capitalism

Fat Wallet

Fat America: Profiting off the Majority-Minority

Fat Wallet

A fundamental pillar of body diversity activism is the concept that fat people are a persecuted minority in this country. Statistically, people classified as “overweight” actually make up over two-thirds of the population. That means we can’t be considered as a minority, right?

Wrong.

This statistical discrepancy is used as fuel to discredit the body acceptance movement. What a cursory internet search reveals, however, is that this is a legitimate phenomenon called the “majority-minority”. In Texas, New Mexico, and California, for example, non-White Hispanics constitute a majority-minority, in that their population outnumbers that of other races in the same region. This majority-minority status does not negate the discrimination faced by the Hispanic population. Things like housing discrimination and hate crimes (which among immigrant populations are most likely higher than reported due to fear of deportation), are just as bad in these states compared to states where Hispanics are merely a minority-minority group.

Increased population, and thus visibility, is not a cure for discrimination. This is painfully apparent when looking at the treatment of fat people. Even though fat bodies, or at least bigger than “average” bodies (think about that statement for a second) are by far the numerically dominant group. Logically, businesses should be catering to us. Services should be catering to us. People who make waiting room seats, underpants, and cars should all be catering to our big butts. There are billions of dollars to be made here. A capitalist’s wet dream.

Instead, I hear arguments along the lines of, “just because you’ve let yourself get fat doesn’t mean you deserve special treatment”.

Is it special treatment when it directly caters toward the majority of people?

In fact, weight-loss is a huge money-making industry. It just doesn’t cater to us. It tricks us into THINKING it’s catering to us. In actuality, it’s taking advantage of us. Warning: dieting and weight shaming ahead.

From media empire charlatans …

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDvyxBTqFn0

… to the tech industry …

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrHeZDMI91U

… to multi-level marketing schemes…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26wx4UjmMSY

… to the pharmaceutical industry …

The diet industry is a $60 billion a year industry, and it works if your metric for “working” is making a shit ton of money reliably over time. What it doesn’t succeed in doing, however, is helping people lose weight and achieve that much sought-after “average”-ness. Most people regain the weight they lose. Businesses and corporations stand to gain by keeping your sad ass fat, and your fat ass sad. By treating the majority like a minority group, by keeping us feeling disenfranchised, lonely, ugly, and unloveable, corporations can keep us buying things that don’t work and things we don’t need. Fat Americans face discrimination on an economic level, with constant messages telling us we aren’t worth anything unless we change. That we don’t deserve to be treated well unless we stop being “lazy” and “exert some effort”. We are subjected to scare tactics, personal attacks, and public shame. “Average” and “thin” people are susceptible to these messages as well. People are pressured to utilize “willpower” to maintain their physique, to eat certain foods and take certain medicines so they don’t devolve into a dreaded fat person. This fuels societal stigma, and creates a body-type based class system where thin people benefit from fat people staying fat. People who stay “fit” because they “put down the cheeseburger” or “get off their ass”. They can feel superior. They can feel “better than”. They can feel right, as long as they keep taking their probiotics and count every calorie and exercise 90 minutes a day.

Show me a world where we aren’t profiting off telling people being fat is bad and you might just have a case against the overweight in this country being a true minority.

straw men

Growing Straw Men in a Field of False Equivalence: Conflating HAES with Fat Acceptance

The fat acceptance debate is one fraught with logical fallacies. People who don’t support fat acceptance cite a variety of reasons.

Fat is ugly.

Being fat can’t be healthy.

Fat people use up a disproportionate amount of resources.

Accepting fat people is acknowledging fat is okay.

The list goes on.

Health at Every Size is a movement dating back to the ’60s and, simply put, it states that aggressive dieting rarely works, and is emotionally and physically damaging. The idea is that everyone has their own natural metabolic weight ranges, and through intuitive eating, paying attention to what one’s body needs, and providing nutritious and varied meals combined with enjoyable exercise, the body will find its own set weight point for optimum metabolism and health. In short, many attempts to lose weight through drastic dieting do not lead to successful, sustained weight loss over time, and optimal mental and physical health comes from self-acceptance.

