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January 11 2013

Culture of Alarmism Watch: Fat Activism

Julie Gunlock

 

Earlier this week, I responded to an NRO op-ed by Betsy Woodruff about what she perceives as a looming problem: fat activism. In a nutshell, fat activism is advocacy on behalf of overweight and obese people. According to Woodruff, this is a powerful movement that seeks societal acceptance of obesity and recognition that being fat is a protected right.

In my response to Woodruff's piece (which I placed on NRO's popular debate forum The Corner), I pointed out that this movement is really pretty marginal and that while I, like Woodruff, disagree with the goals of the movement, I thought Woodruff's characterization of the movement’s influence and power was overblown (and just plain mean).

Woodruff never responded to my piece, but another NRO writer, Robert VerBruggen, posted this:

Julie and Betsy — the fat-acceptance movement and food nannyism are two very different phenomena; each is a threat to liberty, and thus deserving of NRO ink, in its own way.

The problem with fat activism is not that it asserts a “‘right’ to have a larger derrière” — everyone should have that right — but that is seeking to create a new victim group and further expand the scope of anti-discrimination law. Using the government to stamp out private discrimination is a drastic measure; it is appropriate only in the most extreme circumstances.

The problem with the health nannies is that they’re using the government to try to stop destructive behavior, instead of leaving people to make their own decisions and live with the consequences.

These two movements have very different levels of influence — now. Conservatives should aim to nip the first in the bud and fight back the second.

I fully agree with VerBruggen statement that the fat acceptance movement and the fat nannying movement "are two very different phenomena" but I can't agree with him that they are equally deserving on NRO Ink.  My point is that one of these movements’ matters and one simply doesn’t. For example, let’s take a look at the regulatory accomplishments of these two movements: While fat nannyism has led to some pretty serious regulatory initiatives (soda bans and taxes, regulations on restaurants, certain ingredient bans, potential marketing bans, BMI monitoring, and skyrocketing rates of eating disorders), the fat activism movement has resulted in exactly zero loss of personal liberty.   

IWF started the Culture of Alarmism project in order to push back on the ubiquitous claims of danger in in our society—from the suggestion that you should be afraid of your garden hose and baby’s bottle to the hysterical quackery surrounding genetically modified food to Hollywood’s preoccupation with fracking and oil drilling. 

Pushing back on the Left’s doomsday narrative keeps us quite busy but we must be equally attentive to alarmist claims peddled by the Right.

 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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