliminating obesity would increase spending on health care.
So there’s that. But even if fat shamers were correct in claiming that fat people are a financial drain on the slim, would that make it okay to fat shame? In other words, does the fact that I have to pay for someone else’s choices make it okay for me to pressure that person to make less-expensive choices?
Certainly the desire to pay less is understandable. And when we’re all paying for each other’s health care, we look not only to ourselves, but to each other, for potential cost reduction.
So if obesity were more expensive than slimness over a lifetime, and if it were necessarily a lifestyle choice and not the result of a disease or side effect, you’d have every reason to prefer that people chose to be thin.
In this way, cost sharing takes things that are inherently personal, like body weight, and makes them communal. Suddenly it’s in my self-interest to pressure you to lose weight. (It’s not in real life, but in this scenario)
The more we pay for collectively, the more incentive we’ll have to influence other people’s personal choices.
Lesley wrote, “I get to live whether you approve of me, my life choices, my eating habits, my wardrobe, and the shape of my body, or not.”
I could not support that sentiment more, which is one reason I stand against collectivism in all forms. The further removed you are from my choices, whether they be food, clothes or body weight, the freer I am to live as I choose. As a dear friend of mine likes to say, “Take what you want, pay for it.” Yes, please.
Photo by ??peppersmom??.