Fat Pride: A Horrid First World Self-indulgence

First Worldism is a lot like general First World politics. As they lack a proletariat, First Worldists never cease to invent new ways to claim they are oppressed. Even with all the global privilege of being a part of the global one percent[1], they still continue to think of way in which they can claim themselves to be disadvantaged. One of the most harrowing of examples is the phenomena of “thin privilege”. The idea is that by not being overweight one exerts a certain “privileged” benefit from society. Of course privilege is defined as an unearned advantages which come about by virtue of being dropped into a particular, group, which does not have a prejudice against it.[2] In theory, one is handed a benefit or advantage without having done anything to earn it.

The concept of a “thin privilege” is a truly digesting concept. Not thin privilege, but the concept of it. Privilege theory advocates have made the claim that thin people who are not overweight have a privilege, a social benefit that is unearned. This idea is entirely false. It’s true that society does have a habit of being cruel to overweight weight people. Media pokes fun of fat people all the time. Fat children are ridiculed at school by their classmates. This however does not stem from an unearned privilege.

I say there is no such thing as thin privilege. I say this because I think it is important to distinguish between so-called “thin privilege” and a form of discrimination against people with some kind disability. It is very important to distinguish between these two things because one is a privilege and the other is not. Some people are overweight due to a myriad of different health conditions. Some examples include hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, depression, and the side effects of certain medications.[3] For others, who are in the vast majority, the obesity is cause by a lifestyle choice. Yes, overeating, eating poorly, not exercising is a lifestyle choice, and you can be criticized for it. Someone with a disability which keeps them from being able to exercise or be healthy is an obvious exception.

  • More than a third of adults (34.9 percent) were obese as of 2011 to 2012.[4] More than two-thirds of adults were overweight or obese (68.5 percent).[5]
  • Nearly 40 percent of middle-aged adults, ages 40 to 59, were obese (39.5 percent), compared with younger adults, ages 20-39, (30.3 percent) or older adults, ages 60 and over, (35.4 percent).[6]
  • More than 6 percent of adults were severely obese (body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher).
Obesity Trends 1

Figure 1: Adult Obesity in America 2011-2012 [7]

When I say there is no thin privilege, it is because discrimination against an overweight person with a disability is ableism. A person is who is overweight due to lifestyle is a choice. To treat all overweight as being a disadvantaged class is to ignore the very real ability of each person to be able to change their weight. Privilege theory claims that an unearned benefit is obtained by being healthy (in terms of weight). Thus we see that “thin privilege” is actually fat phobic because it implies that overweight people cannot change, that they are permanently stuck in that position. That position is a choice if it is not caused by disability. This is incomparable to say White privilege which is entirely constructed and perpetuated by White supremacy. One does not chose the colour of their skin. One can work very hard as a Black person and still be discriminated against. It is insulting for people who have no disability to go around claiming they suffer from the something akin to that of racism, sexism, and homophobia. It is an insult to those who actually are oppressed by something they cannot chose not to be.

There is no such thing as “fat phobia”, no one is scared of overweight people. There is only a type of ableism. The overwhelming majority of people claiming the phenomenon of fat phobia are White First World people. These people are largely people who choose to be overweight and unhealthy. There is a racial and global problem of obesity, but these problems have a different causes. Obesity intersects with class (capitalism) and racial discrimination. Even in the First World it is apparent.

  • 47.8 percent of African Americans, 42.5 percent of Latinos, 32.6 percent of Whites and 10.8 percent of Asian Americans were obese (2011 to 2012).[8]
Obesity Rates 2

Figure 2: Adult Obesity by Race9

One cannot simply claim that Black or Latino people simply are lazy and do not wish to be healthy. There is a certain percentage of the population which is that way. However it is the disparity between races when it comes to obesity that is significant. The reason for this is that class and race intersect with obesity. Blacks and Latinos are disadvantaged economically, which includes effects education, when we look at their place in the hierarchy of society. If this social disparity didn’t, exist then we would see all races in the United States as having similar levels of obesity. With all the privileges of being White, it is the White theorists who are making excuses or defenses for being overweight when there is no disability or medical causing it.

This intersection between class and obesity is made much more stark when we look at it on a global scale. In the last decade or so there has been a change in the health problems faced by people in the Third and Second World. They face a duality of “problems of infectious disease and under-nutrition” combined with a rising tide of obesity. The data on the subject is quite telling, the World Health Organization has done some significant research into it.

“Many low- and middle-income countries are now facing a “double burden” of disease.

