The non-fat privilege checklist

Speaking of size discrimination, Fatshadow has an excellent, post about size discrimination – listing the unstated (and often unnoticed) advantages that average-sized folks get for being average-sized.

This is a format that’s been used a lot. It began with the essay “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh, which used (among other things) a list format to try and make White privilege “visible.” Inspired by McIntosh, people have written similar lists about striaght privilege, about non-trans privilege, and about male privilege. (That last one was compiled by yours truly several years ago, and has since been used in many college classrooms.) Update: And here’s yet another one, focusing on able-bodied privileges.

I haven’t seen one about size privilege before, though – and it’s long overdue. So thanks, Tish. Here’s a sampling…

Everyday as an average sized person …

I can be sure that people aren’t embarrassed to be seen with me because of the size of my body.

If I pick up a magazine or watch T.V. I will see bodies that look like mine that aren’t being lampooned, desexualized, or used to signify laziness, ignorance, or lack of self-control.

I do not have to be afraid that when I talk to my friends or family they will mention the size of my body in a critical manner, or suggest unsolicited diet products and exercise programs.

I will not be accused of being emotionally troubled or in psychological denial because of the size of my body.

I can be sure that when I go to a class, or movie, or restaurant that I will find a place to sit in which I am relatively comfortable.

I will never have to sit quietly and listen while other people talk about the ways in which they avoid being my size.

That’s just a few of the items Tish listed – be sure to read the whole thing.

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95 Responses to The non-fat privilege checklist

  1. 1
    Avram says:

    This looks pretty contrived to me.

    For example, lots of people who I consider average-sized are nonetheless embarrassed about their bodies. It’s particularly common with women.

    And even though I’m obese, I can still usually find comfortable places to sit. One exception is in live theatres, where I’m uncomfortable not because of my weight, but because of the length of my legs and the distance between the rows of seats. Maybe that’s an example of short-person privilege.

    Looking over the male privilege list, I see a few that aren’t true as well. There are places in the US where a man’s masculinity is questioned if he doesn’t have children, or can’t support those he does have. And the one about value-neutral clothing is just wrong — there is no such thing.

    Someone could probably write a female privilege checklist. Would it mean anything?

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    Avram, when I was a college student I regularly had trouble finding seats I could fit into without extraordinary discomfort – my college was very big on those chairs with the attached desks, which I simply didn’t fit into. I could sit at the desk reserved for disabled students, of course – unless there was already a disabled student in the room, in which case they rightly had dibs.

    Is it a big deal? No. Is it a problem that average-sized, ablebodied students ever had to give a moment’s thought to? No.

    It’s also not all that uncommon for me to have to say “no, not there” when choosing a diner table at a restaurant with friends – many boothes have tables at a fixed distance from the seats that’s too tight for me to comfortably sit at.

    My point is, just because it hasn’t been a real problem for you doesn’t establish that it’s not a real problem for anybody.

    (I’ll probably make the male-privilege list its own post sometime soon, so we can discuss that when the time comes.)

  3. 3
    Zack says:

    I am not denying that there is discrimination against fat people. But comparing it to gender inequality, or race or sexual orientation based idscrimination is disingenuous (sp?) in my opinion.

    Going in this direction, should we rally against discrimination against smokers? (This is obviously a very imperfect analogy, but still.)

    Again there are problems in society regarding the portrayal of obesity and there is definitely some employment discrimination as well. Most of that is wrong I think. But at the same time obesity is a problem and needs to be fought as a medical and life quality issue, rather than considered as another lifestyle to be celebrated.

  4. 4
    bean says:

    Let me guess, Zack — because you think that, unlike race and gender, being fat is essentially a “choice,” something that can be “controlled.”


  5. 5
    bean says:

    Someone could probably write a female privilege checklist. Would it mean anything?

    You could try it. I’ll just bring up one my 1,586,984 posts in which I’ve shot down every single one of the “privileges” listed in an attempt by anti-feminists, sexists, and/or misogynists to prove how women have it better and/or men really aren’t privileged. It’s been done, it’s boring, but it as hell is easy enough to show how every single one is either not really a “privilege” or is a lie. You can try to come up with some new ones — but I’d be willing to bet you can’t come up with one I haven’t seen before.

  6. 6
    AA says:

    Bean –
    Will you tell us some of the posts you refer to, in which you’ve shot down antifeminist notions of “female privilege” – and even what those false claims of privilege have been? I am interested. Are you talking about things like, “As a woman, all you have to do is smile and arch your chest a little and you’ll get whatever you want, lucky you” — that sort of obviously blind sexist claim? The concept of people trying to argue that men really aren’t privileged is so foreign to a feminist like me — mainly because I avoid reading anti-feminist stuff as much as possible (since daily life provides me enough material as it is…)

  7. 7
    bean says:

    AA — the posts I am referring to are on various feminist message boards, all occurring over the course of several years, so I can’t really provide links. I’ve saved a few on my hard drive, though. I can get a hold of them at a later time, if you’d like (unfortunatley, it might take a while due to things like moving).

    But, yes, what you describe is one of the more common “privileges” trumped up on these sorts of lists. That and out and out lies & falsehoods about things like custody of children and such.

  8. 8
    Mary Garden says:

    One interesting thing I’ve noticed about lists of female “privileges” put together by men is that they mostly apply only to the kind of woman the man making the list wants to have sex with (the smile and get whatever you want comment is a perfect example) – in which case the power to grant the privilege is entirely in the man’s hands and the “privileges,” such as they are, do not belong to the majority of women.


  9. 9
    Mary Garden says:

    Also, in response to what Zack said, I don’t think most fat people would demand you or anyone “celebrate” fatness – basic good manners would be a start. And if discrimination against fat people is something that should be allowed to go in favor of more important problems, then frankly, we should all drop our efforts against discrimination of any kind and throw our energies into saving the planet (since without a place to live, all other grievances are moot).

    Also, smoking isn’t really a direct analogy, since someone smoking in my office would have a direct impact on me, whereas the possible impacts of smoking on the smoker’s body don’t inconvenience me and are really none of my business.


  10. 10
    PDM says:

    I’ll agree on this—-male privilege (especially for the most despised classes of men in Western “civilization”) ain’t as much of a consolation prize these days as it might have been decades ago when you’re being victimized by oppression based on race, class, age or willingness (or ability) to conform.

  11. 11
    Zack says:

    bean: I expected a better response. After all, I did say that employment discrimination against fat persons is wrong.

    But there are lots of different issues about obesity. One is that obesity shouldn’t be as common as it is in the US. It is in general bad for one’s health. A number of obese persons can reduce their weight to normal range if they want. There are others who can’t. Those who can are responsible for their choices. That doesn’t mean I should be rude to them or fire them from their job etc.

    Take the chair example discussed before. Bigger chairs or seats in restaurants, schools, movie theatres might be needed for bigger people. And I agree that sometimes they are too small, but they have to be of some size and some random person might still not fit in that chair. I don’t think that would be discrimination.

    Mary: I actually agree with you.

  12. 12
    Zack says:

    Ok rereading my comments, I can’t figure out what I was trying to say. So I am retracting them.

    Regarding obesity, I think discrimination against obese persons is definitely wrong. But I also believe that obesity is a health problem that needs to be tackled.

  13. 13
    Tish says:

    I actually do celebrate my fat body. But I agree that most fat people don’t. Any inference about my life style, or my health, based on the size of my ass would probably be off. What I am celebrating is the expression of physical diversity that my body is an expression of. I did not choose to be fat. I do not make an effort to remain fat, nor do I make an effort to lose weight. I do make efforts to care for my body. And my celebration is a part of that care. If I were an average sized person it might not occur to me to celebrate something as elemental as the size of my ass. But I live in a culture hell bent on teaching fear of and hatred for my body type. So. Being the ornery type that I am. I celebrate.

    Thanks for the link, Amp. And thanks for being the radical big heart that you are.

  14. 14
    bean says:

    It is in general bad for one’s health

    And for the millionth time — NO, IT’S NOT!!!!!. There is not one single conclusive study in the world that shows this.

    There are studies that show certain lifestyle choices (such as bad eating habits and/or sedentary lifestyle) are bad for one’s health. It’s also true that those lifestyle choices can be directly related. But the operative word there is can. Because it is not a universal (all people with bad eating habits and/or sendentary lifestyles — or even the vast majority — are obese OR all people (or the vast majority) who have good eating and excercise habits are not obeses), the only thing a person can say is that certain lifestyle choices are bad for one’s health. But you can’t say that obesity is bad for one’s health.

    Smoking is bad for one’s health because it is directly related to cancer and other health problems. The same cannot be said about obesity.

