One of the recent stories that has especially caught my attention is the terrible weight-discrimination story of a woman in Australia who has been branded by social service workers as too fat to adopt a child. I got involved in the discussion on this one at Cara's blog The Curvature, and there are some excerpts from the conversation I want to post here, because they beautifully demonstrate the popular rhetoric of bigotry surrounding fat people in our society. Of course, the majority of responses to Cara's post were reactions of horror at the blatant discrimination against this poor woman, but one fat-shaming commenter came out of the woodwork.
I need to disagree: I believe it is important for parents (mom and dad) to show that they have some knowledge about proper nutrition. If the adoptive parents are obese, it shows that they are less than optimal at feeding themselves properly, so I cannot imagine them feeding a baby! I think the baby's rights also need to be considered; places like England consider morbid obesity in todlers a form of child abuse. It is admirable that this woman is dropping the weight, it shows that she is dedicated; hopefully she will learn a thing or two about proper nutrition. Also, I do not believe that the fact that obese women can generally get pregnant without asking for permission justifies that they should adopt. Women with schizophrenia, women suffering from down syndrome, and highschool girls can also get pregnant. I would not let them adopt my child.
Cara, obviously seething but still maintaining blogular professionalism through her sarcasm:
1. You cannot tell ANYTHING about a person's nutrition by what they weigh. Nothing. Zip. Nada. You can't.
2. Yeah, having a mother who eats too much is WAY worse than living your life in government care. Tell that to all the foster kids out there.
3. The fact that you compare obesity with mental illness says a lot about you and your prejudices.
Fat-shaming Commenter responds by bringing up the tired obesity-as-medical-epidemic argument, (perfect material for a spot on a fat-shaming bingo card) and then she really caught my attention by saying this:
I live in Canada, where we have a universal health care system. That means a good chunk of my salary goes to the government to finance that health care system. About half of it actually. When people make the decision to eat poorly, and let themselves reach 300lb, it costs me a lot of money. That means we need to purchase hospital equipment in which they can fit, including scanners that cost millions of dollars. That money could be used to have a more efficient adoption system that insures each orphan finds a loving, caring home. It makes me bitter to pay for people who make the decision to gamble with their lifes and neglect the way they eat. I believe in prevention.
I can't even begin to tell you how sad it made me to hear this. Living in the United States, where we so desperately need to get with the times and care enough about our citizens to have universal health care, I would be so disappointed if one of the effects of switching to such a system would be an increase in the already terrible amount of prejudice against overweight people in our society. The last thing I want is for us to go from a culture that is teasing and hateful toward fat people to one that is also bitter and resentful for contributing to their medical care. I sincerely hope this commenter is the exception and not the norm. (Anyone from a country with socialized health care want to weigh in?) I also want to know if she and her kind are Equal Opportunity Shamers. Do they similarly resent and advocate for discrimination against other groups of people who may stereotypically take up more than their "share" of the health system? Diabetics? AIDS patients? Smokers? War veterans? Cancer patients? Disabled people? Professional athletes? Pregnant women? The elderly?
On a completely related note, I saw Michael Moore's Sicko over the weekend. And wow. Go see it. Here's a clip for your enjoyment: