For those of you unaware, BBC Radio 4 is a quintessentially British institution. Working in an Engineering Sweatshop (think Alice from Dilbert, though not as engineery) my digital radio is a constant companion in the avant garde against office boredom, my preferable station is BBC 4. It has various long standing programmes such as 'The Archers' (longest running soap in the world, has people who say things like 'Gosh well, we'll just have to accept that', and 'What's the matter Tarquin, too much coriander on the organic chicken?', and where their posh Yoof go off to Agricultural college and study grass and shit (litteraly, they study cow shit), and ‘Desert Island Discs’ where the ‘thinking man’s’ celebrities goes on and justifies why they’ve chosen the Cheeky Girls hit, ‘We’re Cheeky Girls’ to take on a desert island with him.
It also has another programme called 'Woman’s Hour', and has been running since before I was born (the years nineteen hundred and Cough!). It discusses pretty much woman’s issues in a 'magazine' format, and for a profusely feminist programme it’s pretty mainstream. Their presenters are normally quite clever, funny and intelligent, and their features original well thought through and I always feel a bit more informed than before.
However, last week I lost my top to the point I switched over and started listening to BBC 5 Live. And since BBC 4 hasn't even noticed, nor called me up to ask me why I'm venting my spleen here.
They had a woman who'd written into the programme that wanted to lose some weight. She'd struggled with her weight all her life, and ultimately yo-yo dieted her way to a size 20 (or 20 stone I'm not sure which). She'd written into the programme for help, explaining her situation, busy mum with 4 kids, and asking if there was an alternative to the “everything” that she had tried.
They had three experts on the programme, one had written a book, the other a psychologist, and then a dietician. The dietician suggested she join something like weight watchers (the lady said no, she'd done that, and then the weight went back on again) the book man had said low carb diet (lady said no, she hadn't the money for the cost of the extra meat she'd have to eat), and the psychologist suggested she look at her attitude to food, and why she was over eating (can you guess what she said? Yeh, she said no, that made her sound like she was a greedy chopped mental – I paraphrase).
There are many things one could say about her attitude to the suggestions of the so-called experts (considering that two did not mention exercise and one dismissed it outright). I am not here to pass judgement on her. The thing that struck me exactly about the interview with her was the use of the word ‘Success’. She said Success would be losing weight and keeping it off but to what end? To the end she wouldn’t have to think of herself as the ‘fat girl’ anymore? To the end that in looking at her others would not assume that she was monstrously greedy and lazy? To the end that she would no longer be shouted at in the street by strangers so desperately hating themselves that pointing out a socially accepted detractor in another made them feel better?
This was not picked up by the interviewer. Granted they’d spent most of the 10-15 minutes of the feature talking through her options by the idiots they’d brought in, but then they also managed 10 minutes on female circumcision carried out in Egypt, so as a programme they can raise some pretty serious issues and discuss them with sensitivity and intelligence in a short time. The programme was abominably stereotypical in the automatic convention that ‘fat people (particularly women) should lose weight’. By not taking a more measured approach, using the woman’s predicament as a platform for discussion it reinforced the social prejudice that says being fat means that one must and should automatically lose weight, that the prejudice is deserved and society is correct in the treatment of in this case a mother of 4. By being fat, and everyone would ‘hate’ to be ‘fat’ one does not value themselves, lack an inordinate amount of self control and are an inordinately stupid failure that damages society because society is biologically wired to hate anything that looks different and society shouldn’t have to curb that because being thin(ner) society is better than ‘the fat people’. Further to that ‘Society shouldn’t have to change it’s view because it’s backed by an overwhelming amount of social prejudice(read people who shout in the street, magazines full of ‘curvy’ size 10s, papers and news shows telling us that ‘overweight people cost us x without saying that smokers, drinkers, and driving, yes! Car accidents, cost us a lot more than fat people! Fashion shops that don’t sell over a size 14 and health experts that tell me to use BMI charts that tell me that despite having a body fat percentage of 27%, a resting heart rate of 60bpm I’m borderline obese!) and it would be easier for fat people weight rather than ‘Us’ examine ‘our’ motivations in singling them out as an object of hate that should be dumped from the human herd.’
As women, we don’t look at celebrities who say they’ve got fat thighs and think ‘oh she’s just like me’, we look at them and go ‘shit, hers are smaller than mine, and since she hates hers I should really revile mine.’ Anyone listening to that programme, who identified with the fat girl, had another outlet telling them they should change their physical appearance to be ‘successful’, accepted, happy, to not be a failure, to not be shouted at in the street.
It makes me so angry, that we do this to ourselves and others. Fat is turning out to be the last prejudice of society, and it’s so ingrained and buried under so much of society’s subconscious that, like all prejudice, our actions are unquestioned and the prejudice institutionalised and so ingrained we don’t even know we do it.
And what are we doing? We’re having a go at someone who has that extra bit of cake. Who doesn’t burn as much as they eat. In doing so are they depriving someone else? Are they contributing to human trafficking, or depriving someone of the ability to read? The fact that I enjoy and can consume copious amounts of food does not mean I’m contributing to world hunger. It just means that I enjoy eating. I have mates who enjoy eating. I have mates who enjoy eating, but because you’ve ‘got to be’ and are ‘supposed to be’ thin eat nothing but a biscuit and drink tea all day. I have one who is permanently on diet shakes! Twice a day! Of course she’d rather have a sandwich, but being fat is ‘worse’ than eating something and deciding ‘I’m not going to feel guilty for that’.
The Giddy Blonde says I’m over reacting. He’s saying that I’m letting out my inner ‘angry Weegie’. To an extent I suppose I am, but then it’s a lot better than having a laugh at someone elses expense then wondering why they can’t take the joke.
Fat Angry Weegie
P.S. Whilst this is my take on the philosophy, I didn’t come up with it myself.