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Discrimination

Oh hai blatant discrimination!

Rose tipped me off to some fat discrimination going on over in North Carolina. According to this policy document, the North Carolina State Health Plan (for teachers and state employees) will soon be divided into two sections: one for the "good" folks who don't smoke and have BMIs under 40 and one for the "naughty" smokers or people with BMIs 40 or above. Of course the good folks will receive more coverage at less expense than the naughty ones. Participants in the health plan are required to fill out a form every year that attests that they fit into the good group and they also agree to be subjected to mandatory random screenings for smoking and for BMI.

I am both appalled and terrified by this idea and the precedent it creates. First of all, does this mean that an NCSU employee is subject to being weighed and measured at work whenever HR deems it necessary? What about personal privacy? What about a person's body being their own property and not for their employer to judge? What about an employee being compensated on their performance and NOT their body size? Because no matter how this policy was initially intended, this ends up being another way to pay fat people less for doing the same job, as if that weren't happening enough already.

I hate the idea of the smoking thing as well on the grounds that what I do in my off time shouldn't be any of my employer's business, but at least that's a behavior that can be stopped. A fat person can't just stop being fat, despite the world's erroneous belief that all you have to do is just try a little harder to eat less and exercise more and the pounds will magically melt off. No one has been able to find a method of weight loss that works permanently for more than the tiniest percentages of people, which means that fat people are likely going to stay fat no matter how many crunches they do.

Let's not forget that the mainstream jury is still out on fat and health anyway...even Newsweek isn't sure whether fat=unhealthy anymore. Even if it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that fat people are definitely going to get sick, the whole point of a group health plan is that some people are going to get sick and some aren't. By buying into it you acknowledge that you are going to pay the same amount whether you get sick or not and whether other people get sick or not. If we're going to just weed out the people we think are going to get sick, what's the point of group health then anyway?

On TOP of that, what this plan is doing is funneling the people who are (supposedly) the most likely to get sick into a group that gets less coverage! Those who will likely need health care the most are all of a sudden going to get the least amount of assistance from their health insurance company! If this doesn't prove clearly how much more interested health insurance companies are in profits over actually providing health care, then I don't know what will.

Thanks Rose!

Paul Campos and America's Moral Panic

Paul Campos gave a great interview over at The Atlantic yesterday, but what I found most interesting about the whole thing were the comments on the article. Almost every one is well thought out, literate, and full of good discussion about the topic at hand instead of devolving into 'fatties are stupid and gross and OMG should just lose weight' territory. I'm not saying they're all favorable or that I agree with all of them, but I find it so much more enjoyable to read a well-constructed point that I disagree with than what amounts to a handful of insults or ignorant BS one might find in comments on other articles.

Anyway, give it a read. A lot of commenters brought up the type II diabetes question which I couldn't immediately debunk in my head. Anyone have good information on the correlation of fat and type II diabetes and medical costs?

Drop Dead Diva deserves a second look

I watched the first episode of Drop Dead Diva with the same skepticism as everyone else, and I found plenty to pick at, from the mainlining of easy cheese to the fat girl is all mousy and doesn't take care of herself thing. The second episode, however, really took me by surprise by how much it got right.

First, there's a storyline on fat discrimination in the workplace. Jane's client successfully worked at a hipster bar and then gained 50 pounds and was fired, so she sued the bar. During the course of the case, Jane's boss tries to pressure her into using the idea that fat is a disability to bolster her argument but ultimately she ends up telling him to shove it. There's a nice moment where she is giving her closing argument and discusses how the word 'fat' doesn't have to be a negative thing, just a descriptor. I mean really, when have you ever seen that on entertainment TV?

There's still a little too much talk around how Jane is fat because she likes to eat and is too tired to exercise at the end of her busy day, so not much Health at Every Size on the show, but I was so impressed by this second episode that I wouldn't be at all surprised if one day in the future she stumbles across that concept as well.

So if you can, please give the show a second chance. The writers seem to really get some of the concepts at the heart of fat acceptance and that just makes my day. Both episodes are available here. I'd love to hear what you think!