Self acceptance is the only real link between fat acceptance and HAES. HAES is a lifestyle. HAES is a choice people make for themselves to promote their own health and well-being. Fat acceptance is none of those things.

Fat acceptance is a movement. It is based in justice, equal rights, fairness, ethics, and inclusivity.

Fat acceptance isn’t a bunch of Tumblrinas HAES-binging on cupcakes screaming “MUH CURVES”.

Fat acceptance isn’t about hating thin people.

Fat acceptance isn’t about hating “small fats” for not having as tough a time as fatter women.

Fat acceptance isn’t about food.

Fat acceptance isn’t about dieting.

Fat acceptance isn’t even about science. Science is HAES territory.

Fat acceptance is a campaign to end weight discrimination and the negative stigma perpetuated by societal pressures of consumerism and mass media.

Fat acceptance is the idea that no one, regardless of size, deserves to be treated poorly.

No, you DON’T have to find us attractive. Attractiveness has nothing to do with equitable treatment.

No, you DON’T get to worry about our health status. Health status has nothing to do with fair treatment.

… And there’s the rub. When you lump HAES in with fat acceptance, you are opening the door for all sorts of fallacious arguments. It’s food for the Concern Trolls who seek to delegitimize the fat acceptance movement with health science “proving” fat is unhealthy and therefore is not an acceptable way to live. It also invites in all of the simplistic calories in/calories out “nutrition experts” saying that, if we’re unhappy, it’s because we aren’t taking the necessary steps to make our lives better.

How people appear, how they feel, how abled they are, what their BMI is, none of that matters. A fat person with diabetes deserves to be treated the same as a fat person with perfect metabolic health, a thin person with great metabolic health, or a thin person with terrible metabolic health.

Health. Is. Not. Relevant. Period. This is an issue of discrimination and tolerance. Using health status to justify why we shouldn’t treat everyone with the same care and compassion is a slippery slope. Making assumptions about a person’s lifestyle and then judging people based on those assumptions is unconscious, societally-bred prejudice at best, and at worst it is open hostility toward someone who does not conform to a prescribed “normal”.

If we open up HAES as a talking point in any debate about the fat acceptance movement, we are not just opening up the field in which detractors can erect straw men; we are giving them the straw for free, and showing them the best and most efficient means for construction. People will start trying to prove that being fat is bad for your health. They will turn the conversation from a social justice issue to a health science issue. It will become a discussion of will power, of laziness, of lack of motivation. It will become a conversation of “but we’re just trying to help motivate you to make better life choices!”

Fuck life choices. Who’s job is it to police life choices? Especially if said policing is, in actuality, just inferring one’s life choices with a cursory glance, confirming “yup, that’s a fatty!”, and then telling them to feel bad for it.

It’s my body. It changes. It gets bigger, it gets smaller. Why? Fuck you, that’s why. It does not matter. It’s my own goddamned business. My body, body choices, and health status do not factor into the reality that I am a human being, a member of society, and deserve to be recognized and respected as such.

“If you worked out as hard as you blogged, you wouldn’t need to blog anymore.”

Opponents will bring it back to metabolic health, again and again, because FACTS SCIENCE FATTY LIVER DEATH FAT DIABEETUS is the only real leg they have to stand on, and a hollow one at that, because again:

HEALTH STATUS IS IRRELEVANT in issues of basic human rights and social justice.

Yes, there are many fat people who practice HAES. There are thin people who practice HAES as well. HAES has self-acceptance at its core; it plays a key role in helping people overcome disordered eating, low self-esteem, and other symptoms of fat discrimination.

Fat acceptance is the movement that will end fat discrimination.

