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Discrimination

The Long-term Consequences of WLS - Rich & Heather's Story

My name is Rich, but I may be better known to some of you as richie79 of the UK who used to post prolifically here on Big Fat Blog and elsewhere in the Fatosphere for many years. Don't know if any of the old faces are still around but I wanted to share my wife Heather's story and felt this was maybe as good as any a place do it. If you believe otherwise, please let me know and I'll remove it.

In February 2005 a pretty girl with big brown eyes by the screen name of 'sweetheather86' sent me a 'smile' through a plus-size dating website of which we were both members. At the time I was at a low point following the failure of a previous long-term relationship. Heather and I hit it off almost immediately despite her being in the US and at 18, almost 7 years younger than I. Looking forward to daily emails from one another quickly progressed to a first nervous long-distance phonecall, nightly 4-hour chat sessions on MSN and before either of us knew it I'd booked a ticket to Boston. Two incredible weeks on from our first shy meeting at Logan Airport I knew this was the one person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

The only cloud on the horizon was the gastric bypass Heather underwent just two weeks after we first made contact. Even then I knew of the horrendous risks of these operations but although I had already fallen for her, didn't feel i knew her well enough to ask her to delay or reconsider it. She came from a long line of big women and had herself been fat throughout childhood, resulting in numerous failed diets and all the bullying and self-loathing that accompanies being a fat child / teen. At the time the media was full of stories of this 'magic bullet' and several of her family members had undergone the surgery with dramatic initial results. She told me that she wanted it done so that she could have all the things in life she had been convinced were not available to people of her size - someone to love her, a home and a family, access to nice clothes, and not to be abused and harassed in public. Tragically she later told me that she opted for the bypass as unlike the lap-band it was irreversible (the stomach is cut in two and 18" of small intestine removed and discarded) and therefore offered no opportunity to back out at a later stage.

Our relationship continued to blossom even as her health began to deteriorate. Each of us crossed the Atlantic to spend long periods together in one another's countries and during this time we crammed in as many activities, visits etc as many couples do in a lifetime. In September 2007 I proposed to her and she accepted tearfully and without hesitation; we were married two years later almost to the day and having obtained a spousal visa, in July 2010 she finally moved to Leeds in the UK to live with me full-time. By this point she had lost around 200lb and gained back almost 100lb of that. She was on a cocktail of drugs, could eat very little, suffered from constant dumping syndrome and was developing problems with joint pain, blood sugar and constant fatigue, all of which were exacerbated by a revision to the original surgery to repair the staples but which further reduced the range of foods she was able to eat.

In October 2010 Heather gave me the news that she was pregnant. Our joy at this was tempered only by concerns about her deteriorating health. Fortunately apart from having to be artificially rehydrated several times (she suffered from such debilitating nausea throughout the pregnancy that she was at times unable to keep down fluids) her pregnancy passed largely without serious incident. Our son Ben was born in June the following year; despite several attempts to induce her at term plus two weeks she never progressed to active labour and had to undergo an emergency Caesarean section on one of the hottest days of the year in an overwhelmed Leeds General Infirmary where she was treated like an inconvenience by several of the medical staff.

Her surgeon in the US had recommended a UK counterpart in our city who might have been able to help but NHS rules decreed she would first have to see a dietician. As was often the case I went along with her as she was rightly worried that this would be used as yet another opportunity to shame her about her weight; predictably the dietician told her that on her sub-1000 caloric intake it was 'impossible' for her to be maintaining at 320lb and that there must be something she wasn't telling her (because *everyone knows* that fat people always lie about their eating habits). This was followed up by a barium swallow which suggested she may be suffering from a stricture (narrowing) of the digestive tract and the prospect of further investigation, though subsequent events meant this never ultimately took place.

On the weekend of 8th February 2013 I went to visit friends in another city an hour away from home. Heather had encouraged this rare weekend away, as we took it in turns to give one another breaks from the stresses of young parenthood when possible. She waved me off at the train station with hugs and kisses and called to tell me goodnight later that evening. That would be the last time I ever heard from her. My attempts to contact via text and phone throughout Saturday went unanswered and, knowing how out of character this was, my friend drove me home. Unable to gain access to the house, which she'd locked from within the previous night, I frantically called the police, who broke in through our basement and found her collapsed in our bathroom. I was told that she'd been gone for some hours. Our little one was fortunately still upstairs in his crib and none the worse but for need of a clean diaper, a good feed and a cuddle.

