Fat and Identity Politics, UCLA

this is a very rich topic as habit that there's so many different things to say about so what I'd like to do today is to first of all trouble you a little bit and then really upset and then hopefully sir drawing back thinking that maybe this guy has a point anyways even though a lot of my senses are positively true so starting with the the topic of badness and identity politics but the notion of fat as a political issue i think is still very unusual to people it sounds very counterintuitive that that could be a political issue susie orbach 30 years ago suggested that fat was a feminist issue an idea which I think has become almost platitudinous in a way but as a professor so he indicates has perhaps been a serious injury arises in a variety of ways the feminism it's been mr.

Proclaiming that the person was the political and certainly I think that's nowhere more true than the context of arguments troubles over body weight in American culture today now what I'd like to do today is first of all the way out why I think we're in the grip of a moral panic on the issue of weight in America and then make an analogy to another area of social contention that is I think usefully compared to the moral panic that we're having overweight especially to the question of the kind of cures that are being put forward for the supposed crisis health crisis that we're facing because of the fattening America now I premises with the usual academic caveats about analogies being limited by their very nature as a strippa logician will point out say a is like B is always going to be to some extent false given that a is not be so there's going to be ways in which these analogies are not perfect if you wish to dismiss what I'm saying by pointing out that what I'm saying is not perfectly analogous feel free because you will certainly have been used to do that but that being said I do think analogy in this kind of contest we can secretly power organs and cause people to think about things in ways that they otherwise would not have considered so beginning first of all oh maybe said let me say a couple words first about how I got into this business in the first place I was a law professor and a lawyer by training and so are people naturally especially doctors are often curious as to why I am cramming them about their they're mistaken views on the relationship between body weight and health I got into this originally because there was a president of the United States name to a Clinton's 1990s and he had a lays on of a woman named Monica Lewinsky and the I was in a conference of a patient Bill Clinton at the time and I was a discover that that would seem to be a tremendous amount of anxiety and the culture about the fact that Monica was he was born with fact and it was a tremendous amount of discussion of that could understand it and I was doing that confidence and I had to fill enough a gap in the program with speaker drop that I was going to talk about media coverage and so I just did Alexis search an online search I put in the search charms Lewinsky and zaftig because I notice the word softy just out of curiosity how many of you know the words out that means maybe ten fifteen percent and imagining it is very very many socio-economic determines that we have no idea what was optic means i think is a yiddish ism it's from the german word for juicy and originally advanced custom n a curvaceous and therefore logically desirable woman but through semantic drift and became a euphemism for fat so to call it open and soft it was essentially it such a polite way of saying she was fat and so I was wondering why are all these stories singling that Monica Lewinsky is quote unquote fat and also by the way not coincidentally Jewish what's going on there especially given that the vast majority of Americans have no idea for words optic means and it was and a hundred stories that use the turns out digging and describing always that's how I got into it in the first place and then there's a really long story as in regard to how I found that this sounds like a wild separation but I tell you is true Bill Clinton got impeached because Monica this people together diet that is literally true and to find out how this little human companies but so with well just bracket at the moment that's how I got into it and when I was when I was getting too into the subject issue that I was just going to talk about bad anxiety in the context of a Clinton presidency and like most people of my background I just assume that it was true that mean that was really bad for you from a health perspective and I wasn't really questioning at all the venice area that sometimes the case for that proposition very poorly supported actually so much so that it could be analogized to a lot of other panics that we have in society or the risks that are either small such as smoking marijuana or non-existent such as being subjected to satanic abuse while you are a preschooler which probably none of probably some of you in my math you're some of you at least may have actually been none of you were subjected to can't refuse at that time but there was in the nineteen eighties in the United States a huge panic over a satanic ritual abuse in our preschools believe it or not there was a one of probably the most famous trial at your place regarding this happened right here in Los Angeles the McMartin trial I without my sentence essentially it was a not saying that no preschoolers ever been subjected to Costa tannic abuse but what happened was that there was the click on that there were hundreds of cases of this all around the United States and what it really turned on is essentially anxieties about women going into the pain workforce a band on the the satanic ritual users essentially imagined in three schools where this or folk Devils of this moral panic over having so anyways the young it turns out that that that the fat panic we're having America's largely like that