- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 1, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199857083
- ISBN-13: 978-0199857081
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1 x 6.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #984,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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What's Wrong with Fat? 1st Edition
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"Fascinating and illuminating." --The New York Times
"Abigail Saguy asks the kinds of questions that can shift scientific paradigms, challenge prejudice, and promote social justice for people of all sizes. She backs up her clear-headed analysis of mainstream belief systems with carefully conducted research that reveals the inherent linkage between how we think about weight and how such beliefs shape not only health, but also lives and society. Anyone who's stepped on a scale or seen a media report about the so-called obesity epidemic will benefit from exploring What's Wrong with Fat?" --Marilyn Wann, author of FAT!SO?
"In this pathbreaking book, Abigail Saguy explores the social implications of viewing fatness as a public health crisis. Saguy's conclusions challenge conventional understandings of obesity as a moral and medical problem and draws attention to the debilitating consequences of weight-based stigma. This book is essential reading for anyone concerned about public policy and cultural consciousness on matters affecting weight." --Deborah L. Rhode, author of The Beauty Bias
"'What's wrong?' is the most basic question we can ask about a social problem. At first glance, the answer may seem obvious. But Abigail Saguy's careful analysis of contemporary claims about fat reveals that it's a question that can be answered in many competing ways, and any apparent consensus is rooted in particular times, places, and social arrangements. This book invites us to think, not just about fat, but about other weighty issues." --Joel Best, author of Everyone's a Winner
"What's Wrong with Fat? excels at something sociology can do quite well-displace simple answers with a razor-sharp questioning of the question. In this lucid and comprehensive account, Saguy teases apart the different threads of contemporary discourse about obesity and investigates the potent real-world consequences of our competing ways of thinking about this social, moral, and medical issue. She reveals the meanings of fatness to be about much more than calories: they are shaped by social processes used to determine biomedical truth, and they are intertwined with the often-divisive politics of race, class, sexuality, gender, culture, and nationality. Highly recommended for people of any size or shape!" --Steven Epstein, author of Inclusion: The Politics of Difference in Medical Research
"Being fat is bad for you. Being discriminated against because you are fat may be even worse. In this eye-opening book, Saguy shows that the war on obesity is really a war on fat people that targets women, minorities, and the poor. Social inequality-not body mass-is killing people. Saguy reveals the hidden interests behind the so-called obesity epidemic."
--Christine Williams, Professor of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin
"Provocative, thoughtful and thorough." --NatureR
"Written with clarity and passion, this mind-expanding work invites readers to consider the rights of people at any size. An insightful, profoundly nonbiased, must read for anyone in public health/medicine, nutrition/dietetics, public policy, journalism, education, counseling, and social work. Highly recommended." --CHOICE
"What's Wrong with Fat? is a well-written, carefully researched book that contributes an essential perspective on body size that will appeal to a wide range of scholars and activists. It is a bellwether in the growth of the interdisciplinary field of fat studies yet firmly grounded in sociological theory and methodology. ...Saguy's work will continue to push scholarship on health, weight, and size as well as on gender, race, class, and inequality." --American Journal of Sociology
About the Author
Abigail C. Saguy is Associate Professor of Sociology and of Gender Studies at UCLA. She is the author of What Is Sexual Harassment? From Capitol Hill to the Sorbonne (University of California Press, 2003).
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Dr. Saguy starts with helping her readers understand that obesity is a "frame" not a fact. What this means is that "obesity" is a perspective on fat whereby it (fat) is pathologized and this frame encourages us to pay attention to certain aspects of a situation while obscuring (if not overwriting) others.
The three main frames we use to view fat are: as immoral, as a medical problem and as a public health crisis. The three predominant ways to contest these frames, according to Dr. Saguy. are: fat as beautiful, fat as consistent with health (Health At Every Size(R)), and fat as a basis for (civil) rights claims. When we view fat through a "problem frame" (that is assuming, falsely, that fat is inherently unhealthy & undesirable), there are three predominant "blame frames" we use: personal responsibility, society (sociocultural), and biology.
A perfect example of this would be HBO's Weight of the Nation, which clearly frames fat as a problem by endorsing its pathology via "obesity" and deeming it a medical and public health crisis. It employed all three "blame frames" at different points in the film (i.e. it's this person's fault for eating too much, this person is living in a poor neighborhood and only has access to fast food so it's society's fault, and this person has "fat genes" so he/she is predisposed to be fat). As Dr. Saguy confirmed, however, one "blame frame" is used most predominantly in the media and in our scientific discussions (and in this "documentary"). Which do you think it is?
Personal responsibility. (Next is sociocultural and 3rd is biological).
This is incredibly interesting because it's not the same way in other countries. For example, in France, obesity blame is placed more fairly between all three frames (though it is still framed as a problem). In the US, however, our neoliberalism - that is our desire to shift responsibility for our collective welfare from the government to the person, at an individual level - is what propels the sentiment that if one is fat (if "fat" is being framed as a problem), he or she should just pick him/herself up by the bootstraps and gain some goddarned self control.
The other thing to think about is which frame carries more monetary and cultural authority. The debate over the best way to discuss body size does not take place on an even playing field because there are huge industries and profits invested in proffering particular frames. For example, the $60B weight-loss industry is invested in society seeing corpulence as a medical and public health threat (as well as an undesirable aesthetic) that can be changed with enough will power (and consumer dollars). Confirmation biases within the media and scientific communities continue to propel this belief. The International Obesity Task Force (a lobbying group funded by pharmaceutical companies), obesity researchers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are also invested and key in this blame frame.
Alternately, size-acceptance groups and activists who want to reframe corpulence as potentially parallel with health and as a civil rights issue are working with considerably less money and authority.
What I found most useful about Dr. Saguy's approach is the language she gives us to help us understand what our diction implies and how this governs the actions we take (and the consequences we face based on the diction we tend to favor).
For example, Dr. Saguy writes: "uncritical reliance on a medical and public health crisis frame of corpulence leads us to emphasize the risks associated with overweight and obesity, while glossing over the health risks associated with `underweight' or `normal weight,' as well as those cases where being `overweight' or `obese' seems to be protective of health. This begs a social, not a medical explanation."
To put it simply - most of us are conflating and mis-using a lot of terms, and this has real-world consequences. I can't tell you how many times I overhear people say "obese" when they really mean "fat" (because clearly they have not measured the BMI of said "obese" person). Obese = medical definition based on BMI; same with "overweight." Fat is a much more malleable term. However, what we so rarely realize/discuss is how fat can be protective; how obesity is not a death sentence and how normal weight and underweight could be just as easily sensationalized.
What is also incredibly intriguing about this book is Dr. Saguy`s introduction of labelling theory which raises the question: how do our labels affect us? This is something we rarely ask: but is our obsession with obesity bad for our health?
Questions to think about:
How and why has fatness been medicalized as "obesity" in the first place?
By focusing on "obesity," what other interpretations of fat are we shutting out?
Since there is evidence that there are health risks associated with higher body mass, with the the clearest case being Type 2 diabetes, what should our approach be? The relation is correlatory not causal - is that enough?
Why is obesity framed from a "personal responsibility" blame-frame most predominantly? Can we think of other situations where a form of self-identity is labelled as "bad" and conversion "solutions" are offered?
If there is evidence that obese patients with heart disease or diabetes have been shown to have lower mortality rates than their thinner counterparts, why is this called an "obesity paradox"? What does that assume about our perception of obesity?
What is our obsession with weight and obesity costing us?
How has our view of corpulence changed over time? how does it differ from other countries?
If you have a body, get this book. Once you start questioning your stance and presumptions about body size and health, you'll start to unravel what is a very complicated (and perhaps insidious) web of influence and consequences. And, you'll probably ask, as I do, if we accept the problem-frame of corpulence and its predominant blame-frame of personal responsibility - what's next?
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