Saturday, September 30, 2006

Only AIDS could make being fat seem like a good idea

It has taken me a while to write about the stupidest thing I read this week. But it hasn't got any less stupid:

South Africa's AIDS crisis is fuelling a second epidemic as obesity rates rise steadily, particularly among women eager to prove they don't have the disease by packing on extra pounds.

Many in South Africa associate being thin with terminal illness due to AIDS, while valuing plumpness as a sign of wealth and good health.

The trend is most widespread amongst black women.

"(Patients) will say to you, 'But I don't want to lose this weight because (they) will think that I'm dying of AIDS,'"

Some background this was said at a South African obesity conference (sponsored by Roche), by Tessa Van Der Mer - the head of the countries first obesity clinic. So no disinterested parties were involved in the making of this news story. More than that - no actual research went into that statement either - it's just one woman's observation of what people said to her. Yet it is reported around the world the Independent in Britain and the Canadian National Post (and then reproduced in a Feminist Carnival - of all places).

I really don't have time for the many levels of stupidity in Tessa Van Mer's argument. But the breathless way it's been reported that some people don't want to be thin, is really disturbing. The world has always been the way it is right now among media circles in New York and London. The only reason people would see things any differently would be because of fear of a terrible disease, and we have to show them they're wrong immediately.

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