Case-building: Making Fatties the Deviants

In every good moral panic one needs a deviant group on which to blame the ills of the current moral (financial, political) crisis. Since moral panics seek to fix some broken part of society, it makes sense that a group of people is singled out to symbolize the ills associated with the crisis.

Since the late nineties (around the time of the last BMI revision in 1998), the number of news stories about the so-called “obesity epidemic” increased exponentially, reaching a fever pitch in 2004. Check out the timeline chart on the top of the Google News results for “obesity epidemic”:

Frequency of "obesity epidemic" in news stories from 1990 - 2009, via Google

(I can’t find the chart, but I think this somewhat parallels, oddly, the average BMI increase in that same time period, which topped off in 2004 or 2005)

A recent example of the creation of a deviant group to take the brunt of the latest healthism/healthcare panic is the assertion that cases of diabetes are going to keep rising, with a concomitant soaring of costs. (h/t Andy Jo)

Blaming rising healthcare costs on us fatties is one way of covering one’s ass when one isn’t willing to institute any meaningful healthcare reform, just new entitlements.

This is case-building: so that when people are pissed off that healthcare costs haven’t dropped under a new system of entitlements, they direct that anger at some deviant group, rather than where it belongs — at the philosophy of entitlement with its false utopian vision, and the proponents of that vision.

I’ve said it before, and will say it again. When you make your body the financial business of your neighbor, get ready for your neighbor claiming the right to have say over your body. In other words, making healthcare a public financial burden makes your body public business, and thus erodes the most fundamental right of living in a free society.

This is merely the tip of the iceberg, folks. The government takeover of healthcare hasn’t even passed in the Senate, yet, and there’s already talk of reigning in costs by discriminating against particular groups of people, in this case a popular deviant group of the Healthistic moral: fat people. Do you think it’s going to stop at higher taxes for fat people, if that isn’t bad enough? I predict it will not: forced interventions, children being taken away from their parents, fat people being practically barred from some kinds of  employment, and the ultimate loss of the freedom to pursue happiness in the confines of liberty will be the end result of this government takeover of healthcare. And it will start with fatties, but it won’t end with us, because we are not the source of all healthcare-related ills.

Stay tuned. It’s going to be one helluva ride.

WSJ on Fat People: Many Greats in History

I have a few other feeds that I maintain, one which is a news feed. I’m very used to my news feed having little to do with fat in it (though when it does appear, it’s reasonably positive). But a Wall Street Journal piece poking fun at people who demonize fatties? It sounded too good to be true, but here it is:

Stop Picking on History: Throughout history the rotund have made the world go ’round

There are definitely problems with this piece, which reduce to the usual scienterrific myths about fatness. However — and I can’t stress how important this point is — is that the author, even accepting those myths, is telling people in a clever, funny way that picking on fat people is stupid and counterproductive. And he holds up a lot of great examples of fat leaders and artists — I have to say that, overall, it’s a very positive piece.

Because when it comes down to it, people can believe whatever they want about our health, but that shouldn’t have anything to do with how we’re treated. That’s what Queenan is going for: we’re respectable, hardworking, creative members of society that have done (and will do) great things. The idea that health has been braided into our moral fabric to such a degree is, in Queenan’s eyes (and rightly so), absurd.

What do you think?

When Other People Pay For It, They Can Claim the Right to Control It

I’ve said this several times before, but it bears repeating: when other people can make a reasonable argument that they are paying for the choices you make about your body (even if those choices are only perceived choices), then they can claim the right to have a say in your choices.

Take the furor over the Stupak amendment to the recently passed House healthcare bill. I was walking through Harvard Square last afternoon on my way to my weekly voice lesson, and there were congregated at the mouth of the stairs to the station a group of protesters, who desired to get the Stupak language stricken from the (potentially) reconciled House and Senate bill.

I didn’t stop; I’m rather used to Harvard Square protesters. Let’s just say they’re not a particularly rare occurrence.

But I couldn’t help shaking my head and thinking, as I descended the stairs into the station, how those pro-choice, body-freedom people on the left are finally discovering that the greatest threat to their personal choices and freedoms isn’t some corporation or private entity, but widespread government control.