Fox News Anchor Defends Fat People?

By now I think most of you have probably heard about the NWA flight attendants who are demanding that they be allowed to wear the same "sexy" red dress as their thinner counter-parts.

And I'll give you one guess as to who thinks it's an outrage and that fat women shouldn't be allowed to be flight attendants anyway?

That's right, via Jezebel, obesity's arch-enemy, MeMe Roth, is on the warpath again. This time she's on Fox News. But there's a twist: The anchor, Stuart Varney, publicly shames her for her indulgent hatred!!

We have seen MeMe Roth and her special brand of crazy before, but this time she's got a crazy look and crazier antics than I remember. She acts like a two-year-old desperate for attention, holding up a pair of size 24 pants, laughing uncomfortably...and this guy tells just keeps on her and tells her, "That, madam, is a disgrace."

Who could've predicted that the taming of MeMe would have happened on Fox News?

(Go to Jezebel for the video. Can't imbed it at this time.)

Postscript: Granted, he goes way overboard and is out of line to say fat discrimination is "one of the most hurtful forms of discrimination," as if other forms of discrimination are somehow less hurtful. I'm pretty sure all forms of discrimination suck pretty badly. Oppression Olympics are unnecessary, sir.

Fat and global warming

When I first read this article I had an odd sense of déjà vu. Then I realized why: it's not a new story! Not only that, but every time this subject has come up, the same people seem to be behind it. Ian Roberts wrote the original diatribe in 2007, he and Dr. Phil Edwards wrote a letter to the Lancet in 2008 with the same message, and now they've published a study along these same lines. The thing is, all of their research is based on the same faulty assumptions: that fat people consume more energy by eating and driving more. Even this new "study" draws conclusions based on these assumptions. For instance:

Since it can be assumed that energy expenditure is approximately balanced by energy intake, it follows that total food energy consumption increases as BMI increases.

So, we're going to assume that each step up the BMI ladder means more food consumption? There have been studies to refute this, but even if you disregard them and assume that I, with a BMI of 60+ eat THREE TIMES THE VOLUME OF FOOD as a person with a BMI of 20, what about the one in four people in the UK who are on a constant diet? What about the 45 million Americans who go on diets each year? Some of those folks must be fat, yes? So right there you can see it's ridiculous to assume that every fat person eats more than someone with a lower BMI. If it were true, the diet industry would crumble.

To estimate the GHG emissions due to car travel by each population, we assumed that all individuals with BMI < 30 kg/m2 use an average small car (e.g. Ford Fiesta) and that individuals with BMI 30 kg/m2 use a car with more internal space (e.g. Ford Galaxy). The Ford Fiesta weighs 1530 kg and produces 147 gCO2 per km, whereas the Ford Galaxy weighs 2415 kg and produces 197 gCO2 per km.

So for the purposes of this study, we're just going to *assume* that all of the skinny folks drive tiny cars and all of the fat folks drive bigger cars. What about all of the skinny SUV drivers? What about the fat folks who drive hybrids or smaller, more fuel-efficient cars? What about all of the poorer fat people who don't even have their own car and instead take public transportation?

The increase in energy expenditure with increasing body weight should prevent further weight gain in a negative feedback loop but with rising BMI people are likely to move less, particularly those who are substantially overweight

Of course this part ignores the active fat people and imagines that all skinny people are active. It also incorrectly assumes (again) that the amount of walking a person does correlates somehow with their BMI. Furthermore, when I was digging for info I came across this article that states that driving might be better for the planet than walking anyway.

So Dr. Phil Edwards and Ian Roberts, here's some advice: no matter how many times you interpret and reinterpret these data, you're still starting off with a bunch of flawed, unproven assumptions that, despite the moderate media interest, add up to nothing more than fat-bashing, sizeist nonsense. Your "research" is focusing attention on fat people instead of the actual changes that need to be made to stop global warming. Do the planet a favor and kindly knock it off.



