Anyone who attempts to even suggest that fat people have a right to be treated with basic human respect, and that other people’s fat bodies are nobody else’s business will run into this argument sooner rather than later:
“But their fat is my business because my tax dollars pay for their healthcare blah blah blah”
First of all, when someone brings this up I typically demand to see their “Tax Yes and No” list. A list of things that their tax dollars pay for, broken down into things that they want to pay for and things that they don’t, and the interventions in which they are participating for each of the things they don’t want to pay for. Nobody has ever produced such a list – I think that’s because this really doesn’t have anything to do with their tax dollars, it’s simply a convenient way to couch their size bigotry.
This argument is based on shaky claims that fat people are unhealthy and going to cost more money than thin people in healthcare. I’m going to look at this two ways. First the reality, and then as if those assumptions were true:
Independent research has shown that the cost claims about fat people’s healthcare are seriously overblown (thanks to a world where people can say almost anything about fat people and it will be believed.) The truth is, you cannot tell how healthy a person is by looking at them, you can only tell what size they are. There is no such thing as a healthy weight. Health is complicated, multidimensional, and not entirely within our control. Health is an amorphous concept and people of all sizes make all kinds of choices that don’t prioritize their health by various definitions, and they are allowed to make those choices.
Also, research from Columbia has shown that shame and stigma can have negative affects on our health, so it’s possible that if their tax dollars are paying for fat people’s healthcare, they may actually paying for the results of their fat shaming and bigotry. (We’ll never know the damage that shaming has on fat people until we stop shaming fat people.)
Fat people are targeted because we are easily identifiable by sight, and it’s never a good idea to take a group of people who can be identified by sight and suggest that they should be eradicated to make things cheaper for everyone else. Not to mention that nobody making this argument can show a single method of weight loss that has been shown to work for more than a tiny fraction of people over the long term.
But let’s pretend that the assumption is true. In that case: I’m fat, so I cost more money. But…
Fat people pay taxes too, and our taxes go to pay for the deeply misguided and harmful “war on obesity” – we are actually funding a war waged against us by our government for the purpose of our eradication.
Fat people who look both ways before they cross the street still see their tax dollars go to pay for people who get run over after failing to do so.
Fat people who don’t mountain climb have their tax dollars pay for the healthcare costs of people whose attempts to do so are dramatically unsuccessful.
And well they should, because that’s how civilized societies behave. I would rather my tax dollars pay for antibiotics to cure bronchitis than pay for an ER visit and hospitalization for pneumonia. And I’d rather my tax dollars pay for an ER visit and hospitalization for pneumonia than pay for a public burial because someone didn’t have access to healthcare. I think that a society where everyone has access to healthcare is better from every possible angle (including overall cost, though that’s beyond the scope of this post) and so I’m interested in removing barriers to healthcare, not justifying them with a weak-sauce argument about my tax dollars.
Even if health was entirely within our control (and it’s so very much not,) I’d rather my tax dollars go to the healthcare of people who make different choices than I do, than live in a world where there is someone who gets to tell us all how we should live. And I think that the people making the “fat people and my tax dollars” argument would agree. I’ve also noticed that people who want to police my “health” (and by health I actually mean body size which is not the same thing) are never that excited to have other people police their health. Should raw foods vegans only have to pay for the healthcare of other raw foods vegans if they believe that’s the “healthiest” lifestyle, but then nobody else has to contribute to their healthcare because they don’t think that’s the “healthiest” lifestyle? Should people whose religion does not condone healthcare not have to pay for any healthcare at all with their taxes? Should I get to opt out of having my tax dollars pay for the healthcare of fatphobes?
Other people live their lives in ways with which we disagree, we live our lives in ways with which other people disagree. We all deserve healthcare. All this “won’t somebody think of my tax dollars” hand-wringing is nothing but thinly veiled fat bigotry.
Even if they could prove that being fat makes me unhealthy (which they can’t). And even if they had a method that was scientifically proven to lead to successful long term weight loss (which they don’t). And even if there was proof that losing weight would make me healthier (which there isn’t). And even if they were going to go around yelling at jay walkers, and thin people who climb mountains (which they aren’t) this slope is still too slippery. And that doesn’t take into account the reality that their premise is completely flawed, their assumptions are faulty, and their method of shaming people is utterly ineffective since they can’t make us hate ourselves healthy or thin.
So I think it would be dandy if they would just shut up.
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Need some fat positive holiday cheer? Here’s a playlist of re-vamped holiday songs that highlight things like the importance of fat-friendly seating, singing the praises of our amazing bodies, and just saying no to giving unsolicited weight-loss gifts. Enjoy!
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