The self-parody files: Fat studies

If “Deaf culture” strikes you as a manifestation of identity politics gone mad, check out fat studies, the subject of a depressing article in the Style section of yesterday’s New York Times. This is the “fat acceptance” movement coming to campus. According to the Times:

Even as science, medicine and government have defined obesity as a threat to the nation’s health and treasury, fat studies is emerging as a new interdisciplinary area of study on campuses across the country and is gaining interest in Australia and Britain. Nestled within the humanities and social sciences fields, fat studies explores the social and political consequences of being fat.

For most scholars of fat, though, it is not an objective pursuit. Proponents of fat studies see it as the sister subject — and it is most often women promoting the study, many of whom are lesbian activists — to women’s studies, queer studies, disability studies and ethnic studies. In many of its permutations, then, it is the study of a people its supporters believe are victims of prejudice, stereotypes and oppression by mainstream society.

“It’s about a dominant culture’s ideals of what a real person should be,” said Stefanie Snider, 29, a graduate student at the University of Southern California, whose dissertation will be on the intersection of queer and fat identities in the United States in the 20th century. “And whether that has to do with skin color or heritage or sexual orientation or ability, it ends up being similar in a lot of ways.”

Fat studies is still a fringe area of scholarship, but it is gaining traction. Three years ago, the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association, which promotes scholarly research of popular culture, added a fat studies component to regional and national conferences.

The article does discuss the fact that the medical profession views obesity as a serious health hazard. Apparently, the overriding agenda of “fat studies” is to combat this perception:

But proponents of fat studies challenge the science behind those conclusions and firmly believe that obesity research is shaped by society’s bias against fat people and that the consequences of excessive weight are not as bad as scientists portray.

And we can all be sure that this is a purely scientific critique entirely free of things like wishful thinking.

The article also discusses the rather embarrassing case of fat studies proponent Kathleen LeBesco, head of the department of communications at Marymount Manhattan College and author of a 2004 book called Revolting Bodies: The Struggle to Redefine Fat Identity, who lost 70 lbs after a doctor told her she was at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. (LeBesco’s journey is discussed in detail in The Chronicle of Higher Education last June.) LeBesco is apparently appalled by the focus on her weight loss:

“It’s similar to discussions within feminism,” she said. “Can you support the team if you’re a man? Or can you be into queer activism if you’re not queer?” In the end, she said, the attention to her size proved the theory that society can’t keep its sights off women’s bodies.

Nice analogy, but it doesn’t fly. A gay person who decided to undergo “reparative therapy” to become straight — which, if we are to accept the “fat acceptance” mindset, would be analogous to LeBesco’s weight loss — would be unlikely to find acceptance in “queer activism” or “queer studies.” In The Chronicle, LeBesco “acknowleges uncomfortably” that most of the people who have signed up for her “Healthy at Any Size” campus group were drawn by her own weight loss. What’s more, LeBesco’s example undercuts some cherished “fat liberation” myths: for instance, that obesity is not unhealthy, or that it has nothing to do with lifestyle habits or self-discipline. LeBesco lost weight through diet and exercise, and in the Chronicle piece she freely admits that her past obesity was a result of her tendency to “let [her] appetite run away.” (Actually, LeBesco, as profiled in The Chronicle, is an odd case study. Convinced since childhood that she was doomed to be fat because her father was, she spent her youth on a variety of diets, some of them quite unhealthy. However, even when she was thin, she always felt like a fat person who was “passing” for slim, and eventually she began to explore the politics of fat identity.)

Ann Althouse has an interesting discussion of the topic. Also, my earlier columns on obesity and “fat liberation” can be found here and here. The first of these articles discusses a study released in 2005 which purported to show that the dangers of being overweight were far less than they were made out to be. The fat-acceptance activists were quick to seize on that, despite the fact that the study’s “good news” applied to moderately overweight people, not to the morbid obesity championed as a matter of “pride” by the fat libbers. Yet new research that has come out since then casts serious doubt even on the 2005 report:

In what researchers say is the largest and most definitive study yet on whether merely being overweight but not obese is harmful to health, doctors found significantly higher premature death rates in middle-aged overweight people and dramatically higher death rates in those who were obese.

There have been alarming reports, as well, on the health consequences of increasing childhood obesity. (For a rather chilling example “fat acceptance” lunacy, see the fat libbers’ defense of a mother who allowed her 13-year-old daughter to balloon to the size of 680 lbs, and was prosecuted for neglect after the girl died of heart failure.)