it's a largely like reefer madness it's largely life satanic ritual abuse in our preschool it's largely like 153 kindness in the State Department Joel McCarthy it's piece of paper it's largely like crack babies will be known supercriminals I'm sure some of you will if you haven't already encountered these social phenomenon study more organized in a variety of social science concepts so to get to the meat gritty of why we're having now or how it is that we're having a panic or fat in the culture um let me just a sort of a few things for sort of punta there's a possible statistical demonstration of the things that i'm saying you can check that out check your visa first of all the correlation between Wayne and health is actually fairly weak except in real statistical extremes if you look at very thin people or whether we're rarely talked about in this context and extremely bad people you do see some kind of a significant correlation between health risk and weight but you probably have to be looking at fairly extreme subgroups of the population for the vast majority of people for essential for one hundred percent of people who are classified as overweight in our culture and for most of the people who are classified as obese in our culture going to have to go these four categories under way to never talk about and almost impossible for any human being to achieve it about like starvation towards rationalism Hollywood actresses then normal weight which means thinner than me and seriously and then are overweight which is me and eighty percent release and then obese which is like a really fat category well I'm is over though there's no increased risk associated with a boy whatsoever and in fact the highest i should say the lowest mortality list in the launch life expectancy is found in the overweight category so that's it has this Pony a category as you can get the lowest category on most people movies can we do not have increased mortality risk associated with their way although very very bad people do so correlation between weight and helpers in general and mortality was in particular is weak and tremendously exaggerated in the literature second as I'm sure many of you have already discovered by being introduced to those to the concept of the relationship and correlation and causation correlation is not the same thing as causation the fact that you see some correlation between body weight and health risk as distal experience does not mean that the body weight is causing the health risk it's associated with it but that's a different matter there's all kinds of reasons why there might be a correlation that is it's positive if you find that people like yellow t have a mutton-headed of stratospherically higher rate of developing lung cancer in the United States and people who don't that does not mean that teeth whitening is going to greatly reduce the risk of contracting lung cancer for reasons that I'm sure you can all figure out for yourself the confounding variables that might lead to people who are significantly heavier than average having increased health risk rather than the weight itself is identical let me just name a few lower socioeconomic status which is strongly associated with higher way the cultural the crab you are the more likely you are to be poor I mean comports and gentle bring bad for your health for all kinds of reasons in the United States not least of which being that we have a highly dysfunctional healthcare system at least four can put more now privileged a situation another reason why a very people who are significantly higher in the average might have increased health risk is dieting dieting is in general a pretty bad for people's health specifically was harmful people's health is is a weight fluctuation is so-called yo-yo dieting and wishes the outcome of a significant percentage of diet affects what people do is lose weight them to gain it back and at least certain cases more so when the effect that you get is the in the studies that I've looked at this have all found either that there is a there's a risk associated with weight fluctuation or there's no effect there are no studies that show that there's a positive outcome to a graduation which is very strongly suggest that weight fluctuations per se that all kinds of reasons is strongly associated with in competed with the increased congestive heart failure I'm hypertension and with and with other bad things as well so dieting which is the cure of course or the obesity epidemic and they they're compelled me actually the cause of the health risks associated the cause of many of the health risks associated with fatness another thing that's very bad for people's health is stressed I can feel the stress in this room right now it's just very comfortable to talk about this subject because people and I can go and win in this culture are basically largely uncomfortable with their bodies in regard to well thank you ok all right ok better speed up now I mean visit any I'm being a little bit decisions and I don't I don't wish me this is just because this is a census I think it's an extraordinary jen and subject I me just take a look round all right why am I getting to talk away i am about this kind of thing even though I'm quota for Roy which I am for it can we get on their cover because a man and there's a second reason I can what it is mainly about man and therefore i have 0 at time i think even though i'm overweight I'm thin right I'm thin in terms of the social meaning of thinness in our cultural man of my particular social class of that by the so forth is tight as thin and therefore even though i call it away at the BMI you know 25 change 5 367 pounds and that makes me overweight or the US government I am socially thin so I'm a man so I get to say whatever I want about weight and not be judged for it because nobody cares one that way needless to say i'm painting of their we brought fresh air okay so yes you know weight discrimination