You will never be rid of us
I’ve been working on the bit of my thesis where I justify why I’m not interested in writing about fat and health. In order to do that, I pretty much have to write about fat and health. Sigh. Anyway, part of that has involved reading up on the Australian Government’s preventative health strategy, Australia: The Healthiest Country by 2020.
One of the aims of the strategy is to “halt and reverse the rise in overweight and obesity”, which is hardly surprising given that fat is considered self-evidently unhealthy and weight-loss is therefore considered self-evidently healthy. The idea is so common-place I’m almost yawning with the can’t-be-botheredness of it (though I have a great deal of admiration for those who can be bothered and are fighting those fights). But. BUT. When I stop for a second and think about what that means, I realise my government is trying to put in place strategies to get rid of bodies like mine (I’m not the first person to point this out).
It’s not as overt as outright declaring war on obesity (which I hear happened in some other famously fat country), but it’s still clear: the fatties must go! Why? Well – and I’m barely paraphrasing here – because the fatties are lazy and expensive. Fatties don’t work as much, chuck lots of sickies, and cost tax payers a fortune in health care. We’ve all heard these arguments, again and again. We’ve also heard these arguments smartly refuted, again and again. The territory has been well and truly trod. That doesn’t make it any less powerful or ubiquitous. It doesn’t make the government strategy any less about my body, my personhood, my right to exist.
The title of this post references a quote about queers from Martha Shelly*:
You will never be rid of us, because we reproduce ourselves out of your bodies.
I goddamned love that quote. I love that quote because it’s not only defiant, it’s right. It’s a big fuck-you to obedience and conformity and towing the line. It’s a big fuck you to neoliberal individualism, to notions of ‘proper’ citizenship, to any hope that freaks and rebels will just start behaving. It’s a big fuck you to interventions like the Australian Government’s preventative health strategy which seeks to get rid of certain types of bodies, certain types of people who are positioned as troublesome, as non-compliant, as expensive.
Fatties have always existed. Fatties will always exist.
You will never be rid of us.
*Which I read years ago and can’t remember the source – if anyone knows, comment please? Also, I don’t know that much about Martha Shelly apart from the brief bio I googled.
Also also, I’m wary of co-opting queer work in the service of fat acceptance (even – especially – as a queer), and I’m also wary of collapsing fat acceptance into queerness, but I do think there are important similarities and sympathies. People far more eloquent than me have written about this. I highly recommend Charlotte Cooper’s recent post ‘What is Queer Fat Activism‘ at Obesity Timebomb, as well as Kathleen LeBesco’s essay ‘Queering Fat Bodies/Politics‘ in Bodies out of Bounds (which can also be found in her book, Revolting Bodies).