I am not denying that obsession with thinness and unrealistic ideals of slenderness are a real problem in contemporary Western culture as well, or that quite a few people do themselves harm with yo-yo dieting and fad diets, not to mention eating disorders. Unfortunately, instead of espousing a sensible approach to weight control (healthy, moderate eating and exercise), the fat acceptance activists and their academic allies are pursuing the severaly misguided goal of “destigmatizing” fat, downplaying its risks, and depicting the obese as victims of political and social oppression.

Of course, according to the Times:

Elena Escalera, an assistant professor of psychology at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., vehemently disagrees with the idea that fat studies perpetuates a victim’s mentality.

“This is not about victimhood, but about becoming empowered,” she said. “Did Martin Luther King and Malcolm X espouse victimhood? Did Susan B. Anthony? It’s really easy for people to feel that fat people are trying to find an excuse.”

Actually, I suspect that Martin Luther King and Susan B. Anthony would be appalled by much of what goes on in race and gender studies on American campuses today. But that aside — yes, it’s really easy for people to feel that a movement which pooh-pooh self-restraint and makes heroes of people who are “strong enough to cast aside diet mentality and live in the present” (a quote from LeBesco in CHE) is really about “fat people … trying to find an excuse.” It’s really easy for a really good reason.

Of course, aside from the dubious nature of “fat acceptance” ideology, there is also the question of academic programs that exist to champion a particular point of view and a particular agenda, rather than to strive for knowledge and at least attempt an unbiased intellectual inquiry. (Thank you, women’s studies.) There is nothing wrong with the idea of a college course examining the evolution of social and cultural attitudes toward body shape and size, perhaps within sociology or another social science course. But this is obviously not what “fat studies” is about.

Maybe the next frontier in the academic battle against all varieties of oppression should be “drunk studies.” Why not an academic program championing the idea that “alcohol abuse” is an artificial construct based on the mainstream culture’s oppressive notions of what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate consumption of alcohol? “Drunk studies” could tell us that the stigmatization of drunkenness stems from the Western valorization of such dubious values as self-control, rationality, and obedience to social norms, and reflects a pernicious fear of rebellion against inhibitions and authority. Of course, it would also question conventional wisdom — supposedly based on scientific evidence, but really rooted in anti-drunk bias — about the deleterious health consequences of alcohol abuse and the dangers of drunk driving. After all, the goal of “drunk studies” would be to empower drunks!

I think I should get a grant.

Update: Welcome, Instapundit and Ann Althouse readers!

39 Comments

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39 responses to “The self-parody files: Fat studies

  1. colagirl

    Why stop with drunk studies? As a differently-motivated (i.e. “lazy”) individual, I feel that there should be a department set up for “motivation studies,” studying how differently-motivated individuals have been and continue to be stigmatized in Western culture (even to the point of being regarded as evil–witness the saying, “The Devil finds work for idle hands”). I think I’ll apply for a grant….just as soon as I get around to it.

    Seriously, the issues of weight, self-esteem and body image in modern Western society are interesting ones in their own right, I’ll agree, but I’m rather tired of the habit of taking myriad personal issues and turning them into a distinct and persecuted “identity.” I also find it somewhat disrespectful of and trivializing to those who went through the Civil Rights struggle battling for voting rights and against Jim Crow laws. I don’t think that thinking a fat person is “trying to find an excuse” is quite equivalent to facing the threat of lynching or facing KKK members burning crosses on your lawn.

  2. Cathy Young

    There you go, colagirl! You could do a Ph.D. thesis on the intersection between “fat” and “lazy” identities!

  3. Paul Zrimsek

    Great idea! I’ll contact my alma mater and endow a stool.

  4. LetMeSpellItOutForYou

    A few years ago NAAFA offered a scholarship for fat high schoolers willing to proudly identify themselves as such. I couldn’t help contacting them for guidelines on who qualified. Specifically, how do they screen out anorexics, who only think they’re fat? Turns out these people do not have the sense of humor their “jolly” stereotypes would suggest.

  5. Drew W

    I thought Ms. Young was making a reference to the old slogan, “While you’re up, get me a Grant’s.”

    It became a catchphrase of sorts back when, but I can’t find a citation of it anywhere now. Even the William Grant & Sons Scotch Whisky website makes no mention of their famous tagline. Whoops. Sorry to get so off-topic.

    Yes, I can see the appeal of drunk studies, but if my own college experiences were to be a guide, I would craft a discipline that required a comprehensive knowledge of the recordings of Bob Marley, the films of Cheech & Chong and possibly a subscription to High Times.

