The Witch’s Teat

I had a thought when I was driving into work this morning. I’ve still been thinking about that Alva Noë piece at NPR and this idea that you can tell something about the state of my soul and make sweeping generalizations about how I can fix my body based on fixing my soul.

I’ve long thought that getting at what fucking sucks about being at the receiving end of people’s bad attitudes about fat is that it is true that being fat can lead to health problems. There may actually be some genuine, though busy-body-ish, concern about your health. But I would say that, if you made a pie chart that was “All the things people say about fat people that are under the guise of caring about your health” very, very few of them would actually be “This could be hard on your knees” or “This could be hard on your heart” or “What if this leads to diabetes?” Believe me, I have been fat a long time, and I have only heard each of those things once or twice. (I’m not sure how or if it fits, but I also want to mention that a lot of people are fat because they’re unhealthy; they’re not unhealthy because they’re fat. And a lot of people are fat and in fine health. As Miranda Lambert sings, there are all kinds of kinds.)

In general, what I get from people is more along the lines of “Because you’re let yourself slip up in this way, I get to say all kinds of terrible shit about you under the guise of everyone knowing being overweight is unhealthy and so anyone who speaks against it is bravely trying to help.”

It’s got its similarities to the usual bullshit–racism, sexism, etc. But it’s not exactly like any of those things.

But, man, you know what the idea that the state of your body reflects the state of your soul is like? The idea that Noë can look at me and tell whether I’m walking the right philosophical path?

It’s a lot like “We get to examine your body for a witch’s teat, which will tell us the state of your soul and whether you’re walking the right philosophical path.”

A lot of the tropes are the same, too, if you look at both history and fairytale. Fat people are dangerous to children–even our own–we’re tempting them with candy. Our appetites might cause us to devour them (or turn them fat). I mean, yes, witches are closely associated with food because food preparation is historically done mostly by women and witches are women. But a lot of fat people are women, too. The idea that we should be shunned or ostracized? Even the idea that we could falsely appear to be “normal” and then become our true selves once we’ve tricked a man. The idea that our bodies betray our unrighteous souls. That we are or need to be kept at the outskirts of things (though this is also a matter of class, but then again, so were accusations of witchcraft).

Hell, even the idea that we can physically transform into drastically different shapes.

Is the “obesity epidemic” run by the witch-scare engine? I don’t know. But I’m starting to wonder.

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