One of the big trends in fat stigma I have found is the statement that personal responsibility trumps genetics. In other words, saying you have fat genetics is a cop-out to weight-bigots and healthists because as they have pointed out to me, people can ‘overcome’ their genetics.
That’s a spurious truth at best. A destructive stereotype at worse.
Angelina Jolie has gotten a lot of bad press from health nuts for basically ‘overcoming her genetics,’ via a cosmetic change: she elected to have a masectomy to reduce her chances of breast cancer, which were high because of the fact her mother died from it. This isn’t news anymore but the fact that it was news to begin with points out the dramatic problem individuals have in terms of health. Truth is, she didn’t overcome anything. She didn’t change her genes, she just made it impossible for her breast tissue to become cancerous by vutting out all that tissue. She amputated, the way doctors do when they can’t treat gangrene. Her masectomy gets rid of the problem, but only an idiot would say she ‘overcame’ her genetics.
What’s worse is the fact that she is being stigmatized for doing so as she had a specific health concern and she made a specific health choice to combat it. At the end of the day, that choice is not something that should or can be judged because it is her choice.
Unfortunately, people think they can judge because of one dramatic shift in ideology: Health has become something that is owned by society not an individual. Your health is now a public park. So you have to follow everyone else’s rules because, supposedly, the health of your body affects everyone else.
What is shocking is that AMERICA, which is so anti-socialized health care, has this attitude. Everyone is told they have a personal responsibility to care for themselves… in a way which conforms to what everyone else expects. We equate freedom with personal wealth so much that we won’t pay for the tools to keep everyone healthy (ie, socialized health care, harsher government regulations for the food industry, heavy taxation of fast and junk food to ensure that it is not sold cheaply to the detriment of those who buy it, and better access to food for the poor and nutritional education for everyone) regardless of weight, but we will demand that everyone conform to some flawed, generic and flat-out destructive measurement of health, the BMI.
Guess what… the English don’t go around judging each other’s health… not even when it is obvious that a person has an unhealthy lifestyle (ie, smoking and binge drinking). Contrary to what at least one of my heavily anti-Obamacare friends, and probably a lot of others, believes, the NHS doesn’t push for or mandate healthy living any more than private insurance companies do. In fact, the problem with Obamacare is that it isn’t socialist enough. It gives too much autonomy to health care providers, who have created our health care crisis through price gouging, and the insurance companies, which are complicit.
So whether it is Angie or me as a fat woman, Americans love to think that they have ownership of my health and in extension, my body and lifestyle. Because of that, people simply reject the idea of genes. They aren’t real because, one, they cannot be designated as communal in a way that is useful to fat bigots.
DNA is the most communal aspect of life… we share sequences with chimps and lizards and countless other life forms because of the way evolution works. Its like the laying down of sediment in a river bed. New stuff doesn’t replace old stuff, it just builds up on top. This is why humans aren’t actually superior or some kind of evolutionary goal… we are just what happens when a lot more dirt builds up over prehistoric ground in one place than in another. If this was the bottom line, that would be perfect for gene denyers as they would be able to say we are all, in fact, the same. So every genetic variance that is outwardly expressed is, in fact, a choice.
Sadly, that’s crap and we all know it. Black people don’t choose to be fat, skinny people don’t choose to be skinny and so, shocker, people who are really good at storing fat don’t choose that ability either. There are no ‘lines’ in heaven for being a certain way. We all get half of a man and half of a woman and all the genetic crap that comes with that territory. Unfortunately for fat-bigots, this means that they can’t really ‘blame’ a person. Which is intolerable to a bigot since bigotry is nothing BUT a blame game.
Secondly, genes don’t really exist to bigots because, since cosmetic changes can be made, that means cosmetic changes MUST be made to express an acceptable outward form The key word is cosmetic. You can control a person enough to drive them to change cosmetically, but you can’t will genes into changing. Not in yourself or anyone else. That’s like saying if you bleach out your hair enough it will always grow in blond. So, if you diet enough, you will just stay skinny? Yeah right.