  6. Cathy Young

    Drew — I wasn’t, but hey, unintended puns are the best kind!

  7. Rottin' in Denmark

    I, too, balked at the self-righteous tone of the ‘fat libbers’ in the NYT article, but I think comparing them to alcoholics is incredibly unfair.

    An alcoholic’s behavior fundamentally affects those around him. Drunk driving, abusive behavior, cannot be a productive worker, etc. Whereas, yes, fat people should admit that obesity is fundamentally unhealthy, it truly doesn’t affect anyone but themselves. If someone is overweight, what’s wrong with allowing them to feel ok with it and not judging them? All they’re asking for is tolerance and self-esteem.
    I find it interesting that libertarians will defend the rights of drug users, but won’t stand up for fat people. Being fat is *completely* benign to everyone except the fat person (I have a feeling those ‘state-supported’ health care costs are mostly taken by the insurance companies). Maybe ‘fat studies’ goes too far, but why shouldn’t we just let people be overweight without putting a value judgment on it?
    I’m not overweight, but I think the discrimination against fat people is really interesting. I would totally take a class on that if it was offered at my university.

  8. Anonymous

    Baloney fat people don’t affect others. Ever sit next to one on a plane or at a sporting event?

    Ever have anyone in your family die from a disease related to being overweight?

    How about the cost of health care for all of those medical issues that come with being overweight?

  9. FL Mom

    Hi Cathy. Arrived here from an Instapundit link.

    colagirl – I’ll be a subject in your “motivation studies” whenever you get around to sending an application and whenever I get around to completing it. 🙂

    Rottin’ in Denmark – “Whereas, yes, fat people should admit that obesity is fundamentally unhealthy, it truly doesn’t affect anyone but themselves.” I think this is another myth that these libbers would have us believe. Hardly anything in this world affects “just them” or “just me.” Obesity directly affects a person’s family members and friends. If a person’s too fat to play ball or ride bikes with their kid, who suffers? If his or her fatness lands them in the hospital, who worries and has to foot the bill? Worst, if their obesity causes their early demise, their family is devastated.

    Indirectly, widespread obesity affects me and my thin family. Manufacturers have caught onto this fatness trend and are making clothes bigger but not changing the size tags. “My” size hasn’t fit me for years because it’s actually 2 sizes bigger than what it was originally! So I’m stuck in typically fruitless searches for something “normal” among the horrible fashion accidents that exist in the Juniors & tweens department. Even kids’ clothes are “largened,” but at least someone there was clever and invented adjustable waistbands that contract.

  10. pduggie

    Anyone looking at the funding streams for the fat acceptance groups.

    Duirng teh tobacco wars, if a group came out pushing “smoking acceptance” and arguing that the universe was being unfair to smokers, everyone would assume the tobacco industry was funding the group as a piece of political gamesmanship.

    Does NAAFA get grants from Hostess?

  11. Anonymous

    I’d guess most of these fat libbers also are rabid environmentalists. It would be amusing to listen to them justify consuming twice as many calories as normal sized people while screaming about fossil fuel consumption

  12. M. Simon

    Cathy,

    You are more right than you know:

    A History of Addiction

  13. Sammler

    Somewhat tangentially, I was struck by colagirl’s reference to “facing KKK members burning crosses on your lawn” as something terrible. This shows a symbol persisting longer than its underpinnings. In the KKK’s South, having a cross burned on your lawn was a symbol of the really terrible things that they would gladly do, and often did, to you and your family. The KKK maintained the credibility necessary to make cross-burning a terrifying threat as well as a symbol — but now only the symbol is noticed.

  14. ELC

    Maybe the next frontier in the academic battle against all varieties of oppression should be “drunk studies.” With all due respect, you missed the best analogy: pedophilia.

  15. ScienceDave

    Conflation of the political and social oppression of patriarchy or racism with cause and effect in biology and biochemistry is a mistake. The problem is that nature/reality has a definite fascist, oppressive streak, if looked at anthropomorphically. If you jump off a cliff, then, without reference to gender, race, or girth, down you go. Self-esteem, or my empowering you to pursue different ways of knowing natural law, be damned. Jump, fall. No diversity there at all. Biochemistry is not so clear cut, but there is still a lot of cause and effect that shouldn’t be ignored.

