Over the past few years, there’s been a growing popularity in social media regarding fat-positivity. The idea that being obese is acceptable and “healthy” has slowly crept into society. I feel that body-positivity is important, and people should be proud of how they look. However, I am completely against the idea of promoting a damaging lifestyle and enforcing people’s beliefs that it’s ok to be obese. What annoys me more than anything is that this movement uses the exact same rhetoric to rationalize their views as the disabled community does in advocating for disability positivity.
I know this is an extremely detested position, but I don’t believe that being obese is a disability anymore than I believe being a drug addict is a disability. This isn’t just how I feel. The idea of obesity being labeled a disability has been shut down by the 7th circuit Court of Appeals since under the American’s with Disabilities Act an obese person is only labeled as disabled if there is a physiological disorder that causes the obesity. It’s important to clearly differentiate both obesity and disability as two separate things since one is a lifestyle and to other is not.
In the disabled community, we view the struggles of being disabled as a social construct instead of viewing the disability itself as the problem. The classic example is that a man in a wheelchair is only “disabled” if he encounters a set of stairs. Thus, it’s the stairs that creates the problem, and not his disability. With this new wave form of obesity positivity, the exact same rhetoric is used. Obese people justify their obesity by saying things like, “the problem isn’t obesity, it’s society’s fat-phobia that’s the problem”. Pretty soon they’ll start saying that being fat is a social construct.
Here’s why this obesity-positive rhetoric is not only insulting, but also idiotic. First, and most obvious, the problem isn’t that society looks down on obese people. The problem is that obesity leads to numerous health issues such as cancer, increased rate of heart disease and birth defects. These are serious problems that can directly affect a person’s health. And yes, I know there’s an obesity paradox in which some studies suggest that being obese might actually be healthy. Yet, the overall medical stance is that, yes, being obese is unhealthy; that’s like saying that some research suggests that climate change doesn’t exist in the sea of overwhelming evidence saying otherwise.
What really gets me is the rhetoric used to justify obesity positivity, “my weight isn’t the problem, society’s problem with my weight is the problem”. Again, this is used in the disabled community. Let’s see how these two schools of thought stack up in the real world.
Disabled person: My problem isn’t that I’m blind, it’s that this restaurant has not provided a braille menu
Random Person: No, I think the problem is that you can’t see!
Disabled person: In this case, the only reason why me not being able to see is a problem is because I can’t read the menu… which can be easily rectified with a braille menu.
Random person: Yeah, but it would be better if you could see!
Disabled person: The point of seeing is to function in society and enjoy life… which right now I’d be able to do both with a goddamn braille menu!
Now, let’s apply the same conversation with an obese person.
Obese Person: The problem isn’t that I’m too big; the car is just too small!
Random person: I’m pretty sure the overall problem is that you’re too big
Obese Person: No! you need to make bigger cars for me!
Random Person: Fair enough… but that won’t take away the fact that you have serious health issues due to your obesity.
Obese Person: I’m not un-healthy!
See! See how using disabled rhetoric here is fuckin stupid!?
I earned my M.A in English Lit from Gardner-Webb University in 2019. My writing mainly focuses on disability positivity. I enjoy sci-fi, fantasy and classic rock. Oh, and I’m also a part time phone sex operator. So, that’s a thing.