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"The obese" is NOT an acceptable way to refer to fat people. STOP IT!*

When someone says "the gays" or "the Blacks" or "the Mexicans" or "the feminists," in what context are they normally using those phrases? What comes to mind when you think about times when people have referred to entire groups of people in such ways? Might the speaker be opposed to those groups and/or discussing them in a derogatory manner?**  Hmn, what then of the oft-repeated phrase "the obese"? Especially if you are trying your darnedest to write a fat-positive piece, don't use "the obese." It's a red flag, a dehumanizing phrase, a sign that despite your points to the contrary, you really don't care for us all that much.

*Hell, I don't even like the phrase "obese people"--despite what the Rudd Center
says--but at least we're acknowledged (if only in gesture) as people.

**This is, of course, unless it's in the context of parody or satire...and sometimes, even then.

More on School Lunches | PCA/ACA Fat Studies: Day 1 Recap

vesta44's picture
April 13th, 2010 | Link | Using "the obese" to talk

Using "the obese" to talk about fat people dehumanizes us, medicalizes us, and makes us a problem to be solved. It keeps us from being seen as whole, complete people who have lives and work and pay taxes just like everyone does (so yeah, it's on a par with "the gays", "the Blacks", "the feminists", "the Mexicans", "the 'whatever othering phrase' " you want to use).

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

blissing's picture
April 14th, 2010 | Link | I also dislike, "These

I also dislike, "These people". Morgan Spurlock used it in reference to his fantasy that fat people eat at McDonalds everyday, as in, "This is how These People eat!"

richie79's picture
April 15th, 2010 | Link | Absolutely. The problems

Absolutely. The problems with 'obese' as a word have been discussed at length on numerous occasions here, but the way in which it's increasingly being used without the qualifying 'people', often by those who consider our human sentience a dratted inconvenience in their grand solutions, really bugs me. I'm not expecting people-FIRST language, because with fat that can result in very clumsy prose ('people who are fat' ) but even well-meaning folk sometimes seem to use 'obese' or 'overweight' as the politically-correct substitutes for 'fat' when in fact most of the political size acceptance community prefers the latter. The problem is that because fat people aren't yet recognised outside this little corner of the Interweb as a legitimate identity group we neither get to choose the labels applied to us nor request the use of people-oriented language in discussions about us (and given that in most cases we're not even present or given a voice when those discussions take place, I can't see this changing anytime soon).

"When people fear the government, there is tyranny; when government fears the people, there is liberty." - Thomas Jefferson

D-Man's picture
April 16th, 2010 | Link | I do tend to use the word

I do tend to use the word "obese" as a description of a body type, because I lack a better one. Thin people COULD be called "emaciated" and it can be used to the same effect, but they have "thin" or "skinny" to fall back on. Very large people have no such options for positivity.

That being said, I am physically obese and I describe myself that way. There's nothing wrong with that. I never use the word in a charged way and like many groups, I feel that using the word is perfectly acceptable if I or someone like me is using it. Besides that, I hate using semantics. I'm not "fluffy" or "zaftig," goddernit, I'm obese. It's the connotations that go into the word that are the true problem, because "obese" implies a great many things that do not apply to me.

But I absolutely agree with the idea that referring to us as "the obese" dehumanizes us in the same way it would by referring to people as "the blacks" or "the gays." Thank you for saying it.



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