The Death Threat: It’s not about health.
Stacy Bias posted an amazing sample of fat hatred today, and it reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while. Namely, The Death Threat.
Ragen has written about The Vague Future Health Threat before, and The Death Threat is its close cousin.
The Vague Future Health Threat and The Death Threat are two of a kind because they allow a person to openly vent their fat hatred in public, but under cover of plausible deniability: it’s not about hatred, it’s about your health!
Let’s unpack this.
Here’s how the theory goes: “obesity” is a disease – the disease of being fat, specifically.
The word “obese” implies that the “disease” is caused by eating yourself fat. Which, you know, might not be true. These studies imply that not only do fat people eat roughly the same amount as thin people, but also that recent calorie intake has increased by the same amount across people of different weights. So maybe some people are just fat, because different bodies have different genetic blueprints that respond differently to the same environment? I know, weird.
But for the sake of this thought experiment, let’s go with “obesity is a disease caused by eating too much,” which means you did it to yourself, fatty.
In the grown-up world where rational people live, it is not actually set in stone that “obesity” is a disease, not least of all because the definition of “disease” is still somewhat fuzzy – which is handy, because it can be stretched to conveniently cover physical traits and behaviours that you find distasteful, thus becoming a useful means of social control that sets “health” (definition also fuzzy) as the new meritocratic standard of Good Dog/Bad Dog, a game we all love to play.
The “obesity = disease” theory is also not set in stone because being fat does not lead to an exclusive, inevitable set of symptoms or health outcomes, despite all the alarmism in the media.
There are fat people who exist in all states of biomedical health, with different health conditions, and with varying life expectancies – just like thin people. There is no particular disease or syndrome that all fat people get, or that only fat people get* – just like thin people. And some fat people don’t seem to have any symptoms or risk factors (other than weight) at all – just like some thin people. So it’s a fairly controversial classification that is still under debate.
But for the sake of this thought experiment, let’s also roll with the “obesity is a disease” theory, within which The Death Threat operates.
If “obesity” is a disease, then that means people are concerned about fat people’s health. Because we care about each other, right? (And our very important Health Care Dollars ™ which we alone contribute to the system through the sweat of our virtuous little brows.)
And when you see someone who has a real, honest-to-goodness disease, it’s only natural to remind them that THEY ARE GOING TO DIE, and also to take some measure of delight in the fact.
I imagine the death threateners would argue that, no, it’s only people who are clearly not treating their disease in the prescribed manner who receive their judgment. And also because fat people brought their “obesity” on themselves by simply eating too much, something that is super-easy to remedy by simply eating less.
So, if a fat person is caught in the act of being “obese,” it means that not only is it their fault, they are being willfully non-compliant. They aren’t following The Rules.
And just like you would taunt a smoker who develops lung cancer, and just like you would taunt a person with cancer who is trying non-traditional treatments, you would naturally take it upon yourself to charitably spread the news to all the diseased, doomed, and non-compliant fat people of the world that they are GOING TO DIE. HA HA!
Of course you would! It makes perfect sense, provided you’re a terrible person.
*With the rare exception of fat-person-who-literally-can’t-leave-the-house syndrome, in which case there are probably underlying medical issues, just as there are with thin-person-who-wastes-away-to-nothing syndrome.