Daniel Engber of Slate has an interesting article up today about fat politics. Engber has written previously about anti-fat discrimination in our institutions and culture, so I know he’s pretty well-read on the topic. His question is whether bigotry will cost Chris Christie votes in the NJ gubernatorial election, and his answer is, well, most likely. That’s not really a big surprise and I don’t disagree with him.
There are some issues with how he gets there. For one thing, he cites Nate Silver’s ridiculous article as though it represented actual data on the body shapes and sizes of our nation’s governors, even though Silver evaluated their sizes by eyeballing photographs. (All that great statistical analyses he was known for leading up to the 2008 election seems to go out the window when it comes to certain subjects.) He also speaks authoritatively about what makes people fat — either overconsumption if you’re rich, or eating the wrong foods if you’re poor — even though the statistical differences in body size between those groups is poor, and even though any real correlation would still say nothing about causation.
Also, Engber, major fail on the oppression olympics front with this:
As a fat man, he’d get none of the deference afforded to women, homosexuals, blacks, Latinos, or any other marginalized group with its own identity politics. Never mind all the evidence of body-size discrimination in employment, education, and health care. Weight bias may be just as prevalent as racial bias, yet we’re reluctant to assign any political status to obesity.
Yeah, dude, no. Don’t even go there.
The interesting part for me was that he presents some aspects of the fat acceptance movement with some reasonably fair analysis. I think he could stand to be even harsher in his condemnation of people whose response to FA is to fling angry insults, and the internet really deserves a much bigger plug — places like Shapely Prose and Fatshionista are much more the face of fat acceptance than anything related to NAAFA (and thank god). But overall I like reading things like this in my news feed:
Thin people tend to think they’ve controlled their weight through hard work and strength of character…That makes the idea of size acceptance seem like a personal affront to anyone who’s not severely obese. If we’re all OK with being fat, then there’s no pride in being thin….Most of the country is overweight or obese, according to government standards, yet there’s no constituency for a fat politician. Conservatives see excess weight as a sign of moral failing or a breach of personal responsibility. Liberals sneer at the bloated American lifestyle, even while imagining the war on obesity as a fight for social justice.