Initially we thought the cause may have been related to a persistent headache she'd been complaining of but which her doctor had failed to take seriously. The results of the post-mortem however showed the truth to be far worse. Unbeknown to anyone she'd developed a fistula at the site of the gastric bypass surgery. This had suddenly ruptured causing, as the report put it 'destruction of chest cavity and diaphragm through discharge of gastric material'. I don't even want to imagine the discomfort my poor sweet girl likely suffered in her last hours, or to think that the surgery on which she'd once pinned her hopes of acceptance (and subsequently come to regret when she realised that her happiness was not weight-dependent) had been a ticking timebomb from the very outset of our relationship.

Heather was without a doubt one of the sweetest, kindest, most loving people I have ever had the privilege to know. In a world beset with so much cruelty and unpleasantness she was a revelation of tolerance and humanity. For the first time in my 33 years she made me comfortable in my own skin, gave me confidence to be myself and become a stronger person through my recent diagnosis with Asperger's Syndrome, a strength that only left me two Saturdays ago. Our long-distance relationship was forged in patience and anticipation of better days ahead, giving us a depth of connection that is all too rare and making us soul mates in every sense of the word. Heather loved me for my differences and quirks rather than despite them, as I loved hers and trusted her implicitly. In turn she told me that my unconditional love for her had finally given her the contentment and safety she craved when so much of her life had been marked by pain and unhappiness. She often said 'I'll always be your girl', over the years it became our little refrain that she would add to the bottom of cards and emails and tell me last thing at night. My life, Ben's life, those of all who knew her and the world at large will be all the poorer for her absence from them. Rest in peace forever sweetheart, know no more pain or torment, and I'll be counting the days till I'm back at your side.

(Cross-posted as 'Rich & Heather - Love Can Bridge an Ocean' to 'First Do No Harm' blog at www.fathealth.wordpress.com, WLS Uncensored Yahoo group and my personal FB page).

Man fired because of his size wins lawsuit

The Houston Chronicle reports that a man who was fired from his job solely because of his size (his performance reviews were excellent) has been awarded compensation by the local district court. The July 25th article, Fired obese worker will get $55,000, details the court case and the circumstances surrounding it.

It's good to know that larger Americans can turn to the court system when they are discriminated against by employers. However, Mr. Kratz hasn't found a new job since being fired in 2009. I hope that the sum he's been awarded by the courts helps him out, but this just underlines how pervasive size-based discrimination is in employment.

Panera Bread: Discriminatory?

Covered by the Hinterland Gazette, "a source for thought- provoking social and political commentary on issues affecting the African American community and beyond": Guy Vines Sues Panera Bread for Racial Discrimination, Saying Co. Doesn’t Want “Black, Fat or Ugly People at Register”

Also covered by NBC10 Philadelphia: Panera Doesn't Want 'Black, Fat or Ugly' People at the Register: Lawsuit, subtitled "A Pennsylvania man has filed a lawsuit against Panera, saying it has a policy that keeps black employees away from the public eye. He's the second person to file such a suit against the restaurant."

The lawsuit hasn't been resolved yet, but this sounds pretty overt and pretty heinous. However, it might be a problem with the owner of the franchise, Sam Covelli, rather than with the company as a whole. The NBC article notes that "according to its website, Covelli is the fifth-largest restaurant franchisee in the country and develops and manages the franchise rights of nearly 200 Panera cafes in northeast Ohio, western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and West Palm Beach, Fla." So, if it's the franchise owner, it's still a widespread problem. If there is a systemic problem with Covelli Enterprises, then hopefully the parent company will do something about it.

Has anyone had experiences with Covelli Enterprises' restaurants or with Panera Bread in general that would shed light on this?

Back to School

It's almost time for the fat kids to go back to school and face the bullies - if they aren't already dealing with them in the neighborhood or at summer camp.

Oh, god! Those summer camp bullies. I remember it being like freakin' Lord of the Flies at summer camp; no real adult supervision and a social structure that would make monkeys look civilized. I don't know if it's like this for everyone, but when I got bullied one year at camp (luckily most years, I was part of a clique and that protected me), the people running the place treated me as if it was my fault. I was mooed and oinked at, my only pair of shoes were filled with rotten milk, my stuff was stolen, and I would have gotten beaten up if I hadn't had the ability to be a bit scary. I was the one called in for 'counseling' (i.e. told that I was oversensitive). I was the one whose parents were contacted. And the ringleader of the group doing it was a horrible little hypocrite who was always trying to prove how "good" she was. In front of adults. When she and her friends were alone with other kids, they were a nightmare.

ANYWAY, so, back to school. Back to being called fat and ugly in three or four different languages, back to more moos and oinks, back to being followed and harassed, back to teachers with low expectations, and sometimes back to physical violence.

Yet many anti-bullying policies exclude fat kids.

Time to put on ill fitting, uncool clothes and jump back into the ring, my young friends!
(although perhaps at least the clothing selection has improved since my time, there being an "epidemic of childhood obesity" and all).