    Many, many other studies have shown that obesity is a symptom, not a cause, of health problems. A woman with PCOS (Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome — and amazingly too common condition), for example, is known to have rapid weight gain and continued obesity as a SYMPTOM of the syndrome. Obesity is not the cause, it is a symptom. Similarly, if a woman with PCOS continues to maintain a good diet and good excercise routine, and deals with the PCOS as the doctor instructs, she will remain healthy. That obesity won’t change that.

    I’m getting very, very tired of the “obesity is bad for your health” rhetoric. It’s beyond boring — and only shows that people who continue to use that rhetoric are either NOT LISTENING TO or simply DISMISSING anything that goes against the status quo.

    Go on and on and on and on about people’s unhealthy diets and lack of excercise and how that’s bad for your health. Rant about that until the cows come home. I don’t care. But for god’s sake, fucking realize that it is an unhealthy diet and lack of excercise that is the cause of health problems, not the obesity. Fucking realize that thin people with the same lifestyle are at just as much a risk as fat people. Fucking realize that fat people who do, in fact, have a healthy lifestyle are not a threat to the health industry.

  15. 15
    Jake says:

    Go bean!

  16. 16
    Tish says:

    bean. you rock.

  17. 17
    Mary Garden says:

    woohoo! I third that. Go bean!


  18. 18
    Lorenzo says:

    A fourth of that from me!

    As an obese person, I can tell you straight away that weight and “health” have quite poor correlation. When the average 21 year old does 30+ minutes of strenuous cardio 2-3 times a week plus weights 2-3 times a week, and can squat 315lbs for 3 sets of 12 without collapsing, or do a 1.5 hour boxing work out that used to see most “healthy” (read: thin) people have to sit down and take a break while I kept going, I don’t want to hear another word about this bullshit about being obese being unhealthy.

  19. 19
    Chen Shapira says:

    Are they seriously suggesting that bodies displayed in magazines and TV are average sized?
    They look pretty undersized to me.
    Unless size 4 suddenly became the average.

  20. 20
    april says:

    hurrah for bean! that was an excellent comment that needed to be made.

    but there is truth in what several people have mentioned in response to the list – average-sized people, women especially, generally don’t feel like they’re represented or validated by most of the media any more than fat folk do – however, there are average-sized people in the political and literary arenas, for instance, yet very few fat people in those same areas.

  21. 21
    Kim says:


    Barry, I have tried to reach you a few times by email–I know you’ve been moving.

    Curious as to how the blogathon contribution rewards are coming.


  22. 22
    Avram says:

    Bean, you’re missing my point. I don’t doubt that, on the whole, men in our society are privileged over women. Amp’s series on the wage gap was a great example of how to show this fact. But there’s a difference between saying “on average, men earn more than women for equivalent work” and “as a man, you can be sure you’ll earn more than you would if you were a women doing the same work,” because you can’t be sure of it. The list-of-privileges format often attempts to take general experiences and scale them down to the particular, and that just doesn’t always work.

    Take the example I used above. The average-sized person is supposed to be able to rely on getting comfortable seating, yet I know of lots of places where even average-sized people can’t always sit comfortably, like small theatres.

  23. 23
    bean says:

    Thanks everyone!

    Avram, it’s pretty shitty debating tactics to make up facts to support your argument. Seeing as how Amp’s male privilege list never says anything along the lines of what you suggested. He used a lot of “chances are” and “odds are.” The only time he said anything about being “sure” of things were things that you, as a man, could be sure of (i.e. if you make a mistake, you can be sure it won’t become a black mark against your entire race; your reasoning ability will never be questioned because it is a particular time of the month).

  24. 24
    Avram says:

    Yes, Bean, but the average-size list he’s quoting from does use that phrasing: “I can be sure that … I will find a place to sit in which I am relatively comfortable.” (And actually, some of the other item’s in Amp’s list are stated definitively: “If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex”, not “chances are it’s not because of my sex”. “I am not taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces”, not “I probably haven’t been taught…”. “If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question”, not “will probably not be called into question”.)

    That’s why the list-of-privileges format is flawed. If you state the privileges definitively, you’re distorting the truth, because you’re claiming that some people have privileges who really don’t. If you state them more realistically, you deprive the statements of their rhetorical power.

  25. 25
    bean says:

    As I said: The only time he said anything about being “sure” of things were things that you, as a man, could be sure of.

  26. 26
    Avram says:

    Wow, Bean, you’ve certainly kicked my ass all over the map on the burning issue of whether Amp used the word “sure”. If that had been the issue under contention, you’d be the undisputed winner of the argument. Congratulations.

    Care to address the point I’m actually making?

  27. 27
    Hestia says:

    Far as I’m concerned, you could substitute all the definitive statements in any of these checklists with more general ones without changing the message, or its rhetorical power, in the slightest.

  28. 28
    Ampersand says:

    Avram, I’m not sure that it matters if the lists are pin-point accurate or not. If I want to make a pin-point accurate statement about the wage gap, I’ll write ten thousand lines on the subject.

    If, on the other hand, I’m writing a general piece about male privilege, I guess I’m supposing that readers whose minds are at all open to my point will, by and large, cut me a little slack.

    I don’t think that my piece (especially read in the context of the introduction) “distorts the truth.” I do think it calls on the reader to be able to make a distinction between how much accuracy the two formats call for.

    And by the way, the sentence “I can be sure that when I go to a class, or movie, or restaurant that I will find a place to sit in which I am relatively comfortable” is accurate. An average-sized person can be pretty sure of that; that doesn’t mean that it NEVER happens that the seating is too small or uncomfortable, just that it’s a bit surprising when it happens – when the surity is proven to be mistaken.

    I, on the other hand, am never surprised when I get to a classroom and there is not a single seat I can fit into. Distressed, a little, but not surprised.

    Yes, this could happen to anyone, of any size. But the reality is, it is surprising when it happens to average-sized people, who are usually sure of finding seats that fit; that is not something that fat people can be equally sure of.

    Is that hair-splitting? Yes, but you’re the one who seems to be arguing that all statements must be correct down to the split hair, not me. And – whether you look at it for the split hair or (in my opinion, the better way to read it) for its larger, general truths, the statement is correct.

  29. 29
    John Snead says:

    I must admit that I’m a bit puzzled. Several people here talk about obesity as if it’s some sort of (so far) unchangeable condition like the color or one’s hair or eyes. However, the US population is becoming increasingly obese. The national rate and degree of obesity is significantly variable over time, so clearly it’s clearly something that can be changed. For some people it is obviously not choice, but for most it very much seems to be.

  30. 30
    Ampersand says:

    John, it’s pretty easy to prove the illogic of your statement by changing the subject:

    “I must admit that I’m a bit puzzled. Several people here talk about tallness as if it’s some sort of (so far) unchangeable condition like the color or one’s hair or eyes. However, the US population is becoming increasingly tall. The national average height is significantly variable over time, so clearly it’s clearly something that can be changed. For some people it is obviously not choice, but for most it very much seems to be.”

    The average American is getting fatter (and taller – I didn’t just make that up!). But that the total population is getting taller does not in any way prove that individual can choose not to be tall, if they want to.

    Certainly, certain fat people – people like, well, me – could choose to be less fat, by choosing to eat a lower-fat diet and to exercise more. But (assuming I didn’t actually starve myself), no diet or exercise program will ever make me not fat. Even if I lost 20% of my body mass permenantly – and, compared to most diet outcomes, that would be doing incredibly well – I’d just be a somewhat less fat, but still fat, person.

    So I have the choice to be less fat (perhaps). But I don’t think it can be reasonably argued that I have the choice not to be fat at all; not given the overwhelming scientific evidence that weight-loss dieting does not work for the vast majority of fat people over the long term.

    * * *

    Also, it seems to me – perhaps incorrectly? – that you are arguing that discrimination against fat people should be less of a concern, because (in your opinion) fat people can choose not to be fat.

    However, it would be MUCH easier for you to choose not to be wiccan than it would be for me to choose not to be fat. Would you argue, then, that discrimination against wiccans is acceptable? Of course not.

    The conclusion, I’d argue, is that whether or not something is “chosen” does not necessarily mean that discrimination based on that choice is acceptable.

  31. 31
    bean says:

    In addition to the brilliant rebuttals Amp just made, I’d also like to point out that even if one were to assume that obesity was a total choice — WHO CARES?!?!?!?!?! Seriously, why should it matter to people? Why should it be something that is discriminated against? We’ve already established that obesity, in and of itself, is not a health problem. It’s either a)bad diet/bad excercise habits or b)a symptom of another health concern. So, seriously, stop with the judgements of obesity.