– While they continue to deal with the problems of infectious disease and under-nutrition, they are experiencing a rapid upsurge in noncommunicable disease risk factors such as obesity and overweight, particularly in urban settings.

– It is not uncommon to find under-nutrition and obesity existing side-by-side within the same country, the same community and the same household.

“Children in low- and middle-income countries are more vulnerable to inadequate pre-natal, infant and young child nutrition. At the same time, they are exposed to high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt, energy-dense, micronutrient-poor foods, which tend to be lower in cost but also lower in nutrient quality. These dietary patterns in conjunction with lower levels of physical activity, result in sharp increases in childhood obesity while undernutrition issues remain unsolved.”[10]

Due to the global disparity in wealth for the Third and Second World, they face a “double burden” of disease. They have malnourishment cased by a lack of access to proper healthy food. At the same time they have access to unhealthy food due to that same poverty. The processed foods, high in calories, low in nutrients are all they can afford. Much has been written about the high cost of living in the Third World which drives this whole inequality to begin with.[11] This double effect usually hits the urbanized sections of the Third World the hardest. Urbanization of the Third World has been a growing phenomena in the last twenty years or so[12] due to the centralization of large scale factory farming and the subsidized U.S. exports of cheap agricultural goods.

This is rarely the case of First World people, particularly with regards to privileged White First World privilege theorists. While it is touted that it is more expensive to eat healthy in the First World,[13] it is generally over looked how much we spend on eating out at restaurants. Once that cost is taken into account, it is cheaper to eat healthy. The average American spends $1,200 a year on fast food, which we would assume is higher for low income people.[14] Aside from this, our portions of meat in First World diets are too large, to the point of being unhealthy. It is estimated that a healthy cut of meat will cost you only 29¢ more than an unhealthy one.[15] In fact some studies suggest that unhealthy food shopping is largely a learned behaviour.[16]

Generally speaking you either have a disability or you do not. You either suffer from a problem causing obesity or you are making a lifestyle choice. That lifestyle choice is not immune from criticism. The First World massively over consumes everything, including food. Approximately half of all food sent to the First World is wasted.[17] As in literally thrown in the garbage. That waste is primarily caused by picky eaters who think the food just doesn’t look as good as they would like.[18] There is far more than enough food for everyone in the world, the problem is the market as a method of distribution. The problem is also the utter wastefulness of over-privileged First World consumers. Wasting that food in their eyes is a right. You hear them say things like, “Why should I have to buy less than perfect looking food if I don’t want too?” Because you don’t have a right to waste food while there is global hunger.

Another problem this causes is waste when it comes to medical resources. Overweight people are prone to all manner of medical problems. Hypertension, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, just to name a few. To treat these problems it requires the time and effort of a medical professional. It requires products and resources to be used. While this happens the poor of the world go without. They already by the virtue of the market don’t get anywhere the level they need for basic health care. The global imbalance in access to medical care is staggering. “Obesity-related medical treatment costs between $147 and $210 billion a year.”[19] We have people making lifestyle choices that eat up resources unnecessarily, while the global poor die of malaria, a problem we don’t have. An estimated 627,000 people died from it.[20] 760,000 children under five years old die every year from diarrhoeal disease, a completely preventable illness.[21] Diarrhoea is also the leading cause of malnutrition in children in that same group.[22] An illness that is a mere inconvenience when it happens to us.

Wasting that food and wasting medical resources is an unearned benefit of First World privilege. A privilege that privilege theorists don’t acknowledge because it’s one they have.

If you don’t have a disability or a health problem causing obesity you are making a lifestyle choice. This choice can be criticized. I am not saying someone should harass or make fun of people for being obese, but they do not have a right to shut out any rightful criticism. Especially when your choice hurts other people. To deny this is to advocate hyper-individualism, the belief that you can do whatever you want and the social consequences don’t matter. (In a manner of speaking, right wing libertarianism.) It is tremendously hypocritical to attack the rich for overconsumption, waste, and privilege when you yourself do it. The First World in generally massively over consumes, not just the “1%” of it.

This hyper-individualism and denial of personal responsibility can best be found in “fat pride” and “fat phobia.” These two ideas are covers for people to justify an unhealthy lifestyle choice. That’s exactly what this is, a defense for making an unhealthy choice.