    There probably are parts of the obesity hysteria that seems to have gripped the country that are not well-founded. I don’t think one needs to be part of the annointed priesthood of researchers to question medical assertions, but it should be done through data and statistics, not grievance and victimhood.

    It is telling that some ‘Fatctivists’ defer to medical opinions when it is their own health, as opposed to their publication record or tenure file, that is at stake.

  16. Anonymous

    Doesn’t almost everyone minor in Drunk Studies anyway?

  17. Anonymous

    How far do you suppose “(blank) Acceptance” can be taken?

    “Nascar Acceptance”? “Couch Potato Acceptance”? “Beer Drinker Acceptance”? “Patriotism Acceptance”?

    What else gets up the nose of the people big on “Victims Rights”?

    Phillep Harding

  18. Anonymous

    Why are working people taxed to support these industries? And that is what education is, a featherbedding industry. Why should fishermen, coal miners, waitresses, carpenters and technicians like high and low voltage electricians have to be taxed, and subsidize these people and their palaces?

    If you are 18 and want to go into the Marines, or be a union electrician, or go learn some 4,6 years of navel gazing crap, go ahead. How about each according to their desires?

    Why should the working class and small businesses of say, Cambridge, Mass have to pay city taxes, but the elite fingersnappers of Harvard get a pass on taxes?

    Yeah, I know, greater good and all that. Well, cut the subsidies, the tax breaks, the local/state/federal funding. Let’s take the huge and perverted and government force out and see how huge the distortions are.

    If you are 18 and you want an education, academic and otherwise, get off the working class backs, sign the debt papers and pay for what YOU want. I’d say about half of all schools would be out of racketeering, and that would be a benefit to all, save the moneychangers in the temples of learning.

  19. Ali Bubba

    Frankly, folks in Alabama are light years ahead of these academics when it comes to “fat acceptance.” Like I say: More to love!

    Want some more biscuits?

  20. LetMeSpellItOutForYou

    Anon said: Ever have anyone in your family die from a disease related to being overweight? How about the cost of health care for all of those medical issues that come with being overweight? Careful here. Various state attorneys general used similar reasoning to assert that smoking raised health care costs for the rest of us, before some whimsical economists came along and debunked the idea. Instead, by paying into their health plans and dying early before consuming a lot of old-age-related health care, smokers were actually subsidizing health care costs for the rest of us. Perhaps obesity responds differently, but it’s not as simple as you might think at first glance. At any rate, such questionable reasoning can be used to ban all sorts of fun but arguably “unhealthy” activities, to our detriment.

  21. rhhardin

    Hey, the drunk studies have been done ; Joseph R Gusfield, a rare sociologist who can write, in _The Culture of Public Problems : Drinking-Driving and the Symbolic Order_ U Chicago 1981

    More recently and generally, _Contested Meanings : The Construction of Alcohol Problems_ U Wisconsin 1996

    It’s a study of interest groups, which is where the focus ought to be : you define a “public problem” and then take ownership of it. Thus MADD.

    The latter book has a lot of good tricks you can use in taking over a new problem.

    My friend F.T.Grampp in MADD, “If it weren’t for the drunks, most of them wouldn’t be mothers.”

    Everybody senses there’s something wrong with the politics. Gusfield lays it out.

  22. Rottin' in Denmark

    “Obesity directly affects a person’s family members and friends. If a person’s too fat to play ball or ride bikes with their kid, who suffers? If his or her fatness lands them in the hospital, who worries and has to foot the bill? Worst, if their obesity causes their early demise, their family is devastated.”

    I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that at all. It’s OK to judge fat people and be rude to them because they’re too fat to ride a bike with their kid? People do all kinds of things that are terrible for their health, and their parenting skills. There’s a lot of not-fat people that are too lazy to play with their kids, too. You don’t hear people talk about smokers with the same derision as fat people. We only abhor laziness or unhealthiness if it’s a fat person doing it.
    The environmental point, that fat people take up more than their share of resources, is awesome. I’d *love* to bring that up in a room full of overweight, academic lesbians.

  23. Anonymous

    Rottin, you apparently do live in Denmark if you don’t think smokers face major discrimination in the US. I don’t smoke, but people here are very comfortable glaring at smokers, excluding smokers from public places, etc. Just recently some idiot proposed that anybody who smokes while pregnant ought to be charged with child abuse on some national media format (I heard it, but can’t remember which).

    I’d save the environmental issue for after the fat angry lesbians attack your automobile or airplane usage, or perhaps bitch about how indoor plumbing wastes Gaia’s precious water. Making 3500 kcal a day of twinkies and potato chips surely uses tons of water, energy, and other resources.