  32. 32
    John Snead says:

    Barry, the rate of height increase is significantly slowing while the rate of weight increase is continuing to go up (or is holding steady, I don’t remember the last set of figures I’ve seen).

    Also, it seems to me – perhaps incorrectly? – that you are arguing that discrimination against fat people should be less of a concern, because (in your opinion) fat people can choose not to be fat.

    Actually not, while I firmly believe that it is in large part a choice, so is religion and in both cases, I consider discrimination based on such criteria to be wrong, except possily in cases where the obese person cannot physically perform the actions, which is essentially similar to not hiring an Orthodox Jew for a job that by ncessity included working on Saturday.

    I also strongly doubt the studies you quote about the lack of health consequences of being overweight. Certain, they are likely less than many doctors believe. However, there are definitely some – for example Bean wrote:

    Many, many other studies have shown that obesity is a symptom, not a cause, of health problems. A woman with PCOS (Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome — and amazingly too common condition), for example, is known to have rapid weight gain and continued obesity as a SYMPTOM of the syndrome. Obesity is not the cause, it is a symptom.

    And yet accoridng to every article and doctor a friend of mine has consulted, the single most effective treatment for PCOS is losing weight and in addition to being a symptom, weight gain also makes the symptoms of PCOS worse.

    So, while I believe discrimination against the obese is wrong, I also think that people should recognize that it is in large part a choice and that it is a choice with negative health consequences. OTOH, so is being a Christian Scientist.

    I only believe that discrimination against personl choice is acceptable when it infringes on the rights and health of others. For example, I strongly support all manner of anti-smoking laws because smoking is a choice that actively harms, endangers, and deeply annoys others who do not smoke.

  33. 33
    bean says:

    And yet accoridng to every article and doctor a friend of mine has consulted, the single most effective treatment for PCOS is losing weight and in addition to being a symptom, weight gain also makes the symptoms of PCOS worse.

    To an extent, this is true — however, a person who has had rapid weight gain due to PCOS who then loses weight will, more often than not, still be considered “obese” (by the medical establisment). So, looking at a person — even if you knew they had PCOS (which you can’t know unless the person told you), you don’t know if their current weight is at the “before weight loss” stage or “after weight loss” stage. So, really, making any judgement about the person’s weight is just plain wrong.

    And, frankly, I think discrimination against anyone for any reason is disgustingly wrong. Assuming that an Orthodox Jew shouldn’t be hired because it would mean working on Sat. is wrong. If the person is qualified for the job, they should be given the choice. If they decide that they are unable to work on Saturdays, fine, take the job offer off the table. But taking their name out of the running based on assumptions is wrong. Similarly, discriminating against smokers is wrong (I’m not even going to go into the addiction issues here — it’s just wrong to discriminate). I’m not talking about making a restaurant or other public space non-smoking, that’s fine. I don’t have a problem with it — us smokers can simply make a choice of whether to go to that restaurant or not. But discrimination against that person because s/he smokes is no better than discriminating against someone for being gay — which can be argued is, on some level, a choice.

  34. 34
    Tish says:

    There’s a great book to read if you really want to understand how the ideas about health and weight have been skewed toward the negative. Big Fat Lies by Glenn Gaesser PH.D. We are taller. Our feet are bigger. And we live longer. One of the things that happens to many people, as they get older, is they gain a bit of weight. That doesn’t mean they get fat. But it does mean that when the media talks about how much fatter we are in general, critical thinkers have to look at how they arrive at those conclusions and who pays for the studies from which those conclusions are drawn. And, as always, we might want to remember that there are multibillion-dollar industries that depend on people believing that thinner is better.

    I probably wouldn’t argue that, as a population, we are fatter. I will take issue with the idea that being fatter is inherently unhealthy. But, at a certain point, the conversation becomes a – you believe your stats and I’ll believe mine – stalemate.

    But if you want to talk about dubious ideas of health, let’s talk about negative impact that this valorization of thinness has on the population. We can talk about the rise in eating disorders. We can talk about doctors who tell fat people that their only health problem is weight and don’t do tests to find more serious health concerns. We can talk about how much more health insurance is for fat people and how often they avoid doctors because they don’t want to be treated with disregard.

    With all this negativity it must be hard to imagine that someone would CHOOSE to be fat.

  35. 35
    John Snead says:

    Similarly, discriminating against smokers is wrong (I’m not even going to go into the addiction issues here — it’s just wrong to discriminate). I’m not talking about making a restaurant or other public space non-smoking, that’s fine. I don’t have a problem with it — us smokers can simply make a choice of whether to go to that restaurant or not.

    What then would you consider discrimination against smoking. I support high cigarette taxes because there is no question that smokers require more health services, some of which are paid for by the government (and more definitely should be). Similarly, anti-smoking laws in workplaces are only sensible unless everyone has their own office with its own separate ventilation system. Would you consider either of these to be discrimination? The crucial difference is that smoking harms others and risks their safety. I don’t think smoking shoud be illegal because I don’t believe any drugs should be illegal, but they should most certainly be limited to protect the health and safety of others.

  36. 36
    bean says:

    I don’t agree with higher taxes for cigarettes (or alcohol) because while it’s all fine and dandy in theory, in reality, it ends up hurting poor people significantly more than middle or upper class people — and fuck yeah, I have a problem with that. I’m not opposed to it as “discrimination against smokers” as much as a different sort of discrimination. Not to mention — the taxes don’t do much. They sure as hell don’t reduce smoking rates. It’s not like these tactics haven’t been tried (and failed miserably) before, I just don’t understand why people keep imposing them after seeing the history. When Canada did this, the only thing that dramatically changed was the increase in smuggling and smuggling-related arrests. And it didn’t even help with the health care (of course, that’s partly due to the fact that most cigs were bought from smugglers).

    Besides, which, do you also support imposing a tax on McDonald’s? I mean, eating junk food is obviously unhealthy, and therefore a strain on the healthcare system. And, of course, again, would affect poor people significantly more than upper and middle class people.

    Anyway, no, I don’t consider banning smoking from public to be discrimination against smokers — uh, yeah, I do believe I’ve already stated that pretty clearly, but there it is again.

    What would be discrimination is not hiring a smoker because you think they won’t be able to work hard enough without taking smoke breaks. Or, not allowing smokers to go outside and take a smoke break (assuming that non-smokers also get a break to do whatever they want). Or not renting an apartment to a smoker because you assume they will smoke inside the apartment and cause it to smell (instead of simply saying, “no smoking inside.”)

    As a smoker who is not all that physically addicted to cigarettes (I can go weeks without a cigarette with no physical side effects, despite the fact that I have been smoking for 18 years — I am mentally addicted, but not physically addicted), it’s pretty easy for me to say many of these things. After all, I have my triggers (in which I must smoke or become a total bitch with a cigarette craving — such as drinking alcohol), but so long as I avoid my triggers, I can tolerate a non-smoking environment rather easily. It’s not so easy for my partner who is physically addicted, and will actually start to shake and get headaches if he hasn’t had a cigarette in a while — and frankly, I think refusing to allow him to smoke, even if it means going outside — is simply cruel.

    So, really, my comments regarding smoking bans should be taken with a grain of salt — just as comments about taxes that affect poor people significantly more than middle to upper class people should be taken with a grain of salt when uttered by someone who doesn’t have to worry about a)the taxes or b)money, in general.

  37. 37
    bean says:

    One more thing about the cigarette taxes — what about people, like my grandmother, who smoke nearly their entire life (say 68 years out of their 83-year-long (so far) life) and has never had one single health-related issue related to smoking? Not to mention the fact that the woman is more than well-off and doesn’t rely on the government to pay for her health care.

    What about those who have hereditary diseases. I mean, should we be making Amy pay more in taxes now — esp. for the not-so-healthy-stuff, because in a few decades she’ll be relying significantly on the health-care industry – and the government – for help with her kidney problems? Sure, it’s not her fault she has it — but now she knows, I mean, shouldn’t she just go kill herself so as not to be a drain on the health-care industry?

  38. (stamps foot)

    I wouldn’t have to kill myself if you’d just cut one of a sleeping fellow commutarian and give it to me, bean. :p

    Or I could hop on a plane to India and give some desperate subsistence farmer with a wife and six kids a grand for one of his. That seems to be all the rage these days in FreeMarketland. Grrr…

  39. 39
    Avram says:

    Amp, I’m not splitting hairs, I’m just pointing out that when I see those lists, quite often if it’s a category I’m a member of (like males, or white people), I see plenty of items on the list that don’t apply to me, and if it’s a list I’m not a member of (like average-sized people) I see items that do. It’s the former that annoy me more than the latter.

