Unless you’ve been living under a lovely rock this week (and I would love to crawl under there with you), you’ve heard about the Congressional investigation into the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate spearheaded by Congressman Issa.
Here’s an image showing who was allowed to speak.
Here are a few words from a woman who originally was asked to speak and then denied that right by Issa:
The only people asked to speak at this conference were men. Not only were they men, but they were all religious leaders who are anti birth control.
So much for fact finding, huh?
As I looked at this panel, my thoughts went to an earlier panel, convened in 2003 to consider the “Obesity And Dietary Guidelines.”
Here’s the first panel:
Hmmm, why is this so familiar?
And here’s the second panel:
So Congress looked into the question of obesity, and thought it completely reasonable to (a) not include any women and (b) not include any fat people!
Back in 2003, I was working as an attorney and happened to read about the hearing. This was before I had an inkling that there was such a thing as fat activism, but I remember remarking to a fellow lawyer (who was pretty slim) that I thought it was wrong to have a hearing about fat people without any fat people present. The response I got was something like, “Of course, there aren’t any fat people there. Fat people obviously don’t know what to do about the obesity epidemic!”
At the time, her response really hurt. Even if I wasn’t a fat activist, I didn’t like seeing my body as part of a societal problem. And I thought my colleague was wrong. Legislation is supposed to be well-thought out. Our representatives are supposed to see the intended and unintended effects of the legislation they write, and part of that process is hearing from experts. After a lifetime of dieting, I was an expert on fatness. I knew what it felt like to lose and gain weight over and over, to have trouble finding clothes, to feel like a second-class citizen solely based on my body size. There were millions of us that could have shared our story, so why weren’t we asked?
And the decades-long, sad history of the war on fat is that it has been waged on women’s bodies especially. The message we get, again and again, is that we should take up as little space as possible. That our voices shouldn’t be heard too much, and that voice is only valid if reverberating from a slim, youthful-looking, fair-skinned body. The war on fat is part and parcel of the war on women and the war on people of color. The message we get is that we should let men (and only men) figure out what’s best for us.
Congressman Issa’s panel wasn’t just a blip, a weird moment in political history. Neither was that obesity panel. It is all part and parcel of the war on women’s bodies, and on the right of privacy, and bodily autonomy. We have to keep fighting for real representation.
Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness. She counsels women and men throughout the country on how to get off the dieting roller coaster, give their bodies what they really crave, and love their bodies and themselves. Golda's counseling and activism work have been featured on CBS's The Early Show, ABC's Nightline and Time Out New York. For more support with healing your relationship with food and your body, get your free copy of Golda's Top Ten Tips For Divine Dining by clicking here.
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