The original idea was to have people free from the harassment they suffered from being overweight. Obesity used to be a rare thing that happened as a result of a medical condition. People, particularly women wanted to be free from unreasonable body images. Social pressure was placed on women to conform to a certain look. Much of the work done to achieve that look was unhealthy. Inability to reach that look lead to all kinds of self image and self esteem problems. The healthy image movement was meant to accept the reality of not being perfect. We shouldn’t expect people to reach an unattainable goal. The idea was to have people accept their bodies when they’re not some kind of idealistic perfect. Having a few extra pounds was not something to be ashamed of. Not having an ideal body shape, skin tone, or exact placement of facial features was something not to be ashamed of. This was the right thing to do to help people live happier healthier lives.

This righteous concept of helping people accept their imperfections has been co-opted by people looking to justify being unhealthy and lazy. To support their petty identity. They make themselves out to be victims of society to create an identity behind which they can justify their laziness and overconsumption. “I’m fat and that’s who I am”, they say as a justification for being lazy. This kind of gluttony and laziness fueled ignorance is best expressed in the term, “healthy at any weight”. This is a phrase no medical professional would utter. Being overweight is unhealthy once it reaches a certain point. No amount complaining or self victimization makes you immune from biological and medical fact. The goal of any identity movement of this type is to create a space free from criticism so that someone can engage in socially destructive behaviour. Yes, individual actions have an effect on the rest of society.

Appearance is irrelevant, no one deserves to be attacked for looking or being overweight. But people can be criticized for choosing to be unhealthy. Each one of these “healthy at any weight” people claiming victimhood is an insult to everyone who has ever suffered discrimination because of their weight or disability. They need to be criticized for being unhealthy and trying to pretend they aren’t. They deserve to be criticized for acting like a victim for being criticized for being unhealthy. I don’t advocate they be attacked for their appearance, I advocate that people who waste the world’s resources, and think being unhealthy is an identity we have to respect, be criticized.

Transforming being unhealthy into a valid lifestyle choice is about the most First World thing you can do. These people have the luxury of a privileged position in the world in which they can deliberately sabotage their own health as a way of building an identity. As a way of defending their own laziness. These people have the privileged position in which they can waste food, waste medical resources and choose to be unhealthy. All of this over consumption is leaving many people in desperate poverty, leaving them unhealthy against their will.

Thin privilege is total nonsense.

Truthfully, privilege theory is extremely problematic because it is unscientific liberal nonsense. The problem is that is fails to make certain necessary distinctions by being a qusai-neutral political idea. For example, almost all privilege theory advocates support the political and economic system of capitalism. Someone who holds this standpoint cannot acknowledge class privilege. By the very theoretical nature of capitalism, anyone in a higher class has earned this position via “hard work”. Therefore anyone who believes in capitalism and privilege theory has no right to be complaining about economic inequality. This is an outright self-defeating contradiction. One cannot support a system economic inequality and complain about its real world manifestation of class privilege. Such is liberal First World theoretical nonsense, no Marxist could hold this position.

We are Marxists, we reject unscientific notions. We acknowledge inequality and contradictions, not privilege theory. In terms of ending inequality it makes all the difference. Privilege theory claims that there is an unearned privilege because of a prejudice that someone holds. To them, someone just doesn’t like poor people, fat people, Black people, LGBT people. They reduce the entire phenomena of discrimination to “simply something that someone thinks”. Thus the solution in the eyes of such liberal notions is to “just change what people think”. All inequality in their eyes can be eliminated by just legislating it away. Such people want to force employers to just treat people the same, create quotas in hiring and acceptance into higher education. This is a band aid solution to a real social problem. It cannot cure racism, sexism, LGBT discrimination because it never actually deals with the problem, only the symptom.

These prejudices are rooted in the very system itself. They are rooted in the class antagonisms themselves. Capitalism is a system which enforces an idea that we are all islands onto ourselves and that our actions are just the ramifications of the market which can just correct themselves. This ideology teaches us to care nothing for the people our actions hurt. We are taught to be self-indulgent. This extends to the “freedom to be racist” and to the “right to consume all I want”. These so-called freedoms and rights have very real world consequences.

* * *

Sources:

[1] America IS the 1%: You need just $34,000 annual income to be in the global elite… and HALF the world’s richest people live in the U.S., Mail Online
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2082385/We-1–You-need-34k-income-global-elite–half-worlds-richest-live-U-S.html

[2] Kimmel and Ferber, Privilege: A Reader, Westview Press 2010, ISBN-10: 0813348714

[3] Medical Causes of Obesity, WebMD
http://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/medical-reasons-obesity

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012. Prevalence of Obesity among Adults: United States, 2011-2012.

[5] Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. JAMA. 2014; 311(8):806-814.