    And the lists seem to me like a really poor rhetorical tactic. I mean, if I’m a white guy who thinks he’s been discriminated against and passed over for promotion, and you point out that it happens to black people all the time, you might engage my sympathy, I might think Hey, I’ve been in that circumstance, and it really sucks. But if you try to convince me that I’ve benefiting from a privilege because I’m less likely to be passed over, when I think I have been passed over, I’m more likely to just get angry and not listen to what you’re saying.

    Most people get angry and upset when they hear about someone being unfairly victimized. They get defensive when you try to tell them that they should feel bad about how good they’ve got it.

  40. Avram, has it occurred to you that an ultimate privilege is being able to remain oblivious to how privileged you are ? That just because there are points on the list which you think do not apply to you, they nonetheless do apply to you in the eyes of others ?

    Just wondering.

    Also, the point of such lists is not to feel guilty. I think guilt is an understandable reaction to them, but the ultimate point should be to transform guilt into some kind of action. Therefore, I think you do the lists a disservice by implying that their primary purpose is to make people “feel bad about how good they’ve got it.”

  41. 41
    Avram says:

    Amy, I’ve no idea whether that’s their primary purpose or not, but I suspect that for many people, that’s their primary effect, intended or not.

    And I’m pretty sure that the ultimate privilege is being aware of one’s privileges, and using them to gain more privileges.

  42. 42
    John Snead says:

    One more thing about the cigarette taxes — what about people, like my grandmother, who smoke nearly their entire life (say 68 years out of their 83-year-long (so far) life) and has never had one single health- related issue related to smoking? Not to mention the fact that the woman is more than well-off and doesn’t rely on the government to pay for her health care.

    Frankly, that’s irrelevant. There is no question (unless one wishes to believe the lies of the tobacco companies) that smoking seriously raises one risk of many diseases.

    Except for the monetary angle, I don’t care how people abuse their own bodies, which is why taxes that fund public health seems reasonable. What most matters to me is that cigarettes start fires and second-hand smoke can give non-smokers cancer and other smoking-related illnesses. My sympathy for someone is wishes to do something that only affects their own body is vast, my sympathy for people who want to pollute my air and put me or some other non-smoker I care about at risk for illnesses is non-existent. I’m fine with people smoking in their own houses and cars. However, I’d likely vote for some of the ordinances passed in varous counties in CA that prohibited smoking outdoors.

  43. 43
    Avram says:

    Do tobacco taxes actually fund public health?

    I remember that when New York implemented its lottery, it claimed that the profits would go to boost the state’s education budget. What actually happened is that for every dollar of lottery-generated money that went into education, the state figured it could reduce the education budget by a dollar, so the net result is that the education budget gained nothing.

    Anyone know where ciggie tax money is actually going?

    Also, anyone know what percentage of cigarette sales are illegally smuggled smokes from other states that don’t have the high taxes? The higher the taxes go, the more people have an incentive to break the law.

  44. 45
    John Snead says:

    Do tobacco taxes actually fund public health?

    In Oregon they do, the tax was specifically designed to do exactly that and I was extremely pleased that it passed since the Oregon Health Plan is chronically underfunded.

  45. 46
    Tish says:

    There is some intersting thinking about cigarettes and fast food in this article.

  46. 47
    Nick says:

    Interesting article on discrimination

    Discrimination against the overweight and obese even extends to their partners or friends, researchers have found.
    People shown a picture of the same man with a thin or an obese woman rated him more negatively if he was with the fatter woman.


  47. 48
    lucia says:

    I need to comment on two things:

    1) The claim that there is not a single study indicating that being overweight is bad for your health.

    2) The idea that, to avoid discrimination, chairs in commercial businesses places need to be larger.

    Those who believe there is not one single article connecting overweight to ill health or death, please check this article out you public library:

    “Body-Mass Index and Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of U.S. Adults.” 1999, Calle, E.E., Thun, M.J., Petrelly, J.M., Rodriguez, C., Heath, C.W., New England Journal of Medicine. Vol. 341. No. 15. pp 1097-1105.

    In any given year, a fat person is more likely to die than a thin person. It reports a 14 year study involving over 1 million participants. You can get the paper on interlibrary loan.

    There are other articles in existence. Many are written in fairly plain English.

    Ok… I’m willing to concede that lack of fitness is the greater or “real” issue. But, to concede this, and reading the various population statistics, I would have to believe that fat people are less likely to be fit than thin people….

    On the second point, businesses tend to stock chairs that fit their customers. If their chairs don’t fit customers, customers leave. In many cases, businesses budget enough money to buy chairs to span the standard range of people. This is not discrimination.

    The fact is, chairs are often too large! My 4’10” mother-in-law can’t sit in them comfortbably. If she sits in a booth she can’t reach the table. Clearly, she should start a blog discssing the problem…

    Instead, she shops around until she finds restaurants that accomodate her. She shops for cars that fit her. She had custom cabinets installed in her kitchen so she can use the counters and reach the cabinets. At 83 years old, she generally gets on with her life. Yes, being short and having things custom made can be expensive. It’s not discrimination.

    If you are not average or standard size, things probably wont’ fit. If you think businesses are giving loads of people the short shrift, look at it as a business opportunity. Start your own business.

    BTW, I have a hard time finding clothes I like. I learned to sew….

  48. 49
    bean says:

    Lucia, I have another article for you, you’ll love it, it uses the same logic you use — it’s all about how ice cream causes drownings (it must! after all, the numbers can’t be refuted — the number of drownings is directly proportional to the amount of ice cream sold).

  49. 50
    lucia says:

    Bean… why don’t you cite the article? Then I can go to the library, find the study and read it. So can others.

    Since you don’t cite the study, but just allude to it, maybe you could provide details so we can see if the association uses the same logic. Or different logic…. Otherwise, I’m just not goign to speculate what logic they use.

    Did they track over 1,000,000 adult americans over 14 year period, have the people log their daily ice cream consumption, contact them every year, find out who died? Did they then, do the math to find the death rates, and find that those who ate more ice cream drowned at a greater rate than those who ate less ice cream? Did they correct for age?( To make sure that one group wasn’t dominated by 6 year olds and the other 80 year olds?) Etc.?

    Did the researchers doing the ice cream study discuss other known factors and control for them?

    Example, in the BMI — mortality study, they excluded people who already had pre-existing conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, smoked, had lost more than 10 lb weight the previous year, etc. Basically, they made sure the people didn’t have any evidence of ill health. Did the ice-cream study control for how often people were around water? Did they controll for boat ownership? Drinking? Etc. etc. and try to make sure they got groups who did both about the same amount of time?

    Anyway. cite the study. We can all get both articles from the library, read them and compare the logic!

  50. 51
    Ampersand says:

    Lucia, did your article control for dieting (fat people diet more than thin people) and for exercise?

  51. 52
    lucia says:

    I didn’t do the study.. just read it. (Just to clarify… )

    To answer the easy part of your question: The study did not control for exercise. These were just over 1,000,0000 Americans picked in some more-or-less random fashion. (The paper doesn’t mention exactly how.)

    Now to answer the difficult part, the study controlled for dieting indirectly, as follows:

    The study reports results for several groups. One groups was the “no known risk factor at the beginning of study” group; the other was the “known risk factor at the beginning of study” group. (BTW… fatness was associated with increased mortality in both groups.)

    People were excluded from the “no risk factor” group if their weight had dropped more than 10 lbs at any time during the year before they entered the study. If I understand correctly, the subjects were kicked into the “risk factor” group even if their weight dipped 10 lbs but then recovered. One of the purposes of this question was to put yo-yo dieters into the “risk” group.

    The researchers really seemed to want to put all people who were conceivably at risk into the “risk” group.

    The subjects were not specifically asked if they dieted. So, the weight loss could have been becasue of undiagnosed cancer, diet, exercise, undiagnosed diabetes.. whatever.

    As far as I can tell from reading the study, they did not move people from one group to the other once they entered the study. So, suppose a person did not have diabetes (or other “risk” factor), at the beginning of the study, but developed it during year 7. They stayed in the “no-risk” groups for tracking purposes. Same with weight loss.. if they lost weight durig year 7, they were still in teh “no-risk” group. What mattered was their category at the beginning.

    The study did NOT examine whether the people ate vegetables or chocolate, and/or whether or not they exercised.

    The fact that they didn’t report on exercise or “fitness” (whatever that might be) does leave open the possibility that fitness matters. As I said, in my first post, I am willing to believe that lack of fitness is the true cause of the increased mortality.

