Dear journalists and other media agents, medical and health professionals, government organisations, researchers, academics and other relevant professionals,
I am writing to you to request politely but firmly, for the last time, for you to cease referring to fat people as “the obese”.
“The obese” that you refer to are not alien beings sent down from the planet Lardo. They are not animals that have tried to assimilate with humanity. They are not creatures from the black lagoon, nor are they any other kind of hideous monster you can dream up. They are also not in any way less, sub, below, beneath or beyond yourself or any other human being.
“The obese” that you refer to, are people. They are human beings who simply have more fat on their bodies than other human beings.
They are people with lives, families, jobs, responsibilities, intellect, humour, worries, friends, problems and feelings just like any other people.
When you refer to them, no us, as “the obese”, you dehumanise us. You reduce us to some kind of “other” that isn’t of equal value to the rest of humanity. You reduce us to a thing, rather than a person.
You don’t refer to thin people as “the thin”. You don’t refer to tall people as “the tall”. It is only those you wish to look down upon that are reduced to a “the”. You know you’re not allowed to do it to people of colour any more, or people with disabilities, or people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. You all pretty much stopped doing that in your newspaper articles and medical papers and such some time ago. At least publicly anyway, because you know there will be trouble if you do.
Now I know you need to have some kind of official term to use in your work. The word obese is problematic, but if you really must use it, then how about referring to us as “obese people” or if you want to see obesity as a health condition, you could even use “people who suffer obesity”. Neither of which really sit well with me personally, but at least those terms don’t dehumanise us.
However, you may call us fat people. Because, well, that’s what we are. We are people who are fat. Like referring to young people or tall people or Australian people – fat people is just a factually descriptive term.
But hear me now. You must stop referring to us as “the obese”. Stop reducing us to our body type, and start remembering that we do have power and influence. We have money to spend, votes to cast, voices to speak, brains to think and plenty of friends and family influence.
You could have access to all of this if you only remembered that we do have it. Some of your colleagues are, and they’re already reaping the rewards.
A fat person.