definitely affects men and it's not as if this kind of craziness does not have negative effects on men to it certainly does but it has a vastly stronger effect on women as i'm sure many recognize from his real life experience so i'm a man I can say what I want about weight without being judged by it for it and secondly I'm thin if I was a woman and I was 5 8-9 is 57 pounds i would not be thin even though ever have exactly the same body mass though I physiologically i have seen BMI body mass index but socially i would be in this context at least upper class privileged institution of higher learning i will be math and therefore of course i would not have standing to say anything about this because obviously quote unquote i will be rationalized for my own failure to have maintained in the glorious body type so stressed you're stressing about this right now okay that's bad for our health so this whole exercise is at least as a short term matter backyard isn't any good real long but worth it right now feel some stress to talk about this very subject so the correlation between weight and help us a week causation in regard to that correlation is very poorly established essentially not stablished at all because epidemiologist it's really improve science and when it's just impossible to control rigorously for the kind of confounders that we want to be able to control for saying they really didn't differ about the subject a third and this is the part that never ever gets acknowledged by people who know better even though they will acknowledge them and just renowned with the pronounced of a monstrous foot second later we can't make people thin okay there's no empirical proposition in medicine that is better established than this there is no no way to produce significant long-term point loss in a statistically significant population just don't know how to do it and that includes weight loss surgery or stomach annotation that does not produce significant long-term weight loss among most people who undergo it certainly what absolutely fails completely in terms of sequence significant long-term weight loss is random people about their weight and telling them that if they ate right and exercise more they would be thin for the vast majority of people that prescription is a complete failure now it's a hopefully relatively rare in medicine in particular and social policy in general to keep pursuing an intervention which is demonstrably a failure over and over again e of the you I'm Sherman no the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result that's just not right there's a very well done study here right here at UCLA about three years ago authored by Tracy man and others which had really excellent produce really excellent data for the question of how how well do diet programs were and the answer is they don't write it is I mean this is this is one of these things that is certainly in co Hagel you know my many people but no the really rigors they demonstrated in this study and very usefully so so even if it were true that the correlation between weight and health was strong even if it were true that the causation the causation that is pivotably a product of that correlation have been well established which it hasn't even if all that wood tree would still would not make sense to produce to pursue weight losses of probably how the remediation given that we don't know how to use it now I know a lot of you are thinking right now well I just know that's not true in my case because it may be true on mas so to speak but it's not true for me because i know that i just did x y and z I would weigh five pounds less or ten pounds less or 20 pounds less or 50 pounds less than I weigh right now which is what I should be doing but I shouldn't have had that little something together when I walked in but it was right hungry in but I go the you know I'll go to the gym for three hours tomorrow we can many people then maybe you're the exception there are exceptions of course are exceptions to every because I will get two other times but in general we can make people think about this given that our testament asian are not only failures but also positively harmful in all kinds of ways both physiologically and psychologically and given then finally the final point example says here that fitness is absolutely not necessary for hell what sense does it have to have a social policy as we do in the United States right now based on the notion that we are trying to make people thinner and for the purposes of improving their health the answer is that's a rhetorical question no sense at all in fact it's a miami sociologists don't like this kind of phraseology improve good reason but it's basically crazy it's a kind of cultural madness on on the loose and one of the great things about sociology as a feel is that it allows one to consider that today's in do tible scientific truth I'm firmed by the very best and highest authorities and consensus panels all over the world of mission statements of the world health organization and by your mother like all the top authority figures that all those things which are today and one day's truths that we hope to be self-evident then good that bad is tomorrow's unbelievable nonsense that you just can't understand how anybody could have built into that we see this over and over again in the history of science and history of Medicine in society in general and it's my belief I don't know when could be tomorrow it could be 50 years from now we will look that on the current orientation towards way in this culture and health as a form of social praising is similar to way that lots of people although unfortunately not our legal system look at things like reefer madness today or satanic ritual abuse in our preschools which I have to assure she was a really big deal 25 years ago so that's the UH that's the the thesis that's the situation I think and now I'd like to draw an analogy to another controversial topic