Why should I suffer for your obesity?

The Chicago Tribune reports:

Advocates for the plus-sized, particularly activists in the "fat acceptance" movement, want obesity to become a category legally protected against discrimination, like religion, race, age and sex... One such law, to ban discrimination against weight and height, is pending in Massachusetts.

"Right now, fat is just a marker of bad character, an undesirable personal trait that people bring on themselves," said Kirkland, who prefers the word fat to the ambiguity of overweight and the clinical-sounding obese. "What you're doing is forcing the law to force social change."

As all concepts of personal responsibility and personal liberty recede ever further into the past, it's not surprising that the first place the offended turn is their lawyer, and the second to their legislator.

No doubt we've all seen, and shied away from, an unpleasant-looking, morbidly obese person waddling down the aisle of the grocery.  Of course, some small percentage of these people do have medical problems which make their corpulence inevitable.  But none of them like the glances, stares, or turning away that they experience.  Numerous studies have demonstrated that the fat are less likely to be hired or promoted.

The trouble is, there is a never-ending list of things about which people "discriminate" that have nothing necessarily to do with the actual person's "content of their character."  The tall have long been recorded to be better-paid, on average.  Likewise the beautiful or handsome, for example, supermodels.  Pimply-faced youngsters are less likely to get prom dates than their more fortunate peers; the outgoing of personality are frequently more financially successful than the shy; and so on ad infinitum.  Are we now to attempt to make any sort of preferences illegal?

It's easy to laugh at this sort of stupidity, especially coming from the People's Republic of Taxachusetts.  But it wasn't that long ago that the thought of lawsuits against McDonald's for serving fatty food was ridiculed, yet now it has taken place, and many cities are attempting to ban fats of various kinds altogether.

What's more, obesity has costs, and not just the well-known medical costs of diabetes, renal failure, gout, and other ailments encountered by the Huttesque.

A quick Google will unearth countless tales of woe on the airways, where unfortunate passengers have been forced to defy the laws of physics when "seated" next to someone who occupies the entire row.  At least one airline, Southwest, has established a clear policy of forcing the flabby to pay for the entire space they occupy, which seems fair - if I have paid for my seat, I ought not be obliged to share it with you simply because you can't fit into yours.

What's more, recent studies reveal that obesity actually works like a communicable disease, even though it's not.  The Dallas Morning News reports:

The study showed that when a person becomes obese, the chances that a friend also will become obese increase by 57 percent.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine surprised some physicians and social scientists last July with its findings: Your friends can make you fat.  The researchers discovered that obesity can spread through social networks of friends and family. This was the first time obesity was viewed in the context of social networks.

The study showed that when a person becomes obese, the chances that a friend also will become obese increase by 57 percent.

In other words, if you become friends with someone who is fat, it becomes a lot more likely that you yourself will bloat up.  With this evidence in hand, it's perfectly clear that those who discriminate against the obese are not showing an irrelevant bias, far from it: they are making an attempt to keep themselves thinner, by staying away from bad influences!

By making discrimination against the obese illegal, we will certainly not be helping them.  Insofar as societal pressure urges them to be thin, and given the abundantly-proven health problems that come with obesity, what's needed is more social pressure, not less.

By forcing others to associate with the fat who do not wish to, science shows that the result will be more fat people - some of whom do not wish to be fat and are attempting to help control themselves by controlling who they are with.  Would we force a recovering alcoholic to be "nondiscriminatory" towards hanging with the town drunk?  What business should that be of the government anyway?

This country was founded on freedom of association where people were presumed to be allowed to choose who their friends and associates should be based on whatever judgments seemed good to them.

For various reasons, some defensible, we have moved a long way from this ideal.  However, there must be a firm, bright line drawn between things which you have no control over (like your skin color or gender), and things which almost everyone has complete control over (your weight).

There is no reason that I should be forced to accommodate or subsidize your own bad choices, or vice versa.  There can be no freedom without each person taking responsibility for their own choices.

Which, no doubt, is why we find this law in Massachusetts: somebody must have offended their chunky senior Senator, none other than our good friend Ted Kennedy.  Or is it all just another ploy by the alternative-fuel wackos?

It's time to recognize that there are whole areas where the government needs to leave the people alone to make their own way as best they choose - or before we know it, there won't be any choices allowed.  Maybe that's the plan?

Read other Scragged.com articles by Hobbes or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments
While I also think it is ridiculous to have government interference on this issue, I can't help but notice the derogatory attitude and comments of the author toward obese individuals. "Huttesque", Oh, Pleeze!
Yes, obesity is damaging in so many ways, including the increased medical expenses, but to encourage "social pressure to be thin" is ridiculous. That has an entire range of damaging effects on our society, as well.
Seems there should be a happy medium between grotesque and anorexic, without government interference.
May 7, 2008 10:37 AM
When reading this article, please note the careful choice of words this author has used:

bloat up
bad influences

The use of pejoratives in writing demonstrates a great deal more about the writer than the content.
May 7, 2008 10:50 AM
I, too, think that the point could have been made without all of the derogatory names.