Thanks to DC and Marilyn for the tip

United Airlines and the upside of anger

So I was asked to give a comment yesterday on United Airlines' new policy to charge fat people double to fly on their planes. When the article came out the thing that struck me the most was how my response, which I had thought of as calm and rational, was being portrayed as "anger" and that I was "hitting out" against United. My first thought was "But wait...I'm not angry!" The more I thought about it though, the more I realized maybe I should be.

What United is doing here (and what the rest of the airlines have already done) is basically scapegoating fat people for the fact that there's no room in their tiny airplane seats. Air travel for most people is not a very comfortable or cheap way to go and if they can get us all focused on the specter of a fat person's fat encroaching on the armrest then we won't even think about how seventeen inches isn't really enough personal space for us to be comfortable sitting next to any stranger, even a thin one. Not to mention that by making the seats so small, the airlines are guaranteeing that a higher percentage of their passengers will not be able to fit into them and will then have to pay for two seats. It's like the BMI effect when a bajillion people became overweight overnight. These terrible fat people wouldn't be such a problem if the seats were at least made to fit average-sized adults.

An aside:

So okay, maybe it's not realistic to expect airlines to rip out all of the tiny seats and put in a bunch of average-sized seats. But would it be too much to ask them to put in a couple of rows of larger seats for larger folks? Sure, maybe they could even charge a little more for them, but there should be coach fare seats that fat people can fit into, no? Not everyone can afford two seats or first class seats. By putting in a row or two of plus sized seats, they can not only ensure that fat people are accomodated comfortably, they could also make sure no thin people ever have to put up with sitting next to them (egads!).

End aside.

Anyway, back to the scapegoating. Is it really logical and/or possible that fat people on planes are that much of a problem for United? According to their own press release, they got 700 complaints last year about fat people encroaching on thin peoples' space. 700...that sounds like quite a few complaints until you look at the other number in the article: 3000 flights a day. A DAY. Even if we take a seriously conservative estimate and say there are only 50 people on each flight, that means that 150,000 folks fly United every day. That's 54,750,000 people a year. So 700 of those people, or 0.00001% of the people who flew last year, had a complaint about fat people. I wonder how many people complained about delays or ticket prices. I wonder how many had something to say about lack of leg room or the terrible airline food. I'm willing to bet that any one of these things scored more than 700 complaints from United's customers, but to change them would cost the company money. Announcing a fat people policy, on the other hand, gets them free publicity, goodwill from the fat-hating public, and some extra fares paid by fat folks who now have no choice.

Another aside:

And United, don't give me that crap about how your industry is struggling and these evil fat people are putting such a strain on your resources by taking up two seats and not paying extra for them. First of all, didn't you just get a giant government bailout? What exactly did you do with that money? I know you didn't improve your planes because they're just as uncomfortable as they have always been. I know you didn't lower ticket prices because it still costs an arm and a leg to fly anywhere. I know you didn't use it to continue to pay your valuable employees because you're still laying people off. So what the hell? Isn't it time to examine why you keep running out of cash instead of blaming and double-charging your passengers?

End aside.

So yes, I'm a little angry. I'm tired of the airline industry and the fashion industry and the media telling me that the problem is me and my body and that I should just change and everything will be okay. My body is not the problem! Your complete denial that there is any body type other than model-thin is the problem. Your focus on doing things more and more cheaply so you can make more money is the problem. I am not an anomaly. I am not "other". I am a valid member of the human race and I don't deserve to be excluded or asked to pay more for the same goods and services as thin people. I and the millions like me deserve to be considered when you're building a new airplane or designing a new clothing line for the masses. We are the masses! Stop acting like we don't or shouldn't exist. We're here, baby. One way or another, you're going to have to deal with us.

That is all.

Help NAAFA change Nevada laws on weight discrimination

For those of you who have been looking for an opportunity to advance the fat rights cause, now is your chance! NAAFA members in Nevada have been working to get a bill drafted and voted on that would "help to eliminate discrimination based on physical appearance which is defined to include weight and height" Please read the letter below and take a moment to email the committee members listed, even if you're not a NAAFA member. Our voices can make a difference but only if we say something!

