One of these worlds is the cozy space of the Fatosphere, where it’s okay to be whatever size I am. I’m not blamed for the health problems I have, and if I’m feeling down no one is going to tell me that losing weight would help with that.
The other world I live in is the medical/governmental/public health world, the one I occupy for work, but even if I didn’t, I would still spend some time in out of intellectual curiosity, and a desire to understand what I’m up against.
The bridge I have between these two worlds comes in the form of my public health education perspective, and a social justice set of tools (hammer, bell, song, to name a few), plus a feminist studies lens I picked up as an undergrad.
I’ve been thinking lately about the idea of “framing.” That word has multiple meanings and connotations, and I want to explore some of them. One of the meanings is the idea of being wrongly pinned as the perpetrator. In that way, fat people are “framed” for a plethora of problems plaguing society. And the “real culprits” go unnamed and unblamed.
Another meaning of framing is the concept that what we see is determined by which parts of the picture we are shown, and the frame itself influences how we see the picture. A plain or even unattractive picture in a gilt frame might come across as more appealing than a gorgeous picture in an unattractive frame. This is the “framing” I want to explore for a bit, and I will need to stop at some point and get on with my day, that includes a variety of activities including a rally to stand in solidarity with Wisconsin’s public workers.
The health problems facing people are real. Diabetes is truly increasing (type 1 & type 2). Our medical systems are ill equipped to manage health issues that fat people have, regardless of the origins of those health issues. Some people want to lose weight for what they and their health care providers perceive as health reasons, and there aren’t proven, safe long-term ways to manage weight.
that are available on anything other than an extremely local and expensive basis. People who have undergone weight-loss surgery require lifelong monitoring and if they are not “succeeding,” they are more likely to be lost to follow-up, and when they show up in an emergency situation, the resources to help them are insufficient. Our environments do not support our health — especially in predominantly low-income areas — it can be hard to get food that sustains health, have the time or resources to prepare foods at home, and finding safe, enjoyable forms of physical activity can be difficult, too. The health problems that get pinned on “obesity” have as their root causes, in my opinion, social injustice. Societal neglect, and a tolerance for the accumulation of wealth while those at the lower end of the economic ladder are ignored and told they should be happy with whatever they have. It’s a recipe for poor health, and obesity isn’t a cause of poor health, as much as it is a co-morbidity of the risk factor of being exposed to social inequality.
I’m going to stop there for now. That’s what I want to think about next — how to frame the picture in a way that highlights the myriad ways that social inequality (for racial, economic, gender, or other reasons — including fat hatred) leads to poor health.
The relationship between obesity and health is not something I’m interested in ignoring. But it’s a false scent trail — leading away from the real culprits.
I’m off to mother, to show up for justice, to spread love and peace, and butter* on a piece of handmade chappati that is waiting for me in the kitchen.
* Not really butter. Earth Balance margarine. It’s the glue that holds my family together.