Dr. Deah has some things to say on back-to-school and bullying in a couple of recent blog posts: Bully for You and on back to school clothes shopping, Cruel Days, Cruel Days.

And, I'll end with this very satisfying video:

(But as you might expect, things may be a little more complicated than they appear at first. The fat kid, Casey Heynes, tells his story here, but it turns out that the bully also has his problems although I'm not all that inclined to trust what he says.)

To anyone who's dealing with this kind of thing now: School doesn't last forever, and it tends to get better as you get older. Ages 10-13 are usually the worst. When you're an adult, you get to choose who you want to associate with, and if someone hits you? You call the cops and report an assault. Oh, and if you do well in school and work hard, you'll eventually have the satisfaction of being more successful in life than the bullies. It's even better than a bodyslam.

Apparently Killing a Fat Person Isn't so Bad

Doctor Spared Jail Despite Road Death
The Herald, Wednesday 17.11.2010, page 9 News

A doctor who killed a morbidly obese woman on his way to a medical team bonding course has been fined his entire savings of £5000 and banned from driving for three years.

Dr. Benjamin Kendrick was fined by a sheriff, who ruled out community service because he was already serving the community through his work as a surgeon.

At Perth Sheriff Court, Sheriff Michael Fletcher also ruled out jailing Kendrick because his 29-stone victim could have survived the crash had she been of "average fitness."

Kendrick, of Chesham, admitted driving carelessly and killing Joan Johnston, of Scarborough, and injuring her husband and three of his colleagues as they drove on the A93 road on May 6 last year.

The orthopaedic surgeon - described as an "exceptional" talent - lost control of his rented people carrier and smashed into a vehicle, causing the death of Mrs. Johnston.

Sheriff Fletcher said "Your contribution to society in your everyday work is extensive. At the time of the accident you employed your medical skills to help the injured."

"If the person had been of average fitness they might have survived the injuries. A custodial sentence is not appropriate. The appropriate penalty is a sunstantial monetary penalty."

I saw this short article in the Glasgow Herald yesterday, and haven't found it reprinted on their webpage. So, I retyped it for the benefit of the Fatosphere.

This story has also been covered by STV and The Daily Record.

This incident stinks of the Old Boy's Network; £5000 to a surgeon is a slap on the wrist. Given the fact that he admits to careless driving... I don't even have words. Joan Johnston's life was obviously worth considerably less to the doctor and to the court than the life of a thin person. They came right out and said it.

BFB's Virtual Kiss-In!!!

Last updated November 3, 2010.


Kiss this, Marie Claire!!! 


Mmmm, Maura Kelly, fat kisses and love and existence!!!!



I present to you BFB's Virtual Kiss-In!!!!!!!!!  Thanks to everyone who has submitted photos!
Keep on sending them to withoutscene at gmail dot com, and I will keep on updating them! XOXO




Stef and Sarah

Awww, fat love!

Stef_Sarah



Nichole and Roy

"Here's a picture of my husband and I kissing. That lady at M.C. would cringe to see us in person! I wish we could be in NYC - we'd be front and center!!"

Nichole_Roy



SurferKM with her wife and son


"(fat! *gasp* lesbian! *faint*). We kissed before and after the shots, so I figure it counts."

SurferKM_wife_son



withoutscene

Virtual kiss-it!

Gif Created on Make A Gif



withoutscene and Chris

Fat lovin!

Mychii_Chris



Shannon Campos and Anthony M.


"I want it to be known that I am fat and I have no regrets and it should be shown that fat people live... and live happily."

ShannonCampos_Anthony H.



Michele


Smooches!

michele



Michele and Chris

XOXOXO

michele_partner



Buffpuff


Kiss-kiss!

BuffPuff



Jenna from AxisofFat with her little brother


"Am I too fat to kiss or be kissed in public? My bro didnt think so!"

Jenna_axisoffat_littlebro



Claudia and Shelley in San Francisco


Livin and public kissin!

claudia_shelley_sf



G and J

"Two fatties, deeply in love, and sharing a chocolate shake! Not
kissing in this scene, but it happened right afterwards ;)"

gretchen_partner



nettaP and seanP

At NYC Big Fat Kiss-In! nettaP has a video on her blog which includes some footage of the kiss-in.




Beth and Luke


"We're newlyweds and we'll kiss and hug wherever we like, thank you very much."

beth_luke


Marilyn and her squeeze


Photo credit: Kathy Barron.

Marilyn_Sqeeze



Regina and her partner

"I wanted to submit my own rolls and rolls of fat kissing picture for your blog!"

regina_partner


Jamie and Josh

"This was taken after we had spent the day snorkeling, hiking, and kayaking around the island. (Yes, Marie Claire- my fat ass did all these things...in a swimsuit no less! You would have been super offended by my rolls that day!)"

