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    "When many cures are offered for a disease, it means the disease is not curable" -Anton Chekhov

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    Saturday, May 01, 2004

    Modern Puritanism: Our society is so very tolerant of so many vices. Drug use, drinking, sexual promiscuity are winked at by the popular culture. Gluttony, however, is another story:

    Insidious attitudes about politics, sex, race or class are at the heart of the frenzy over obesity, these scholars say, a frenzy they see as comparable to the Salem witch trials, McCarthyism and even the eugenics movement.

    "We are in a moral panic about obesity," said Sander L. Gilman, distinguished professor of liberal arts, sciences and medicine at the University of Illinois in Chicago and the author of "Fat Boys: A Slim Book," published last month by the University of Nebraska Press. "People are saying, `Fat is the doom of Western civilization.'

    ...."The current hysteria about body mass and supposedly devastating health effects is creating a stratification in the society of power and privilege based on a scientifically fallacious concept of health. What we are seeing with this moral panic over fat in many ways is comparable to what we saw with the eugenics movement in the 20's.

    There is a very definite prejudice against the overweight and obese in our society. They are often yelled at by their doctors and ridiculed by their peers. But in true Times style, that prejudice gets translated into one that disproportionately affects women and minorites:

    In a new book, "Revolting Bodies" (University of Massachusetts Press), Ms. LeBesco writes that African-American and Mexican-American women are particularly targeted as obese in contemporary culture. "All of the discourse about fatness is about pathologizing the individual," she said in an interview, also likening it to the eugenics movement.

    She refers to a study by the Centers for Disease Control in which the highest proportions of overweight people are said to be African-American women and Mexican-American women. "Is it coincidence that representatives of these two stigmatized racial and ethnic groups, as well as women, are most likely to be obese?" Ms. LeBesco writes.

    Yes, it's coincidence. The food police and health puritans know no racial or sexual bounds when it comes to obesity. They are equal opportunity demonizers.

    But, at the very end of the article is this pearl of wisdom:

    Mr. Stearns insists he is not promoting obesity but rather arguing that making people feel guilty for being fat is a useless form of weight control. In describing the contemporary ethos, he said: "If you fail to lose weight you are demonstrating you're a bad person. It's a big burden. Faced with this additional pressure you are even more likely to end up by saying: `The hell with it! I'm going to get ice cream. I am such a bad person I need to solace myself.'

    So true. So true.


    posted by Sydney on 5/01/2004 04:35:00 PM 0 comments


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