Various news outlets are reporting that Bowman MHR, Dr Andrew Laming has backed down from comments he made about obesity after a storm on social media. I hope not, because Laming was right on the money.
He was commenting on a photo on the a Newscorp site of Melanie Ward who is apparently the same size as the average Australian woman – 163 cm and 70 kg.
Laming linked to the image and tweeted “So it is OK to be overweight, if it is now average!”
That’s exactly what Twitter is for – provocation. And a fine provocation it is.
Obesity is a serious health issue for Australia, and if you put the height and weight figures into the BMI calculator on the home page of Body and Soul, where the photo comes from, you’ll find that the average woman comes out as “overweight”.
Yet there are parts of the health, psychology and fashion industries that are trying to tell us that it is OK to be average, even when average is unhealthy, and that we risk damaging the mental health of those who are overweight by criticising it.
The photos of Melanie confront you with the reality of average, and Laming asks the right question. If we don’t ask this question of our average selves, then how do we do something about the problem?
The criticism on Twitter and the media, and by prominent ALP frontbencher, Kate Ellis was completely partisan and misguided.
Ms Ellis, who trades on being svelte, attacked Laming’s tweet as being “appalling”.
We don’t need this government critiquing women’s bodies.
We’ve got health experts and many others who will do that, and women themselves…
With typically sexist sangfroid Ms Ellis claims that only women can talk about women’s bodies, and by implication that a male parliamentarian, also a medical doctor, is not allowed to even raise the issue. What next? A ban on male politicians dealing with female constituents, and male doctors with female patients?
Recently Moggil MLA, Bruce Flegg, made a speech about it in the Queensland Parliament, and received a strongly supportive response to it.
The obesity epidemic is one that we have to deal with. At a time when there is a boom in fitness centres and some of the population is getting very buff, it is hard to understand that the median citizen is slumping further into the scales.
Part of the explanation lies in an underlying assumption that if we are fat it isn’t our fault – it’s genetics, or the population averages, or fast food, and that to even discuss the issue is to put at least half our population in the way of mental harm.
While a large minority of the population is actively taking charge of its own bodies, another large minority is wanting someone else to take charge.
It’s an attitude that explains rising rates of obesity. It could also very-well explain other trends, like falling levels of numeracy and literacy.
When it comes to health, education or a number of other areas “Whatever” is not a good enough response.