Here’s a space cupcake:

space cupcake

outoftheway

Tearin’ up the Comments Section

So many people don’t read the comments. They want to stay out of the way, or don’t think they need to weigh in on important issues that impact everyone. That being said, there are some who DO engage, not just to troll, but to educate.

Watch my friend Danica unleash the fury in a Facebook post written my husband about “So Did the Fat Lady”:

danica1

danica2

danica3

danica4

BOOM. I love it when people actually stand up for what they believe in and articulate it clearly. It’s so easy to take the path of least resistance, to stand by and hope someone else will say what you have been thinking. Many people find online discussions to be aversive. Having to repeatedly defend one’s position again and again feels like running in place, going nowhere. It is important to remember that, while you may not change someone’s mind in the immediate NOW, hearing a message and having it accumulate over time is what eventually prompts a change in someone’s perspective. Layers of positive sentiment sediment overtime solidify into a new point of view.

Keep up the good fight, and don’t sit back quietly hoping problems will resolve themselves. Poison must be neutralized. Be the antidote.

Reliably, Dr. Douchebag Keeps on Douching

While standing in line at Fred Meyer this weekend, I made the common mistake of looking around. As my eyes scanned the impulse magazine stand, I saw something that gave me the impulse to flip over my grocery cart and Fat-Hulk through the store terrorizing patrons and throwing bottles of Slim Fast into displays of Smart Ones with my +4 Fists of Douche-smiting.

Table Flip

Thankfully, I was able to restrain myself just enough to pull out my phone and snap a photo. Like HELL I was going to actually pay money for the damn thing. The clerk looked at me strangely, and I prefaced it with, “hold on just a sec, gotta take a picture of this offensive magazine”.

Dr. Douchebag

Ah, First for Women… confusing advertising with reporting and body shaming with empowerment since 1989, from the same media company bringing you other high-end publications like In Touch Weekly and Life & Style.

My regular readers already know my disdain for Dr. Oz. What a puzzling contrast between his Ivy League education/surgical expertise and the constant shilling of woo-woo pseudoscientific miracle “cures” with a strong bias against fat people. It’s good to know that there is something I can do about my “ugly fat”, so that I am left with only my non-ugly fat. Thanks to Dr. Oz and the fine reporting of First for Women, I know I am only part ugly.

No LBD

Help dress me!

Every year I attend a charity auction to raise money for the scholarship fund at my school. I have done the LBD in all of its infinite variations and want to do something different this year. I have two outfit ideas and was hoping to get some feedback from my fashionable readers. POLYVORE, ACTIVATE!

These two outfits are based around articles of clothing I already have or could easily acquire. I have no interest in shelling out a ton of money anymore for a one-night event — remember the boundless closet of LBDs?

This first outfit centers around some black, studded booties and a cool whale necklace I already own (similar to, though not exactly like the pictures) and a burgundy midi skirt I got at Goodwill the other day for $1.99. The peplum top is from Target and is on sale for $17.

 

Auction Outfit #1

 

This second outfit is what I am currently leaning toward, though it requires me to procure more items than the first. It is based around a striped blazer I love. Coral and teal are a color combo fave of mine, and gold accents it well. I would need to get all three items to pull the outfit off; Target carries the dress, and I am sure Goodwill has suitable accessories, though I am at a loss as to where to find the gold sandals.

Auction Outfit #2

 

Thoughts? Where do you weight in?

Spanx

The Feminomics of Spanx — Act One: How to Maybe Succeed in Business By REALLY, REALLY TRYING

I wanted to write about Spanx. To write about Spanx, I needed to familiarize myself with the product and its history. Let’s just say I went down an internet rabbit hole and now my readers get to be rewarded for their patience with a three-part article about underpants. And society.

It’s well documented that men make up the vast majority of small and large business owners. On the large end of the scale we have the Fortune 500 companies that are the industry leaders of the American economy. Out of those 500 top companies, only 12 of them are run by women.

