Sunday, August 1, 2010

Get fucked, Anne Milton.

Anne Milton, I am offended by you. Well not you exactly, because fortunately I have never met you, but I am offended by how you think that doctors should use the word 'fat', rather than the word 'obese', to motivate people to lose weight. Milton, Britain's Public Health Minister, says:

"If I look in the mirror and think I am obese I think I am less worried (than) if I think I am fat," Milton, a former nurse, told the BBC. "At the end of the day, you cannot do it for them. People have to have the information."

Some really awesome fat acceptance writers have already written posts about Milton's patronisingly frustrating use of the word fat. A word which should just be a describing word, like tall or tan or curly-haired, but a word which is actually steeped in a culture of body hatred and of shame, a word that shrouds its venom beneath messages of healthy lifestyles and longevity. A word that is sometimes being used by fat activists with the radical notion that being fat doesn't have to be a bad thing or a death sentence or an albatross around your neck, and that maybe being PRO HEALTH instead of being ANTI FAT might be a more useful way of living life, because loving your body might be more helpful than fighting it. (And Michelle Obama, by the way, I'm looking at you as well. You're no Anne Milton, but I wish that my love of your well spoken poise, your humility and your kitten heels hadn't been tainted by the ANTI-OBESITY focus of your health program. Could you not plant vegetables and encourage kids to move around more often without placing the focus on hating their bodies? What about ANTI-PROCESSED FOOD? ANTI-POVERTY? PRO-BROCCOLI? PRO-HEALTHY BLOOD PRESSURE AND LIPIDS LEVELS? PRO HOT YOGA AND A SWIM EVERY WEEK? Would these not be better wars to wage, rather than starting the battle underneath our skin? And Michelle, while we're talking, maybe it would have been great if you didn't talk about your daughters' weight during your campaign? Maybe the children of America don't need to know that the First Lady hates their bodies?)

Coincidentally, I'm not the only person who is pissed at Milton.. Upon hearing her comments, fat activist Charlotte Cooper from Obesity Timebomb, wrote:

"I had to do a double-take when I first read this article. My initial reaction to a quick skim of the headline was: "Yeah! Call me fat! That's exactly what I want, skip this obese nonsense." I reject obese because I don't want to be defined as a victim of a terrible disease, as someone who need curing, as a tragic figure for pity and paternalistic intervention. But the definition of fat being mooted in this article is as something appalling and dreadful, a shaming weapon. These guys really think that fat is an insult, they don't get it as a marker of one's identity and experience, or a way of describing communities, or its politicised nature. What a shame the BBC did not have the breadth of vision to get quotes from people who might have an alternative viewpoint."

And Kate Harding, of Shapely Prose but writing for The Guardian, says:

"Believe me, I would love to live in a culture where fat merely means "having more adipose tissue than average", and in which that implies nothing about one's character. That's why I shamelessly call myself fat, no matter how many people insist that both the word and my body demand some measure of embarrassment and apology. But it's going to be a long while before fat is used in that value-neutral sense, and in the meantime we all know exactly what most people mean by it: you are disgusting, worthless, not quite human."

Andy by the way, Ms. Milton, you think that fat people "need the information"? You think that fat people need to be reminded about their unacceptable body? You think that fat people aren't reminded every day when they walk past heckling teeangers on a building site or when they walk into a shop to buy some jeans and they meet the gaze of the listless teenager behind the counter? Do you think that being called fat by a medical professional who aims to deliberately shame and humiliate is a good thing? Sorry, what was your job? The Public Health Minister? Oh right.

But maybe, what offends me even more than Milton, is the picture that news website Stuff used to go along with their article. (Speaking of news articles, I was quite impressed that the Herald Sun interviewed some fat activists in their coverage, rather than only lazily reprinting a Reuters article like Stuff did.) The picture wasn't a picture of Anne herself, because I actually had to use both my initiative and my Bachelor of Arts honed research skills to Google Image that one up up there. It was a picture of this person:


And when I was Google Imaging Ms. Milton, this person came up, originally used in a BBC article:

no top

And this person:


And yes, these are people. These are not headless creatures from planet fat. The woman, at the top, might have been going through those gates to get on a train to visit her aunt or go to work or go to the beach or to see her friends. The second man, I wonder what he was thinking when he took off his shirt under studio lighting, a spectacle. The woman in the third photo is walking with her daughter or her sister or her niece. They might have been chatting, but we will never know because she has been robbed of her face and her dignity and her personality and her identity. These headless photos are so depressingly common and they really are also so incredibly insulting. When I think about it, I can conjure up a mental photo album of these images, clipped from every moral panic obesity article I have ever read and every flat stomach advert from down the side of my Facebook (because their advertising targeting system obviously isn't quite good enough to realise that I'm actually looking at fat acceptance blogs), as well as a never ending waddling parade of anonymous asses in khaki pants from every results-not-typical infomercial I have ever seen while staying home sick from uni and watching Dr. Phil. A photo album filled with people I don't know, who might have had their picture taken while at the supermarket or on the way to see their dad in hospital.

And another thing, if those pictures up there were photos of a thin woman from behind, a muscular torso and a girl with an itty-bitty-waist shaking-that-thing-in-your-face, these shots would be sexy. Or if they weren't sexy, per-say, they would at least be sexualised. Just because the woman is fat, the viewer isn't supposed to see her body as sexy. A fat body is obviously not appealing and a fat person obviously doesn't deserve a voice, because they are probably too busy eating anyway.These photos show just how society likes their fat people - othered, anonymous, and as a warning.


  1. Great post Ally.
    I too am trying to use fat as a neutral descriptor for my own body. I am tall, I am blonde and I am fat. How are any of these things different?
    It sucks that any small headway I make with my friends and family is crushed when an influential person like Milton comes out with these skinds of statments.

  2. Right on. It's not O.K. for anyone, much less a government official, to suggest shaming people into any type of behavior modification. I'm offended, too.

  3. Ally you are great. I am also offended.