Tonight, for the first time ever, I found an article in a mainstream news magazine that addresses the prejudice against fat people in America. My initial reaction was wow. I've read articles like this before from different sources, but they have all had a stated Fat Acceptance agenda. There's certainly nothing wrong with that. With the exception of anti-all-weight-loss-diet dogma, I fall into that camp myself. This is Newsweek though. I see national news magazines as at least holding to the illusion if not the real goal of objectivity.
When I read the article, I have to admit that I was impressed. It addressed the general size of our population, the multiplicity of reasons behind obesity, the complexity and unrealistic expectations of weight loss, that good health and healthy lifestyles are found among the fat as well as the thin, that the rudeness fat people receive often drives them to avoid seeking medical treatment for non-weight related issues and that too much weight can have medical consequences. One of its links discusses the fallacy of the use of BMI as a health index and mentions a study that shows having a few extra pounds can add to one's life expectancy.
Then I started reading the comments about the article, and the migraine I thought I'd beaten into submission early this morning flared up with a huge spike of pain. One and a half pages into the comments, I had to give up. I almost chose not to write about this at all. I had to go back to the article though and read through the editor recommended links. Good stuff there as well, including some very interesting news about the institutionalization of fat prejudice. The comments on the main article, from what I read just proved one of the points that the article made. People love to hate fat people.
As one of the hated, I've done a lifetime of thinking about this. One of my current ideas is that our culture has a history of prejudice. It used to be something that was acceptable. What we now see as bigotry and hatred used to be called common knowledge. However, we, as a country and a culture, have had to go through a lot of growing pains to get to that point. We are supposed to have learned from the struggles, the unfairness, the bloodshed, the outright atrocities of the past.
This is especially true for the educated. Prejudice is something for the uncultivated, narrow mind, but the habits of prejudice have been ingrained by generations of practice. Maybe it's generations of seeing the first kid in class to know the answer be seen as the smart one, but reaching a quick conclusion, regardless of the complexity or factual data of a situation, has come to be regarded as a sign of intelligence. That alone can be powerful feedback. Add to that the enjoyment of hatred mentioned in the Newsweek article, and why wouldn't people enjoy prejudice and want to keep it around?
The old prejudices though are just no longer acceptable. We've learned too much. We have too much class to accept racial, ethnic and sexual bigotry as a culture (except for when we do but count on people to speak up), but we still want the comfort of a socially acceptable prejudice. Right now, fat people fill that niche.
It still ain't right. It's still wrong thinking, and there's a lot to be learned about weight, health and size.
This was originally posted at Sorting The Pieces.