Only AIDS could make being fat seem like a good idea

It has taken me a while to write about the stupidest thing I read this week. But it hasn’t got any less stupid:

South Africa’s AIDS crisis is fuelling a second epidemic as obesity rates rise steadily, particularly among women eager to prove they don’t have the disease by packing on extra pounds.

Many in South Africa associate being thin with terminal illness due to AIDS, while valuing plumpness as a sign of wealth and good health.

The trend is most widespread amongst black women.

“(Patients) will say to you, ‘But I don’t want to lose this weight because (they) will think that I’m dying of AIDS,'”

Some background this was said at a South African obesity conference (sponsored by Roche), by Tessa Van Der Mer – the head of the countries first obesity clinic. So no disinterested parties were involved in the making of this news story. More than that – no actual research went into that statement either – it’s just one woman’s observation of what people said to her. Yet it is reported around the world the Independent in Britain and the Canadian National Post (and then reproduced in a Feminist Carnival – of all places).

I really don’t have time for the many levels of stupidity in Tessa Van Mer’s argument. But the breathless way it’s been reported that some people don’t want to be thin, is really disturbing. The world has always been the way it is right now among media circles in New York and London. The only reason people would see things any differently would be because of fear of a terrible disease, and we have to show them they’re wrong immediately.

Also posted at Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty.

This entry posted in Fat, fat and more fat, Feminism, sexism, etc. Bookmark the permalink. 

4 Responses to Only AIDS could make being fat seem like a good idea

  1. 1
    Latiff says:

    It’s sad that most people are more concerned with what other people think of them than what they think of themselves or what is happening to themselves even.

  2. 2
    Angela says:


    You’re right. That is sad, however, based on Maia’s post, we don’t know if it’s even true yet.

  3. 3
    Barbara says:

    The truth is, being “pleasingly plump” is a traditional measure of good health. Sick and deprived people are much more likely to be thin. But the idea that AIDS is fueling obesity — I don’t think so. It’s more likely that as South Africa increases its prosperity it is simply catching up with most of the rest of the world, even the developing world, where increasing average weights have become the norm.

  4. 4
    Stef says:

    I’ll say what I said in response to the Body Impolitic post on this topic:

    The percentages reported for “overweight” and “obesity” in South Africa are the same as the percentages reported in the US, and we know how exaggerated the claims are in the US of a “vast increase in obesity”.

    {regarding the Retrospectacle post that was included in the recent Feminist Carnival}:
    I was appalled even more by the conversation between the author and the one person who left a comment, about a culture in which girls are force-fed to conform to local beauty standards. The author called it a “great tie-in” to the South Africa article and compared it to foot-binding – completely ignoring the extent to which it is a “tie-in” to all the cultures where girls and women are forced or pressured NOT to eat to conform to local beauty standards.