22 March 2010

Anti-obesity campaigns: Dyke Dollars and Fat Fivers

I saw a great film at the weekend, Laura Terruso's comic short, Dyke Dollar. It's based on a piece of 90s queer activism in the US. I'm paraphrasing but they wanted to highlight that queer people contribute to the economy and have as much right to the fruits of that economy as anyone else. They did this by writing and printing 'dyke dollar,' and probably other phrases too, on banknotes and putting them into circulation. It's amazing to think of someone in Nowheresville coming across a dyke dollar, which is the premise of Turruso's excellent and funny film.

The post about Donna Simpson has shown that the connection between fat and the economy is really contentious. It harks back to one of the fundaments of fat panic that was sparked by the World Health Organization report that set the idea of an obesity epidemic in motion in the early 2000s. That is, fatness must be stopped and managed because it costs the global economy too much money. This is a crap argument because it assumes that fat people have poor health and reduced mortality, despite evidence to the contrary. It's doubly crap because the WHO report was authored by people who have financial interests in weight loss industries.

Despite it's crapness, people are really invested in the idea that fatties are a drain on the economy and should do everyone a favour by losing weight (though never mind that sustained, long-term, healthy weight loss is an oxymoron in most cases, yes, there's evidence to support this claim too). Just look at the Centers for Disease Control's reprehensible Obesity Cost Calculator. Fat panic propaganda clearly works, and is especially potent when combined with ideological debates about who pays for health, brought to a head with the vote and passing of the Healthcare Bill in the US today.

The lie constructed by fat panic that fat people are social parasites is not true, fatties contribute to our respective economies just like anyone else, and are as entitled as anyone else to the benefits of those economies. In the UK this means that I contribute to the National Health Service through taxation, I am more than happy to do this, I'd rather my money went here than most other places. The money I contribute to the economy also pays for people's wages, social justice, and any product or service you can name. I think it would be great to highlight these contributions, just as the proponents of Dyke Dollars did, so I'm thinking of perhaps tweaking this olde worlde actyvyfm and exchanging them for Fat Fivers.

Fat Fivers can come in any currency. All you need to do is write 'Fat' on a five unit note and spend it, save it, do whatever you want with it. That's it. Easy eh?

One thing: there's more to liberation than economics, though understanding how money flows helps us understand where the power lies. Sometimes people confuse freedom with the freedom to buy and sell stuff, but I think that this is a false freedom based on a faulty ideology. It would be good to have a discussion about how Dyke Dollars and Fat Fivers contribute to and demolish capitalism, I could see them becoming a symbol of the value of wealth, rather than a criticism of a system that rewards some at the expense of many. On the other hand, who wouldn't be happy to come across a Fat Fiver some day? It might prompt further questions, such as on what and where would one spend it? On a box of Alli?! Or a set of Yay Scales? Fat zines? Put it towards a fat community event? What will you do with the power in your hands?


Anonymous said...

Sorry to leave an unrelated comment, but have you seen the news about the increasing portion sizes in paintings of the Last Supper. It's like something from Big Bums! Bill xxx

Charlotte Cooper said...

Gawd 'elp us.

Lisa Haas said...

Right on, Charlotte!

Charlotte Cooper said...