Jamie_Josh



Katie with Jordan and River

"This is me and my sister and her two foster daughters."

katie_jordan_river

Tami and River

Look at that smile!

Tami_River



SunflowerP and JFPBookworm


So sweet!

SunflowerP_JFPBookworm



Buttercup and her husband

"Here's my husband and I at our wedding, kissing and being fat, with cake, no less!"
102_0239_1

Brie

"How could I resist a kiss for that cute face?"

Brie



Jeanette and her husband

Awwwww!!

jeanette_partner




Substantia Jones documented the NYC Big Fat Kiss In with her madd photo skills.



Lesley Kinzel is also turning the Museum of Fat Love into a Tumblr, so check it out and submit your love there too!

Big Fat Kiss-In

So, no doubt you've heard about the Marie Claire fiasco, or as Lesley Kinzel calls it, the "EWWW, FATTIES!" debacle.



Stacy Bias had the incredible idea of doing a kiss-in in front of Marie Claire in NY. But since Stacy isn't in New York for a few more weeks, someone else took up the task of organizing it. As Substantia Jones said, IT'S ON!!!!!!!!



If you are anywhere near NYC and can manage, DON'T MISS THE BIG FAT KISS-IN!!!! The more people, the better.



How incredible that this will happen! It is sure to be a fantastic, empowering event.




If you can't go, kiss anyway! Send me your kisses to withoutscene at gmail dot com. (Addendum: I want to stress that you do not have to have a partner/s to submit a kiss. Air kisses, dog kisses, platonic kisses, hugs, and well, pictures of you walking and/or existing will do since it's the existing, just not the kissing that's 'bothersome.') Received a few already!



And I hear rumblings of future events as well. Global fat events....yup, here we come!




UPDATE!!!


And there's ANOTHER BIG FAT KISS IN in Philly!!! And ANOTHER BIG FAT KISS IN in San Fran!!!!!



If you are holding a kiss-in in your town, please leave a comment! And remember to send me your kisses to post on BFB!






Also, I thought I'd add a little something that I made up, which goes to the tune of Cee Lo's "Fuck You"



I see your ignorant shit on Marie Claire's blog & I'm like, Fuck you! Oo, oo, ooo.

Seein fat people kissin must be real tough. I'm like, Fuck you! And fuck Marie Claire too!



(Fuck you can alternatively be "Boo Hoo")

Do parents discriminate against their fat kids?

This seems like such an obvious concept to me. After all, parents are people who grew up in our fat-hating society, so of course that will have some effect on how they treat their fat children. This video from the Today show touches on these issues but despite my gut feeling that discrimination is obviously happening with parents and fat kids, the study they're discussing seems a little problematic. I'm not entirely convinced that you can determine special treatment based on one factor, like how much money the parents gave their kids to buy a car. It makes me wonder if the study took into account money the parents had spent (as my parents did) on therapists, nutritionists, diet plans and fat camp to correct their child's fatness. Maybe they already spent the car fund on the very important cause of shrinking little Susie's fat ass. Or maybe they don't want her skinny siblings to think that they care about Susie more because they keep spending wads of cash on her. So Susie gets to go to ridiculously expensive fat camp and her sister gets to buy a nicer car.

Anyway, it would have been nice if they allowed more time at the end of the segment for the experts to talk (Dear Today show, here's a tip: don't book two experts if you don't have time for an actual discussion), because some solid points were being made about parenting fat kids. Take a look...what do you think?



Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Two Links: Fat & Disability Discrimination US/AU

Earlier this week it was reported that a highway foreman in Ohio died from complications of a weight loss surgery. The man was suspended because he fell asleep on the job, though he had sleep apnea and worked long hours. He felt as though the county was treating him unfairly.

"Your decision arises out of your bias against me because of my disability," Huneck wrote in an April 20 note obtained by The Enquirer from the Clermont County township.




And the bias probably also had to do with his weight, given his lawyer's comment below:

He "was subject to some bullying - significant bullying - in his workplace as a result of his physical comportment, his stature," Thompson told The Enquirer. "He was trying to resolve those through this surgery..."


If I read this article correctly, it seems as though the weight loss surgery--WHICH HE DIED FROM--was not only to resolve sleep apnea. Huneck, who was very emotionally hurt by the suspension, also wanted to change his body so that he, a grown man, would not be bullied, ridiculed, harassed, AND PUNISHED by his colleagues. Who can blame him for not wanting to be treated so poorly? But now he's dead... It's sad to me that these kinds of things undoubtedly take place all the time.