    However, in this case, one must then consider the possibility that, there is an underlying statistical relationship between fatness and lack fitness…(And.. eventually, we might get to a cause-effect relationship….)

  52. 53
    Tish says:

    Studies are funded.
    Glenn Gaesser wrote a book, Big Fat Lies, in which he debunks many of the ideas about weight and health. He writes that autopsy studies that were done on twenty-three thousand people in fourteen different countries were published in 1968 saying that obesity does not cause heart disease. Well over half of the angiographic studies that were done between 1976 and 1994 showed that being fat had no relationship to arteriosclerosis or the progression of the disease over time. Why didn’t we hear about that in the mainstream media?
    Follow the money.
    There have been studies that show that fat people who exercise moderately and eat a balanced diet are healthier than thin folks who don’t. Are there fat people who exercise moderately and eat a balanced diet? Yes.

  53. 54
    lucia says:

    There have been studies about fitness vs. fatness. Several recent Cooper studies have been reported widely in the newspapers. I googled and found this one , “supressed” by USA today…

    They report fitness matters more than fatness.

    More later… I will digress to address one interesting question: can one be fat and fit? Well, sure.

    Based on the USA today article, the Cooper institute defined defined “unfit” as being in the lowest 20 percentile in ability to walk. By that standard, half the obese participants in the study were fit.

    That means half the obese participants fell in the lowest 20% of “fitness” based on walking ability.

    I would, personally, call this cut-off a line between the fitness-basket cases and everyone else… I would not say someone in the 21% of walking ability is fit. But .. that’s just me.

    But yes. The fat people who were not fitness-basket cases had lower mortality rates than the thin people who were fitness basket cases.

    So, what do other people find.. You can google and find stuff. Presumably, you can visit the library. (I have not.) I googled, and found this, published in a referred journal:

    Am J Epidemiol 2002; 156:832-841.
    Fitness and Fatness as Predictors of Mortality from All Causes and from Cardiovascular Disease in Men and Women in the Lipid Research Clinics Study

    June Stevens1,2, Jianwen Cai3, Kelly R. Evenson2 and Ratna Thomas3

    I only found the abstract, so I can’t give lots of details, but I gleaned this:

    Like Cooper, they used a treadmill test to assess fitness. The abstract doesn’t state the cut-off between “fit” and “unfit”. The used BMI to assess fatness.

    For women: They found fit-thin people have the lowest mortality rate. (Baseline ratio R=1). Fat-fit and unfit-thin have somewhat higher mortality rates– both about equal to each other. (Ratios of 1.30 and 1.32 respectively.) The unfit-fat had the highest mortality rates (R=1.57).

    Similar results held for men.. Although in the men’s case, the unfit-fat were slightly worse off than the fit-not fat. (Note, the reverse was the case for women.)

    The authors conclude: fatness and fitness both affect mortality rates individually.

    You can probably find lots of these studies. I’m sure more will be performed.

    The Cooper institute has a large publicity department, and probalby gets more press than the other studies, so you’ll find their results plastered all over the web. ( I don’t disapprove of the Cooper Institutes large publicity budget of advertising. I took up jumping rope in highschool because of on of Dr. Cooper’s books. I’m just pointing this out because it’s worth knowing whether you are finding a new study, or just a different newspaper report of the same study. )

    My guess is that statistics indicating whether fitness or fatness matters “most” depends on somewhat on the definition of “fit” and the definition of “fat”. Both probably matter.

  54. 55
    Avram says:

    How does BMI work as a measure of fatness? Isn’t that just a ratio of height to weight? How does it take into account whether the weight is fat, bone, or muscle? I suppose at the high end of the scale you’ve got to assume that fat is the determining factor, but not at the low end.

  55. 56
    lucia says:

    BMI is a ratio of height to weight squared. It is an incomplete measure of fatness. It does not distinguish between fat, muscle, bone, brains, guts.. whatever.

    In the past, measuring body fat accurately has been fairly expensive. It’s getting cheaper.

    Some smaller, but well funded, studies measured both BMI and body fat. (Smaller may involve thousands of people. ) Larger studies generally used height and weight only– due to cost. (Larger studies may involve millions of people over many years.)

    Very poorly funded preliminary studies are generally small and use BMI. These experiments are still useful because, from a statistical point of view, BMI and body fat track fairly well. If preliminary studies show something interesting, the researchers often write a proposal and try get funding to do a larger, follow on experiment. But.. they still publish the small one!

    Is BMI a good measure of fat? It’s not a terrific way to estimate body fat % for an individual. It’s not bad in a population study where you can’t control everything anyway. Anyway, you generally don’t try to control everything in a population study– you just try to ask enough question to isolate stuff.

    As a general rule, in the US population, a high BMI indicates high fat. A BMI near 30-35 could be fat, or could be muscular. In the US, the majority of hese people are fat. There aren’t THAT many Arnold Schwarzennegger body builders, and his BMI is around 32, maybe 35. (I’m trying to remember from the Wall Street Journal report. He fell in the “overweight ” BMI category. )

    As a general rule, in the US population, and pretty much everywhere in the world, low BMI tends to be fairly low fat. Not necessarily ultra low, but men with BMI = 20 rarely have 25% body fat! The body doesn’t do that.

    In any case, it doesn’t matter before you start the study whether or not 90% of the Americans with BMI of 35 are “fat-unfit” or “muscular-fit-athletes”. If it turns out they all die, while those at BMI of 20 don’t, you conclude there is something associatd with a BMI of 35 that tends to cause increased death. Then you speculate, come up with plausible theories, mine the data hoping you asked a question that will enlighten you, or you do another experiment to test the plausible alternatives.

    If you get these articles from the library, you will see that conclusions generally hedge a lot. They don’t say “FAT KILLS!”. They say things like “increased mortality was observed at BMI above __. This may be due to …. ”

    Hey! About follow on experiments. People are asking : Is the increased mortality at BMI of 35 due to fat? Or weight? Or…. and they are doing them! So, you’ll get a more precise answer. Probably in about 5 years.

    If you google and read the newsblurbs you’ll see the Cooper institute reports on the effect of BMI and body fat on cardiac health. They also measure waistline girth. So… these are starting to “leak” out. (If you can think of Cooper studies, with their publicity engine, as “leaking”.)

    One Cooper study found it didn’t matter whether you looked at BMI or body fat, they both gave more-or-less equal information about mortality. I don’t know if this is repeated by others.

    However, they are also looking at “fitness” measured on a treadmill and finding that predicts cardiac events much better than either BMI or body fat ratio. Fitness seems to matter. (But as I pointed out in my previous post, they observed that 50% of their obese participants fell in the lowest 20% of walkng ability. So…)

  56. 57
    bean says:

    My point up there, Lucia, that clearly went right over your head is that correlation does not equal causation. Never has, never will. Until you learn the difference between correlation and causation, it doesn’t really seem possible to discuss this with you.

  57. 58
    lucia says:

    I already know that correlation does not equal causation. My post did not say correlation equals causation and I have never thought so. (And in any case, how would I decide whether A caused B or B caused A. I certainly don’t think imminent death causes fatness…..)

    My post mentioned a paper linking fat to increased mortality. It happens to include a correlation. It is a fairly long paper, and includes other information… including information on what was controlled during the study. You should read it. After you read it, you might be able judge the paper. (Or.. possibly, you can judge it without reading it. I’ve known people who do this. They even claim… Ahh well.. let’s not discuss their self assessments..)

    On another matter, if you wish people to understand the point you are attempting to make, you should state it plainly.

    Your previous post did not mention “correlation”, “causation” or anything of the sort. Why would I assume you are discussing the relationship between them?

    I have pasted your post for the convenience of those who do not wish to scroll back up. Here it is… icecream..drowning…unspecified logic….no citation.

    Lucia, I have another article for you, you’ll love it, it uses the same logic you use — it’s all about how ice cream causes drownings (it must! after all, the numbers can’t be refuted — the number of drownings is directly proportional to the amount of ice cream sold).
    Posted by: bean on October 29, 2003 11:21 AM

    BTW. As I mentioned previously, I would love to read your article. Please cite it, and I will read it. In that case, I can comment on the article and determine whether the logic used is anything like that in the paper I cited.

    Meanwhile, I could only guess…. and I will admit, I am not psychic and can’t guess! :)

  58. 59
    bean says:

    You also have no sense of sarcasm. There are a million articles out there about ice cream sales causing drowning deaths — and every single one of them is using that as an example of how correlation does not equal causation and how it is dangerous to do so.

    And whether your intention is to do that or not, that’s exactly what you are doing. I will say it again, CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION. It’s basic logic.



