Immoral and Soon to Be Illegal? (and, of Course, Fattening)

Debbie says:

Fat made the news in two very disturbing ways recently. First of all, according to The Independent Online, South African women are “becoming fat” to make it clear that they don’t have AIDS, in that continent so desperately beleaguered with the disease.

Lingual X blogged Retrospectacle on this subject in the most recent feminist carnival. Lingual X doesn’t take a position on Retrospectacle’s post, which includes this damning analysis:

“Women in South Africa may just be harming their health even more by becoming overweight (AIDS or not). In addition, it seems to highlight that the perception of having AIDS, of how one appear to the world, may be as important (if not more) than the actual prevention and treatment of the disease.”

This would be almost boring to respond to, if it wasn’t so important. Under no circumstances can the dangers of fat, which in the very worst junk statistics known to humankind has been said to kill 60 or 70 percent of fat people, compare to the dangers of AIDS, a virtual death sentence without current drugs. And the current drugs are often not available in Africa. The real numbers for fat as a killer, of course, are no more than 1/10 of those inflated numbers, and would be lower still if fat people were not stigmatized by cruel and thoughtless comments like Retrospectacle’s.

Retrospectacle says she’s opposed to appearance (of not having AIDS) being more important than reality, but this is exactly what she is promoting: She says in so many words that whether or not these women are fat (in other words, how they look) is more important than whether or not they are healthy, and then she turns around in the same sentence and disses them for caring more about how they look than about their health.

I say gaining weight is a very sensible response to risk of exposure to a disease that destroys (among other things) your ability to metabolize calories. When the drugs are scarce, each extra ten pounds increases a woman’s chance of staying alive until the drugs become available. Not to mention that, in impoverished circumstances, being able to marry can be another way to save your life. If African men are looking for assurances that potential wives don’t have AIDS, gaining weight is smart on that axis as well.

(Oh, by the way? Another thing Retrospectacle apparently doesn’t know is that by no means everyone can gain significant weight by eating more.)


If that weren’t enough, a truly crazy movement is afoot in Australia. The precis available on the Web doesn’t go very far into what the proponents of this idea believe they could do, but it does ask the important question: “what can law hope to achieve? ”

A few thoughts come to mind:

— They could lock us all up, and then save money by not feeding us. Then they’d have to cope with the lost productivity issues. When is the last time you went to (for example) a hospital and didn’t see a few fat nurses, ward clerks, and other staff?

–They could have restaurants refuse to feed us, and supermarkets check our grocery carts. Wouldn’t it be amusing for them to learn how much junk food is bought and eaten by thin people?

–They could tax us by the pound. Now there’s a way to deal with the burgeoning national debt.

–They could force us all to buy gym memberships and attend regularly. Then they’d have real data that shows that exercise makes you healthier and more fit, but doesn’t necessarily create weight loss.

–They could put us all to work in a Fat Conservation Corps, cleaning up the environment and doing other useful community service. This would not only be productive, it would force people to look at us on highways and city streets.

Any other ideas?

Thanks to Lynn Kendall for being first with the Australian link.

fat, South Africa, AIDS, obesity, law, body image, health,Body Impolitic

3 thoughts on “Immoral and Soon to Be Illegal? (and, of Course, Fattening)

  1. The zine Diseased Pariah News used to have a recipe column called “Get Fat, Don’t Die!”, which was *exactly* about loading up on calories in order to counteract the wasting effects of AIDS. I always thought it was brilliant.

  2. The percentages reported for “overweight” and “obesity” in South Africa are the same as the percentages reported in the US, and we know how exaggerated the claims are in the US of a “vast increase in obesity”.

    I was appalled even more by the conversation between the author and the one person who left a comment, about a culture in which girls are force-fed to conform to local beauty standards. The author called it a “great tie-in” to the South Africa article and compared it to foot-binding – completely ignoring the extent to which it is a “tie-in” to all the cultures where girls and women are forced or pressured NOT to eat to conform to local beauty standards.

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