Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Weight Matters

Yes, it does. Whether we like it or not, what we weigh is of importance to lots of people. Sometimes, when I'm feeling really shitty and lonely, what I weigh and what people think about that starts to matter to me. Doctors, politicians, pundits, celebrities, friends and family members all seem to have something to say about obesity. The perpetually fat-critical Gillian McKeith is currently back on our screens, doing her "thing". A "thing" which,by the way, seems solely to consist of humiliating fat people and trying to cure them by forcing them to eat bugger all and have their poo examined. Each week for a while, she will be shaming three fat women into fighting each other in the weight loss arena for the grand prize of a ludicrously expensive frock in which the winning fatty can get married once she drops enough flab and fits into it. If you have the stomach for it (pardon the pun) you can read all about this shame-festhere.

If you would prefer a really intelligent discussion of the politics of fat and eating and the socio-economic factors that influence eating choices and behaviours, take a look at Regina Austin's amazing, eye-opening article (hat tip: Feminist Law Profs, thankyou!) Super Size Me and the Conundrum of Race/Ethnicity, Gender, and Class for the Contemporary Law-Genre Documentary Filmmaker . You can find it here. Ms. Austin examines Morgan Spurlock's film Super Size Me and discusses whether or not Spurlock undertook to examine the Pelman v McDonald's lawsuit from a fair and inclusive position.

Here's a tasty, tempting chunk of Austin's argument:

Of course, the Pelman plaintiffs are black. The film notes only
their sizes, accompanied by a cute graphic of their ballooning
dimensions, and provides no other information that might be relevant
to understanding their obesity or the role McDonald’s played in their
lives. At the time the suit was brought, plaintiff Ashley Pelman was
fourteen years old, four feet ten inches tall, and 170 pounds. The
other plaintiff, Jazlyn Bradley, was nineteen years old, five feet six
inches tall, and 270 pounds.38 The plaintiffs ate their McDonald’s in
the Bronx.39 The population of the Bronx is 15% white, 31% African
American, 48% Hispanic, 3% Asian and 3% other. The Bronx has
the highest rate of obesity in the City of New York.40 Plaintiff Jazlyn
Bradley, one of ten children, resided in a dilapidated apartment that
had no kitchen sink (dishes were washed in the bathtub)41 before she
moved to a homeless shelter where she lived between the ages of
fifteen and eighteen.42 Given that there was no place to cook, Jazlyn
was given money with which to eat out; she chose McDonald’s
because it was cheap and close; she might eat there up to three times
a day....Super Size Me's homogenized
message, by skirting over significant details of the social and
economic context in which the plaintiffs became obese, is less truly
informative about fast food’s contribution to obesity in general than
it appears.

This article is utterly intelligent, sensitive and well thought out. Read it, digest it. It's soul food.

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