Resisting the “war on obesity” - University of Warwick

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  • 1.Resisting the “war on obesity” Technologies of the Gendered Body (Week 8)
  • 2.Outline What is the “war on obesity”? Resisting the “war on obesity”: Advertising Feminism Critical obesity studies Fat activism
  • 3.What is the “war on obesity”?
  • 4.Advertising junk food Burger King – “I am a man” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGLHlvb8skQ
  • 5.Feminism The body as a site of patriarchal oppression Compulsory heterosexuality The evaluation of women by appearance Dieting as a form of physical and emotional harm Dieting as a time-consuming distraction Dieting as a form of control
  • 6.Critical obesity studies Gard and Wright 2005: 136 “…when the prevailing conditions are described as an “epidemic”, hyperbole no longer looks like hyperbole, ideology can look like common sense and moralising can even look like science”.
  • 7.Critical obesity studies Questioning weight gain stats (Campos et al, 2006: 55) “…what we have seen in the US in a relatively modest rightward skewing of average weight on the distribution curve, with people of lower weights gaining little or no weight, and the majority of people weighing 3-5kg more than they did a generation ago. The average American’s weight gain can be explained by 10 extra calories a day, or the equivalent of a Big Mac once every 2 months. […] This is hardly the orgy of fast food binging and inactivity widely thought to be to blame for the supposed fat explosion.”
  • 8.Critical obesity studies Questioning the health crisis: BMI is very weak predictor of mortality (especially in “overweight” category (BMI 25-29.9); closer correlation in high 30’s) Extremes of thinness are overlooked Little account taken of confounding factors – fitness / exercise / weight cycling / economic status etc Being overweight can have a protective effect
  • 9.Critical obesity studies Questioning the practicality / ethics of advocating weight loss: Most diets end in regain (plus more) (see Mann et al) Weight cycling is very unhealthy Many weight loss interventions have serious side-effects and complications Many health problems (e.g. heart disease / diabetes) can be treated successfully without weight loss
  • 10.Critical obesity studies “Obesity epidemic” as a moral panic: “Gluttony or sloth” (House of Commons Health Select Committee, 2004) Obesity as a “moral” failure to care for the self Alarmist language (time bombs)
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  • 13.“Obesity is a cancer “time bomb”(BBC online, 21.5.07)
  • 14.Critical obesity studies “Obesity epidemic” as a moral panic: “Gluttony or sloth” (House of Commons Health Select Committee, 2004) Obesity as a “moral” failure to care for the self Alarmist language (time bombs) Intense media coverage Underlying rhetoric around gender / race / class (see Herndon 2005)
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  • 16.Jamie Oliver and “Burger Mum” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsOl64sQjd4
  • 17.Fat activism
  • 18.Fat Activism Re-claiming the fat body; “Flabulous” (Marilyn Wann) Resisting dieting as harmful Resisting anti-fat discrimination Campaigning for better health care Gender – encouraging women to take up space National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance; International Size Acceptance Association BBW events; see also, Monaghan (Big Handsome Men, Bears…)
  • 19.Jennifer Portnick
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  • 23.Additional readings Mann, T, Tomiyama, J, Westling, E, Lew, A, Samuels, B and Chatman, J (2007) “Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments” American Psychologist 62 (3): 220-233