which i think is usefully comparable in various ways a little different than others of course to the situation with fat panic in America today here I need to say a little something about terminology the word fat is almost like a verbal assault in this culture right I can't even say it's a without causing people to like I do that to Elysium researchers all the time private pray it's like what you have against back and it's like saying that is like saying that levels words you're just not supposed to say to people we're going I notice in the context of the Clinton whiskey they got it people fledged a lot less its semen stain dressed and then back I guess they'd seen same dress into my mother okay crazy about it but dad as another cab you have to be sour the but he's important to use the word because as Marilyn Juan all had to come to her talk a month from now but really want makes me look like Miss Manners and we are talking about this stuff and she's only a super powerful and important really sneaker as Marilyn Juan what has reminded us over and over again that is what fat people are it's a descriptor it's like it should be it isn't but it should be a neutral physical descriptor in this culture I was trying to come up with neutral physical descriptors but given our neuroses about bodies cartoon with a purely neutral this old script but something like I can't come up with even one but something she has freckles but as I am saying is i can teach tall because tall is very positive in the context of male frame I ensure that right you can't old obviously yeah but neither the idea the point is factually just a physical description saying all you know it's the kids are right ahead red red hair there that's with that kid single s just observe why is that absurd well it's absurd because it's an insult to call somebody fat why is it insult to call somebody fat because being fat is considered as these and a morally degrading status in this culture and therefore to call somebody fat to call in sick and to call them essentially vicious as most virtuous in some way you'll have a disease and you could cure yourself of this disease if you try hard enough and therefore a diesel to call you fat as Marilyn and many others have pointed out that's not the way off of me we ought to talk about as fat so what we should not talk about is obesity I hate it using that word title my boat and the end decided my shyness public decided that it was a necessary why should we be talking about a VC why shouldn't be not use the words obesity on boy because those words are begging the question those words are tainted semantic markers of a pathological state you can't in from some of you have to deal with nonsense questions all the time by how can you say it's over healthy to be overweight a lot of doctors to then it's just like that's like saying how do you say it's healthy to be sick I don't get that some nonsense stated to me well because the word all the way is because it's a fraudulent charge of junk science appeared simple so we shouldn't be calling people over Roy dovie's we should be calling them back because that's what fat people are I'm I'm not fat right now but in certain social context I would be if I was a 20 year old gay man Santa Monica if I was if I was a woman I'm quite sure in this particular i was saying earlier well language is important and that brings me to my my analogy which I've been creeping up to an analogy is s let us think about the parallels between the conceptualization of body weight as a pathological state so that right now sixty-eight percent of the american population between the ages of 20 and 59 according to the very late sistex which were published this week are dita overweight or obese according to these categories including verse truly with the concept of sexual orientation as being a potential disease state or a morally vicious tuna ting in other words let us think about the parallel between thinking of fatness as a pathological disease and or moral failing and the notion of same-sex sexual orientation as being a cat illogical condition a mental disorder or decision and a morally degraded state as as I'm sure many of you know until relatively in medical history and the American auto industry in particular that's exactly the way that same-sex sexual orientation was treated in till 1973 what was call of homosexuality was officially a mental disorder in the diagnostic mental disorders and it was only removed after terrific fight with only fifty-eight percent of members of the American Psychiatric Association at that time meaning that it ought to be moved and that's not that long oh the the parallel I'd when a Draugr than is essentially fat gay versus obese homosexual so this is not a her parallel by any means but the word a homosexual was at least for a long time where that was inherently semantically weighted with the notion of pathology the mental disorder disease state the word gay was an attempt by activists to take that the notion of same-sex sexual orientation from the doctors and the psychiatrist's in the same way that fat activists today are trying to take the word back back from the doctors and the psychiatrist's and most of all the weight loss companies and pharmaceutical industry just waiting to sell you their new diet coke right now to take that word back and as they know it's not in seeds it's not a pathology is a natural variation in human populations that you see everywhere and the notion that somehow everybody in this country would have a body mass between 18.5 and 24.9 officially sanctioned as normal by the public health authorities in the united states the notion that everyone would be within that weight range of everyone had a quote-unquote healthy lifestyle it's nonsense what that means by the way to put it in common terms for an average height woman is to wage 108 144 pounds that's what you're locked away in the United States right now I'm matter that bad or some not that social