I don't care for the attitude in this article- yes,some people are fat. Chances are that they know that, and don't need to be called Huttesque and chunky and "bloated up" to get the point across.

Yes, like the previous poster said, government interference in this issue is ridiculous. It's a real shame though, that people (like the author, obviously) judge other people on their outward appearances instead of what's really important- what kind of person they are.
May 7, 2008 10:56 AM
Speaking strictly to the point of the article here... Did the press release in Mass. reference "accomodating or subsidizing" the obese? I too don't like the idea of having more hate crimes, but I don't think that's the same as "accomodating or subsidizing" the obese. I think this is just about prosecuting crimes.
May 7, 2008 11:19 AM
"No doubt we've all seen, and shied away from, an unpleasant-looking, morbidly obese person waddling down the aisle of the grocery."

"Waddling"? more often than not I find them using the motorized carts/scooters supposedly reserved for the handicapped.

I understand and recognize that some of these individuals do have a medical condition causing this state of personal mass; although like the author, I don't feel that this condition should be legally protected or otherwise promoted or endorsed. (Shall we discuss whether they are handicapped simply because obese, or must there be a truly medical reason at the foundation - aside from simple obesity?)

When not caused by an underlying medical condition, I feel that these people should not be given another panel of options for recourse when they don't like an effect of their obesity. OWN it, take responsibility for it and if you don't like the effects, change the cause. DO NOT provide even more avenues for redirection of blame and responsibility.

Make these people responsible for their condition, if they don't choose to be, then they need to deal with the consequences. The rest of the population shouldn't have to help them with their burden.
May 7, 2008 12:44 PM
I don't see anything that says that Mass. wants to make everyone who isn't fat "have to help them with their burden". Like I commented previously, I don't think this is about paying for them or subsidizing them in any way. This is about listing their condition in hate crimes statutes. Did I not read something correctly?
May 7, 2008 12:54 PM
Get some touch skin, Americans! The problem with America's obesity problem is demonstrated by the first three replies to this blog post!! Stop whining about how we should care for them and "see the person inside"! I'm sick of that. Let's call it what it is - irresponsible gluttony. Of course there are people with medical problems. So what? That is a minor rarity relative to the big problem over all. Focus on the issue!! The majority of fat Americans are in that condition because they won't put down their fork and get off their fat asses. Sheesh! Enough coddiling already!!!!
May 7, 2008 12:57 PM
I meant "tough" skin on that last reply.

May 7, 2008 1:01 PM
The proposed Massachusetts law is to make discrimination against the obese into a crime. So, just like now where you cannot decline to hire, rent to, do business with, or otherwise associate with a person based on their race, ethnic origin, religion, etc.... to that list would be added, their weight and/or height. Therefore, it is indeed about accommodating and subsidizing obesity:

Accommodating, because you cannot say "You're too fat to fit." You, the business-owner or employer, have to make whatever adjustments may be required. Similar to the ADA in this regard.

Subsidizing, because you cannot charge obese customers extra to compensate for the additional costs they cause. So, for example, an airline would have no recourse for an obese person but to a) give them a free upgrade to first class, b) give them two seats for the price of one, or c) cram them in the seat they paid for and take it out of the hide of the unlucky person next to them who gets only half a seat. Nor could health insurance companies charge higher rates for the obese, meaning that thin people have to pay more than they otherwise would.

And last, there's the difficult-to-value but no less real issue of "government endorsement" of a status, known to be unhealthy, which would therefore be more wise to discourage.

Oh, and the responses to the article's tone are interesting. In a free country, you have the freedom to do as you please - and you also have the freedom to ridicule someone else who is doing as they please. Seems like a good many people have already somewhat internalized the goal of this legislation, to make obesity a "protected status" that is above criticism. Fascinating.
May 7, 2008 1:16 PM
Some of the media are catching on to the cost of obesity; it is associated with chronic disease. We're already subsidizing fat people by paying for their health care - 3/4 of the 2 trillion spent on health care each year. In "More Americans getting multiple chronic illnesses," Reuters reports:


The rise in Americans with multiple chronic illnesses comes as obesity and sedentary lifestyles have grown more common. Obesity contributes to many chronic ailments including diabetes. U.S. health officials say the rate of new cases of diabetes soared by about 90 percent in the past decade.


But the percentage of Americans with three or more chronic illnesses rose even more sharply.

It jumped from 13 percent in 1996 to 22 percent in 2005 for ages 45 to 64, to 45 percent for ages 65 to 79, and rose from 38 percent to 54 percent for those 80 and older. Among all ages, it went from 7 percent in 1996 to 13 percent in 2005.

"The burden of chronic conditions is becoming heavier. People who already have chronic conditions no longer just have one. Now they might have three," Paez said in a telephone interview.

Chronic disease accounts for three-fourths of the more than $2 trillion spent on health care yearly in the United States.
January 6, 2009 10:40 AM
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