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The Conventional Wisdom

November 24, 2009

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard people say something along the lines of “Everyone knows fat is bad.”  There was a breif time period where it was pissing me off a lot and so I started making notes intending to come back with a huge post about how dumb people who accept the conventional wisdom as fact are with lots of examples.  But then it happend so much that learned helplessness took over and I just cried silent invisible tears.

Today I was reading a really interesting article by Matt Taibbi on a completely unrelated topic. It is talking about Sarah Palin and her relationship to the media.  ( If you find non fat politics interesting it is well worth a read if only to read the phrase “eternal asshole of white resentment.”  Though there is some sexist language, pussies, really matt? You couldn’t come up with a two syllable word for your haiku that didn’t also insult my body?)

The essential gist is that Sarah Palin is getting piled on now because she has lost the support of the establishment.   It’s not the individual journalists opinions who matter, but the opinions of the higher ups int he publishing and media companies.  The Conventional wisdom is no longer behind her, so the media is piling on.

I think this is pretty much exactly what has been happening to us fatties for about 2 decades now.   It is better for ratings if fat is bad, and it is better for the diet and cosmetic industry if fat is bad.  Therefore it is better for the owners of companies that sell advertisements and rely on ratings if fat is bad.  Therefore the conventional wisdom is that fat is bad.

Obviously, like every issue it is more complicated than just the not totally altruisting motivations of journalists and their bosses.  But I think that thinking about how the conventional wisdom evolves and where it comes from is really important.

The next question to ask for fat acceptance is how can we make HAES the conventional wisdom?  My own pessimism says it can’t be done because no one profits from people trying to be healthy regardless of weight.  But maybe I’m wrong.


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  1. Blimp permalink

    If you want HAES to be the conventional wisdom, you’ve got to build a republic. As long as we submit to the domination of a world empire of money, quackery (which includes fat phobia) will rule.

  2. bs7 permalink

    seems to me promoting healthy lifestyles could be just as profitable. You could still have support groups for sale and fitness clubs and books and videos and all the other things the diet industry has.. they’d just have to learn to make it about actual health and fitness instead of being about insults and low self-esteem.

  3. Once upon a time the conventional wisdom was that women were too childlike and irrational to vote.

    Once upon a time the conventional wisdom was that people who were not white were too stupid to run their own lives.

    Once upon a time the conventional wisdom was that rape was the fault and the shame of the victim.

    Once upon a time the conventional wisdom was that women’s backs were too fragile to support them without the aid of a corset.

    If all of these pieces of conventional wisdom (and dozens more just as revolutionary) have changed in the course of the past hundred years and change, albeit with pockets of continued resistance to all but the last, I do think the common wisdom about weight can also change just as dramatically.

    Oh, and Mr. Tiabbi? I believe the term you were reaching for was not ‘pussies’ but ‘douche bag.’ Two syllables, no insult to the body of any person unless used for the recommended purpose.

  4. Mulberry permalink

    “My own pessimism says it can’t be done because no one profits from people trying to be healthy regardless of weight.”

    I’ve heard this sort of comment over the years and am starting to wonder if it’s really true, or just the conventional wisdom. Why CAN’T folks make a profit on self-loving fat people? We’re still a huge underserved market, and there must be some money to be made in selling us things unrelated to weight loss. Where is capitalism when you need it? Granted, things are better now in that regard than they were in decades past, but there is plenty of room for improvement.

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