What is discrimination?
On Tuesday, I went on a walk with a friend of mine who is a health and societies major. Wanting to test the ideas of Marilyn Wann’s Fat Studies, I asked him vaguely what he thought of “obesity” (which I will put in quotes just as Wann does)? He admitted that before studying “obesity” he thought fat people were largely to blame for their fatness but that his studies led him to believe fat people are not to blame. He cited the idea of “food deserts” (places where “healthy” food can’t be found/afforded for miles) and how “obesity” was, among other things, a product of the government pushing high fructose corn production. Although the extent of my knowledge with this stance is limited to watching Food Inc. I nonetheless noted that he supported Wann’s point: “obesity” and “overweight” seen as health issues means “weight prejudice becomes accepted and preferred”(xxi). This seems to me the most dangerous and counterintuitive form of discrimination. It’s benevolent discrimination under the guise of general “health”. With this mask, the anti-“obesity” movement seems to have swept the minds of most everyone.
What struck me also throughout our conversation was the arbitrariness of our knowledge. We were only debating what we had been told. (This may be the case often but here it disturbed me much more). In this arbitrary state, the position that prevailed, the anti-weight stance, lost out to such claims as, “weight is an inaccurate basis for predicting individual health or longevity” (xiii) simply because his arbitrary knowledge had more popularity and educational backing. Benevolent discrimination turned to arbitrary benevolent discrimination. This made me more unsettled. The only requirement for this prejudice was permission not direct experience of the perceived issue.