This news story made me cackle because it's an amazing looking glass inversion of debates about language that continue in fat activism.
Say fat not obese, says minister
(Short note: I'm not into policing language and I think it would be a dull, reductive and Orwellian world if we all used the same words all the time. My feeling is that people should use the language to describe themselves with which they feel most comfortable. The rest of us should try and treat those labels respectfully.)
I had to do a double-take when I first read this article. My initial reaction to a quick skim of the headline was: "Yeah! Call me fat! That's exactly what I want, skip this obese nonsense." I reject obese because I don't want to be defined as a victim of a terrible disease, as someone who need curing, as a tragic figure for pity and paternalistic intervention. But the definition of fat being mooted in this article is as something appalling and dreadful, a shaming weapon. These guys really think that fat is an insult, they don't get it as a marker of one's identity and experience, or a way of describing communities, or its politicised nature. What a shame the BBC did not have the breadth of vision to get quotes from people who might have an alternative viewpoint.
Depending on your perspective, 'obese' is either kindly or oppressive and 'fat' is shameful or liberating. Look, I drew a table to illustrate how the kinds of words each likes to use is a polar opposite of the other.
Aside from my cackling, this story is also a depressing example of how alienated each of these two groups are from each other, a situation which is not helped by the the mainstream media. We literally don't speak the same language. It makes me despair that some kind of common, respectful understanding of fat could ever be developed between these two groups of people. It seems like another example of how the inflammatory rhetoric surrounding the Global Obesity EpidemicTM (initiated by weight loss industry stooges) has sabotaged people's access to non-shaming, appropriate healthcare.