There is also a story out of Australia to report. Feminists With Disabilities for a way forward reports:

Maz Smyth was rolling along one day in her manual wheelchair, as one does, when her front wheel got caught in a pothole and snapped off. Understandably annoyed by this turn of events, she approached the Toowoomba Regional Council to ask them to fix the pothole and pay the costs associated with fixing her chair.



Ms. Smyth kept going to the council and they kept telling her to go away, until they finally told her she could file a report though nothing would ever come of it.   "Perhaps it was your weight that caused the wheelchair to break," a council staff member then told her. She was rebuffed until the Mayor saw The Chronicle covering the story and getting a photoshoot outside City Hall. As s.e. smith aptly writes over at FWD:


A thousand tiny cuts like this happen all over the world every day and we never find out about them, because a single person usually cannot raise enough of a ruckus. It isn’t until a larger entity like the media, a disability rights organisation, or a famous person steps in that action is taken. Even here, the Mayor didn’t acknowledge her humanity or her right to access. He made it seem like she was getting a favour by having her chair fixed.
[...]
The problem here is being treated as individual, rather than structural, and people will continue to experience accessibility problems as a result.




h/t to sexgenderbody

Exploiting Fat Kids -or- Style Network is Despicable.

In the wake of my hopeful optimism about Huge comes a link in my e-mail that counters all of that joy.



But it wasn't some let down about Huge. Instead, it was a link to the site for the new show on the Style Network called Too Fat for Fifteen: Fighting Back, a reality show about teenagers trying to lose weight at a fat camp called Wellspring Academy (a giant, international weight loss school chain, apparently). The video posted in the blog doesn't seem to be working, but I can imagine how it's going to go based on the tagline, "Being fifteen is hard enough. It shouldn't be life and death," which is placed over the shoulder of a faceless fat girl viewed from the back. It's next to a picture put in for flare, good measure, or simplistic illustration, since there's no link or text attached, of fat kids' legs. Naturally, they have centered the darker-skinned kid who is seemingly bustin out his/her crapily made shoes. Y'all didn't know it was a shoe-bustin epidemic, did you? Fear, my friends, the busting of the shoes. Too fat for footwear????  Or maybe it's supposed to illustrate the unbearable, ankle-busting weight of obesity.  Anyway, we get the point.



The website resources include a "Teen BMI Calculator," an article entitled "Effects of Childhood Obesity," and another called, "Think YOU are ready to get fit?" The show debuts August 9th.



From a minor Google search, this seems to be based on a New Zealand documentary about a fat girl at a similar Wellspring Academy.



I am pretty sure I remember a few people being confused and thinking Huge was a reality show; and I was relieved to think/say, "No, no, no it's not that"--in the back of my mind thinking, "Who would do that?!?" Style network, my friends, and Wellspring Academy, would exploit kids in such a way...you know, for fun and profit!



Just what we need, a Biggest Loser for kids. My optimism for this week is officially blown.




PS--What are they "fighting back"? Love how they make it sound empowering.

Obesity ills 'are a myth' - Express.co.uk

Promoted from the forums

The Daily Express has reported on an Ohio State University study that disputes the accepted wisdom that the 'obesity epidemic' is responsible for various health conditions and that we should all "curb our obsession with dieting". It uses NHANES III data and claims that there are few health differences between 'normal weight' and 'obese' indivisduals under age 40, and thereafter only in the proportion of medication use (which could demonstrate an increased tendency on the part of physicians to pathologise and hence over-prescribe to those in this group). Says researcher Brant Jarret:

“There is a myth going on. Our findings show being overweight is no different from being what we believe is a healthy weight and this is across a person’s entire lifespan. For college-age adults, this should help them realize that they don’t have to worry so much if they have a BMI of 27 or 28. Some young people with these BMIs feel like, ‘I’m going to have all these problems, I need to try 50 different diets.’ And what is all that stress and dieting doing to your body? Probably more damage than the extra 15lb. Being obese before you are 40 has no correlation to your health either. The risk that people are told about does not exist.”

There's nothing here we don't already know, but it's good to see it on the front page of one of the same national tabloids that up until now has been instrumental in the process of 'frightening' fat people into thinking they are ill. Of course there's the obligatory disclaimer about 'gross obesity' (nice!) still damaging health, and the usual comments claiming anyone daring to even think about questioning the party line is a dangerous heretic bent on undermining the war on fat people (damn right!) as well as a couple of sensible ones, but overall it's a surprisingly balanced article. More please!

Uh...you're too fat. Thanks for coming in.

