16 January 2009

Media: Fat Panic journalism bingo

Wow, have a look at this amazing tragic fat feature in The Guardian. Grooo! It's rotten!

Anyway, it's inspired me to make a bingo card for use whenever any of us come across bad "obesity epidemic" journalism. Print and enjoy.

13 January 2009

Anti-obesity campaigns: Healthy Towns vs Fat Town Pride

I'm moderately obsessed with places that are reputed to be the fattest towns and cities. The National Centre for Social Research, 2000-2002 reported that my home borough of Newham was the fattest in London, although now I believe that Tower Hamlets may have pipped us to the post. Dr Foster's map of "obesity hotspots" provides plenty to wonder about.

Anyway, I was digging through a box of clippings this week and I found this report from 2006 that raised an eyebrow. The quoted sources hint at the shaming and stigmatising of working class neighbourhoods that is inherent when remote "obesity" do-gooders interfere. I'm glad the report embraces local people's defiance of the map.


Bizarrely, the obesity hotspot map referred to here is the product of work by a credit reference company. Why would Experion want this? I notice this report name-checks the Dr Foster map reported a year later by the BBC. What's that about? Is there more than one map? Ehhhh…

Edited to add: Oh my god, I just found the UK map to fat dogs! The PDSA take fat panic to a whole new level.

Fat activism and ambiguity

I'm writing in praise of grey areas, ambiguity, complicatedness, mixed-upness and flexibility. I like these things because they are the spanner in the works when people retreat into rightness and wrongness, party lines, insider and outsiders, polarisation, enemy and Other-making.

Lately I've noticed a theme doing the rounds in – ergh, I'm going to use the word – the fatosphere. The theme concerns the drawing of lines. There's a line, some people say, between Them and Us. Once you cross the line, you become one of Them. If you try to lose weight intentionally, or if you have weight loss surgery, you become Them. If you talk about it, you become Them, it doesn't matter how sterling your fat lib credentials are used to be, they are now worthless.

I've seen other social justice movements founder because of factionalism and it's depressing to see the same things going on in fat liberation. A feminist movement that won't accede membership to women who do sex work, or lesbians who refuse to accept the humanity of their transgender sisters are on the same trajectory as fat libbers who, for example, shut down people who present opportunities to talk about the complexities of choosing weight loss surgery because it's just too painful or awkward to process.

I am coming to realise that I am really not interested in being part of an exclusive movement of politically pure people who observe and enforce the rules. I don't think lines and barriers are very helpful in trying to create a diverse movement and I don't appreciate the resentful silences that are being created on either side. If there's a bad fit between theory and life that degrades and is excluding otherwise excellent people, perhaps the original doctrine is faulty.

I like grey areas because they remind me that dogma might sound appealing but that it is not really human. I like the messiness of humans, that we don't fit neatly into theoretical ideals, that there's always someone who doesn't fit. I think those awkward buggers who don't fit (and keep going on about it to those who do) are the ones to learn from. Shutting them out is plain stupid.

07 January 2009

Goodbye Big Fat Blog

Although I'm grateful for the notice, I'm very sad to hear of the demise of Big Fat Blog, which will switch off in October this year. I want to say a big fat THANKS to Mr McAleer for his activism over the years, for showing us how it's done, and for supporting the community so excellently. Hats off to you Paul.