Obesity and Naturalness

High profile anti-obesity activist Meme Roth writes on her blog: “Let’s finally recognize obesity as abuse—abuse of our children, abuse of ourselves—and together take action.” Roth has recently trademarked the term “second-hand obesity”, playing on “second-hand smoke.” She writes that second-hand obesity is passed along from parent to child and from citizen to citizen. Roth makes numerous television appearances every year and continually underlines the association of fat with sickness, death, and unnaturalness.

New research by Dr. Arya Sharma is beginning to break the elision of fat and sickness with his new research:

“The back-to-back studies come as more evidence emerges that a significant proportion of overweight people are metabolically healthy and that the risks associated with obesity do not make for a one-size-fits-all formula.” More can be found here: http://www.canada.com/health/Heavy+healthy+formula+slims+down+definition+dangerously+obese/5257089/story.html

If the risks associated with obesity are less dramatic than once believed, then what is feeding this culture of obesity panic that aims to “blast away fat” and “burn belly fat” away in 10 days or less?

What surprises me about much of the writing on obesity, like Roth’s and Richard Carmona, the Surgeon general of the United States who compared the obesity epidemic to terrorism, is that Continue reading

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Fat Studies: A Critical Dialogue

Call For Papers
“Fat Studies: A Critical Dialogue”

Special Journal Issue of Feminism & Psychology
Guest Editor: Dr Samantha Murray

While cultural anxieties about fatness and stigmatisation of fat
bodies in Western cultures have been central to dominant discourses
about bodily `propriety´ since the early twentieth century, the rise
of the `disease´ category of obesity and the moral panic over an
alleged global `obesity epidemic´ has lent a medical authority and
legitimacy to what can be described as `fat-phobia´. Against the
backdrop of the ever-growing medicalisation and pathologisation of
fatness, the field of Fat Studies has emerged in recent years to offer
an interdisciplinary critical interrogation of the dominant medical
models of health, to give voice to the lived experience of fat bodies,
and to offer critical insights into, and investigations of, the
ethico-political implications of the cultural meanings that have come
to be attached to fat bodies.

This Special Issue will examine a range of questions concerning the
construction of fat bodies in the dominant imaginary, including the
problematic intersection of medical discourse and morality around
`obesity´, disciplinary technologies of `health´ to normalise fat
bodies (such as diet regimes, exercise programs and bariatric
surgeries), gendered aspects of `fat´, dominant discourses of
`fatness´ in a range of cultural contexts, and critical strategies for
political resistance to pervasive `fat-phobic´ attitudes. Continue reading

Montreal Massacre: 20 Years Later

Three candles

Three candles

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the killing rampage at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal that left 14 women dead, as many again physically injured, and a province and country stunned and scarred. I find it a bit emotional to write about still, all these years later, so will just link to a few of the stories that are up on it for those who are interested.

Montreal Massacre Events Mark 1989 Shootings (CBC)

Lessons of the Montreal Massare (The Star)

Killer Lepine Did Not Destroy Hope at Polytechnique, Massacre Survivors Say (Canadian Press)

Le Devoir articles on the massacre (in French)

Why Women Shouldn’t Marry

From my good friend RR at Chicana on the Edge, some reflection on mother-daughter team Cynthia and Hillary Smith’s recently revised book of this title (it’s an update of their 1988 book). Even her pic for this one is too irresistible not to steal, with the book being read on her recent belated honeymoon …

Cover of the book Why Women Shouldn't Marry

Cover of the book Why Women Shouldn

On the first day of our honeymoon, my husband and I wandered into a bookstore. I happened to notice one title, Why Women Shouldn’t Marry: Being Single By Choice and I picked it up. I was a spinster for too long to not find this book irresistible. My new husband indulgently carried it to the checkout counter for me.

I appreciate Cynthia S. Smith and Hillary B. Smith’s book. It acknowledges all the great reasons to get married, but asserts that too many women marry for bad reasons. With chapters like “The Soul Mate Myth,” “Why Divorced Women with Kids Shouldn’t Marry” and “Why Widows Shouldn’t Marry: You’ve Been Through Enough,” they have a lot of opinions I agree with. Their book rips into the cultural beliefs that a woman who isn’t married is less valuable and that marriage improves every woman’s life. I love the numerous stories of women who live independently, staying true to what they want out of life and refusing to let a man ruin their balance and stability. Continue reading

THINKING GENDER:Graduate Student Research Conference

**NOTE: Disability is among the topics that the organizers hope to highlight**

THE UCLA CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF WOMEN announces
CALL FOR PAPERS

2009 THINKING GENDER

THE NINETEENTH ANNUAL GRADUATE STUDENT RESEARCH CONFERENCE, Friday, February 6, 2009
UCLA FACULTY CENTER

Thinking Gender is a public conference highlighting graduate student research on women, sexuality and gender across all disciplines and historical periods. We invite submissions  for individual papers or preconstituted panels. This year, we especially welcome feminist research on:

– women and media
– local feminist issues and concerns in Southern California
– women and the environment (e.g., ecofeminism, the built 
environment, urban planning, architecture)
– women and political activism (e.g., women in government, women and 
war/peace)
– embodiment (e.g., disability, genetics)
– women in sports

Continue reading

Beauty through the eye of a camera

Isabelle Caro, a 27-year-old French woman, has battled anorexia for 15 years. (image courtesy Nolita)

Isabelle Caro, a 27-year-old French woman, has battled anorexia for 15 years. (image courtesy Nolita)

In April, Paris drafted a voluntary charter encouraging advertisers to promote a wider range of body types in an effort to curb the spread of eating disorders among teenagers. Soon, Quebec may be following suit. Although some countries have made weight ranges mandatory, such as Spain, this voluntary measure is a first step that does not preclude the possibility of legislation passing in the future. See the full story here.

Here in Canada we’ve already seen some advertisers looking to promote a wider range body types. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is a conspicuous one that has received much attention. Largely, I think, this is due to the shock value that half-naked non-models on billboards will inevitably provide in a culture where images of bodies in public are edited beyond recognition. Continue reading

Normalizing Mothers

The Shape of a Mother is a  newly renovated blog (still somewhat under construction, so search via the search engine, not tags) that recently made it on to the blog roll (thanks to Jackie!) and  I thought I’d give you all a formal introduction. This blog takes a look at women’s bodies during and after pregnancy to try and dispel the sense that such forms are abnormal, unhealthy, and shameful. It includes contributions from many people looking to post pictures of their post-baby tummies in an effort to foster pride in the many shapes that motherhood can bring. Continue reading