Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Redfish, Maggie, Kate - thank you. It is, as I said, something I fight against. Luckily not all the time - a lot of the time I can look at the stuff the media spews and go, "Yeah? I'm fat and I don't have any of those things going on for me" But I do think the whole "it's SCIENCE!" spin they're using now is harder for me to discount. I mean, when it's some prissy designer going, "Ewwww.... boobs! butts! cheerleader thighs!" I can kind of roll my eyes. But when it's some guy in a white coat making noises about Type II Diabetes, it's a lot harder for me not to be scared.

Even though my own doctor has told me my regular exercise is probably the best preventative against that I can do.

I also kind of hate the textbook we use in the non-majors class now, and some of the things it said contributed to my distress. It's an "issues oriented" text. I'm not going to bother to give the authors' names because there are several out there like it.

I don't like the issues oriented approach. To me, it smacks of, "Oh, OK, we know you don't want to learn anything about this subject so we're going to use Ripped From The Headlines propaganda to make you learn." And I don't like the emphasis on having the students do "opinion" things over "fact" things. Because if you don't know the facts behind stuff, how in the HELL are you going to formulate a reasonable opinion?

Yeah, yeah, I know, that's how lots of folks in politics operate, and how lots of Hollywood spokes-cause types operate, but still...if'n you can't tell me what a stem cell is or what it does, I'm less likely to want to hear your opinion on whether they should be used or not medically.

Last week and this week have been kind of downer weeks. Last week was "Biological Molecules" in the context of "diet." And the whole thing was very BMI oriented.

Except they used a modified, truncated BMI chart. My BMI is 30 (that's as close to telling you my weight as I'm gonna get). Yes, that is technically overweight. It is just one tick away from being obese. (Good Lord I hate that word. Yes I know it's a medical term but it's become so invested with moral judgment that I can't stand it any more. I prefer to call myself "fat." Yes, it's morally charged but it's simpler and doesn't have the sense of being a medical judgment on a person the way obese does. Or at least to me).

Well, they chopped the chart so a 31 BMI is the top. Nice. I suspect I have at least one student in my class who is off the chart. That's got to not be a good feeling.

And a lot of the chapter was like that..."If you're overweight or obese, limit your food intake and exercise more." Gee, thanks textbook. Like I would have never figured that out on my own.

It did have a couple throwaway paragraphs about, "Oh, yeah, eating disorders are like kind of bad for you, too." But not the pages and pages of gory detail about heart disease and osteoarthritis and diabetes, all with the implication of "if you are Teh Fatz, here is your future"

And this week it was about cancer.

(Yeah, and this is an 8 am class. I almost feel like I need to hand out balloons or something at the end of class each day to try to lift the mood).

And yeah, knowing about cancer is important. But this textbook falls into the very easy and very comfortable trap of telling people, "If you don't smoke, eat lots of vegetables, cut out fat and meat and sugar, exercise, don't tan, and stay away from chemicals you will be SO much less likely to get cancer." And by implication, if you get cancer, you didn't do those things diligently enough. Or if you fail at ANY of them, you will probably die a horrible death at an early age. And well you should deserve it, you bad person!

And I found myself having to edit. There is, my understanding is, a 30% genetic link...that is, 30% of cancers can be attributed to people having a family history of it. And so you can exhort someone to do all this healthy crap...but they still might get cancer. Hell, even people withOUT a genetic history and who do everything "right" get cancer...that's why cancer is so terrible and so insidious.

I don't know. Perhaps I see too many symbols in things, or I see patterns where none exist. But I almost sense a pattern in the various ways of "talking about" disease these days, where it's putting the blame for the disease squarely on the person WITH the disease...Have heart disease? It's because of all those damn donuts you ate. Got cancer? Too bad you didn't eat more broccoli. Got some auto-immune disorder? Well, you MUST have somehow "sinned" in your lifestyle in the past...either you didn't eat the right thing, or you ate the wrong thing, or you had some hobby that was unsafe.

And I kind of wonder...how much longer before some in the media start calling for denying medical care to those who are "responsible" for their own conditions? Or at the very least penalizing them somehow?

And you know what? It sucks to be sick. It sucks to have some kind of bad medical condition. But it sucks even worse to have people acting as if you somehow brought this on yourself, and if you were only better/stronger/purer you would have been spared.

It's a lot like how it used to go in Jesus' day...people who were lepers, or who had the bloody flux, or some other kind of dread disorder, the only "comfort" the religious leaders offered them, often, was "Go back and examine your past for how you sinned...or how your parents might have sinned."

And I kind of thought we had advanced beyond that. Oh, I know, it's a different KIND of "sin" these days, and we don't quite call it that, but I think it's just as toxic to tell someone who's suffering, "Well, if you had JUST exercised a little more" as it is to tell them "One of your parents must have been an adulterer."

1 comment:

Kate P said...

Ohhh. . . I get what you're saying. So I wonder: is it the human condition, or a recent shift in the culture, where we're looking for someone or something to blame, all the time? And think *everything* is preventable, 100% of the time? Is it a control thing?

I'm not talking fate/predestination/whatever, but sometimes I think there is a deeper undercurrent--we don't always know why something happens. I know I can't explain half of what happens to me these days.