Reading the comments on Rebecca Sparrow’s excellent post on Mamamia about fat discrimination (in particular Stephanie Payne’s story of abuse on public transport) has had my face meeting my palm a few times today. It’s the same old tropes that are trotted out on every single article about the “obesity epidemic” and anything else to do with fatness – you know the ones:
“But that’s not healthy!”
“Well nobody should be bullied but being THAT heavy/fat/obese is just wrong.”
“If they don’t want to be bullied, they should just lose weight.”
“Well there’s fat and then there’s just obese, that’s disgusting.”
“I’m not fat but I work really hard at staying thin, so they’re just lazy.”
“If you take up more space then you should pay for two seats.”
And even this one bothers me:
“Well you don’t know if they’re doing something to lose weight or not, so you shouldn’t risk bullying them.” (As if people who are not being “good fatties” and losing weight don’t deserve the same respect and fairness as everyone else.)
Blah blah blah blah blah! I know, we’ve all heard them a million times over, as if they justify fat people being treated as though they are sub-human.
I want to focus on one I keep seeing repeated tonight. Are we ready?
“But you’re driving up the cost of health insurance/taxes!!”
Let’s just think about that shall we?
Firstly, the implication is that fat people are nothing but a drain on the public infrastructure. That somehow, fatness means that one can never have a job, pay taxes, engage in volunteer work, support a family (either children or elderly parents or any other members of family), have an education, be creative, be nurturing, be intelligent, be passionate, be hard-working or devoted.
Because all fat people do is sit on the sofa and eat cheeseburgers amirite?
Well, I can only speak for myself, but I’d love a little more leisure time to sit on the sofa and I wish cheeseburgers didn’t give me reflux!
Funnily enough, fat people go to work just like anyone else. They work hard (if not harder, because of the amount of discrimination against fatness in the workplace) and pay taxes. I work in a capital city, and I see fat people coming and going from their places of employment every day. I am served in shops by fat people, waited on in cafes and restaurants by fat people, see fat bus drivers and fat cleaners and fat lawyers and fat doctors and fat police and fat tradies. In my own job, I have fat colleagues and fat vendors and fat suppliers that I work with, and they’re all hard working people who do their part to help me do my job. They do so just the same as the thin people I work with, and the in-between people I work with. Body size has absolutely no bearing on how people do their job. Well, unless you’re a window cleaner, and I don’t know about you, but the thought of dangling down the side of a building as the wind whistles by has absolutely no appeal for me, whether I was fat OR thin!
Secondly, let’s address the “driving up the cost” aspect. This of course implies that the only people that are utilising health care/insurance are fat people. Or at best, that fat people are using up more than “their fare share”. So where are we with smokers, drinkers, drug users, those who engage in violence to themselves or others, sports people who sustain illness or injury due to their sport, DIY-ers who injure themselves while cutting/hammering/demolishing etc, people who drive cars and cause accidents, people who spend too much time in the sun and get sunstroke or severe sunburn, folks who get into trouble at the beach/pool/other waterway and need rescuing and subsequent medical attention… the list could go on and on of people who engage in behaviour that causes them to require medical attention.
And of course we have no concrete proof that fatness is because of any behaviour, can be controlled or reversed in any way, but I’m giving the “But you’re driving up the cost of health insurance/taxes!” crew the benefit of the doubt here.
Finally, let’s talk about the whole thing about taxes, levies, rates, tariffs and other public funding. Part of being an adult in our society is that you are required to contribute a share of your livelihood in taxes and other public fees.
Ok, so you pay those monies, but you don’t want any of that money to go towards the fatties getting this perceived “extra” health care, because you’re not fat right? So you shouldn’t be letting anyone else have “extra” that you don’t need right?
Well… do you have children? Because if not, your money is going towards education, which you might not directly reap the benefits of. How about drive a car, do you do that? Because if you don’t, your taxes etc are going towards roads, bridges, highways and street-lights, the oil industry, and all the other infrastructure required to for motoring on, that you may not directly benefit from. Do you use public transport at all? If not, your tax dollars are going towards buses, trains, ferries, taxis and trams, not to mention cycle paths and walkways that you might not directly use yourself. Do you go to the library? Your rates and taxes go towards them too – how dare all those horrible people use your tax dollars to borrow books, enjoy story time, use the library space and take computer classes at your expense!
The reality is, we pay taxes and other public fees to go towards a pool of funds that are used to build the very infrastructure of our world. To pay for roads and schools and libraries and parks and yes, even health care, among many other things. If you want to quibble where your tax dollars go, how about you take a look at politicians pay packets. Or how much money goes into the military every year. Believe me, it’s far more dollars that go to those two than go to health care for any people, let alone just the fat ones.
If you want to talk about things that drive the cost of private health insurance up, let’s look at the profit margins of health insurance companies. Or better still, the pay packets of their CEO’s! Let’s just say that these CEO’s aren’t going to be lining up for public health care with the rest of us any time soon.
In short, it’s a pretty redundant argument to say that fat people are driving up the costs of health insurance/taxes. Health insurance is an industry created to make a profit for their shareholders, and taxes are a public pool of money that we all benefit from in various different ways.
And every single one of us has the same rights as the other, regardless of our body size, or our health.