My brother tipped me off to this article in the NY Times about doctors having trouble talking to their fat patients about losing weight. It cites a report presented by the STOP Obesity Alliance (which makes me question the veracity of the report, but anyway...) that says that doctors actually aren't talking to patients about weight loss. The reason? Gee, they just don't know how! Poor doctors. See again, this article gets really close to the actual truth but doesn't quite make the connection. Doctors don't know how to get patients to lose weight and keep it off because nobody does! I do like that the point is made that doctors have a misconception that fat people are weak-willed and self-indulgent, but in the end all this article does is shift some of the blame for fatness from fat people to their doctors. Meh.

Is it okay to be fat?

This is the question posed in the Nightline debate linked to in withoutscene's posting below. The way I see it, when we ask "is it okay to be fat?", we're really asking a bunch of other questions:

  • Is a person allowed to have and maintain a body that is larger than average?
  • Is being fat a health problem?
  • Is a person with a health problem allowed to choose to not treat that problem?
  • Is fat caused by lifestyle choices?
  • Is a person in a group health plan allowed to make choices that might cause them to need more health care in the future?

When you break it down to what we're really talking about, I don't see how any rational person could conclude that it is not okay to be fat. What are your thoughts?

Fat Discrimination Costs Us, Mmmmkay?

There is absolutely NO question whatsoever that we face significant discrimination in terms of education, employment and healthcare. More and more and more and more and more and fucking MORE people are publishing articles on this. Now, we also KNOW that stigmatization and discrimination have NEGATIVE health affects. In terms of fat people accessing healthcare and receiving good healthcare, but also in terms of stress and anxiety. Yet people who are making comments about the correlation between "obesity" and "health" almost NEVER acknowledge the effects of SYSTEMIC discrimination on our health.

This brief acknowledgement was my second favorite part of the Nightline Face-Off with Marianne Kirby and Crystal Renn (and Meme Roth and Kim Benson).*

It can also be said if poor people are disproportionately fat and people of color are disproportionately fat, we can count those systems of oppression (and others--ability, gender, etc.) when we think about systemic discrimination and the health of fat people. (Addendum)
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*My favorite part was when Marianne said, "I have feet and hips and knees, it's very exciting," in response to MeMe Roth's claim that it's not okay to be fat if you have those body parts (and some others). I laughed so hard it was almost unbearable.

Kevin Smith and Southwest Airlines

So unless you're living under a rock somewhere, you've likely heard something about Kevin Smith getting thrown off of a Southwest flight from Oakland to Burbank because he was too fat. Here's a report on the issue from Shapely Prose as well as coverage from ABC's Nightline. I have some conflicting thoughts surrounding this incident (for instance, I'm thrilled that someone is finally paying attention to complaints about the way fat people are treated on airplanes, but I'm frustrated that it took a celebrity to make them pay attention and I'm not altogether convinced it will change anything anyway) but I'd like to hear what you guys think.

What to do about your fat kid sneaking food?

This video over at ABC.com just makes me crazy. Dr. Richard Besser is attempting to give advice to a parent on how to deal with her eleven-year-old child sneaking food and instead of addressing the underlying causes and mentioning the potential for eating disorders, he recommends that the parent sit down with his or her kid and draw up a contract for changing her behavior. This is horrible, terrible advice, and I know because it's what my parents did with me. Did I mention I weigh around 400 pounds now?

Here's the thing: a child is not an adult. There's a reason we don't let children sign contracts, and it's because they're busy making mistakes and dropping the ball and acting on impulse...things that aren't really conducive to setting a goal and following it through. Why would you want to put your child in a position where she is likely to fail over and over? Furthermore, Dr. Besser makes a fuss about how the parents shouldn't be the food police, but that's the exact relationship you are fostering with this contract business, because someone has to be the enforcer and make sure the terms of the contract are being followed. Even if you're not being 'the food police', per se, you're at least being the food prosecutor. Is that really better? The bottom line is that it enforces the adversarial relationship that is already developing because she clearly feels like she has to hide her eating from you.

I swear, that letter could have been written by my parents. The part about "she wants to lose weight", is especially accurate because when I was a kid all I wanted in the world was to make my parents happy,and it was abundantly clear that all they wanted was for me to be thin. I have no doubt that there were loving reasons behind it, like wanting me to fit in socially, but all their campaign did was drive a wedge between us and eff up my relationship with food and exercise.

Here's the advice I wish my parents had gotten when I was a kid sneaking food into my room: listen to your daughter. Talk to her about what's going on and try to figure out what might be bothering her. Hug her...a lot. Remind her that you love her no matter what, and that you will always be there for her. That kind of thing will go a long, long way. In the end, the most important thing to remember is that your job here is about providing unconditional love and support. Leave the contracts out of it.

Testify!