I'm bad according to the Centers for Disease Control National Institutes of Health and the International basic task force funded by our good friends at first vampire squid quite at the upper arm to the big pharmaceuticals that are funding the research that pathologize a situation with populations well um fat gay versus homosexual versus obese homosexual on the other side now today there's been no the course applies generation is an enormous shift in the in the notion that that that same-sex sexual orientation is a disease state or an Aurora morally depraved or degrading situation of course however that I just before bad and in fact in many culturally conservative context the United States is so far from dead that there is a that there is a practice of so-called conversion therapy that you can find among certain mental health practitioners and also late astral people to turn to turn homosexual individuals to use the terminology that they would use into people who have a heterosexual sexual orientation this is referred to more generally as conversion therapy particular versions of it are sometimes called repair to the one was I think influential within this subculture it's very divided now by the mainstream medical authorities who were saying exactly the same thing 15 minutes ago but now of course just angle is just drove complete nonsense and I think that is impossible one of the most comprehensive treatments of this is like Joseph Nicole Aziz repair therapy of make up the mail and sexual published years ago and he has a key concept and that's the concept of the non gay homosexual now given the language that I just used that statement can begin I think to make a certain amount of sense at the non avevo who is not enabled homosexual this is a man who according to nicole me experiences same-sex desire does not want to identify as gay gay is a quote contemporary socio-political identity and lifestyle on floor it is he says that that the 98 homosexual is a man who spears is a split between his value system and his sexual orientation he is fundamentally identified with a heterosexual pattern of life the non being homosexual feels his personal primers too deeply encumbered by his same-sex attractions clearly there are such people what I want to suggest is that the vast majority of quote/unquote overweight and obese individuals in America today at least among women because it's so strong the gender to be called non fat obese people in a way that's analogous to the notion of the of the non gay homosexual in other words these are people who are fat but who reject the notion that fatness is actually something that is inherent to their their identity it's a transitory State that they are going to change soon or hope to and just what they need of course is they need conversion therapy they need reparative therapy they need to be changed into someone who is different in this way from the person that they are right now but they want to make that change why do they want to make that change well it would be i think the crudest sort of reductionism to say that they are choosing to make that change or desiring to make that change because they've lived in a culture which basically condemns them 24 hours a day seven days a week in regard to this particular characteristic that they have and so and punishes them she's an economically and socially a natural natural reports of a tricky term but predictably they have a desire to change the here's a here's a few of the suggestions that Nicole is he makes in the regard to the interventions that we ought to undertake to turn the non gay homosexual person who on who does not practice homosexuality one participate in sports activities to avoid activities conservative interest of homosexuals such as our museums opera symphonies three avoid women unless it is for romantic contact not going to live in a minute maybe whatever increased time spent with heterosexual men or charge of mimic heterosexual male ways walking talking to interacting with other heterosexual men etc etc sounds funny huh think about what people are counseled to do in order to lose weight don't hang around with your fat friends it got bad habits don't in the stuff they do you'll end up fat like that you know avoid activities considered an interest to fat people such as what video games watching TV eating draw lots of other analogies on your own avoid dangerous food situations avoid hunger watching I put a lot of realities we do lately illogical genre by quatrain commercials in which a woman is actually battling hunger who is personified as this you know monstrous fuzzy little creature who's lurking around every corner waiting to assault her with this terrible version called being hungry which you should never experience if you are if you are sufficiently vigilant in terms of monitoring yourself should never be on me just as the non bailable sexual should learn not to feel sexual desire at least not inappropriate sexual desire what other analogies can we draw here think about arguments about whether same-sex sexual orientation is a chosen state versus an inherent state something that is a tremendous political controversy in the culture in this culture right now same argument all the time Palace people choose to be fat the notion that people choose to be gays in many social contexts including I think I can venture to say this one is extremely questionable at that but the notion that people choose to be bad as it is meant with much much more there's perceptiveness why how much evidence is there that people actually choose to be bad as in sets of positional stay for than a meaningful kind of way I suggest that the evidence is no better than the evidence that that same-sex sexual orientation is chosen it's not as if no one ever chooses same-sex sexual orientation in any sense it's not as it no one ever chooses being that in some sense it's just that the extent which they do is tremendously exaggerated it in certain