    STOP CONFLATING CORRELATION FOR CAUSATION. IT IS INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS!!! IT IGNORES THE DANGERS A THIN PERSON WITH BAD DIET AND EXCERCISE HABITS FACE (as I pointed out with another example — of the thin, athletic guy who was having seizures caused by nearly fatally high cholesterol levels because doctors didn’t think to check that, after all, he was thin). IT MAKES PEOPLE ASSUME THAT FAT PEOPLE ARE UNHEALTHY — WHICH IS A FALSE ASSUMPTION.

  59. 60
    lucia says:

    Hmmm……. I have no sense of sarcasm….That cuts to the quick!

    Anyway.. so many diffuse statements…. So many capital letters!


    1) Correlation!= Causation.
    2) Statements about about thin people/fitness/mortality.
    3) Your post about the thin guy with the untreated seizures….
    4) The ice-cream-drowning paper.
    5) Does correlation have a basis in science and/or proof?

    1) Correlation!= Causation.
    I agree. I agreed long agoe. Correlation does not mean causation. Reread my previous posts. Start with my first post on this topic. I conceded that the the underlying factor explaining the increased mortality of fat people may be lack of fitness– not fatness.

    Logically, if, in my very first post, without any prodding from you, I concede that the correlation between fatness and mortality may NOT mean fatness causes mortality, I must not believe correlation= causation!

    2) Statements about about thin people/fitness/mortality.
    I raised the issue of fitness and not fatness might be the underlying factor affecting mortality in my first post on this page.

    I continued to discuss in response to Tish’s post — essentially agreeing with her statement that there had been studies suggesting that fitness mattered more than fatness. I mentioned two studies I was aware of. One suggests fitness matters most. One suggest fitness and fatness both matter.

    You may of course continue to endorse the Cooper institute findings in all caps….

    3) Your post about the thin guy with the untreated seizures….
    I have scanned back on this page to find your example of the thin athletic guy with high cholesterol whose doctors did not treat his seizures. I must need bifocals….. Possibly, I could google for “bean seizure thin athletic guys” and find it?

    Frankly, I think it is a shame if doctors deny treatment seizures simply because someone is thin. (Inadequate access to medical care for thin people is your point….. right?)

    BTW… I am thin and doctors routinely measure my cholesterol. It’s 135. Oh.. and they measure my blood pressure too. Fancy that?! And weight me! And…

    4) The ice-cream-drowning paper.
    As there are millions of articles on the ice-cream-drowning study, could you cite the one, definitive ice-cream-drowning article? Preferably the one you think is most “definitive” and explains the theory best? The paper that illustrates point-by-point the error in the logic used in Calle et al? I wouldn’t want to google, find a ridiculous one and assume that’s the one you mean to use to support your point.

    5) Finally, I want to ask some questions, on related points. In your opinion, does correlation have a role in scientific investigation and proof? Is it necessary for theories to be *consistent* with measured correlation? Finally, are there ANY conclusive scientific studies proving anything at all?

    If correlations have absolutely no use what so ever, please explain why correlations are used widely in physics, chemistry, engineering sciences, and pretty much all scientific areas? After covering that, explain why it is used in the soft sciences, and even in the “dreadful” science– economics. Why do people in all these fields try so diligently to find theories that are consistent with empirically measured correlations?

    And…. if there are any conclusive scientific studies, could you name one and explain WHAT makes it conclusive?

    Ahh… but I suspect, for the most part, you won’t actually answer. Instead, you will post claims in all caps…..

    Finally…, btw… you might be happy to know that mortality-weight paper I cited….. also shows that people with very low BMI’s also have elevated mortality rates. Yeah. Based on BMI, the Madonas and Gwyneth Paltrows of the world are at elevated risk due to low body weight. That said, they both look fairly fit to me. Do you suppose the underlying factor might to the very low BMI-mortality data might be….. drug users? Just speculating….

  60. 61
    bean says:

    Are you really that dense?

  61. 62
    Avram says:

    Lucia, I think Bean phrased her post badly. I just did a quick Google search, and it looks like the ice cream/drowning correlation isn’t something that anybody’s bothered doing a study to prove, but rather it’s a common example given in essays and articles about how correlation does not equal causation. Here’s an example (see the next-to-last paragraph).

    I’m sure that there are companies that track ice cream sales (the International Dairy Foods Association does, but they charge for the info), but I don’t know what the actual numbers are. Here’s an article about one restaurant that’s famous for its ice cream; it sees only about a 2% increase in ice cream orders over the summer (but a 25% increase for sorbet).

    And here’s an article reporting that the especially hot July of 1999 saw unusually low ice cream sales, with one vendor reporting that her sales had decreased from June.

    This page on diving deaths in Florida reports a peak on open-water drownings in the hot months, but a peak in cave drownings in December and January. (Unfortunately, they’ve screwed up and provided the wrong charts to go with the link for that info.)

    I’m starting to suspect that the ice cream/drowning correlation may be loose at best.

  62. 63
    lucia says:

    Insults and all caps,
    Rational thought vanishes.
    Jumping bean is mad!

  63. 64
    Darcy says:

    What is that? She hasn’t made a new post for you to jump on yet, so you make the same statements over again about the last one?

  64. 65
    lucia says:

    When I posted this morning, I assumed Bean’s post, appearing yesterday at 3:07 pm was her response to my 2:07 pm post. I assumed the rhetorical question insulting “your” intelligence was aimed at me.

    If I was mistaken, I apologize for my haiku.

  65. 66
    sponge says:

    Fat people were never put into shackles for being fat. Fat people were never denied suffrage for being fat. Fat people were never told they had to use a seperate bathroom or water fountain for being fat. Fat people were never lynched for being fat, or sectioned off into their own part of the city for being fat.

    Sure, you got teased in high school and the not fat people probably still find fatness disagreeable. You probably won’t go out with many super-models, and maybe you can’t fit into a booth at a restaurant. In that case, you probably don’t want to go out with someone so shallow and the tables probably have a nicer atmosphere, anyway. I have a friend who’s 6’5″. He has to duck under doorways and can’t fit in your average car seat comfortably, but so what?

    Size discrimination exists, sort of, sure. I mean, on average, I, at 6’0″ will have a better chance of being President than my 5’6″ friend, and am likely to get a higher salary, on average. Well, okay, my 5’6″ friend is a fucking genius and will be making more money than I can ever hope to, but that’s not the point.

    And can you really tell me that being fat isn’t unhealthy in and of itself? You know how pregnant women get sore backs? That’s because every pound you add to the front of your stomach adds 5 pounds of pressure to your spine. That’s not healthy.

  66. 67
    Darcy says:

    There is a difference between having weight added solely to your lower stomach and just being heavier all the way around. Not to mention the rapidity with which pregnant women tend to gain that weight in the first place.

  67. 68
    Paul says:

    No, fat people were never put into real shackles. But sponge, have you ever been fat? Do you know what it’s like to be fat?

    I’m not suggesting that someone who isn’t fat can’t ever support fat acceptance, or understand that discrimination exists; I’m simply trying to realize why you’re so very defensive about it.

    And, I feel that comparing which civil rights violation is worse is futile; that only makes one feel superior and/or justified in not wanting to support fat acceptance. (“My people/this group/etc. went through really, really hard times, so we deserve this.”) Discrimination against fat people is a human rights issue, it’s a civil rights issue, and it needs to be addressed as such.

    Fat people, by the way, have been led to suicide (especially children) because of the incessant hatred and teasing they encounter due to their size. While it’s something that is “isolated” in that it isn’t an enormous group at one particular time, it still happens.

  68. 69
    Paul says:

    Oh, sponge, also: And can you really tell me that being fat isn’t unhealthy in and of itself?

    Yes. Fat does not cause any health problems in and of itself. As bean said a few posts up, there may be a correlation.

    Why, there was a CDC report just this week that noted the major health problems in this country were due to high blood pressure and poor eating habits. CNN and other outlets changed this to mean, “Caused by fat.” And sure enough, that’s how it was reported.

  69. 70
    lucia says:

    I was wondering about the suicide-fat connection.

    Do fat people commit suicide at a greater rate than the general population? I’m fairly certain I read the suicide mortality rate is greatest for the very very thin– that is people people with BMI’s less than 19. I undestand the rate is fairly uncorrelated with increases in BMI above 22 or so.

    I’ve also read that suicide represents about 1% of all mortalities– with males dying from suicide about 4 times as often as women. I think the peak rate occurs in elderly men.

    Does anyone have other information?