[6] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012. Prevalence of Obesity among Adults: United States, 2011-2012.

[7]Obesity Rates Remain High, Obesity Rates & Trends Overview, The State of Obesity
http://stateofobesity.org/obesity-rates-trends-overview/

[8] Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. JAMA. 2014; 311(8):806-814.

[9] Obesity Rates Remain High, Obesity Rates & Trends Overview, The State of Obesity
http://stateofobesity.org/obesity-rates-trends-overview/

[10] Facing a double burden of disease, Obesity and overweight Fact sheet N°311, World Health Organization
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/

[11] High Cost of Living in the Third World, Leading Light Communist Organization
http://llco.org/the-high-cost-of-living-in-the-third-world/

[12] Global Urbanization: Trends, Patterns, Determinants, and Impacts, Abdullah Baqui, The Johns Hopkins University, 2009
http://ocw.jhsph.edu/courses/urbanhealth/PDFs/Urban-sec2_Baqui.pdf

[13] New study confirms that eating healthy does indeed cost more, The Pump Handle
http://scienceblogs.com/thepumphandle/2013/12/13/new-study-confirms-that-eating-healthy-does-indeed-cost-more/

[14] Average American spends $1,200 a year on fast food – that’s burgers and fried chicken twice EVERY week, The Daily Mail
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2617493/Average-American-spends-1-200-year-fast-food.html

[15] Debunking The Myth That Healthy Food Is Expensive, Off the Grid News
http://www.offthegridnews.com/off-grid-foods/debunking-the-myth-that-healthy-food-is-expensive/

[16] Mythbusting: Is healthy eating really too costly?, BBC
http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20150121-can-healthy-eating-be-affordable

[17] Global Food: Waste not, Want Not, Institution of Mechanical Engineers
http://www.imeche.org/docs/default-source/reports/Global_Food_Report.pdf

[18] Ibid.

[19] Fast Facts: Economic Costs of Obesity, The State of Obesity
http://stateofobesity.org/facts-economic-costs-of-obesity/

[20] Global Health Observatory (GHO) data, Number of malaria deaths, Estimated deaths, 2012, World Health Organization
http://www.who.int/gho/malaria/epidemic/deaths/en/

[21] Diarrhoeal disease, Fact sheet N°330, World Health Organization
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs330/en/

[22] Ibid.

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5 thoughts on “Fat Pride: A Horrid First World Self-indulgence

  1. There are worse made up privileges. Cisgender privilege, Cisable privilge, cisspecies privilege, vanilla privilege (meaning you don’t get off on beating people up or being beaten up) and monosexual privilege.

  2. Reblogged this on Black Metal Valkyrie: Reject male identified bullshit! and commented:
    “Truthfully, privilege theory is extremely problematic because it is unscientific liberal nonsense. The problem is that is fails to make certain necessary distinctions by being a qusai-neutral political idea. For example, almost all privilege theory advocates support the political and economic system of capitalism. Someone who holds this standpoint cannot acknowledge class privilege. By the very theoretical nature of capitalism, anyone in a higher class has earned this position via “hard work”. Therefore anyone who believes in capitalism and privilege theory has no right to be complaining about economic inequality. This is an outright self-defeating contradiction. One cannot support a system economic inequality and complain about its real world manifestation of class privilege. Such is liberal First World theoretical nonsense, no Marxist could hold this position.”

  3. I cannot feel pity for someone who ate themselves fat on purpose and then complain when people say `Hey you`re fat! Drop some pounds for your own good!` This whole thing about thin privilege seems to be obese people defending their laziness to drop the weight. I totally understand if someone has a condition in which they cannot help but be overweight. Yet, when people go on about lame reasons like `My genetics make me fat` while I see them eating a double quarter pounder with a large fries and drink is laughable.

  4. Fat Pride?? Ugh, anything but being proud of the inner self. Push your true inner spirit way down where you will never find it and fill yourself with false material pride of consumerism like a hungry soulless ghost. My only fear is America won’t collapse.

  5. Reblogged this on endlessleeper and commented:
    “thin privilege” is such utter bullshit. so being underweight due to a medical condition, ie your body EATING ITSELF, is a privilege over being fat and otherwise healthy? women also get roped into this crap because ugly fat p.o.s males feel diskwiminated against~ when women don’t wanna fuck them and exploit women who are overweight–just like ALL “politically-minded” men. true fact: fat women are treated horribly due to being women. fat men, and all men, have it so shockingly easy compared to women. it is incredible how indulgent and spoiled they are and just HOW MUCH of politics are male whining and crying.

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