Marilyn Wann announced today that there will be another hearing for a height/weight anti-discrimination bill in Massachusetts! The hearing will be on January 27th. Marilyn says:

Let's flood the legislative inbox! Email Tracy.Choi@state.ma.us. Please copy me: marilyn@fatso.com. Forward this! -- What to write: That you support H.1850. Your ht./wt. discrimination story (esp. at work, school, doctor, housing, seating) and why you care about this law. THANKS!

Please take the time to send an e-mail in support of this bill. If you are interested in testifying in person, please contact Marilyn at the above e-mail. Getting this bill passed would be a huge win for everyone everywhere.

Byron Rushing of Massachusetts tried two years ago to get a similar bill into law and from what I remember--although the bill didn't go through--things went pretty well. It would be fantastic if we could make this happen this year.
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PS--Check out Marilyn's words regarding Rep. Rushing and her experiences with this bill below in the comments.

PPS--I failed to see Rep. Rushing speak the one time I was in Boston. I now may never forgive myself.

Check out this great discussion

This humble article on The Adipositivity Project over at Sociological Images has spurred a hell of a good discussion on fatness. There are a few folks beating the fat=unhealthy drum, but there are so many other thoughtful comments it's totally worth it. Check it out!

Child obesity gene discovery may cut fat-related child protection cases

{Promoted from the forums - CarrieP}

The BBC is reporting that a group of Cambridge researchers have discovered a genetic factor common to a number of children and teens labelled as 'severely obese'. They also seem to have identified further links between these 'copy number variants' and the regulation of blood sugar levels and appetite, concerns frequently discussed over the years on these very boards (far be it for me to suggest that people in the FA movement have long known what others have persistently refused even to attempt to demonstrate). Worryingly, several of the study's young participants had already been placed on local authority child protection registers 'on the assumption that their parents were deliberately overfeeding them'; the research findings are apparently sufficiently robust that those participants who were previously slated for intervention or removal by the social services have now been deleted from the database and their parents presumably exonerated.

I give this news a cautious welcome, for the 'may' of the headline is not by any means a 'will' and the enormous moral panic and incessant misinformation of the last decade have left us with a metaphorical supertanker of ignorance and prejudice to stop and turn around before the social work and child health professions begin to realise that a child's size may be as natural as their height and entirely unrelated to parental immorality, abuse or neglect. After all, last month's effective admission by a major obesity research institute that their initial apocalyptic predictions, on which much of the policy and media overreaction seen since in the UK have been based, were way off the mark has so far failed to have much by way impact on those policy makers and the government approach to the 'issue' and indeed was quickly shunted from the front pages.

However it is an important step forward which I am hoping that, given the esteem in which the University of Cambridge is held, will maybe encourage more researchers to break from the consensus and have the courage to challenge the assumptions about over-eating and lack of exercise (and perhaps even the scale of the 'epidemic' itself) without fear of censure and dismissal. Most importantly, tonight maybe Britain's fat children and their entirely blameless parents can sleep that little bit easier in their beds as a result of this good work by Dr. Farooqi and her team. I hope that David Rogers, the Local Government Association public health spokesman who called for a nationwide policy of taking obese children into care a couple of years back, sees this and eats his words, and that lawyers acting for the Dundee family, whose teenage son and daughter remain in the hands of the local authority, are paying attention.

ETA: more about the story here, from AOL via the NAAFA blog (whatever you do, don't read the comments on the AOL link!).

My Completely Unneccessary, Silly Letter to Jon Stewart: What's a Girl So Upset About?*




I know this letter is long and that's now how you're supposed to do protest letters, but I'm long-winded, people.


Dear
Jon Stewart,

Your bit with the fat suit on Monday’s show (September 14th,
2009) was distasteful, less than amusing, lazy, and sorely problematic. I know
what you were trying to do. People called you all lazy for taking three weeks
off; and since fatness is the ultimate symbol of being lazy, you got in a fat
suit. And since Jon Oliver had joked on his radio show about eating two whole
cheese steaks (or so I hear), you threw that in. Since you have a playful
relationship with Brian Williams, you took the opportunity to incorporate him.
I get that you were taunting your naysayers.  

 

I also get that for you it (likely) wasn’t about fat people
at all—but that’s part of the problem because it was on our backs. I know it seems initially an outlandish notion, but
you being in a fat suit and TDS using stereotypes and images of fat people the
way you did affects my every day life. I’m not saying you hate fat people or
that you are responsible for all of the derision and discrimination fat people
face—certainly not. But you are responsible for what you do, the messages you
spread, and your complicity, especially when so many people regard you as
someone well-reasoned, critically-minded, and progressive, someone who engages
in smart, sharp (if silly) comedy. Hang with me a second.