  70. 71
    sponge says:

    Paul: yes, I’ve been fat. Not huge, but to the point of not fitting comfortably in size large t-shirts, and having to opt for the XL.

    And I’m not “defensive” about fat activism; I’m of the opinion that adding fat people to the list of the discriminated against diminishes the seriousness of those offenses perpetrated against women, ethnic minorities, and the like.

    From the CDC, on health and obesity:

    So, sure, it could be said that fat doesn’t have a directly adverse affect on health, but I want to see the research pointed in the other direction before I disagree with the clear correlation.

  71. 72
    Paul says:

    lucia: This article notes, “In 2000, researchers at the Obesity Research Center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York found obese women were 55 percent more likely to have attempted suicide than women of average weight.”

    sponge: I’m of the opinion that adding fat people to the list of the discriminated against diminishes the seriousness of those offenses perpetrated against women, ethnic minorities, and the like.

    Now, I disagree with that portion of it. I think that discrimination against fat people ranks up with “covert” discrimination against many of these groups. I also feel that by establishing and encouraging people to notice that, yes, fat people are actively discriminated against, there will be more of a solidarity with other equality movements.

    Getting there is the biggest problem, because so many people are quick to dismiss fat as a choice, and somehow that invalidates any sense of equality. That’s why lists like the non-fat privilege list (the original post topic, yay!) are important; they demonstrate the covert and not-so-covert ways that fat people are treated and discriminated against.

    Also, you might want to read a recent Paul Campos column on the topic; for those dipping their toes in the pool of fat discrimination, Campos tends to provide the most impressive and accessible viewpoints.

  72. 73
    lucia says:

    That’s interesting. I had been looking at the stastics at the national institute of health.

    The NIH tabulates successful suicides annually Their web page indicates:

    “No annual national data on all attempted suicides are available ” but that women do report attempting suicide at a higher rate 3 times that for men. Men die at 4 times the rate! succeed 4 times more often.

    I’m not quite sure how they know women report they attempt it at a greater rate if there are no annual data.
    Maybe the NIH means hospitals and doctors don’t tabulate and report attempts, so they are estimating the levels from surveys of suicide survivors who live to answer to questionaires?

    It’s interesing in and of itself that women and gilrs say they attempt to commit suicide much more often than men, but men and boys are more successful.

    Attempting suicide for any reason is certainly a sad thing.

    I’m still trying to find the information I thought I read– the mortality rate from suicide is greater for thin women. Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I read it. Some BMI paper showing curves of mortality rates — not attempted suicide– with BMI.

  73. 74
    Ruth Hoffmann says:


    I think your last post is stepping a bit over the line. It’s in pretty poor taste to speak dismissively of distinguishing attempted suicide versus suicide deaths, as though, what? Those people who didn’t die were somehow not serious? You say it’s ‘certainly a sad thing’ to attempt suicide, but then you go right back to distinguishing between attempts and mortalities.

    My sister attempted suicide, and would have succeeded had her housemate not found her and called 911 in time. So does she not count? Was she not serious enough for you?

  74. 75
    lucia says:

    I am sorry your sister attempted suicide. Obviously, that “counts”. It’s sad and troubling.

    I’m not saying those people who don’t die are not “serious” or that their attempts “don’t count”. Clearly, attempting suicide or even feeling suicidal is is sad and serious.

    What I was saying, probably badly, is this:

    • I read mortality statistics, not statistics on attempts.
    • Unsuccessful attempts don’t contribute to mortality statistics.
    • Having read mortality statistics, instead of attempts, I concluded that suicide is something that affects men more than women.
    • Because the attempt rate and the success rate are dramatically different, it seems that suicide touches the lives women as much as men– although men die from it more often.

    Who would have thought the two statistcis differ so much?

    I do think it is interesting, in an “academic” sense to learn that the two sets of statistics different. I wouldn’t have expected it. I can’t help wondering why they differ. (I have no idea why, by the way. I could speculate come up with numerous reasons– but based on data I’ve seen, I couldn’t figure out which is most likely.)

    On a personal note, my uncle, or more precisely, my mother’s step brother, committed suicide when I was 7. As a consequence my cousins grew up without their father.

    His father commited suicide (long before I was born), leaving the woman who became my mothers step mother with four small children.

    A male friend in college committed suicide.

  75. 76
    Melanie says:

    I’ve read that men die more often from suicide because they more often use violent means (guns, hanging, etc) where as women tend to choose non-violent means (such as overdose ). Here’s one reference:

    What I don’t understand, though, is what you are attempting to prove about fat people and thin people with regards to their suicide attempts and mortality rate from suicide? That fat people don’t have as much pain, because thin people are more likely to die when they attempt suicide? Please clarify.

  76. 77
    lucia says:

    I’m not trying to prove anything about lack of pain on the part of people who attempt suicide! I certainly don’t believe people who attempt suicide don’thave pain simply because they don’t die.

    To clarify:

    On nov 1, paul suggested that fat people are sometimes driven to suicide.

    Paul’s post made me curious about the statistical relationship between being fat and committing suicide. Was there one?

    I admit that question may not be one Paul was trying to put in my mind, but hey… I didn’t think I was trying to imply fat people who try to commit suicide feel no pain!

    Paul’s comment made me curious. I was especially curious because I had read things to suggest that suicide is less common in fat people than thin people, Since I was wondering, I asked.

    Then, someone responded with a post suggesting fat people attempt suicide more than thin ones…Seems that may very well be true.

    Now, I was even more curious. How can this be? Could the statistics differ? I surfed, read more. HEY, they are different. Who’d of thunk?

    I posted some stuff…. I probably should have worded that post differently, but … there you go! (Anyway, I really wasn’t thinking of pain. I think both are painful. I was just so surprised at the tremendous difference.

    When I distinguished between the two in my post t I simply meant to say: The statistics describing the groups of people who attempt and fail are different from those who succeed.

    That’s it. No innuendo. Nothing to do with their relative pain.

    Based on that post, someone asked me a question, suggesting that I clarified.

    I tried to clarify: Specifically, I had developed a different impression of the typical suicide victim/attempter/comtemplater based on reading mortality statistics.

    I know suicide is painful. It’s occurred in my family and friends.

    I keep thinking that my previous posts, and this post, say: I developed a wrong impression about suicide by focusing on mortality statistics alone.

    HOW does admitting I my impression was incorrect, and explaining how I developed the incorrect impression suggest that I think people who fail in their attempt to commit suicide feel no pain?

    As far as I’m concerned, people who contemplate suicide, attempt it, and or succeed are in mental pain.!

    BTW. Thanks for the reference. I suspected one of the reasons men suceed more often than women might be of method.. but at the time of my posting has not googled on that. I also thought there might be other reasons: they migh chose different locations (the office after work vs. at home.) Or, they might live alone. Or… any number of reasons. Weapons seemed likely.

  77. 78
    Ruth Hoffmann says:


    Thanks for the very civil response to my questions. I am sorry to have been so angry, but you’re not the first person who has made that differentiation and it always strikes me as odd and callous. Your clarification was…er…clear, though, and appreciated.

    Based purely on more anecdotal evidence, I can tell you of two cases in my circle of acquaintance where men tried to suicide by OD, woke up (alone) a few hours/days later, and just never went to the doctor about it (shame, light of day, etc). So in those two cases the attempts were not logged at all. I wonder how often that happens…not in a men vs. women way but I just wonder whether even statistics for suicide attempts are underreported.

    And it’s often true that weapons leave a lot less time for intervention, should the person be found, than ODs or otherwise more passive methods. OTOH, weapons misfires during suicide attempts can leave a uniquely devastating aftermath…did anyone else see that movie Dream Deceivers about the boy who tried/failed to shoot himself and his lawsuit against Judas Priest? Just a terrible tragedy.

  78. 79
    lucia says:

    Hi Ruth,

    I am sorry that my earlier post was confusing and made you angry. It honestly did not occur to me that my post cmight imply that attempted suicide was unimportant, did not cause pain, wasn’t tragic etc.

    You know.. I was thinking… In 8th grade I had a friend who came home to find her step father having a heart attack. She phoned the emergency service. (Before 911) He was rescued and saved.

    Naturally, everyone was thankful he was saved.

    No-one ever suggested that his heart attack wasn’t “real” or didn’t “count”. No one suggested that the rescue implied his underlying heart disease wasn’t real.

    In the same way, I am thankful your sister was rescued! I’m sure her pain was real.

    To get back to the dry and emotionless part… (I’ll admit, talking about suicide statistics, demographics etc. can sound well.. callous. It can still be an important topic to understand. )

    It has occurred to me that the difficult associated with adequately identifying all suicide attempts may be the reason the NIH does not tally them. As you pointed out, some people don’t make it to the hospital but recover and keep the whole episode a secret. Even when someone is rescued and taken to, they may claim it was an accident and not a suicide attempt!