For forty years, NAAFA members have been writing letters to legislators working to improve the lives of people of size. Since those humble beginnings we have seen one state (Michigan) and a handful of cities change their anti-discrimination laws to include height and weight or physical appearance.

The most recent was just last year when Binghamton, NY changed their laws to protect people of size. They modeled their anti-discrimination laws after the laws in San Francisco. This is a proud day for those of you involved in that work in San Francisco. We never know the far-reaching effect our work will have!

It is to this end that members of NAAFA in Nevada have been working to see that their laws are changed as well. A bill has been drafted and is now awaiting review by the Commerce and Labor Committee before it can be passed along and voted into law. AB 166 modernizes Nevada's anti-discrimination laws and would help to eliminate discrimination based on physical appearance which is defined to include weight and height. The latest word from my assemblyman is that the committee chairman does not want to give this bill a hearing.

We're asking NAAFA members to step up to the plate and start writing letters again. Whether you are a Nevada resident or a visitor to Nevada, we need your help to insure that this bill will be passed into law. For residents, it would affect hiring processes, employment, housing and public accommodations. Why would you as a non-resident have any impact at all in this situation? The economy of the state of Nevada is heavily reliant on tourism. We need visitors in order to survive. As a visitor to Nevada, this change would affect "public accommodation."

What "public accommodation" includes for you as a visitor to Nevada is hotel stays, restaurants, theaters, clubs, etc. This law is about how you are treated while you are here. This change to our laws would mean that you could not be discriminated against because of your weight, height or a physical characteristic beyond your control. This is why this change is important to you and why we need your help!

Please write to the following committee members and tell them that it is VERY important that this bill become law:

mconklin@asm.state.nv.us, katkinson@asm.state.nv.us, banderson@asm.state.nv.us, marberry@asm.state.nv.us, bbuckley@asm.state.nv.us, whorne@asm.state.nv.us, mkirkpatrick@asm.state.nv.us, mmanendo@asm.state.nv.us, kmcclain@asm.state.nv.us, joceguera@asm.state.nv.us, cchristensen@asm.state.nv.us, hgansert@asm.state.nv.us,
egoedhart@asm.state.nv.us, jsettelmeyer@asm.state.nv.us

PLEASE take a few moments of your time and write today. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate, simply tell them in your own words that you support the passage of AB 166. We REALLY need you to act on this. Change only comes in society when we make it happen! Speak out today and take a stand for your rights. It's for your future and for the future of those you love. We need all of you to write in support of AB 166. People come in all sizes and it's time to support one another!

Thanks everybody!

Big Win in Canada: Two Seats for Fat People

As you've seen over the past few days, the biggest news in the fat community is that Canada's Supreme Court has ruled that fat people are entitled to two seats for the price of one. Air Canada and WestJet had sought to overturn the "one person, one fare" policy enacted by the Canadian Transportation Agency that we covered back in January.

The agency ordered the companies last January to adopt a policy of “one person, one fare.”

That would mean, for example, that a disabled person who needs additional room for a wheelchair, or an obese person who needs an additional seat, could not be charged extra.

It would also mean that, if a disabled person has to be accompanied by an attendant, the attendant would ride free.

Naturally this has brought thousands of truly brave (cough), anonymous (cough) internet trolls out of the woodwork on myriad newspaper sites, citing how terrible this is and how we're all just fat and need to lose weight, how not-fat people are "subsidizing the lifestyle choice of the obese", and all the usual crap. Glad they're being constructive.

The CBC has a more contextual article on this ruling. A WestJet official wondered how his company would implement this policy in a non-discriminatory fashion. Here's an idea: at the airport, include two actual, real seats from your planes. If a person can not sit with the armrest down, that person needs two seats. Seems simple. Is simple. And go the extra mile by making this a private area, too.

All in all, this is a superb ruling and the Canadian Transportation Agency should be applauded for upholding our rights, enforcing their ruling, and allowing fat people to fly with dignity - something that the loudmouthed "thin" people on the internet are taking for granted. [links via DeeLeigh, CarrieP, and roughly 40 others!]

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