cultural context the cultural context of the exaggeration of the coalition of the volitional character of sexual orientation has to be a context of cultural conservatism especially one with a heavily religious element the cultural situation in which there's a tremendous exaggeration of which the extent that higher body ways that chosen state is the completely mainstream culture of America today I'm so people choose to be bad and that's taken it is a sort of platitude that's true I even with otherwise in other situations be very receptive to structural accounts of how know if you are choosing it's ridiculous but somehow we're all choosing to be fat treatment versus acceptance the notion that we need to treat people with same-sex sexual orientation has become extremely controversial in fact delighted and then many social context the notion that we should just be fat people alone is considered radical why is that why is it that something that seems to be given thus the the American situation run to the 19 controversial which is you know being fat is for the most part not really actually bad for your health in any case even if it was mechanical anything about it so why you just stop hassling why is that why is that proposition so controversial why is it just unacceptable consider how ineffective the treatments are the itch the ineffectiveness of conversion therapy for same-sex sexual orientation is well established it doesn't work the ineffectiveness of dieting and other weight loss interventions or weight loss lon significant long-term wats purposes it's also equally established it doesn't work the parallel there is quite strong for anymore the only way it does work in each case you hear the peril I think is really interesting is you just water down the definition of success to a point where you can actually claim something so for instance in the context of conversion therapy you know it's not as if the person stops feeling sexual desire for people with the same gender it's not as if the person stops engaging in sexual practices with persons of the same gender it's if the person is capable at minimal level of actually engaging in some kind of heterosexual sexual contact that's secure and the analogy here with the diet industry and the public health industry and the weight loss industry in obesity mafia is if you lose five percent of your body weight that secure you still may be technically Elise but just a little bit of weight loss is going to be done efficiently supposedly and so if it was a little bit away you're succeeding if you have sex with a opposite gender person like once in a while at least we've Churchill as the frustration over the failure to fear grows the treatments become more radical here's some of the treatments that have been used to cure people cure people of same-sex sexual orientation one of the earliest interventions it was not Britney Spears looked at is one of the earliest interventions was he Stein a colleague of Freud's before I greatly admired who transplanted testicles of straight men and two gay men guess what it didn't work Edmund burglar who was the leading proponent of conversion therapy in the 1950s the United States at a time when conversion therapy by the way was absolutely accepted as the appropriate treatment for the disease of homosexuality as I can community he used confrontational therapy in which game you will be punished or to make them aware of their masochism supposedly he openly violated professional ethics to achieve this for education confidentiality to discuss the cases of racial to other patients who bullied them he call them wires from the word worthless insisted that a people pretty sure and if we believe they should be accepted they were asking for punishment which confirm their ethological immaturity he initially blamed those who mistreated gay people because they provided her rationale for domestic their masters from the nineteen fifties from an emergency rescue mission of depression he has had many fights with alfred kinsey it is kinsey presented homosexuality is a sin around a finger while the analogy is here are striking let me read you just wanna doesn't just about time to react I'm here to here's glasses that last week in a medical journal how to treat the the detrimental health effects of obesity stigma which by the way are pretty well established the colony book bad is shaming them feeling they can feel terrible about their bodies it's really quite bad people's health Oh obesity has become a pandemic affecting adults and children around the world considerable medical scientific and lifestyle related knowledge and resources are being challenged in the identification of strategies to combat this major public health problem despite these multiple now just okay just not just consider the term that takes place at this point into discourse despite these multidisciplinary efforts however little attention has been paying to the damaging social and psychological consequences of obesity many people with with overweight and obesity frequently faced immunization prejudice and discrimination because of their body size and shape with disturbing and potentially harmful implications for their emotional and physical health and well de think about the cognitive dissonance that has to be going on in your brain to be able to string those sentences together you have a horrible disease that is going to call this huge health crisis in this causing it right now Devon saw that it was actually happening but um don't know people make you feel bad violence in some way that's very very bad that should be happening why are we stigmatize in you just because you're horribly diseased with a disease that you could cure if you had a little bit more self-control I don't get it that's a sign of us cultural discourse that is just sort of spiral out of control in terms of under contradictions I have many many other things to say

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