    The shame can be so great that suicide survivors refuse to mention the episode to anyone, and deny it should it come up.

  79. 80
    Jacqueline Homan says:

    I was thin all my life until age 34. My metabolism and body went haywire. Being poor, I could not afford to chase every “magic bullet” that supposedly corrected weight problems. Of the myriad of diets I have tried (and stuck with for at least one year, I actually gained more weight. I felt left out at family functions due to dieting while all the lucky thin people were getting to enjoy foods I loved but could not have,and the social atmosphere. What did all that sacrifice get me? Nothing!! While many readers of this post would be thrilled to be a size 16, it’s terribly depressing for me when all my life I was a size 8/10. I have been denied jobs because I am a middle-aged overweight woman, seeing lesser-qualified Barbie Dolls get the job while all I got was to go home empty-handed,hence no money to pay my bills and live never mind join an aqua-areobics program or gym. My ex-fiance dumped me due to my unattractive figure. If ANYONE thinks having to suffer with obesity is due to personal choice, all I have to say to them is that I hope they find out one day exactly what its like to have weight problems themselves. If anyone thinks I chose to let this happen to me, then I have a bridge to sell them in Brooklyn and a wooden nickel too!

  80. 81
    karpad says:

    thank you, spambot.
    we can use cigarettes to help manage our respective weight problems.
    I know you didn’t say that expressly, but thank you for your helpful and understanding input in a thread I haven’t seen for nearly a year.

  81. 82
    mythago says:

    If a spammer brought up this thread again, that’s not entirely a bad thing.

    Without in any way meaning to diminish the points about prejudice against fat people, what struck me is that a lot of those statements DO apply to perfectly normal-sized people (because of thin mania), though of course to a lesser degree. Women, especially, who are “average sized” have people comment on their bodies and suggest ways they could be even thinner, do not go “months” without thinking about their bodies and their shape, fear they are sexually repulsive, etc., and for the same reasons–unreasonable fear that they might be fat.

  82. 83
    karpad says:

    which of course, is the point.
    people go about saddling themselves with an ugly Obsessive Compulsive Disorder out of a fear of being classified as “fat.”
    analogous would be a tan skinned person developing a phobic reaction to sunlight for fear of being too tan and labelled “black.”
    people don’t have a “normal sized phobia” they have a “fat phobia.” the person who is genuinely overweight is the living embodiment of that fear, and gets treated like it.
    and every aspect of that which normal sized people endure is several degrees weaker.

  83. 84
    mythago says:

    Please understand that I was NOT saying ‘boo hoo, normal-sized people are victims also’. Just noting that many of the same things happen (in far lesser degree) to normal-sized people, especially women, stemming from the same irrational hatred of fat.

    I don’t think the tan analogy quite works, in that being black is seen as a race, something you’re born with. The fear of fat is ‘there, but for the grace of iron willpower and superior moral character, go I’–what is ‘fat’ is subjective, and anyone can be called fat, or become fat.

  84. 85
    Hungry says:

    Don’t you think it is kind of selfish for fat Americans to though their fat wieght in the face in the starving rest of the world and complain about it? There are people who go with out food and could care less about diet program which work or don’t wow would not that 29.95 a month have been better spent feeding a village? Fat pig Americans need to get over them selves or die on their own vomit so the rest of the natural kingdom can feed off of them. Then at least the beauty of nature can get on and they don’t have to pay for their anti-depresents.

    If some one is selfish enough to eat enough for a family enstead of feading one then they are really not contributing but sucking out of society and thier concerns should not be listened to because even in the US many people die of hunger.

    Being a selfish pig is a desise then so be it, one who can eat the food while others starve. I have seen fat people eat while starving people watch with out care. I have seen starving people eat their left overs off the ground. Fuck fat people, when winters are cold they still have months to live off of.

  85. 86
    mythago says:

    I have seen fat people eat while starving people watch with out care.

    How odd. I’d think the starving people would care very much about being starving and seeing other people refuse to share food. Where did this happen, again?

  86. 87
    alsis38 says:

    “Hungry” gives those drug and/or gambling links a good name. :p

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  92. 88
    MAYA says:

    Without taking away from the plight of the overweight in any way, I would like to raise some awareness about the plight of those who struggle with being underweight. (Humor me – I think you’ll discover some parallels.)

    As a child, I was always small for my age (both short and skinny). I didn’t let it bother me much, since I assumed I would “bulk up” as I got into adulthood. However, when I was nineteen I decided that I was uncomfortable with my weight. At 5’4″ and 90lbs., most of my bones jutted out from my flesh. Besides just not liking how I looked & felt when I moved, I had physical problems associated with my weight such as not being able to sit on unpadded bleachers or chairs without getting bruises on my rear & thighs.

    I spent about a year attempting to diet on my own (I was already pretty athletic so, it didn’t feel appropriate to change much in that area). Echoing the opposite, but still familiar, sentiment often heard from people who are trying to lose weight: no matter how much I ate, I couldn’t seem to gain. After a good year of consistant effort I had gained, and been able to keep on, only about 3 lbs.

    So, I sought out the services of a diet counselor who was attached to my university health center. Initially, she laughed in my face. She took on my case only after acknowledging that she had never helped anyone gain weight, before. While, eventually, she became a great supporter, it took me meeting with her several times before she started taking me seriously.

    Hers was the only real support I got about my weight (and I believe it made the difference) as my (many) friends were not supportive at all. The most positive reaction was to ignore my weight issues, despite the fact that I was very open about them. Much more often I was the target of mild (and probably well-meaning) ridicule with the clear message that my weight issues were not something to be taken seriously.

    I think the most regular, and hurtful, comment was, “Oh, I can’t tell / it doesn’t show [that you’ve gained] – you’re as skinny as you ever were.” If that doesn’t sound so bad, imagine being on the receiveing end of, “Oh, I can’t tell that you’ve lost weight – you’re as fat as you ever were.” OUCH.

    A friend of mine made that comment just the other day. But, after I reminded him that, no, I actually weigh 20lbs more than I used to and am very happy for it, he grudgingly admitted, “Oh, yeah, I remember when your bones used to all stick out.” So, after _ten_years_ I finally get, albeit indirectly, an acknowledgement that, yeah, maybe more weight is a good thing for me. Thanks… I think.

    What I would have liked to have heard from friends when I was dieting was, “Wow, you’ve gained 5lbs? That’s great! Are you feeling better, now? Are you concerned about keeping it on? Let me know how I can continue to support you.” And I think it is not hard to see how, with some minor modifications, someone trying to lose weight would like to hear the same things.

    I am not trying to say that I had it harder or even as hard as people who are overweight.
    Specifically, I had the benefit of people not (intentionally) puting me down or discriminating against me because I was overweight. I was, however, the constant target of comments about my weight by friends and strangers, alike, i.e. “She’s so skinny.” [“She’s so fat.”] “I’d trade figures with you any day.” [“I hope I never look like that.”] I think people thought they were being positive, but such attention seemed sick and insensitive.

    It seems like struggling with too much and not enough weight are two sides of the same coin. The way I was treated and the way overweight people (women, in particular) are treated both are a product of a thin-obsessed society. Being perceved as “overweight” means you’re ugly, indicates moral vice/failure and that you likely have a serious medical condition. Likewise, being thin is universally attractive, indicates a moral virtue and, therefore, cannot really be considered a problem.

  93. 89
    lynne says:

    I think some naturally very thin people get thought of poorly in the same way that fat people often are. I hear comments about very thin people all the time along the lines of, “she must have anorexia,” and “she must be a very shallow person to care about her weight so much that she diets until she is so skinny.” My sister lost a lot of weight recently and people have been very rude to her about it asking her all the time if she is alright and asking her if she is eating and so on. I understand that people are concerned for her but it hardly seems like it is any of their business.

  94. 90
    BStu says:

    I’ll grant that especially thin people do experience no small amount of social pressure over their weight. At the same time, I wouldn’t say that assimiliation attempts through weight manipulation ought be the response any more than it should be the response for fat people. I’d also respectfully suggest that sentiments towards thin people aren’t nearly as severe as they are towards fat people. I absolutely am not suggesting that we ought to accept or tolerate those sentiments, but studies have repeatedly shown that social prejudices are much worse against fat people then they are towards persons with eating disorders, much less persons who may or may not be assumed to have an eating disorder. Ideally, I’d hope we could get to a place where no one is encouraged or supported in having hostile relationships with their bodies.