Missing Link Friday – Plus-size edition

This week’s Missing Link features reactions to John Birmingham’s column: Why is fat such a fractious issue? Then there’s a miscellaneous collection of links on topics like the flood levy, the property market, inequality and race.

The F word

John Birmingham sees himself as a tough guy. Tough enough to fat-proof his kids by letting them watch the "grotesque obesity on display in Biggest Loser" and then write about it in his column. So if he is so tough, why is he worrying about flying into "a bloodswarm of hatred"? I’ll let Birmingham explain:

Obesity is an intensely politicised topic. Especially online. The Fat Acceptance and Health At Any Size movements can be swift and terrible to behold when they turn on someone ignorant or simply ill-mannered enough to frame a discussion of obesity in any way that belittles the obese.

He insists he doesn’t want to insult people who are overweight or obese. After all, "Traducing someone’s character, or mocking them for their weight, isn’t far removed from doing the same things on the basis of their skin color or ethnic background." But at the same time he insists that the fat acceptance crowd "need smashing flat when they try to redefine obesity as normal. They’re killing people as surely as the shareholders of Benson and Hedges."

Elizabeth at Spilt Milk isn’t impressed. She doesn’t see herself as an angry bully or a menace to public health. And she doesn’t want to be a cautionary tale for other people’s children. She responds by criticising Birmingham’s parenting:

There are so many problems with taking that approach with children. (I shan’t list them all but, um, how about these: what if your child grows up fat? what if your child develops an eating disorder? what if your child becomes a rude and judgemental body-snarker?) One really big loser of a problem is that the fatty over there is a human being. The fatty on your television screen is a human being. Human beings have emotions and a need to be treated with respect.

At Fat Heffalump, Kath is coping with fat-hating tweeters and trolls stirred into action by the online debate over Birmingham’s column:

Last night I really struggled to go to sleep. I felt so angry and bullied by the afternoon/evening’s events online. I won’t link to John Birmingham’s blog post, simply because while he does give a hat tip to Fat Acceptance, he just continues the "but you’re not healthy!" rhetoric that frankly, I’m sick of hearing and sick of responding to.

At Arthur and Kevin’s Nellorat, Nellorat writes: "I’m becoming deeply disturbed by the extent to which (1) some fat-acceptance and fat-rights people seem to insist that fat does not have any major health consequences, and (2) the extent to which this turns off many reasonable, thinking people who might otherwise become fat-rights advocates." Nellorat goes on to say:

Part of the problem, I think, is that most people–certainly myself included–are not very good at discussing, even thinking about, causality without bringing in guilt. Combined with the (relatively recent) idea that bad health is a reason to feel guilty, this is very poisonous. It’s hard enough to manage to recognize responsibility when it may seem to make us victims, but when to do so makes us offenders against ourselves, that’s a recipe for self-hate.

Poisonous is right. Birmingham accuses fat acceptance activists of killing people. The activists claim that he’s unleashed a storm of fat-hate and bullying while Birmingham complains that he’s the one being bullied: "I’m sorry, but I have been abused in the foulest of terms, and my children have been abused in similar terms, because of raising this issue. It’s not my problem. It’s the problem of the abusers."

See also: Introducing Dastardly Donut, at definatalie.com

Other interesting stuff …

Rating Agency Moody’s Endorses Gillard’s Flood Levy: Game-over for critics
Christopher Joye, Aussie Macro Moments

The Joye of ratings agencies
Sinclair Davidson, Catallaxy Files

Making the rich feel better
Joshua Gans, Core Economics

Gettin’ Heavy on the Levy
Rowan Doesn’t Want to Help. Or Does He?
Girl Clumsy offers to pay your flood levy … but there’s a catch.
(via John Birmingham)

The cult of Australian property
Oliver Marc Hartwich, Business Spectator

Exceptional American Beliefs about Mobility and Inequality
Lisa Wade, The Sociology Pages
(via tigtog at Hoyden About Town)

How Ohio’s Copley-Fairlawn School District Keeps Their Lily-White Reputation
Karoli, Odd Time Signatures
(a neglected link from last week’s Missing Link).

Letter to a Young Conservative: Why They Call Us Uncle Toms
John McWhorter, The Root

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[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Fat Heffalump, Elizabeth@Spilt Milk. Elizabeth@Spilt Milk said: Round-up of some Biggest Loser/Birmingham/FA stuff http://clubtroppo.lateraleconomics.com.au/2011/02/04/missing-link-friday-plus-size-edition/ […]


[…] posted a bit of a link round-up of the response to John Birmingham’s Biggest Loser article. You may want to have a little look-see. (You may know of some other relevant pieces that are also of interest; feel free to drop a link in […]