  24. Brian Engler

    While you’re at it, why not add “stupid” studies to the list, and endow a Kent Dorfman scholarship for students taking a triple major of fat, drunk and stupid studies?

    Postdoc positions in this area of study could be known as “Flounder fellows”.

  25. Anonymous

    If we go with the drunk studies idea, will there be a University in Colorado with a tea-totaler professor who falsely claims to be a drunk?

  26. drewlee

    Obesity is in stark contrast to race, sexuality or gender an entirely preventable condition to have.

    That said given the weight of the problem today a solution is evidently needed, ladies and gentlemen I present
    Fatteries™

    You’re welcome 😉

  27. FL Mom

    Rottin- “It’s OK to judge fat people and be rude to them because they’re too fat to ride a bike with their kid?”

    I never condoned rudeness in my post. I was simply refuting your point that “…it truly doesn’t affect anyone but themselves.”

  28. Rob

    I would guess that the same “anonymous” was responsible for both these snippets;

    I’d guess most of these fat libbers also are rabid environmentalists

    I’d save the environmental issue for after the fat angry lesbians…

    I have known some fat lesbians, and some were environmentalists (although, strangely, none of them were rabid) but by far the greatest number of fat people I have known were ignorant right-wingers (no insult intended to fat people or right-wingers), and it certainly is amusing to listen to them justify conspicuous consumption.

  29. AST

    How about studying the reasons for liberal defeatism and self-hatred?
    Or just the causes of societal declines throughout history.

    Western civilization is engaged in destroying itself through demographic suicide, yet nobody seems to notice. If freedom means not having to be responsible for anything, we’re becoming more free every year and less likely to survive as a culture.

  30. Rob

    How about studying the reasons for liberal defeatism and self-hatred?

    Indeed. This makes almost as much sense as fat studies. One drawback would be that your topics are fiction, but why let that stop you? Are you a member of The 910 Group?

  31. Fruitbat44

    FWIW here’s my two pennyworth.

    Fat people can be the subject of cruel and hurtful jibes, and can suffer from very poor self-image. They take comfort in food, which adds to there weight and hence to their poor self-image . . ..

    Obesity *is* (IMO anyway) different from alcholism or drug addiction in that an alcholic can give up booze, the junkie can give up drugs, but an obese person still has to eat.

    However, I agree with LK that “Fat studies” just cheapens educaton. Academic studies should be about a search for truth and not about self-interest.

    Some more of my two-pennyworth.

    If some person thinks that someones appearance is a licnse to insult them then that person has a problem. If society defines attractive solely as “slim” and slim as emaciated, then society has a problem. And if an obese person find’s that they cannot walk a hundred yards down the street with having to stop and catch their breath, then their weight is a problem.

    Sorry if this a bit speechifying, but that’s my two pennyworth.

    PS – Nice to see you back LK.

  32. Andrew Graff

    Great essay but it leaves me baffled. I know this is going to create the tempest in the comment tea kettle, but what I don’t understand as someone who accepts traditional notions of morality is how someone can see the ridiculousness of building identity politics around a particular form of behavior (in this case gluttony), and not see how ‘gay identity’ and ‘gay politics’ are equally ridiculous.

    If homosexuality, why not adultery? Fetishism? Necrophilia? Polygamy? Beastiality? Promiscuity? Why is one particular paraphilia worthy of being annointed as an identity and therefore by fiat proclaimed no longer a paraphilia and not others?

  33. Rob

    andrew, as someone who accepts non-traditional notions of morality, I don’t see how anyone can not see the absurdity of a phrase like “protecting marriage”, when referring to denying marriage rights to homosexuals. Another in the long line of conservative non sequiturs.

    But then, absurdity is in the eye of the beholder, n’est ce pas?

  34. Andrew Graff

    Rob:

    Even if I grant what you just said, it wouldn’t have a thing to do with what I said. It is funny you should mention ‘non sequiturs’.

    I didn’t mention anything about ‘protecting marriage’ or anything else you brought up in response.

    I asked for an explanation of how one class of identity politics based on a behavior (or if you prefer a propensity for a behavior) was qualitatively different than another. Why is ‘fat studies’ absurd and ‘gay studies’ not?

