15 April 2008

"Body Acceptance Week" Misses the Point

It's "Body Acceptance Week" at UC, reports the student newspaper.

The paper quotes one Susan Carlson, who is the director of field education and field service associate professor in the School of Social Work. I have never heard of that before, but her words make as little sense as her job title:

"For women, power can come from being thin; socially, we have a connotation of fatness being lazy or weak."

I'm not sure "power" is the right word here. I think it's quite the opposite, in fact: isn't it more about the desire to fit in with the cultural stereotypes of physical appearance? The compulsion to conform is hardly "powerful."

"A lot of it has to do with [women's] relationships with their moms: how they gained power and their effectiveness, whether they played a subservient role," Carlson said. "It also extends to the way young women compete with each other."

"Physically, women can feel that by restricting eating, they're doing the right thing - exercising self-control," Carlson said.

I'm not sure about the mom-daughter power thing (is anyone else wondering whether Ms. Carlson has her own issues there?). As far as the "self-control," once again I think it's the opposite: isn't the extensive influence of an individual's behavior by external societal factors the opposite of self-control?

Fortunately, the article follows Carlson's psychobabble with more sensible information from an actual health professional:

Brehm said it's definitely possible to be overweight and still be healthy.

"You can be very physically fit and still be overweight or obese," Brehm said. "You can be a 'normal' weight and not be healthy."

And that's the key thing: it's not about size and weight, it's about diet and health.

Rather than use the opportunity to educate students that they can control their health, "Body Acceptance Week" will send the message that they are not in control, they are victims of external forces, and that they need psychological validation more than physical health.

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