In this world of the politically sensitive, where hate speech is a crime in a growing number of countries, the list of what provokes hatred among a society is expanding. Most of us would agree that vilifying a person or a group on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, or religion is just patently wrong.
But what about vilifying someone because of another characteristic, one that is self-inflicted. I’m thinking of those who smoke and those who are obese. The argument can be made that they choose to be that way, regardless of their arguments about addiction. Face it, depending on the society and the culture, most groups of people who participate in actions or habits deemed as inappropriate or damaging have to endure stigmatization.
Is that fair?
I have written about obesity and my personal concerns that the so-called war on obesity is fueling a lynch mob mentality that targets a certain population in this country, and quite frankly, encourages harsh judgement and even abject abuse. I don’t like it when we black-and-white any issue, as nothing is as simple as certain people would like to make it appear. Yes, there is plenty of evidence that what we eat has a major impact on our health. Yes, there is evidence that carrying around extra weight is detrimental to our health. Of course, it’s healthier to live an active lifestyle.
But who says that someone who’s fat doesn’t know all of these things? Is it simply a matter of eating salad instead of chicken wings? Anyone who has gone through weight loss programs–and believe me, it ain’t easy–knows that weight isn’t just a number on the scale. It’s way more complicated than that. And I have a problem when we as a society exercise harsh judgement instead of compassion. I have to ask, is weight the only measure of good health?
The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) for years has worked to bring the issue of size discrimination to the public arena. The motto, “We come in all sizes” is one of tolerance and understanding. Recently, in New Zealand, a professor of human development has come forward, calling for the ban of “hate speech” against fat people, pointing out that it’s not only the obese who suffer from societal hatred, it’s the rest of society as well.