Fat Jokes a Hate Crime?
Barbara D’Souza argues in a USA Today op-ed that not only aren’t fat jokes funny, they are a form of hate speech.
Since fatness is seen as a lifestyle choice rather than a genetic condition, many people tell themselves that it is OK to laugh at the overweight. In spite of the extreme difficulty obese people face when trying to lose weight (I have lost more than 60 pounds three times), our condition is assumed to be self-inflicted. Yet if obesity were seen as a disability rather than gluttony, fat jokes would arguably be seen as hate speech.
It is unclear whether the media cause anti-fat bias, or whether it merely reflects our culture’s views. Perhaps each reinforces the other, as evidenced by the pervasive prejudice similarly felt in an overweight American’s everyday life. I have felt this oppression when strangers yelled insults at me. For example, one woman asked me, “Are you going to get something to eat?” At my many jobs, I have faced jokes and bullying; many of my heavy friends have had similar experiences. Fat harassment, in general, might be as prevalent as sexual harassment, but – perhaps because we are too ashamed – we obese do not speak out.
Now, insulting people isn’t very nice and continually poking fun of an individual, especially in a work place, could certainly be considered harrassment.
Yet the idea that morbid obesity is a “genetic condition” is, in the vast number of cases, patently ridiculous. Why is it that this genetic plight seems to affect only the most affluent societies? I can’t recall a single obese person during the Ethiopian or Somali famines, for example. And why is this gene so much more prevalent than it was twenty or thirty years ago, affecting even children? Is this part of Magneto’s evil plan?
There’s little doubt that there is a genetic component to obesity. The impact is miniscule, however, compared to lifestyle.