Friday, April 29, 2011

Twittering, fat bashing, OB/GYN defends her sense of "humor"

A few days ago my friend and fellow blogger Travis Saunders from Obesity Panacea got into a Twitter fight with an obstetrician from Salt Lake City, Utah.

The obstetrician, Dr. Shelley Binkley, who tweets under the moniker @healthewoman, apparently doesn't appreciate having the misfortune of dealing with fat patients. Now that's unlikely to be a unique attitude, as anti-fat bias permeates society as a whole, (including doctors), but what was perhaps unique is that Dr. Binkley decided to take her bias and hate onto Twitter,

"A 5'2" woman weighing 254 pounds today told me she eats 'hardly anything'. I guess that might be true if 'anything' means the whole cow."
Travis took her to task, asking her among other things,
"Would you publicly denigrate patients with other chronic diseases"
And this led her to respond,
"Obesity is not a chronic disease; it's a behavioral problem: too much junk food, not enough exercise"
And therein lies the disconnect. Dr. Binkley believes obesity to be a part of a massive epidemic loss of will power. Especially I suppose among the children Dr. Binkley's bringing into this world, as childhood obesity rates are rising faster than adult. I suppose Dr. Binkley believes 7 year olds these days don't have the willpower they used to.

The fact is, people haven't changed over the course of the past 30 years. We haven't developed heightened hedonistic tendencies. Our environment has changed, and living freely in this environment causes the vast majority of the population to gain weight. Blaming individuals for their environment isn't helpful.

Less helpful?

Perpetuating anti-obesity bias under the guise of caring, which is precisely what Dr. Binkley has done.

The most telling part of Dr. Binkley's story?

In the newspaper article that came out of it Dr. Binkley talks of what she's learned from this experience. Sadly it wasn't that her attitudes demonstrated a hateful, ignorant, anti-fat bias. Instead it was that she's got to be more careful using, "humor" in her tweets, an attitude she's echoed on Twitter,
"Some people lack humor, can't laugh at themselves. I pity them for their lives must be sad"
Because what's funnier than making fun of your patients' medical conditions?

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