The word has done incredible damage to my body.
In the pages of Slate, Emily Duke, a woman who “loves carbohydrates,” shares her sorrows as a professional person of girth:
When New York state announced that Phase 1B of vaccinations would include those who are “obese” or “severely obese,” I knew I would qualify. My heart sank into my stomach. I am fat. I am a fat activist. Like a lot of larger-bodied people, I have embraced the word fat. Doing so allows me to buy clothes that fit, rather than those that could fit if I changed.
The last three words of that sentence are perhaps worth keeping in mind.
It allows me to exist.
Which, we’re to assume, the word obese does not. It being less fluffy. With the power to send a fat woman into an emotional tailspin.
Among all the radical self-love coffee mugs I’ve seen, “I love being obese” has never been one of them. The word obese elicits an unparalleled grief in me.
Well, recognition can do that, especially if belated and previously avoided. And incidentally, if your world is one in which “radical self-love coffee mugs” feature prominently, I’d suggest something may be awry.
When I heard the [vaccination] announcement I had been waiting for, I spent three hours in the grocery store trying to figure out what I “should” have for dinner that night.
Three hours. One might call that a telling preoccupation. Ms Duke then detours, at length, into recollections of being in therapy, parental divorce, the “trauma” of dieting, and the woes of being told she is an “emotional eater.”
When I heard the good news about my eligibility for the vaccine… I panicked that I was a bad fat activist. I felt like I was just one weigh-in away from losing my chosen identity because I can’t face a number on a scale… I’d need to know my BMI to ensure I qualified, and I wasn’t sure if I could handle it.
No emotional issues there, thank goodness.
I am, right now, healthier than I have ever been. And I also weigh more than I ever have… I can own being fat, because I have internalised that regardless of my weight, it is my chosen identity,
As to whether Ms Duke’s fatness is being “owned” successfully, free of mental complication, I leave that to the reader.
an identity that ultimately gives me more freedom than it takes away.
Well, I suppose that rather depends on how one feels about the attendant risks of hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, gallbladder disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, joint failure, incontinence, sleep apnea, breathing problems, depression, anxiety, and cancer. Compared to which, a form with the word obesity seems fairly trivial. Not the most obvious cause of “incredible damage.” But this, remember, is Slate, where our progressive betters howl about how crushing and unfair everything is. And so, being given priority for a vaccine during a pandemic, while others must wait, is actually, and obviously, a form of oppression. Because words.
It’s also perhaps worth mentioning that Slate’s “community manager” – i.e., comment moderator – has announced that,
I will remove comments that insult her, insult fat people, or contradict the author’s understanding of her own situation.
Which seems to somewhat narrow the scope for meaningful discussion. And in light of which, readers may wish to ponder the following statement by Ms Duke:
As far as I’m concerned, I was fat with BMIs ranging from 14 to 40.
Just ignore the little red warning light. It does that sometimes.