Posted by Pattie on 3/04/2006 05:03:00 AM

Top 10 Things I'm Tired of Discussing:

Number 8 -- Whether it is fair to compare other stigmatized groups to stigma placed on fat people.

African Americans have a history of slavery and oppression that shapes their experiences in a way that no other group in this country can share. Native Americans have a history of cultural and literal genocide that no other group in this country can share. Homosexuals have a history of repression, criminalization and medicalization that few other groups have experienced. Women, poor people, various ethnic groups and so forth all have unique experiences as social groups that shape their lives and limit their life chances. These differences in culture and history create differences in group experience that both enriches and limits members of those groups.

But all these groups have stigmatization in common. The social mechanisms of stigmatization are shared with any group or persons that face a cultural belief that they are not human.

Making comparisons between fat people’s experiences and the more well-known experiences of other stigmatized groups is useful in order to illustrate how stigma works. One of the most insiduous aspects of fat stigma is the assertion that fat people can help being fat and therefore are worthy of scorn. I reject this belief and often use comparisons with other groups to illustrate that the plight we face as fat people has parallels to other groups.

Making that comparison an issue because it somehow is insensitive to the unique experiences of other groups is a quintessential straw man or red herring. If someone wants to debate on that level it is obvious that they really don’t want to address the issue at hand and just want the discussion to end.