Comments on: “Let’s Move” and the civilized American body of 2010 http://www.historiann.com/2010/02/10/lets-move-and-the-civilized-american-body-of-2010/ History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Tue, 23 Sep 2014 15:56:07 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: Fat is the new crack : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present http://www.historiann.com/2010/02/10/lets-move-and-the-civilized-american-body-of-2010/comment-page-1/#comment-579789 Wed, 24 Mar 2010 12:44:35 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9517#comment-579789 [...] I wrote here last month about the disturbing similarities in the rhetoric of cleanliness, civic virtue, and individual moral worth at the turn of the nineteenth century compared to our modern rhetoric about fat, virtue, and morality.  It looks to me like the popular media are just refreshing another stereotype and, replacing “crack” with “fat” to blame women–especially poor women–for deploying their uteri against their children yet again.  As the FAIRblog said about the “crack baby” craze, The saddest part: Early on, researchers recognized that the social stigma attached to being identified as a “crack baby” could far outweigh any biological impact. The Times piece underscores that, with a source who says, “Society’s expectations of the children and reaction to the mothers are completely guided not by the toxicity but by the social meaning” of the drug. [...]

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By: america adrift : Drug use at the academy http://www.historiann.com/2010/02/10/lets-move-and-the-civilized-american-body-of-2010/comment-page-1/#comment-558574 Thu, 18 Feb 2010 13:53:18 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9517#comment-558574 [...] Along this vein, the always provocative Historiann recently took up a similar discussion spring-boarding from Kathleen Brown’s, Foul Bodies: [...]

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By: links for 2010-02-14 « Embololalia http://www.historiann.com/2010/02/10/lets-move-and-the-civilized-american-body-of-2010/comment-page-1/#comment-556105 Sun, 14 Feb 2010 18:05:35 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9517#comment-556105 [...] “Let’s Move” and the civilized American body of 2010 : Historiann : History and sexual politic… Brown makes the point that nineteenth-century bourgeois reformers identified the clean body as a site of virtuous citizenship. But of course clean clothing and clean bodies, and the means and ability to achieve them, were above all a marker of one’s class status, since it was only the middle-class who could afford to do laundry weekly (and/or have a “hired girl” in to do it), and only the wealthy who had running water, bathtubs, and the means to travel to fashionable spas for soaking in and drinking up healing mineral waters. Brown also tracks the convergence in the later eighteenth century and early nineteenth century between discourses on spiritual or moral cleanliness, and bodily and household cleanliness…. If we replace the words “unclean” with “fat,” and “cleanliness” with “thinness,” we’ll come very close to the rhetoric and language of the “Let’s Move” campaign. (tags: bodypolitics:fat society history obamaadministration obamafamily class) [...]

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By: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » It’s not OK http://www.historiann.com/2010/02/10/lets-move-and-the-civilized-american-body-of-2010/comment-page-1/#comment-555915 Sun, 14 Feb 2010 08:49:15 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9517#comment-555915 [...] Michelle Obama’s crusade against childhood obesity. My favourite response to this was from a feminist historian. But I’m not even capable of that sort of rational analysis, because there’s only one [...]

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By: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Virtuous Versus Disgusting Bodies, Then And Now http://www.historiann.com/2010/02/10/lets-move-and-the-civilized-american-body-of-2010/comment-page-1/#comment-555685 Sun, 14 Feb 2010 04:42:25 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9517#comment-555685 [...] Historiann makes the most interesting comment I’ve seen on Michelle Obama’s dreadful anti-fat “Let’s Move” campaign, pointing out parallels to 18th century cleanliness campaigns: …nineteenth-century bourgeois reformers identified the clean body as a site of virtuous citizenship. But of course clean clothing and clean bodies, and the means and ability to achieve them, were above all a marker of one’s class status, since it was only the middle-class who could afford to do laundry weekly (and/or have a “hired girl” in to do it), and only the wealthy who had running water, bathtubs, and the means to travel to fashionable spas for soaking in and drinking up healing mineral waters. Brown also tracks the convergence in the later eighteenth century and early nineteenth century between discourses on spiritual or moral cleanliness, and bodily and household cleanliness. Early in the nineteenth century particular attention was paid first to children’s bodies as an index of their mother’s moral worth, and then later in the century as the bodies of poor and/or immigrant children came into contact on a regular basis with the bodies of middle-class and even elite children in public schools. [...]

