Gretel Hallet is a Chocolate Fairy and writes a lot on this blog. Her next workshop is in Norwich on 9th April If you live in the area and want to find out more about Beyond Chocolate, Gretel would love to hear from you! Meet Gretel.
Have you heard of Marsha Coupe? She’s a 53 year old American who lives in Kent and works in London. Oh, and she happens to weigh in at 22 stone. I hadn’t heard of her before I spotted an article on my internet homepage with the intriguing title, ‘The Tyranny of Thin People’ by Ian Dunt. Anything to do with weight, shape or size interests me as a Beyond Chocolater and a Chocolate Fairy, so I looked the article up.
To my horror, I discovered that in 2009 Marsha Coupe was attacked on a train by another woman because of her weight. She was hit so hard in the face that she thought she might lose her eye. Since then, Marsha has joined other women to lobby for London to be less ‘fattist’; just as there have been public campaigns to make people more aware of racism, homophobia and other hate crimes.
The woman who attacked Marsha Coupe wasn’t caught, but is her attitude typical of how we think about people who have fat? I would hope not, but would suspect it is.
The title of the article by Ian Dunt, by the way, was a little misleading, but it did mention our society’s obsession with thinness and how, as a society in general, we stigmatise fat. I think I may have said this before, but fat has become the new whipping boy for the NHS. Not that long ago we were all told that if we wanted to be healthier, or if we wanted treatment, we would have to give up smoking. Now we are being told to lose weight.
Fat is being blamed for all manner of ills in the country. Lost working days, increased pressure on the NHS, even the reduction in the allowed weight of luggage on planes to compensate for the increased weight of passengers.
People with fat are dismissed as too lazy and too stupid to make corrections to their diet that would allow them to maintain a more ‘normal’ weight. The diet industry is blossoming in this culture of fattism, and yet, as a nation we are bombarded with statistics that tell us that 30% of adults are ‘obese’.
I often wonder where these statistics are gathered from. I have been in places in England where I am the largest person weight-wise as far as I can see. In other places I feel positively under-nourished. But isn’t what part of what diversity means? That not everyone is the same? There always have been some people who have more fat than others. Everyone knows someone who eats for England and doesn’t gain a pound and someone else who eats moderately and has fat. People are individuals, for goodness’ sake!
Apparently in San Francisco it’s actually illegal to discriminate against someone because of their size – in England an attack like the one Marsha suffered should be regarded as a Hate Crime, the same as if she had been attacked for being black, or gay for example.
Another article prompted by Marsha’s story in the BBC magazine cites Susie Orbach as saying in response to this story, ‘the assumption is that overweight people have lost their self-control. That frightens society because there is so much emphasis on being slim’, and I think she has a point. We are a society obsessed with celebrity, youth, beauty, slimness and many people aspire to these ideals. Anyone who doesn’t fit the ideal is therefore a target.
Finger wagging messages from Government about ‘tackling obesity levels’ aren’t helping either, turning those with fat into society’s new pariahs.
I don’t have a solution I’m afraid; I’m just putting this out there and would be interested to hear your views …