I’ve long heard fauxgressives waxing philosophical about how greater government control at the federal level would loose certain states from fascist, body-controlling regimes. They claim that those who don’t want to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize abortions in some way are the extreme fringe social conservatives, who I agree are fairly nuts. But this goes way deeper than that. The abortion debate has never really been about fending off nutty social conservatives, in my opinion. And it’s not just about abortion as a choice; it’s a symbol for the much greater question of government control vs. body autonomy.

That question is at the center of the debate on government’s role in healthcare.

The Stupak amendment clearly illustrates that with few votes to pass it, late at night on a Saturday when most people aren’t watching C-SPAN (though I was, dammit), a large swath of your freedom can be subverted. And though the Stupak amendment didn’t go as far as banning abortion outright, it did quite plainly single out a behavior that was unpopular and discriminate against it.

In the free market, if there’s demand, there’s availability. In a controlled market, there’s a hell of a lot more white noise between demand and supply. It’s not enough that you and your neighborhood wants it, your representative has to want it, too. And then he’s got to be powerful enough that he can band up with other reps, who need to be part of a majority in the country. And that’s assuming that your reps are listening to you at all, and you’re not a lonely city in a gerrymandered district that is locked into political representation with which you fundamentally disagree.

In a free market, if you buy a boat and never use it, and you have a mariner neighbor who would love a boat but can’t afford one for whatever reason, that neighbor can’t blame you for his lack of a boat. However, in a system controlled by the government, there’s a single pie. If you take a bigger piece, you’re necessarily taking from somebody. So your mariner neighbor could claim that you did, in fact, diminish his ability to buy a boat. He might then be in favor of a law which only allows boats to be sold to mariners, since that would be his only recourse. In a free market, next season you might find out that they replaced expensive parts with less expensive parts, and turned out a model of boat that was more affordable, because they realized there was an untapped market for cheaper boats. Everyone wins.

In a free market, if I ruin my health due to various behaviors, my neighbor has no stake in it. If I get an abortion, it doesn’t affect my neighbor at all. If I eat ten steak-and-donut sandwiches a day and suck down more opium than oxygen, it doesn’t make a single bit of financial difference to my neighbor.*

The point of all of this is, those of you who really believe that giving government greater control over healthcare is going to give you more freedom over your body and health choices can take the Stupak amendment as a warning shot. And if you think they’re not going to come for the fatties next or soon, you’re dreaming. As soon as costs rise (and the projected healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP will rise if the current bills on the table pass), and people are getting taxed at higher rates, fined for not having acceptable coverage, or even thrown in prison with up to a fine of $250,000 for not having acceptable coverage, they’re going to clamor that costs can be forced down by regulating the behavior of those with perceived preventable conditions.

Healthcare reform isn’t a fantasy; there are real reforms that can be made which would make buying plans cheaper, give greater access, and yes, even help cover those who have slipped through the cracks, without shackling citizens to some bureaucracy with the threat of imprisonment if they don’t comply (though there’s certainly a larger Constitutional question in all that). But what’s being put forward by Reid and Pelosi isn’t healthcare reform. It’s a giant grab for power and a threat to your freedom to choose.

REFERENCES**

My Body, Their Choice – Reason.com

House Bill Increases Healthcare Costs – Politico.com

Listing the New Taxes in the Senate Healthcare Bill – Wall Street Journal

Mandatory Insurance is Unconstitutional – Wall Street Journal

Stupak Amendment Threatens the Rights of Every American – The Huffington Post

Rationing’s First Step – Investor’s Business Daily

* Those who assume the insurance system we have now is a free market system are way off the mark, so arguments about the current state of insurance risk-pooling are irrelevant. Additionally, the argument that the uninsured rack up hospital costs for the rest of us ignores that emergency rooms are required to treat those who can’t pay, which is government, not market, intervention.

** Please do not poison the well.

Honest Scrap Awards!

Whatever could you meme by the “Honest Scrap Awards”? Well, like usual, I blame Sylvia and Bianca over at Zaftig Chicks for this one. They’re always up to no good. That red dress from my last post? Totally something they probably would wear. All sinfully and the like. Just color me scandalous.

So the rules are:

1) Present this award to 7 others whose blogs you find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged you.

2) Tell those 7 people they’ve been awarded HONEST SCRAP and inform them of these guidelines in receiving the award.