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2010/02/10/lets-move-and-the-civilized-american-body-of-2010/comment-page-1/#comment-554728 Fri, 12 Feb 2010 22:34:40 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9517#comment-554728 Kelly–thanks for stopping by to comment. That sounds like a terrific book to pair with Brown’s book. Thanks so much for the suggestion!

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By: Kelly http://www.historiann.com/2010/02/10/lets-move-and-the-civilized-american-body-of-2010/comment-page-1/#comment-554708 Fri, 12 Feb 2010 20:39:39 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9517#comment-554708 Marie Griffith’s book, _Born Again Bodies_ (UC Press, 2005) explores the religious and moral emphasis on thinness in American culture. Her last couple of chapters are particularly good on the equation of white, thin bodies with morally pure bodies and the understanding that fat is often coded as sinful. This might be an interesting book to pair with the one you reviewed here Historiann.

This might be a little late, but I thought it might be worthwhile to understand how this language often contains religious dimensions, too.

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By: Rosa http://www.historiann.com/2010/02/10/lets-move-and-the-civilized-american-body-of-2010/comment-page-1/#comment-554666 Fri, 12 Feb 2010 15:56:14 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9517#comment-554666 With the cleanliness changes – did the campaign to convince mothers come before or after public water lines and public school health officials? Did people turn around and use the rhetoric of cleanness to get public systems built? I can see using the anti-obesity rhetoric to get things that actually are good for kids (safe parks, crossable streets, more recess, enough time to actually eat their lunches). The food deserts and work hours so long nobody can cook aren’t going to change for adults, though.

I have a young underweight child – so underweight he’s had several full batteries of medical testing to figure out why. I get a LOT of compliments from parents who think I must be controlling his eating well (I’m not) and non-parents who see so much obsessive veggies-and-whole-grains-only parenting that they compliment me for letting my kid eat. We were at a party last week and my kid had a piece of cake and several people said how great I was for letting him eat cake. Tomorrow we are going to a child’s birthday party where there will be fat-free angel food cake with unsugared fruit.

It’s clearly a class thing. The urban professionals we hang with eat only the foods that my small-town working-class family members kids don’t eat.

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2010/02/10/lets-move-and-the-civilized-american-body-of-2010/comment-page-1/#comment-554060 Thu, 11 Feb 2010 22:46:34 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9517#comment-554060 Daniel–please, no apologies necessary! This is right on point. We invest supernatural goodness in the things of which we approve (thinness, or “fitness”) and we ascribe all manner of evil to the things of which we disapprove, as a culture (fatness, obesity).

Interesting point about the word “epidemic” in describing obesity. As though it’s contagious–and isn’t that what all of the reformers fear? That they might succumb to fatness, too?

Here’s something else I wonder about: how much of fat hating is really a projection of a kind of self-loathing? My guess is quite a lot.

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By: Daniel S. Goldberg http://www.historiann.com/2010/02/10/lets-move-and-the-civilized-american-body-of-2010/comment-page-1/#comment-554054 Thu, 11 Feb 2010 22:13:02 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9517#comment-554054 We should indeed be cautious about drawing the connections, because the causal (as opposed to correlative) connections between fatness and chronic illness are vastly more complicated than professional and lay discourse typically allows. There are millions of fat people who will never develop chronic illness, millions of skinny people who will, and our ability to distinguish across and between populations of fat and skinny persons is generally quite poor.

This is not to argue that fatness is good for one’s health, per se — although there is an increasing body of evidence suggesting that increased adiposity may have a protective effect in some groups — but rather to highlight Gard & Wright’s claim that the connections between obesity and illness are marked by significant uncertainty. Uncertainty in and of itself is no sin — quite the contrary — but there is excellent evidence that causal uncertainty is generally poorly tolerated within the American culture of biomedicine, and there is even better evidence that such uncertainty is only thinly represented in lay media and even in professional public health discourse on the subject.

This latter point invites the question that, if our comprehension of the links between obesity (itself a rapidly moving target, as Eric Oliver has shown) and illness are fraught with uncertainty and confusion, why it might be that these elements are not remotely representative of cultural discourse on the subject. Gard & Wright argue that much of it is ideological in nature, although I think a great deal of important work remains to be done in unpacking why the “epidemic” nature of obesity (itself an obviously freighted term) is taken as a given in lay and professional discourse.

Sorry for threadjacking, Historiann.

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