CEO Company Rank
Bartz, Carol A. Yahoo 365
Braly, Angela F. WellPoint 42
Burns, Ursula M. Xerox 121
Elsenhans, Lynn L. Sunoco 68
Jung, Andrea Avon Products 226
Kullman, Ellen J. DuPont 84
Meyrowitz, Carol M. TJX 119
Mooney, Beth E. KeyCorp 417
Nooyi, Indra K. PepsiCo 43
Rosenfeld, Irene B. Kraft Foods 49
Sen, Laura J. BJ’s Wholesale Club 221
Woertz, Patricia A. Archer Daniels Midland 39

While all of these companies are giant, money-hungry, commercially-manipulative stock-monsters, 12/500 is a pretty pitiful ratio. Just taking these statistics at face value, one might argue that we need more power-mad female puppeteers making the economy dance its merry jig. There are smaller businesses that have been started and owned by women. In fact, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), there are 8.6 million businesses owned by women here in the U.S., and those account for 30% of all private businesses. That’s a somewhat less depressing number than the 2.5% of woman owners you see in the Fortune 500. When you look at wealth creation, women-led businesses account for only 11% of total revenues in the U.S., and only  4.4% of all female-led businesses have yearly revenues of 1 million dollars or more. 

SAD TROMBONE NOISE

There is a lot of discrimination out there against women trying to start their own companies. I went looking for straightforward articles about women in the U.S. and found a lot of misleading vagaries. However, there have been multiple studies done in the U.K. and elsewhere about removing barriers for female entrepreneurship (thanks, Poland!). Here are some of the impediments I discovered:

Absence of benchmarking possibilities — Essentially, what this means is that there is a lack of female entrepreneur role models for potential future entrepreneurs. So we can’t make new role models because we currently don’t have role models? FOREVER ALONE.

Lack of experience — While women are slowly becoming more educated on the whole compared to men, our education and experience does not lend itself to starting one’s own business. Unless it’s about makeup.

Lack of social capital and time – The social networking opportunities women have are different from those of men, i.e. primarily related to familial duties. This is associated with the “double burden syndrome”, requiring women to balance their professional responsibilities with their domestic responsibilities. Increasingly, successful business persons need to be ultra-flexible in regards to time and travel. Women often do not have the time or social resources, nor the social support to take the leap into Business Land.

Lack of financial capital — Money. Prospective business owners need it to pay for basic business-y stuff, like office space, component materials, staffing, technology, travel, marketing, and the like. Getting start-up money is a lot more difficult for women in less economically developed countries where women are more dependent on a man’s income.

What does Spanx have to do with all this? Spanx, for those of you unaware of the existence of the supportive undergarment industry, is a line of “shape wear”. What is shape wear? It is namely pantyhose, briefs, tights, and other foundational garments, meant to be worn under clothing. Think “ass-girdle”. The Spanx brand was created and is owned by one Sara Blakely, a female entrepreneur from Atlanta, Georgia. She overcame all of the barriers! She’s a role model! She also might be evil. Maybe.

Stay tuned for The Feminomics of Spanx — Act Two: Sara Blakely’s Rags to Much Tighter Rags Story

BMI

Reblog: The Tyranny of the “Normal”

Reblogged from Riots Not Diets

Margitte Leah over at Riots Not Diets wrote a thoughtful, analytical essay of the bullshit of the BMI. It starts:

A few years ago I was getting a pap smear. The doctor—whom I had just met that morning—had me in those cold metal stirrups and was rooting around in my vagina when she asked, ever so casually, “so, do you know what the BMI is?”

I laughed.

As if a woman who has been fat all of her life might have never heard of the BMI.

The thing is, we all know about the BMI. It’s a simple chart that measures our height against our weight, right? The number that comes out of that equation places us into categories—underweight, normal, overweight, obese.

The BMI is supposed to be a value-neutral way to assess bodies across populations.

Except that, did you know that the BMI has never been neutral?

Read the rest over at her blog, Riots Not Diets.