    If absurdity is in fact in the eye of the beholder, then you cannot claim that ‘fat studies’ is more absurd than ‘gay studies’ or any other field of academic endeavor which finds as its reason for existance promoting a certain civic/political outlook toward a particular identity (self-adopted or otherwise). Why is it not merely your opinion, an opinion you make no attempt to support, that ‘fat studies’ and ‘fat identity’ is ubsurd, but ‘gay studies’ and ‘gay identity’ is not. If absurdity is in fact in the eye of the beholder, it would seem to undermine the claims of the essay.

  35. Andrew Graff

    Just to be clear, what I’m saying is that by comparison to both ‘deaf culture’ and ‘fat culture’, ‘queer culture’ strikes me as far more absurd and far more a case of ‘identity politics gone mad’ and for all the very same reasons that the blogger so easily lampoons ‘fat culture’. For example, we could more easily come up with definitive physical reasons for a persons chronic overeating or obesity than we could for someone’s homosexual paraphilia, and yet it is taken for granted that not only is there some genetic propensity toward being homosexual that is in some way defining of ones identity but that at some level this propensity is absolute (in that everyone who has this propensity is uncontrollably ‘gay’ and no one that doesn’t have this uncontrollable physical condition is). But after decades of looking for that holy grail of gay identity, we are no closer to finding it than ever and even the leading figures in the field have had to put aside thier biases and admit that what they originally expected to find (a ‘gay gene’) just doesn’t exist.

    Again, where do you come up with the distinction for what is absurd and what isn’t? Do you really think its only in the mind of the beholder?

  36. Cathy Young

    Andrew, I’m not sure why you’re injecting a gratuitous debate about homosexuality into this thread. I actually have a lot of issues with “gayness” as a politicized identity (and actually, a number of people who have been in the forefront of the gay rights movement including Andrew Sullivan have been highly critical of the prevalent mindset in “queer studies”). However, your remarks frankly illustrate why many people perceive a need for “gay politics.” Personally, if “traditional morality” means seeing a loving, committed intimate relationship between two adults of the same sex as akin to bestiality, fetishism and necrophilia, I’m glad I’m not a proponent of “traditional morality.”

    To reply to some of the other comments in this thread:

    I am certainly not in favor of anyone making insulting comments to overweight or obese people, or of treating anyone unkindly. But I don’t see anything wrong with sending a societal message that obesity is unhealthy and, yes, unattractive.

  37. Andrew Graff

    I don’t see how in a discussion of identity politics who homosexuality is gratuitous. It’s the 800 lb gorilla in the room of identity politics. I can pretend its not there, but after all while that gets pretty silly.

    Secondly, I really am curious. I really want an answer. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.

    “Personally, if “traditional morality” means seeing a loving, committed intimate relationship between two adults of the same sex as akin to bestiality, fetishism and necrophilia, I’m glad I’m not a proponent of “traditional morality.”

    That’s all well and good, but it evades the question with a good bit of slanting through choice adjectives. I’m not actually comparing homosexuality to necrophilia, except to point out that you don’t really specify what it is that you think makes a ‘queer identity’ less absurd than any other identity based on a sexual behavior. I suspect that the fetishists and ‘animal lovers’ feel really slighted by your ‘bigoted’ remarks. Should we take them seriously? If not, why not?

    So if you prefer, how about polygamy and adultery. Or if not, alcholism and compulsive gambling. It doesn’t really matter what I’m comparing it too, because the critical element of the analogy is that it is a mode of behavior which is widely and historically regarded as unhealthy. What matters in the question is how do you decide what is a valid identity and what is an absurd one. I could make the argument by comparing it to a healthy behavior, and asking if a healthy behavior justified the creation of an identity (do fitness freaks deserve special rights and protection from slurs and sterotypes?). However, I suspect that people would even more miss the point if I went that route, and besides I think it unfair to make such a comparison in the first place. Excercising compulsively is not nearly so destructive as homosexuality – and queer culture in particular – has demonstrated in my experience itself to be.

    Afterall, I can respond to you in kind. I see nothing wrong with sending a societal message that homosexuality is unhealthy and, yes, unattractive. But, even if I didn’t, it still wouldn’t justify someone claiming an identity based on a behavior.

  38. Rob

    I see nothing wrong with sending a societal message that homosexuality is unhealthy and, yes, unattractive.

    No, you obviously don’t. But more and more people see something seriously wrong with it. Get used to it.

  39. Anonymous

    You reserve the right to talk in detail about LeBesco’s weight, even as you refuse to discuss your own. Your own biases are palpable here, but you, of course, insist your “reasonable.” How easy it is to be reasonable when we always give voice to the norm?

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