“The Notion that We Should All Look the Same is Hatred”
So argued Marilynn Wann (author of Fat?So!) in response to a recent bill introduced in the Mississippi legislature to ban the obese from being served in “any food establishment that is required to obtain a permit from the State Department of Health . . . that 12 operates primarily in an enclosed facility and that has five (5) or more seats for customers.” Wann believed that Miss. House Bill 282 would amount to size discrimination.
I find the bill bizarre–less a constructive solution than an effort to stigmatize. Kelly Hills offers some measured commentary on the anti-obesity push generally:
[Some of the obese] are comfortable with their weight, and don’t appreciate being “bullied” by society to adhere to an ideal they don’t believe is accurate. These folks often espouse the motto “healthy regardless of weight”, placing an emphasis on health outside of weight. After all, the reasoning goes, if someone is 65 lbs overweight, but perfectly healthy otherwise, what business is it of anyone just what that weight is? People come in all sizes, and as long as the individual is healthy, what that size is shouldn’t matter to anyone.
The anti-obesity movement has to be predicated on a “duty to be healthy“–and some would say that focus on the individual itself is a controversial priority of health reform, given that there is so much that can be done to change social structures that would lead to better health outcomes. As Michael Pollan has noted, changes to the farm bill could probably do more to improve America’s eating habits than individual stigmatization. The context of food choices–not cultivation of willpower–is key.
Hat Tip: Medical Humanities Blog.