Truth is, you can reach a physical equilibrium in which you neither gain nor lose weight… but you can force that equilibrium to be any lighter than the weight your body naturally functions at. Maybe you can force yourself heavier via diet and exercise. But even guys who cure their thinness via putting on muscle still have to work to maintain that muscle, or it just disappears, and is usually replaced by fat.
The fact that many men experience weight gain once they are fully done with puberty just points out that even that aspect of the human race which is better adapted to maintain their bodies, MEN, are still subject to a pure scientific fact: a normally functioning human body stores energy in fat cells. Period. The only exceptions are people who don’t have fat tissue. Skinny people store fat as well… they just don’t store as much. Just like some men can’t bulk up enough muscle to become Arnold, and some women just have less breast tissue, and thus smaller breasts than other women.
When a kid like Loren (see A Very Upsetting Conversation) says that fat people can overcome their genetics because he, a skinny guy, has supposedly been able to, all he is really saying is ‘I’m an idiot that doesn’t know a thing about biology.
And this is bad, because like other idiot-lay people, Loren researched a bunch of watered down stuff, written decades ago by scientists who were just scratching the surface of the biology of diet, and propagated by the same source that brought us the BMI, the government, and because of this he acts like he has a PhD.
He doesn’t… if he did he would see the world like the researches in this article who are trying to understand genetics not just as some kind of immutable base code, but as a real-world set of a person’s blue prints. And like individual buildings, life has a way of making out design deviate from the pure intent of the designer.
Like other similar research (Mom’s diet can shape baby’s brain), those who are really delving into the strange way in which the external environment, society and upbringing have on our genes and the expression of those genes, know that even reducing an issue like ‘weight gain’ or cancer linked to weight or whatever is done to the peril of an individual person’s health.
The fact that the main action of fat bigots is to blame fat people on their fat while also stigmatizing anyone or anything which could complicate the issue enough that even responsibility cannot truly be assigned, let alone blame, just shows how much of this country’s discussion of health is controlled by society instead of science, and how deeply fat bigotry runs.
Of course Loren can’t see the way in which he is a bigot, because the entire system is bigoted, the language we use to discuss the issue is bigoted, and the pure science that can truly save us from this problem is ignored or incomprehensible to most of society.
The blame game is making everyone so sick in so many ways that not even the science of genetics, which has posed ways in which we can get well, can stave off the tide of socially constructed hatred that seeks to keep fat people fat and thin people in power. Body liberation should be for all because poor Loren doesn’t even comprehend that he is more of a bitch to society than I ever will be. Old, socially influenced ‘science’ has told him everything he needs to know. Its comforting because it says we actually have the ability to control, and, by extension, blame.
The real truth is, there is no such thing as full control, not when it comes to our bodies. Even those who are into fat acceptance probably don’t understand the full extent of the lack of control over the deepest part of our physical being.
Its important to know these facts and be liberated from the notion of personal blame and even full responsibility in terms of our fat. It allows us to focus on what we can control, cultivating relationships with the people who bring out the best in us, doing activities that are really enjoyable, doing work that gives us a sense of accomplishment, and eating food to fuel our bodies but also enrich our enjoyment of our lives.
That’s the bottom line. For me, knowing the fact that my father’s parents crappy childhoods and adult lives may well be the reason why I responded to the bullying I received as a child with maladaptive, OCD-like behaviors that see me continuing to be plagued with depressive thoughts and compulsive urges every day, regardless of whether there are actual stressors present or not, enables me to fight against that emotion which is still widely promoted and taught because it is the most effective form of social control humanity has: guilt.
To blame people or even hold them responsible is to demand a certain level of guilt from them, which gives the blamer a level of control over the blamed. When we realize there is no such ‘control’, then there is no guilt and no reasonable excuse for blaming fat people for fat. Those who do so are just flat-out ignorant and probably do not wish to know better.
Its one thing to play the blame game with people who do things that harm you or others… but the question I have, will always have, is why should I feel guilty about the way my body looks?
The obvious answer that seems to be beyond so many is that no one, not myself or anyone else, should have to feel that way.