 

See, I am a fat person, and every day I deal with people
judging me as just some lazy fatass who doesn’t deserve a god-damn thing (aside
from a good fat-shaming, for my own good).
Fat discrimination, according to a recent study[1],
is as prevalent as race and gender discrimination in this country. I’m not just
talking about how people judge me on the street or how there is no room for
bodies like mine on TV. Fat discrimination and weight bias are prevalent in
health care, education, and employment. It affects real living, breathing
people. For instance, it affects the quality and thoroughness of care we
receive from medical professionals, and we suffer and some of us die because of
that.[2]


But what does this have to do with you in a fat suit? Fat suits have
been compared to blackface. Now, that’s not a historically equivalent
comparison in any way, but the the function is similar. You can put
on a fat suit and laugh with everyone else at the fat representation of you and
how gross and disgusting and wrong it is. TDS can further dehumanize fat
people by using a picture of a (faceless) bed-ridden fat person with Williams
face Photoshopped on—participating in what Charlotte Cooper calls the parade of
headless fatties—to drive home how disgusting it is to be fat. [3] And
in the process you and TDS can metaphorically masturbate stereotypes that perpetuate
the bias and discrimination we face in our every day lives—all for your joke
that really isn’t about fat people, which just means you have no regard for us
in the process.
And then you can take
that suit off and you don’t have to deal with the consequences.


Your promotion of fat stereotypes and dehumanization of fat people is part of a greater system of bias, discrimination, and dehumanization which directly affects my quality of life. It helps give people the idea that it's perfectly okay not to have any regard for us. After all, if we didn't like it, and if we had any dignity, we'd just put down the sandwich, right? If you had any sense, you might not assume fat people give up their dignity by virtue of being fat. For more a more
nuanced critique of “Fat on Film” you can visit the recent Newsweek slideshow of the same name: http://www.newsweek.com/id/213419.

 

This is why I’m disappointed in you and the TDS writers. I
expect better. And frankly, the best way to show your audience you haven’t
gotten lazy isn’t by telling lazy
jokes.

 

There are three things you can do to help fat people and
our work toward social justice. First, educate yourself on this issue. Do not
take what you think you know about fat people for granted. Put some critical
thinking into it and be willing to challenge your own assumptions. Second,
bring critical fat studies scholars or fat activists onto your show. Open a
conversation. Linda Bacon (yes, bacon, haha) is a preeminent scholar of Health
at Every Size, who has found that fat people who don’t diet and don’t lose weight can be healthier than
ones who do.[4] She has
just published a book on the subject. Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby also have
a book out called “Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere.” Recently, scholars in the UK
have published a book called “Fat Studies in the UK” and soon the long-awaited
“Fat Studies Reader” will be out. Finally, we don’t care if you make fat jokes,
just make them funny. Make sure that you aren’t merely reinscribing harmful
stereotypes, and make sure they are the same critical quality as the rest of
your bits.

 

Sincerely,

 

Withoutscene

Fat Human Being, Fat Activist, and Doctoral
Student in Sociology and Women's Studies

 


[1] Puhl,
RM., T. Andreyeva, and KD Brownell. 2008. “Perceptions of weight
discrimination: prevalence and comparison to race and gender discrimination in
America.” International Journal of
Obesity
32: 992–1000.

[2]  See the blog
“First, Do No Harm: Stories of Fat Prejudice in Health Care”: http://fathealth.wordpress.com/ and
also the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity website: www.yaleruddcenter.org/what_we_do.aspx?id=10

 

[3] For the record, I know
TDS uses Photoshop to do much more ‘horrible’ things to people’s images—but
there is a particular history of fat people’s faceless bodies being debased and
dehumanized in the media, as your colleague, Colbert, has even pointed out.
Charlotte Cooper’s piece on Headless Fatties can be found here: http://www.charlottecooper.net/docs/fat/headless_fatties.htm

[4] Linda
Bacon’s website: http://www.lindabacon.org/





*Apparently being upset about something so trivial is just silly. And after all "The joke was funny--I'm a fat person and I thought so." And "It wasn't about fat people. C'mon, they make fun of EVERYBODY on that show." "Being angry about it isn't going to solve anything." "You shouldn't let words upset you so much--we should be showing people that words can't hurt us." And, of course, "Don't we [fat people] have bigger fish to fry?"
(These are paraphrases of claims made to me from people who identify as fat-positive, size-accepting, fat-accepting individuals. Claims that I hope to have arbitrated in this here letter.)





Edited to note: I know the racial comparisons I make are problematic. I hate to rely on comparisons to racial discrimination and bias to highlight fat discrimination and bias. I am open to finding new ways to make our cause seem serious and our claims seem legitimate without using analogies to other oppressions. I try not to. But in some cases, I just haven't quite figured out how to really put things in perspective for people without using comparisons. Even if I know it is problematic.

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