3) Share “10 Honest Things” about yourself.

I’ll do it starting with 3) as well…..

1. I’m descended from four Mayflower passengers, and a whole fuckload of Welsh Kings, Queens, Princesses, and so on. I’m also descended from Mary Eastey, one of the people executed during the witch hysteria in Salem: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Eastey

2. I believe you can romantically love several people at once. I think it’s quite wonderful, how love multiplies and never divides…

3. My mother-in-law dated Merv Griffin.

4. When I was a kid my favorite magazines were Zoobooks and Ranger Ricks, and I was (the 80s version of) an environmentalist and animal rights activist. I once raised funds to help abused and neglected horses.

5. I met my husband on a popular Star Trek messageboard.

6. Paul Newman almost ran my husband over when my husband was a kid.

7. My family believes my grandmother’s old farmhouse was haunted. She swears to several encounters, including unexplained, regular, loud footsteps in the attic, a full-body apparition in her room. My aunts and uncles swear they saw objects move on their own.

8. My childhood was punctuated by repeated encounters with an acquaintance of my dad, Kenny Rogers.

9. I was proudly Wiccan in high school, and used to read Tarot very well.

10. There’s a legendary curse in my family of hauntings being passed down the family line — according to the story, my grandfather would wake in the night or early morning, with the feeling of something sitting on his chest, or on his feet, or on the edge of the bed. He’d be paralyzed, unable to move. My grandfather (a scientific-minded nuclear engineer, mind you) used to refer to it as “his demon.” Both my mother, and myself, have had numerous similar experiences. No one else in our family has experienced it. I researched it, and it’s probably just a form of temporarily paralysis right after waking, which is common. But the feeling that someone is sitting on the edge of the bed — could never quite explain that one to my satisfaction.

And now, for the tagged lovely award winners (only 6, because I like to be different — oh, and I on purpose didn’t repeat any of the ZC’s winners, though many of you would have also appeared on my list!):

  1. Introverted Bride
  2. Purely Politics. Partisan? Perhaps.
  3. Eema-le
  4. Richie49 (even though his blog isn’t active, his comments are as good as a blog!)
  5. Fat Angie
  6. JunkfoodScience (though don’t waste your time writing a follow up meme! Just thought you deserved it!)

 

Bless Me O Zaftique, For I Have Sinned…

This one’s straight from the WTF files.

I was perusing a few plus size clothing sites in an attempt to find a holiday dress that would both fit the way I’d like and pay homage to my gothy-Victorian-Renaissance-y aesthetic. Needless to say, no easy task. However, I was having a bit of luck on Zaftique (though, WTF #1: $120 for knit and polyester? Where was it weaved, on the fucking Moon?).

I came across one dress in particular that seemed as if it could be perfect. But although I usually don’t read the textual sales pitch accompanying the dress, this time my eye caught a word I didn’t expect in a description of a piece of clothing — “sin”.

The offending dress:

zaft2

Apparently having arms and legs is a "sin" now! Who knew.

Here’s the link to the dress.

I’m trying to figure out what they mean by “sins” here — maybe you could help me out. I must be missing something, because it seems to imply that the greatest density of sins 0ccur around the upper arm and upper thigh area.

Please help me out. Because, from the way the description reads, it could only imply that “sins” is literally equivalent with fat cells. And though I’ve seen fat moralized in many different ways before, this is the first time I’ve seen the actual tissue called evil.

P.S. Anyone else see the irony in this being a scarlet-colored dress?

Government Healthcare is Bad for Fat People

Why?

Read the links on this page.

While employers can currently establish plans that incentivize weight loss, it’s not illegal and/or will not cause your taxes to go up to decide not to participate in such programs. Additionally, there is some measure of direct voting by employees — complaining about the plan, leaving the business to work elsewhere, not participating in the plan — that is much closer to the decisionmaker in the process and could ostensibly much more quickly repeal a plan decision than waiting for a large enough group of people to be voted in who commit to weeding out problems in legislation, which can take at its quickest years, and at its slowest, never (as the problems become too deeply institutionalized).

