Culture of the Obese

[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ RAINER'S READING SEMINAR ] [ FAQ ]

Posted by Dyske Suematsu on July 06, 1997 at 22:23:14:

When we talk about the racial segregation of blacks and whites, one of the

common issues that comes up is why, say if you are white, you have only few,

if any, black friends. A common answer to this is that the culture is

different. And, you realize that it's a chicken-or-egg-first situation. You

are, so to speak, excused from the fact that you have an unfair ratio of

black and white friends, simply because the culture is different. But this

further develops the racial segregation and each culture develops even more

differences, so you have even better excuse. But this issue of racial

segregation isn't so interesting to me. What's interesting is how deeply

rooted this problems of prejudice is. I recently noticed that in America,

fat/obese people have a culture of their own. "Culture" may be too

far-fetched a word for it, but what I mean by it is that, to most Americans,

obesity is a mental/psychological difference that carries a substantial

meaning. Everyone makes a clear distinction in their minds. When they see an

obese man, a thought, "He is obese", will go through their heads. It's a

clear label. In Japan, obesity isn't such a big issue. When I first came to

the states, I often got into trouble for remarking casually about someone's

weight, which would not have been a big deal in Japan. I became wiser over

the years and learned not to say anything about anyone's weight. This mass

psychology of weight seems to have a tremendous effect on the lives of obese

people. The effect is substantial enough that it creates a different reality

for them. We all tend to socialize with others who make us comfortable. That

comfort comes from understanding of each other's reality. That's why a rich

man does not get along with a poor man, a white man often does not get along

with a black man, and retired old people do not hang out with teenagers.

Also, most people who have no handicaps have no friends who are blind or

deaf. This is all because the culture, or the reality, is different for each

"category" of people. (I'm using the word "culture" and "reality" in an

interchangable way.). Recently I have been noticing more and more that obese

people tend to socialize only with one another. I have been to many parties

in my life and I rarely see obese people.

There is a fundamental difference between blindness/deafness versus race or

obesity. The former makes the reality necessarily different whereas the

latter is only a psychological difference (or a prejudice). In a culture

where obesity is not a substantial issue, the obese people will not develop

a reality/culture of their own, in the same way people with big nose do not

have a different reality of their own, since the size of nose is not a

substantial issue here. Imagine a culture where the size of nose is a very

serious issue (for whatever reason), where everyone thinks about the size of

nose constantly (the same way how some people are obsessed about the weight

here.). Those who have big nose will receive substantially different

treatments in the society, which in turn will create a different reality for

them that could only be understood by one another. Then they will begin

socializing only with one another. In that society, you will commonly see a

group of people with large nose and another group with regular-sized nose

walking down the street. If you think about it, that is how absurd it is now

that we see a group of black people and another of white people socializing

exclusively with one another. And that absurdity is extending towards obese

people. People's obsession about the weight is creating a different enough

reality for them.

Once I was invited to a dinner with a couple who were obese. To be honest,

they are, so far in my life, only obese people that I've known. They are

British and had only been here for a few months. They started talking about

how scary some part of Brooklyn was. The wife said, "I felt like I was going

to get mugged or raped." Then right after it, as if she had changed her mind

about her remark, she said in a sad, low tone, "Well, maybe not raped..."

Her implication was that she is so unattractive that no one would be

interested in raping her. I felt bad for her, but what am I to tell her?

"Oh, that's not true, you could get raped too." ??? Would that make her feel

better? She had a totally different view of reality from anything that I had

ever known. This is a reality where you are lucky to be able to say that you

can get raped. What a terrible feeling that must be, especially for her to

say it in front of her husband. The implication of that is: If some rapist

wouldn't even touch her then what is he doing? As the conversation

progressed, I found out that they never been to fancy, trendy restaurants in

New York, because they felt unwelcome, or felt uncomfortable with people

staring at them. Most of the places that I recommened which in my view

weren't so fancy or trendy, some of which they had heard of or walked by,

were too trendy for them to even consider looking in. I realized that I was

living in a completely different reality. In fact, I felt a bit ashamed of

my own reality. It is quite sad that our society creates such a different

reality for them.

John Cage once said that the sheer attention to the negative will only give

life to it, like the kind of life that a fire is given when you fan it. So

the best thing is to ignore it. He believed that the negative will die of

its own natural death if you stopped paying attention to it. I believe this

too, so I never involve myself in any type of anti-racism, anti-sexism,

anti-anything activities. The fact that the racism is an issue is a matter

of absurdity to begin with. If you actually went to a country where the size

of nose is a national issue, you would probably get an urge to scream, "Why

are you so obsessed with nose? Who cares? Drop it already!!" But with the

way it is now, race and obesity, among other things, are so much in

everyone's mind that they will continue to be big issues. Who knows what's

next? Maybe bald men will start socializing only with one another.

Follow Ups:

Post a Followup




Optional Link URL:
Link Title:
Optional Image URL:

[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ RAINER'S READING SEMINAR ] [ FAQ ]