If the government forces everyone to buy private or public plans, then encourages (through subsidies to private plans, or directly in public plans) plans that create initiatives or penalties based on weight, then there is no escape. Even if it’s just verbal encouragement, it gives employers the sense that they can discriminate against unpopular groups and lower their own costs without the possibility of losing an employee that is a member of an unpopular group, since even if that employee was to leave, chances are the same discriminatory initiatives would be in place wherever else they’d choose to seek employment.

The choice to participate in health care should not be forced. Choice is sometimes the last check one has on a virtually universal discriminatory and unethical system with deeply rooted institutional bias. The ability to choose to opt out of healthcare, to have the choice not to participate, is essential. Those who want to argue about public costs are only doing so in the context of the current healthcare framework under which we suffer: though the nature of insurance re: pooling risks does mean that some will pay in and never take out as much as they pay in, while others will take out more than they pay in, it doesn’t mean that anyone’s health is technically anyone else’s business. That’s just the nature of insurance.

This would not be the case if health decisions and health behaviors and being a member of an unpopular health class literally become public business. By definition. One would have to completely trust the government not to fall in with popular Healthist sentiments that have a tendency to put a good deal of the blame for unaffordability and poor public health on fat people. In my humble opinion, placing such immense trust in a fickle, by nature ever-changing, populist, and power-hungry entity is foolish.

Those who are interested in freedom from institutionalized discrimination should always be concerned when choices are taken away, rather than offered up. The way to fight discrimination is to open doors, not close them. Many pro-fat activists are in favor of universal healthcare because they believe it will force insurers to cover those who are currently not covered, or allow the government to provide a plan that will cover them (they currently already have this power, by the way). But this is an example of closing doors, not opening them. Fatphobia is still out there, and it runs rampant in government — and is no less present in Progressive political circles than any other circle. If fat people can be used as scapegoats to save money in what is sure to be a very expensive system (TNSTAAFL*), that is what is going to happen.

And that is already what is happening, as the healthcare bills currently being proposed are overrunning their cost goals, even taking into consideration that every gimmicky scheme to shift money around has been called upon in order to make the bills look less expensive than they already are (frontloading payins, backloading payouts, political promises of savings that won’t be kept, etc). Since the government doesn’t have to worry about doing anything scientifically sound if their electorate cares more about money than science, they’ll pick groups to discriminate against (or promote discrimination against) re: insurance in the order that these groups are medically unpopular. Fat people and smokers are, without a doubt, the top of that list.

Universal or forced coverage is not good for fat people. What you gain in terms of being technically covered you will lose in the inevitable discrimination, higher costs, public shaming, fat hate and the wider spread of fat hate and focus on fat people as a “problem,” and so on.

Besides, I (and many others) know how to really lower costs, so that even groups that insurers put in a higher rate category would be able to afford insurance. But to lower costs would require less regulation, less control, more choices for individuals to buy care…in other words, a free market injection in a hopelessly overregulated industry. I’m certain that the cost of a plan for a “fit” family of four in Massachusetts currently would be the maximum of what you’d see for a non-”fit” family of four in a freer market.

The answer to the problem of fat people not being covered (or covered affordably) does not lie in handing over our fates to politicians and bureaucrats who are the ultimate barometer of public whims and misinformation.

If you have any questions, here is a bit of reading.

Do not give the public the ability to vote on your private health matters: No Fat People in Concentration Camps

Socialized medicine leads to more discrimination, higher costs, and fewer choices: Universal Healthcare and Fat

We should be free to do what we want, as long as that liberty doesn’t infringe on the liberty of others: Libertarians and Obesity, Take Two

A chain of back-of-the-envelope logic whereby involved government in healthcare in our current climate leads to dire consequences for fat people: Eliminate Fat People

Involving government in healthcare in our fatphobic environment can lead, and has led, to the breaking up of families. Additionally, it could lead to the state-sponsored eradication of fat children, by any means necessary: The Tide of Hate Rises

You should never give someone else the ability to make choices about your body: When Your Body is No Longer Yours

The state is not an objective third party with no profit motive, and will not operate as such in the distribution of health care: Why Universal Healthcare Should Be Opposed by Fat Activists

Junk science and fat unpopularity = the legislation of thinness: Universal Healthcare is Not Automatically Fat-Friendly

The Food Police are coming: “Lock-in” the Fatty Fat Fats

*There’s no such thing as a free lunch.